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Page 4 of 4NPCs and Dialogue
The handful of areas that I was able to check out in the press build were bustling with NPCs going about their daily lives, communing amongst each other and tossing out the occasional vulgarity as you get within earshot. Soldiers train for battle, workers move cargo onto boats, a butcher cuts meat, fishermen stand along the shore perfecting their craft, women gather to gossip, and guards man their stations (and can even be spotted taking breaks and falling asleep on the job as night falls). A believable world is essential to any role-playing game, and based on my 15-hour experience, the team at CDP seems to have ticked all of the right boxes with The Witcher 2.
Occasionally, Triss, Zoltan, or Dandelion will accompany you (primarily during specific quests), though they're never under your direct control during such an event. However, you can indulge in conversation with them at any time, as long as you're not actively in combat. Dialogue works just as Witcher veterans would expect it to, aside from the fact that you'll regularly see icons next to dialogue choices that can be influenced by your intimidate or persuasion abilities, or can be influenced with the use of the Axii sign. It's through these choices that you can initially gain the abilities themselves, and then you can increase their level with each successful check that you make. It's also worth mentioning that the dialogue options don't represent exactly what Geralt will say - each option is more of a summary of the conversation that's to come. I guess verbatim dialogue options are a thing of the past, even for the classic-loving guys at CD Projekt.
The choices presented to Geralt during dialogue are many and some have dire consequences. When asked by one of Flotsam's seedier types to track down a formula from a local alchemist, do you force him to give up the real formula or agree to a deal that will net you (and, ultimately, your employer) a fake one? Do you slay the booze-loving troll that's blocking a prominent trade route (and therefore claim its rare trophy and crafting ingredients) or do you sympathize with it and figure out a non-lethal solution to the problem? When a local thug sets a building inhabited by elven women ablaze, do you save them from a fiery death or do you pursue the man responsible? When things start to escalate while tracking down the main antagonist, do you side with Iorveth and the non-humans or Temerian agent Vernon Roche? These types of situations are quite prominent in just the first several hours of the game, so I expect that we'll be wrestling with a lot of decisions throughout the course of the game. Word is that Act 2 plays out in two completely different manners, depending on your prior decisions (including those you made in the original game, should you import your save game).
The White Wolf Has Returned in Style
If you've read everything I've had to say up to this point, you'll probably reach the conclusion that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with The Witcher 2. And you'd be right. There are so many refinements that CD Projekt RED has gracefully included in the sequel, and they've done so with a technical expertise that immediately catapults them to the top echelon of RPG developers. That's not to say it's a perfect game - the timed combat and quick time events might not sit well with some of you and Geralt's sexual escapades are once again a bit over the top - but as far as traditional role-playing titles go, The Witcher 2 is the finest example we've seen since Origins, perhaps even since its predecessor.
So did we make the right decision to label The Witcher 2 as our most anticipated RPG of 2011? Absolutely.
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