The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is easily one of the most promising RPGs of 2014 so when I was given the opportunity to attend a preview session for this next-gen title at gamescom I was heady with anticipation.
Although CD Projekt RED has a proven track record as a RPG developer, the studio is making some bold claims about The Witcher 3 – saying that it will be the “best-looking RPG to date” and “redefine the RPG”. Whether or not these statements will ring true when the game is released next year is still open to debate, but after seeing the game in action for over 40 minutes it’s clear that CD Projekt RED is resolutely determined to create an unparalleled sense of immersion in The Witcher 3 and take the RPG in exciting new directions by focusing on open-world, consequential gameplay and a non-linear narrative.
CD Projekt RED’s presentation began by setting the scene for The Witcher 3. You play as Geralt of Rivia – a mutated monster hunter who has no clear moral allegiance. The world Geralt inhabits is in chaos as the Empire of Nilfgaard ravages the Northern Kingdoms and an otherworldly threat known as the Wild Hunt draws ever closer as they seek the one soul Geralt considers kin.
The presenter then explained the impressive scope of The Witcher 3′s world to the audience. The world is 35 times larger than The Witcher 2′s setting and takes approximately 40 minutes to traverse on horseback end to end. Apart from riding horses, Geralt can run, jump, swim and sail his way across a variety of landscapes including No Man’s Land, Skellige, and Novigrad. These regions are inspired by different sources and references such as Slavic mythology and Nordic and Celtic legends, and in the case of the port city Novigrad – medieval Amsterdam.
According to the presenter the game will boast over 100 hours of non-linear gameplay and dozens of choices which culminate in three completely different playable epilogues set in one of twelve possible world states – resulting in a staggering 36 possible endings!
Most of the demo playthrough we witnessed took place in Skellige where Geralt was tasked with hunting a spirit in the forest. It seems that monster hunting will be a greater point of focus than it was in The Witcher 2, and these segments of the game will require you to interact with nearby villagers as you learn more details about the beast, its whereabouts and habits. For example, in the demo the monster Geralt was hunting could be weakened by killing one of the villagers who it had possessed, and you could tell who this person was by the cloud of bats which swarmed around her location. In this instance you could encourage her lover to kill her for you, or perform the deed yourself.
The Witcher 3′s setting is beautiful to behold and fluid to traverse thanks to the REDengine 3 which streams the game’s open world without any loading screens. Trees bend in the breeze and shadows lengthen as the game’s day-night cycle takes effect, and even the open ocean is a hive of activity as hunting parties and fishermen row past you singing mirthful tunes. All these details really pull you into The Witcher 3′s world and immerse you in its atmosphere, and when the consequences of players’ actions become apparent in their surroundings I think it’s going to make the experience even richer.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will be released for PC, PS4 and Xbox One sometime in 2014. Head over here for El33tonline’s previous coverage of this upcoming title from CD Projekt RED.