|Dev: CD Projekt Red Studio|
|Release: May 17, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Andrew Groen
The first Witcher game released in a dark time for PC gaming. Back in 2007, PC gaming was in an unstoppable decline, and it seemed like nothing could make any money save for World of Warcraft. This was long before Facebook and independent gaming revitalized the gaming scene on PC. The Witcher was a high-spec PC game in an era when few people had high-spec PCs.
Strangely, that may have worked to its advantage. The Witcher had the market practically all to itself. It was a high-profile game designed for hard-core action RPG fans. The Witcher had a small potential audience, but it thoroughly captivated the entirety of it.
Fast forward to 2011, and the PC gaming landscape is very different now. Facebook gaming is taking over the world, and indie revolutions like Minecraft and the Humble Indie Bundle have conditioned gamers to expect more game for less money. There's plenty of good cheap games out there these days, unlike when the first The Witcher released. The big question on Atari's mind right now is whether or not consumers are still willing to pay a premium price tag of $50 - $60 for an epic game. At this point, no one has the answer to that question. Games like Mass Effect had plenty of success on PC, but that game also had lots of mass market appeal.
The Witcher is a series that steadfastly focuses on hardcore gamers. But not just that, they seem build their games with male audiences in mind. The first game featured a Pokemon-esque "Gotta Catch-em All!" attitude towards engaging women sexually. It was highly criticized as juvenile, and at least slightly sexist. The sequel doesn't seem to ditch that attitude. Early glimpses of the game came with reports of gratuitous nudity (always female). We can't verify those claims personally, but given the tone of the last game, it's hardly unimaginable. Yet, PC gamers are so starved for epic role-playing games that most are willing to ignore that part for the rest of the game. And, well, let's be honest, some people probably really enjoyed the sex mini-game of the first Witcher.
We won't know much for certain until the game actually releases in May, but so far the game looks far more involved and far sleeker than its original. For starters, it is being built on a brand new engine; the original was built on the aging Neverwinter Night's engine from Bioware. They're so confident in the upcoming game that they're already referring to it as one of the best-looking new games of 2011.
It's not just about graphics though. The game also sports an impressive new physics engine. This isn't one of those fantasy worlds where the player exists in a static, unchanging world. At several points in prerelease trailers, we saw huge stacks of barrels demolished and come shattering down in glorious physics. Maybe it's silly to get excited about barrels, but what happens afterward is just as interesting. A big crowd of people was attracted to the action, and all reacted in real-time to what had happened. Some people joked, and others accused people of having caused it. They're hardly geniuses, but even this small amount of intelligence and self-awareness is welcome.
The first Witcher game sold over 1.2 million copies of the game. That's a major feat for any video game these days, but for a PC-exclusive game it's downright incredible. The hype is building quickly for the sequel, Assassins of Kings, but the original problem still remains for CD Projekt RED Studio: this is not 2007. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings looks pretty wonderful thus far, but it's not clear that the original game inspired enough hardcore Witcher-fans.
CD Projekt has accomplished the seemingly impossible. Hailing from a corner of the world where mass market game development is relatively rare (Poland), they've managed to create a triple-A franchise that is known around the world. No matter how well the sequel does, that is one heck of an achievement. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is slated for release on May 17, 2011 at the price of $49.99. Be sure to check out our full review of the game when the time comes!
CCC Freelance Writer