CD Projekt's Spring 2011 Conference offers a close look at the upcoming Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, with details on DRM, combat, censorship and a ridiculously good promotional deal on the original Witcher.
With The Witcher 2 just a month away, CD Projekt used today's livestreamed conference to finally reveal details about launch of the upcoming RPG. We might as well get this little tidbit out of the way first: the game will use SecuROM for a one-time online activation when it's installed. It's a minimal implementation that presenter Tomasz Gop, the senior producer on The Witcher 2, explained is not meant to be "troublesome" but simply to keep pirates at bay prior to launch. "It's pretty much the only way we could make sure that the game is going to be safe until May 17 and it's not the pirates who are going to play the game first," he said.
Saves from the original Witcher can be imported into the new game and will have an impact on certain encounters and, presumably, which of the game's 16 endings will be encountered, but it's primarily a reward for die-hard fans rather than a necessary part of the game. Gop said The Witcher 2 is designed to be an entirely stand-alone game, with no previous experience required. It's also very scalable, with support for the latest multi-core CPUs while still running decently, at low visual settings, on systems that are two or three years old.
Combat looks hot and although it's definitely changed from the original game it shares many similarities too. Attack combos, potions and oils remain vital to success on the battlefield, but magic appears to have a more prominent role and, as promised, new weapons, such as a sword that can freeze enemies and cause them to shatter, opens up a wide range of new monster-killing options. Close-up "finishers," meanwhile, are both brutal and awesome without becoming comically gratuitous.
The inventory, potion and skill tree screens appear to be dramatically overhauled but still very complex, and unlike the first Witcher, which was censored for North America, Gop said The Witcher 2 content has already been approved by rating agencies around the world and will be identical in every market. Which isn't to suggest that it's been toned down in any way; the ESRB "Mature" rating warns of "Blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content and use of drugs." Yup, that's our Geralt.
Finally, to mark the launch of The Witcher 2, GOG - which is owned by CD Projekt - will offer The Witcher Enhanced Edition, with the usual collection of extras like soundtrack, hi-res wallpapers, forum avatars and nudie calendar [okay, no, that one's not "usual" but I'm not kidding, it's part of the pack] for just $4.99 from May 10 to May 24, after which it will go to its regular price of $9.99. That's a ridiculously good deal for any RPG fan.
The presentation included a lengthy stretch of live gameplay action and while it's impossible to make any kind of meaningful judgment based on a small window of streaming video, it looks very good and, more important, very Witcher. If you've got an hour to kill and want to check it out for yourself, the entire CD Projekt Spring 2011 Conference is now online at gog.com. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings comes out on May 17.