When I made my appointment to go and see Atari the only PC game they’d announced they were going to show was Deer Hunter Tournament. I thought I’d go along anyway as it might be kind of interesting – I’ve never played a Deer Hunter game, but I’ve heard they kind of have a naturiffic ambience, if you forget all that huntin’ and killin’ – but I didn’t actually end up looking at the title.
That’s because of Tomasz Gop. Tomasz works for CD Project Red and was Assistant Producer of The Witcher, and was on hand to show The Witcher: Enhanced Edition.
Tomasz is so absolutely enthusiastic about his game that I was entranced. It’s kind of hard to explain why, but, well, have you ever been to a music festival or something, and met maybe a German techno fan, and listened to them bang on forever about how they love “true German techno” and how that “love will never die” and so on ad infinitum?
Okay, imagine that, but not boring. Instead brilliant. Perhaps it’s because Tomasz is Polish and not German, but whatever the reason, he managed to make me genuinely excited for The Witcher: Enhanced Edition. Some of the changes are small (though welcome) such as a better inventory, streamlined alchemy and easier looting, but others are unexpectedly in-depth (though needed) such as re-recording over 5000 lines of dialogue to make them better (and if you’re a German I’ve managed to piss off, you’ll be glad to hear they re-recorded the entire game’s German dub because they heard you didn’t like the original.)
Not only the new dialogue but an cut scenes are immediately more bearable thanks to characters that now gesture, and Tomasz told me it was generated on the fly based on “emotions” the characters would be feeling (well, something like that, anyway) and that they could actually emote differently in the same cutscene if you watched it more than once.
They’ve also removed clones as much as possible – townsfolk and enemies now wear different clothes or are different colours – and you can play the game with the dialogue in any language they recorded it in. So if you still don’t like the new English voices you can use the original Polish (which are excellent.)
Christ, I’m reading this all back and it just doesn’t sound as exciting as Tomasz made it sound. How about that it’s coming in a swanky collector’s edition including all kinds of crazy additions such as a CD full of music by bands inspired by the Witcher? No? You already own it and don’t want to buy it again? Well, you’ll be glad to hear all the enhancements are going to be available to you completely free of charge.
Tomasz just loves you, the Witcher, and the games industry, that much. He told me repeatedly. It is a love which will never die.
Otherwise, Atari also had Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir on show. Now, I have absolutely no experience with NWN2, so my impression of the expansion pack – that it seems kind of good – might not really mean anything, but the title does feature some interesting features, from a party system that gives you four main characters (in any situation, such as conversations, you can pick the one which will do the best job) and an intentional effort to make the skills from Dungeons and Dragons that no one ever uses useful (so you can “craft” items from debris found at your shipwreck, or use “spot” to find hidden items).
There’s also a new overworld – travelling between cities happens in a sort of “Final Fantasy”-esque way – you traverse a map with out of proportion features and if you attack an enemy it instances the battle. There are also roaming caravans to trade with, a technique you can use to earn up some extra scratch if you buy and sell in the right places.
Probably the thing that I enjoyed most though was the placeholder introduction, which used comedy stick figures (it was a bit Kingdom of Loathing.) I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures of that, but it had gotten a good enough response at the show that they might put it in as an Easter egg. I hope so.