The Witcher 2: Hands On With A Succubus

By Richard Cobbett on February 21st, 2011 at 12:00 pm.

Assassins of Kings sounds like bad value for your gold pieces. One assassin per king is the most anyone should pay in the current financial climate.

Richard has a brand new T-Shirt that says ‘One Of The World’s First Players Of The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings’. They don’t give those to just anybody. He’d probably better tell you about what he saw while questing for the right to wear it…

Geralt’s clearly been watching CSI. His experienced, monster-hunting eyes scan the freshly unwrapped corpse, scanning it for evidence. The eyes. The hands. He sees something embedded in a wrist, though without proper tools, there’s little he can do with that. He dismisses it for now, and turns the corpse over for more accessible clues. “Fingernail marks down his back,” the unmoved witcher muses. “At least he had some fun before he died.”

That’s all he needs. He sits back and goes over the evidence. This is merely one of a number of victims, all of them male. The smell of sulphur in the air and the book of love poetry on the corpse fill in the remaining blanks. “A succubus,” Geralt deduces, matter-of-factly. And of course it’s a succubus. It’s a demo of The Witcher 2. What else was it likely to be?

I liked The Witcher a lot. I thought the sex cards were stupid and tacky, the opening chapters should have been burned out of the game with an arc welder, and the only reason I played it long enough to start liking it was that I had a friend who kept telling me it got better, honest, no really… So keep playing I did, and my reward was one of the most interesting RPGs in years. I loved its setting, the dark fairytale spins on what initially seemed like standard fantasy tropes, and the way its moral choices were never clear cut. The plucky rebels fighting against the racist status quo were just as bad in their own ways. The persecuted witch would turn out to have taken her revenge too far. Everything had an edge to it, and far from picking good and evil, all you could do was hope to muddle through.

Once the story kicked off, and after the Enhanced Edition put the real script back in, it was a terrific game, and I for one can’t wait for this sequel. In a year of awesome looking RPGs being released, it’s the one I most want to play right now – this second, or ideally sooner.

Great, it's the Six Million Dollar Man: Scrapheap Challenge Edition

Even playing through a tiny, tiny segment of the game – not even an entire subquest – it’s clear that CD Projekt understands the problems people had with the first game. It doesn’t feel toned down. It doesn’t feel dumbed down. It simply feels smarter and more confident, from the fact that it’s rocking its own engine rather than Bioware’s to the fact that while the silly sex cards are gone, the sex definitely isn’t. It feels unapologetically like the RPG the company wanted to make, and never mind if people get ticked off about random shopkeepers dropping the c-word or Geralt being as good with the old pork sword as his trusty steel and silver ones.

While that’s the part that’s probably going to get a lot of people talking, the more impressive part in the demo was hearing about just how big the full game is going to be. It’s split into five acts, with multiple paths, and so split up that you may never actually see the town the demo was set in – its act having two completely different starting cities depending on how you resolve things earlier on in the game. The subquest on offer was short, but intricate. With the right tools for instance, you can extract that thing in the corpse’s wrist and get another clue from it. By studying the book of love poetry, you can summon the succubus more easily near her lair.

And then of course, there’s what happens when she shows up.

Tracking her down is easy, with Geralt roping his friend/travelling companion Dandelion into the action to act as extra-foppish bait. This means temporarily taking control of him to read lines of love poetry, trying not to notice that it’s generally a succubus’s job to make the sales pitch, not her target. But no matter. The poetry works, and then you get that most important moral choice: how to ruin Dandelion’s day. He’s a bard. Bards suck. It is your moral duty to punish them for it.

But how. How? Do you deliver the ultimate cockblock, ‘saving’ him from the acknowledged sexual heaven in the succubus’ lair, or send him to his probable death, making a note to regain the lost karma by kicking his corpse afterwards? Decisions, decisions, decisions…

'So this is what Triss was screaming about last time we had sex...'

In the end, I opted for Option A, mostly based on the philosophy that no matter how good a demon lover from the depths of Hell may be, there’s always going to be a girl who won’t want you to put your immortal soul on her dresser before you take your pants off. (At least, there always seems to be for other people, sob…) Dandelion promptly ran back to Geralt, who looked quietly glad to see the lack of bump-mapping on the disappointed bard, and readied his sword. Then, drawing his silver one for good measure, he descended into the lair.

Of course, nothing’s ever so simple. The succubus, idly standing around naked for the same reason that she was the subject of the demo – because this is The Witcher 2 and not remotely ashamed of it – didn’t seem particularly surprised, and even greeted him by name. She had her own explanation of what was going on, unsurprisingly of the “I’m a sex demon, I know pricks when I see ‘em…” variety. The demo ended before the next stage of the investigation, in which you hear her out – I said hear – and go on to track down the real killer. She may be telling the truth. She may be lying. Either way, nobody’s likely to leave the story smelling of roses.

(Unless you sent Dandelion in, who probably would, being a jammy, tambourine shaking git of a bard. Bards! Bah! May succubus-induced priapism stop him pissing for a week…)

'Sigh. It's just not the same when they don't have boobs.'

Getting to this moment of coitus/carnage interruptus offered plenty of time to see The Witcher 2′s other changes from the first game, all of which seem positive. It looks terrific, with much more visceral combat replacing the original point-and-click ballet. Combat styles are out, with quick and slow attacks now bound to the mouse buttons, but otherwise, everything’s still here – the Signs, Geralt’s swords, and a special slot purely for extra toys like bombs. The focus is on winning battles because you’re more skilled/more powerful, not because you’ve got a satchel full of health potions to glug down, although it’s clear that you’ll still need to make heavy use of alchemy to prepare for those fights on the higher difficulty levels. On others, it’ll just help.

The one thing it really lacks is the same all-round perspective – it’s easy to fight enemies in front of you, but harder to keep track of casters off to one side, or anything sneaking up on you. There are a few minor tweaks to the formula, like the way time slows down to help you target weapons like bombs, and a few more need to be made before release, but it feels much more intuitive than the original Witcher ever did, with enough options and levelling choices to feel like an RPG, but with the pace of an action game when things inevitably kick off. Thankfully free of a repeat of that tedious amnesia sub-plot from the first game, Geralt is due to start this one as a capable warrior, complete with access to at least the basic Signs and some decent abilities.

Good as the combat seems though, it’s not really what I’m looking forward to. It’s the narrative side that feels the freshest about The Witcher 2, coupled with some excellent world design. The dwarf city of Vergan isn’t particularly inspired, but it looks lovely, and feels lively. The shopkeepers in the market babble constantly, and while there may only be a few real characters of importance in the local inn, its benches are full of NPCs with a line or two to be triggered. It definitely feels like a world I want to explore, especially knowing that the branching story isn’t afraid to cut off paths and opportunities throughout the game, not simply at the end.

'You are the worst salsa partner ever.'

I can’t wait for Dragon Age II. I’m really looking forward to The Old Republic. But really, it’s The Witcher 2 that has me most excited. Even if it simply repeats what the first game did in a more polished form, it’ll be good. And even an hour with it makes it obvious that CD Projekt has much higher ambitions than that. I want a world that embraces its shades of grey, and that understands that ‘mature’ can be a compliment, not simply a content warning. Everything I’ve seen of it suggests it’s going to be very special indeed. I really hope so. I want it to be a game I love, and a game I can recommend to friends without adding ‘after the first few hours’.

All the signs seem favourable. My fingers are crossed. Roll on the full adventure…

The Witcher 2 is due out on May 17th. Keep your eyes peeled for an interview with its Senior Producer later this week. Not literally though, that would be disgusting.

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76 Comments »

  1. Vadermath says:

    All I can say is: I’d kill for that special T-shirt of yours.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Do I get to choose who?

    • Premium User Badge Andy_Panthro says:

      Your Gravatar makes me think you’re going to pick “The Avatar”. Or perhaps LB/RG.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I think even Big Red would spend that dime buying a contract on Chuckles. I like to think that Lord British holds a yearly event where that jester is murdered and revived again and again until Britannia runs out of rocks.

  2. brulleks says:

    How is the English translation sounding? Hopefully up to Enhanced Edition standards rather than the original original?

    • Eclipse says:

      sounds good, just watch some videos to find out, it should be the same quality in-game. Also they have a much bigger budget compared to the first game so it should be AAA quality all-around

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Think Enhanced Edition from the start, yeah.

  3. Patches the Hyena says:

    This is a game worth pre-ordering. I wonder whether an Enhanced Edition will come out, but from your impressions it sounds like it hardly needs any ‘enhancement.’

  4. zergrush says:

    Lost my save at chapter 3 on my first playthrough due to a broken hard disk, and then a bug made me angry enough to give up on the outskirts of vizima on the second time. Will try to finish it again before the sequel comes out ~.~

  5. Urael says:

    I’m with you on this one, Mr Cobbett. I’d rather poke out my eyes with sporks than play Dragon Age again and That Star Wars MMO thing seems to have about 300 million problems, all of which are screaming “avoid” at me like banshees on fire. Witcher 2 seems to be the only real RPG prospect coming at us in Twenty ‘leven.

    What part was it that the first game started becoming good, though, in your opinion? I’ve made it out of the castle, through the first vrather tedious village, into a prison cell, through some sewers and am now wandering around some city. I’m enjoying it but have stalled my adventures while Minecraft inserts itself into my soul .If there’s an upswing in the already impressive quality to come I may return to it sooner rather than later.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      After the swamps, more specifically, when you go to the party. There are good bits before that, but it’s then that you’re over the ghastly, ghastly stuff.

    • sassy says:

      I enjoyed the swamp but it really does kick off at the party. At about that time you realize that the story as simple as it first seems.

      I’m actually a little disappointed by the lack of sex cards, they may have been so very tacky but they appealed to my ‘gotta catch them all’ urge. They were a collectible and so I needed to get them, though at one point you get a choice of one or another so it kinda got in the way. I pretty much ignored the actual card though.

    • Ian says:

      I dropped out of it when I was tramping about the swamp, THEN had to trek back to the city and THEN got told I had to go back to the swamp…. but further!

      Perhaps if that’s the last of the dreadful I’ll go back into it…

    • Thants says:

      Hmm, I gave up in the first village because the combat was bland and dull and the story was bland and dull. Maybe I’ll have to give it another chance.

  6. faelnor says:

    Even if it simply repeats what the first game did in a more polished form, it’ll be good.

    Considering the recent growth of CDProjekt I think you’ll find there’s substantially more polish in this one than in the original.

  7. sonofsanta says:

    Played through t’original over the holidays (thanks Steam Xmas sale!) and absolutely loved it. Very rarely does a game genuinely paralyse me with choice. I must have reloaded the end of Chapter 4 a good three or four times over to make a different decision, because the persecution was awful, but then, they were being a bunch of shits about it.

    So for this one to have its own engine, allowing them to craft quests in the way they want, with visuals looking like they are, and all the money it deserves poured into it up front? Colour me excited, from head-to-naked-toe. This might be the first game in a long time I pay full price for at launch.

  8. airtekh says:

    I’m currently playing the original; and the more I play, the more I’m becoming interested in this sequel.

  9. Jharakn says:

    One interesting question that was asked on the steam forums that would be nice to have answered is will the steam version be censored? The reason I ask is steam often just use 1 version of the game for its servers especially between the UK and US and if the US release is censored (cos of all the boobies) will us UK users get stuck with that version too?

    I do enjoy using steam as I’m a master at losing cd’s/keys but I don’t want to get stuck with an intentionally watered down copy of a game that I wouldn’t otherwise have to buy.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      From speaking to the producer, while I didn’t ask that specific question, my suspicion is that if that does happen (and I don’t think it will), there’ll be a patch to fix it in about 0.2 picoseconds.

    • Captain Hijinx says:

      Thanks Richard.

      I’m pretty much in the same boat as yourself with my excitement for this game, though i won’t get to play it until late August-September at the earliest.. Good to know they’ve dropped the silly porn cards.. The branching story also sounds fantastic..If they can recreate the latter parts of the first game for the entirety of the second one, married with the higher production, we could be in for a classic.

    • Radiant says:

      So you’re implying the producer likes tits?
      What am I saying; of course he does.

    • Premium User Badge Vandelay says:

      Simple solution if you are worried about the Steam version, buy it direct fron CDProjekt through GOG.com.

  10. Valvarexart says:

    This is going to be GOTY 2011, or at least RPG GOTY!
    I already preordered the Collectors Edition, and I’m really pumped!

    • Firkragg says:

      Vindication here too!

      Now I can finally justify the price tag of the CE to the gf (gods I hope so)

    • Bhazor says:

      As Mr B.I.G said
      Fuck bitches, get art books.

  11. Premium User Badge daphne says:

    Preordered this the moment it showed up on Steam (which, as I discovered moments later on the GoG.com site, turned out to be well worth its own page in my personal book of idiotic ventures). Now, having read this, I just want to fastforward three months. I guess DAII is one consolation, but I don’t really want to commit to its preorder just yet, and might not be playing it for some time given the other great games I need to replay on my new desktop — but only on weekends. Sigh. Ah well, pumped!

    • suibhne says:

      Fwiw, you can get a refund from Steam on all pre-orders. For myself, I canceled my Amazon pre-order and placed a new one via GOG.

  12. Premium User Badge Rinox says:

    Most anticipated game in years for me, and perhaps it’s unsurprising that it falls outside the ‘established’ developers and actually doesn’t try to please everyone and their grandmother by not using profanity, nudity and sex. It’s almost insane, the disconnect gaming seems to have with sexuality while bloodspilling and genocide are everyday subject for even the most riskless and unoriginal AAA titles.

  13. noodlecake says:

    eeet looks so preeedy!

    Someone needs to buy me a mammoth rig so I can actually play this.

  14. Grey says:

    Preordered! Can’t wait, can’t wait!

  15. Premium User Badge heretic says:

    what’s wrong with the sex cards, kept me going through the first half tbh <_< it was a good way of keeping track of who you'd bedded.

  16. coldvvvave says:

    What I disliked about first Witcher game is that devs pretty much ignored original storyline and 90% of background( which was pretty detailed). Sure, people who liked Witcher books weren’t really a target audience, but still. I liked the first game( bought retail copy and Steam one and preordered second one), but in my opinion it lacked something that made novels great. It awas also a bit boring and rerpetitive. Though it had best swamp ever.

  17. StingingVelvet says:

    Glad to hear they are not bowing to… ahem… certain journalists who kept going on and on about certain content. I agree the cards were sort of tacky, but pretty much everything else was fine and in fact I wouldn’t even mind it being stepped up.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      No, I’m totally glad they’re gone myself. The cards were not only tacky and stupid, they didn’t even make any logical sense (who draws those? Why did the chicks give out cards of themselves naked of people who bang them?), were juvenile, and did nothing but tack on a bunch of extremely shallow “relationships” with a bunch of women who never would’ve otherwise been in the game.

    • sebmojo says:

      Dammit, I liked the cards.
      From a conceptual point of view they work as memories – all you’re left with after a shag.
      From a behavioural point of view, by hooking into the ‘gotta catch ‘em all’ Pokementality it roughly simulated sex as a drive. Or you can ignore them and play the game perfectly well.
      They revealed interesting things about the characters (viz: the witch at the end of chapter 1 being a slavering beast)
      And I thought they were kind of hot, frankly.
      FInally, are there any games that have done sex better? Bioware’s stoney faced grapplers are just embarassing, but noone criticises them anything like as much.

    • Zanchito says:

      I liked the cards too! They were fun, quite a bit 4th wall breaking stuff and such, but they lightened the tone a bit.

  18. Dominic White says:

    I think I saw, like, 3… Maybe 4 of the cards in my entire time playing the game. It’s not fucking Pokemon (pun fully intended). You don’t have to catch em’ all. It’s actually possible (and, indeed, far more in-character) to play Geralt as a James Bond-esque ladykiller, rather than a disturbing sex-pest.

    I think the mistake was making them cards. Gamers suffer from some very specialised strands of OCD, and if you present anything as cards, people MUST have them, even if it serves no purpose whatsoever.

    • faelnor says:

      Yet in a way, it perfectly conveyed the impression that collecting women was objectising them, or at least having light-hearted fun like you would have fun with a game of cards. As such, I found it gave the ability to role play Geralt quite well, striking a balance between the inner qualms at vapidly engaging in something that is nothing more than a game and the pleasure to collect and treasure pretty pretty things. And guess what? Life may be like that.

      I’m actually sad to see the cards go, I found them pretty and absolutely fitting with the character.

      And what if some people have an idiotic compulsion to collect them all? You shouldn’t make a game against some of the ‘deviants’ who play it, you should make it for the people you have in mind.

    • Soon says:

      That was part of their genius. The women in the game could seduce people more effectively because you know you’ll get to see something from it, or collect your shiny trinket. This was “important” because some of the women in the game had ulterior motives and even when obvious, some people are going to be tempted by it anyway.

      Which would seem to be particularly useful for the succubus.

    • faelnor says:

      This is true. I didn’t remember them as gameplay elements but they certainly had that effect too.
      And a card (rather well drawn by the way) is much less crass and cringe-inducing than a semi-censored sex cutscene.

  19. Phinor says:

    I gave the original Witcher (EE) a fourth try. This time over 10 hours. It still didn’t grab me and I gave up after being terribly bored for most of those 10 hours. I have no idea what I’m missing but in my opinion the game is just not fun.

    I wonder if they plan on releasing a demo for Witcher 2.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I really enjoyed the city section but found everything before and after boring. Still looking forward to the second, though.

  20. woodsey says:

    Got 5 hours into the Enhanced Edition, couldn’t take any more – I was stuck in that tiny town at the start, running up and down pathways and being attacked by dogs every 5 seconds.

    Still can’t wait for this, though. I would hope that Geralt’s voice actor has now received an emotional implant chip however. If he’d have had the slightest semblance of personality it would have made it easier to persevere.

  21. RyuRanX says:

    Can you tell us how challenging the combat is?

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Not from the demo, nope.

    • subedii says:

      Pity. I heard mention in another preview that the combat was influenced by Batman: Arkham Asylum.
      Whilst I really loved B:AA’s combat system, I’m not quite sure what it means here. Is it all about maintaining a string of combos between all the different opponents and keeping them from hitting you? Or is it just generally more active combat?

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      You have combos, things like strong attacks putting tough opponents off-step, and can flick between opponents on the fly, but I can’t say it reminded me even slightly of Arkham Asylum’s rhythm based action.

    • CrazyBaldhead says:

      “I heard mention in another preview that the combat was influenced by Batman: Arkham Asylum.”
      Geralt with a cape? Sold.

  22. bit_crusherrr says:

    Is there going to be a demo of this? The combat In the first witcher looked good, but ultimately was a bit boring. I want to try the game before I buy.

  23. akemichan88 says:

    I played The Witcher but got fustrated to no end by being send back and forth. This and the tale of two sisters and a mirror made me decide to just take a break,
    The two sisters made me want to smash my head against the wall

  24. Kadayi says:

    I can’t read too much as I’m in avoiding spoilers mode, but it sounds like it’s going to be excellent. Definitely one of my highlights of this gaming year.

  25. Paul says:

    Am I the only one getting BOTH collector edition as well as GOG.com version?
    And later steam one when it is on sale. Cannot wait, I loved Witcher ever since I first read all 7 books in 1 week 10 years ago!

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I feel honour-bound to mention that this is Silly :-)

    • Paul says:

      Well, I am a fan. Can’t blame me for wanting to support my favourite franchise being made by the most customer friendly and awesomest game making company.

    • DrazharLn says:

      You’re definitely some kind of fan. I’m with Richard, however: this is incredibly silly.

    • matrices says:

      Yes, yes you are the only one…

      I will be buying the most expensive physical edition, because it looks freaking amazing, and that will be the first time I’ve ever done such a thing – but I’m not going to go around buy digital versions on top of it.

  26. unangbangkay says:

    Did they say whether Polish voice options will be available at the outset? I’ve no doubt that the English dub will be just fine, but I’ve gotten used to Geralt being addressed as a “Wiedźmin” when people talk to him.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Unconfirmed, but they’d like to offer the option and probably will – if not at release, then soon after.

    • unangbangkay says:

      Awesome, thanks for that. I loved CD Projekt’s willingness to support The Witcher that long after release.

    • Premium User Badge Cinek says:

      Oh yea… I liked most the fact that they finally removed the stupid anti-piracy protection which, as all of this crap, brought more problems than income.
      More companies should follow this path!

  27. thebigJ_A says:

    I’m not playing this unless half the npc’s are the same fat guy with slightly different clothes.

    I kid, I loved the Witcher. (Luckily I played the Enhanced Edition from the start.)

  28. Squirrelking says:

    I might be the only person to care about this, but can you still play in Isometric view? I would be sad if this option was removed from the game/combat.

    Yes, my favorite games are late 90s RPGs =)

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Afraid not. It’s behind the back, direct action all the way. (And also when Geralt fights, ha ha etc.)

    • Squirrelking says:

      Gotta love that direct action =P

      Well, I am a little sad then… Could be my imagination, but it always felt a bit more “tactical” in iso.
      Ah well. I will still be playing the Witcher 2: loved the first one and love what I’m reading about this one too.

      Thanks for answering!

  29. AwesomeOwl says:

    I recently finished the first one.
    I liked the story, but I found the game to be very boring at times. Way too much time is spent running from one corner of the map to another and back again.. I didn’t really care for the swamp part of game with the fish people and what not, and most of Act IV was totally unrelated to the rest of the story and it had criminal amounts of running too..

    I must admit that I am looking forward to The Witcher 2 though. If it has better pacing then the first game, is less fetch-questy and does away with the ridiculous NPC recycling, it could be quite amazing.

  30. Premium User Badge mickiscoole says:

    Combat styles are out? damn.
    I really liked that aspect of the game.

    • Premium User Badge Cinek says:

      I’m very glad of it. Combat styles were idiotic IMO. I can be hurt using ANY combat style, but my opponents only using a SINGLE one? WHAT?! There’s any logic in it? It was most screwed part of the combat there IMO… ok, maybe stupid animations in some parts were pathetic too. ;)

  31. outoffeelinsobad says:

    Playing through The Witcher now, and I just got past the party. Yeah, it seems like there is some serious plot afoot, but then they want me to go BACK to the sewers and BACK to the swamp. Shoot me.

  32. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    Too bad Alec ruined the game by getting boobies removed..

  33. Premium User Badge TheTourist314 says:

    Good lord, I’ve been frothing at the mouth from this game ever since I could pre-order it on Steam.

  34. Premium User Badge QuantaCat says:

    I think this is one of the games I will get in german, just like the first one, because generally, german voiceovers are better if you understand it anyhow. Except for RPGs, usually, but The Witcher was an exception with its horrible english voicing. (Geralt really had a fantastic voice actor, and the others were good as well. Especially the bard.. OMIGOD he was annoying, in a good way)

    EDIT: inadvertendly, isnt OMIGOD a cheat code for carmageddon or something?

  35. matrices says:

    Are we not counting Deus Ex 3 as an RPG?

    And yes, the swamp quests were almost as tedious as the swamp environs themselves, though I wouldn’t slam the entirety of the first two chapters – it had good parts.

    My main complaint is pacing. I forgot why the hell I was even there by the end of Chapter 2.