RPS-ish At-ish E3: Day 2, Part 2 – Atari

Actually, this isn't Witcher Special Edition. Annoyingly, Atari hasn't got any assets for it on their site. Man! That Atari.

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.)

Still not the Witcher. It's Storm of Zehir. And attacking a dragon's legs.

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).

Zehir again. I should have done a hunting game grab. I hate deer.

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.


  1. MasterBoo says:

    Been waiting to play the Witcher again. Without a doubt the best true RPG in recent years.

  2. rob says:

    From what they are saying about Storm of Zehir it is sounding more and more like Darklands (without the setting) which can only be A Good Thing.

  3. Rook says:

    The overland map sounds horrible.

  4. Meat Circus says:

    I’ve been holding off on The Witcher until they get this unborking release out.

    Make it so. Daddy needs a new RPG.

  5. Schadenfreude says:

    Damn you rob; now I’m going to have spend another three weeks roaming around the Holy Roman Empire mixing potions, righting wrongs and getting chased out of inns by Satanic villagers. Which isn’t a bad way to spend three weeks.

    A Darklands remake would make me a very happy person.

  6. Phil says:

    Neverwinter nights only seems worth playing after expansion. The original game’s campaign was a soup of dire fantasy cliches though Shadows of the Underdark, with its magical mystery tour through hell, drow treble-crossing and gloriously overwrought final throw down, was glee on toast. Ditto Neverwinter 2 and MoTB. Hopefully this one will continue the trend.

  7. Yontan says:

    I too have been waiting for the updated witcher, but seeing as I am way too involved in Age of Conan I can’t see myself being dragged away anytime soon. I might buy a secondhand witcher and download the updates though, just for funsies.

  8. Paul S says:

    Everyone loves The Witcher. I don’t understand.

  9. No Problem says:

    I have The Witcher already but I’m holding back on playing it until the EE is out. The voice acting/writing/translation in/to english is just too bad in the current version. Half the time it sounds like Geralt and whoever you’re speaking to are having two totally seperate conversations.

  10. Yen says:

    I don’t get why so many people thought the Witcher was so amazing. I played through it completely (response to those who go ‘you just haven’t seen the ending’) and the best response I could come up with was ‘meh’.

  11. martin says:

    i do own witcher but i am still waiting for my new rig and the EE before i play it. prior to a patch it wouldn’t even install on my outdated system. does someone have some money to spare?

  12. Pavel says:

    Witcher was a game of 07 for me already, and if FO3 doesnt deliver (and those videos are pretty underwhelming), it will be my game of 08 as well.Truly best TRUE rpg since Bloodlines, and thats coming from someone who finished Mass Effect a week ago (and kinda liked it). And I love those guys for GOG even more, so…bring it on!

  13. Schadenfreude says:

    I felt cheated by Mask of the Betrayer’s ending. The whole game was gearing up to you bringing down the Wall, the final act involving assaulting the City of Judgement to do just that and then at the grand finalé the game wouldn’t let you; you just got forcibly railroaded off to do something else. Then one of your companions had the balls to bitch at you for chickening out :/

    It really just undermined the whole game for me (which was otherwise very strong). I’ll give Storm of Zehir a chance but I’m really lukewarm to NWN2 (And NWN1 is one of my favourite games ever, the multiplayer aspect anyway).

    EDIT: @ Phil; the first NWN expansion, Shadows of Undrentide was pretty average (though leagues ahead of the OC), but I have to agree that Hordes of the Underdark was brilliant. Such a shame that Wizards of the Coast wouldn’t let Bioware allow your PC to damn Mephistopheles to an eternity as a tavern wench in a Waterdeep tavern. :(

  14. Paul S says:

    Fair enough, Pavel – but why? How was it good? I know everyone loves it – I just can’t understand why. I found it very underwhelming…

  15. Dexton says:

    I agree the original NWN campaign was pretty damn boring but the expansion Hordes of the Underdark was excellent.

  16. Pavel says:

    Paul S – because it had very good dialogues (in czech version anyway), good enough rpg mechanics, grat entertaining combat system, beatiful environments, overall very good story with CHOICES and CONSEQUENCES (which is something you just don’t find in games nowadays), great atmosphere, music…

    But what helped also, is the fact that I read all 7 books (two short stories books and five part saga) several years ago, and absolutely loved them, so to see Geralt to be so bad ass “for real” was a treat. Those books are one of the best fantasy ever written (I liked them much more than LOTR trilogy, for example).

  17. Feet says:

    I also put The Witcher aside as soon as the announced the EE. CD Projeckt love PC gamers. Free update\fix of proper RPG game instead of charging for it in an expansion, and GoG.com! Hooray for Poland!

  18. Pavel says:

    You know it really hurts me to see my favourite game of all time, Fallout, in hands of Bethesda, which craps all over its own franchises (see daggerfall-morrowind-oblivion regression) and isn’t ashamed to charge for a HORSE ARMOR, while this polish CDProjekt company offers complete overhaul of its own game, with several NEW adventures (each several hours long) completely free of charge.
    Quite a difference in approach to fans.

    And then there is GOG.

  19. Heliocentric says:

    Pavel i agree with everything you’ve said so far, but you do kinda sound like a fanboy :P

    glad to see the EE is shaping up, i got witcher as a present but i cant bring myself to play it knowing a better version is coming.

  20. jackflash says:

    @ Pavel,

    Yeah thanks for reminding me of the outrage I once felt over downloadable pay-only, useless horse armor. F*cking bethesda and their microtransaction bullshit. Thankfully, as I’ve been spouting on about everywhere else on this site, I now have Mount and Blade, which in many ways is 10 times the game Oblivion was (sans amazing graphics and a story).

    I, too, bought the Witcher but am actually holding off on playing it until the Enhanced Edition comes out. I needed a new comp to play it anyway. Can’t wait. I may buy it again just to, you know, vote with my dollars and all. I feel like I contribute more to devoted PC game developers than to even the most pressing political campaigns. What does that say about me? I gave $50 to Obama and $100 to CD Projekt.

  21. Shawn says:

    Oh the dilemma, to finish the Witcher now or wait and replay the entire game…hmmm. I’m about a quarter to a third into the game, end of Act 2 or so and I’m not sure If I should wait it out and replay with the new content or not.

    I’m guessing the saved games won’t work once the mega patch comes out, any word on that?

  22. J.E. Sawyer says:

    @Rook: “The overland map sounds horrible.”

    It owns. Peace.

  23. Pavel says:

    Heliocentric – I have no problem admiting that I am Fallout fan, Deus Ex fan, Vampire Bloodlines fan, Gothic fan, Witcher fan…if you want to put “boy” there, no problem : ).

  24. Heliocentric says:

    I need to get politically correct “fan-person”?

    You have good taste mind you :) but

    “You know it really hurts me”

    *gives pavel a pipboy stuffed toy*

  25. Cigol says:

    So, no news on the Deer Hunter game? I’m sorta interested. They are quite good if you can get past the whole killing defenceless animals part. Be interested to know whether this is just a minor revision or something ‘big’ in the umm, Deer Hunter franchise.

  26. K says:

    I enjoyed The Witcher but finished it before any news of the enhanced edition, typically. If they’ve balanced all the skills and such, it’ll be worth another play through.

    Personally, I found the consequences over-played, it should have been more subtle. Consequences are good, yes. But there’s no need to shout about what they were.

  27. Fredo says:

    The old savegames will work with EE. You can trust me on this one. ;) Props to all of you – straight from Poland.

  28. oilypenguin says:

    holy crap! did we just get developer love? Me thinks we did (or some cruel joke played on us by those damned poles). I now feel obligated to buy a copy (this is me not kidding), my buddy played it and liked it but I have yet to get around to it, guess i have something to do while suffering through wow-burnout and being terrible at tf2

  29. kuddles says:

    I loved the Witcher immensely, to the degree that even though I already own it, I plan on re-purchasing the EE to support a developer like CD Projekt. European developers are the last bastion of PC-centric titles, in some ways.

    Did Atari mention if they’re keeping the censorship in the U.S. version for the enhanced version? I wondered if since Age of Conan released without much controversy, and the original censored version got an M rating anyways, Atari might realize how pointless covering up the nipples was.

  30. Rhygadon says:

    @Fredo — Really? Can you point to a developer comment on this? I’d love to think that I could continue my campaign rather than restarting, but it seems so unlikely. Even the *patches* for the original editions broke savegames, so it’s hard to imagine that such a complete revamp wouldn’t do so …

  31. Tom Gop says:

    Hey guys. Thanks for the approval!
    Fredo is actually from within the RED Team so I could as well quote him…
    Once again – so happy to read good reviews.
    Catcha later at Leipzig!

  32. MeestaNob! says:

    Good news about The Witcher, do we have a guestimate of when it will be out (either retail or download)?

    Also, will the new collectors edition PLEASE come out in Australia? I’ve been holding out for ages!

  33. Tertiee says:

    CD Projekt has stated the Enhanced Edition will come out “first half of September 2008”

  34. The Pope says:

    @K – I found the consequences screens pretty handy. Ideally, they wouldn’t be necessary, but I’m so used to games where all actions have the same result that a game does have to come straight out and say ‘this action did this, and wouldn’t have if you did something else’ for me to believe I have any effect on the story.

  35. Mr. President says:

    Thank god I haven’t bought The Witcher yet.
    Doesn’t sound like the type of game I would play through more than once, well at least now I get to play the good version.

  36. James T says:

    Get a better userna– wait, no; I’ve seen the Witcher SE occasionally here in Brisbane, so it’s around the place. Getting a bit harder to find this sort of thing as PC sections shrink though.

    I don’t know that I’m ‘excited’ for this, having already played The Witcher and deemed it excellent, but I’m interested to see just how much they polish it up (will ‘catoblepas’ be pronounced in fewer than three ways?! …And will I have to keep exiting the game to clear the cache every couple of maps?!).

  37. MeestaNob! says:

    I’m mean the collectors edition of the enhanced version.

  38. Fredo says:

    Guys, a short correction to what I’ve said before. The saves will surely work but because of the engine changes, there might occur some problems on certain quest/story configurations. To enjoy the Enhanced Edition at 100%, you must start a new game. Believe me, it is worth it !

  39. Tarn says:

    Interesting to see Witcher staff posting here. I’m impressed!

    I played up to the end of chapter 2 of The Witcher and absolutely adored it, despite all the acknowledged problems. It was one of those games that was vastly more than the sum of its parts, although it was extremely difficult to actually put my fingers on why.

    Having since played and finished Mass Effect, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I’m surprised to find myself still more excited about finishing off The Witcher once the EE is out. I was concerned that ME would make The Witcher seem rather ‘primitive’ but, despite its technological sexiness, The Witcher is really the far more progressive game.

    Can’t wait! I may also re-buy it, despite buying the UK special edition in the first place…