Regular readers will notice that the following article is a slight departure from our usual preview style. For gamescom 2010 we've adopted a streamlined structure, allowing us to cover as many games as possible while giving you the important juice and info. In many cases we'll be running longer, more detailed previews upon our return to the UK.
What is it?
Sequel to the cult PC RPG, based on a set of stories created by polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, that's most famous for having loads of exposed breasts. Oh, and being pretty good. Developed by CD Projekt RED, The Witcher 2 once again follows the story of Geralt (one of the few remaining Witcher badasses) and is being made with a new engine.
What was shown?
Much of the game's framework was detailed. There are fifty unique skills, 40 non-linear quests, 430 thousand lines of dialogue and 2 and a half hours of cutscenes. It's still PC only, too, at least for the time being - though the new TSOOD engine has been designed with multi-platform in mind.
A standard RPG quest - escape from a murky dungeon - was played on two PCs, showing both stealthy and confrontational methods of getting through the level. The bread-and-butter quest format worked equally well both ways, eventually culminating in a scene where you stumble upon the queen of the castle (who has her tits out, naturally) or her son, depending on who Geralt murdered earlier in the game.
One of the game's three 'siege' levels was also shown, which are intended to be magnificent set-piece battles - think something along the lines of a sequence from Lord of the Rings and you're on the right track. Arrows and fireballs are flying through the air, loads of people are lying down for a very big sleep and Geralt has to take out a large, ugly monster that turns up near the end.
I really enjoyed The Witcher, but it wasn't without faults - notably the pacing. The game had a magnificent knack of turning itself into a tedious, overwrought slog every now and then, usually after something that was really exciting. Fetch quests, the primary cause of sleep-inducing boredom in the first game, are virtually done away with in The Witcher 2.
Showing the game on two computers was definitely a smart move - it effortlessly showcases just how different the quest could be with a different approach. I see myself as more of a butcher than a ninja, but a bevy of items and abilities to complete each approach means there should be something for everyone.
Seeing a few of the development team playing the game made me realise how much the staff at CD Project RED love what they're working on. There's still a strong hint of cheeky, adolescent antics stitched into every corner of the game, but The Witcher 2 has clearly taken a few cues from other notable entries in the genre to create a sequel that looks very promising. It won't be able to rival anything from BioWare when it comes to production values, but it might just be able to carve out a distinctive little niche of its own. And the sex scenes won't be nearly as embarrassing as the ones in Dragon Age, I reckon.
The Witcher 2 is due for release on PC in 2011.