|System: Xbox One, PS4, PC|
|Dev: CD Projekt RED|
|Pub: CD Projekt RED|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
At E3 2013, CD Projekt RED ushered us into a private studio, gave us all beer and donuts, and let us see a behind-closed-doors preview of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. However, no amount of free booze and sweets could compare to the sheer awesomeness that is Geralt, his many broadswords, and his willingness to slit a man’s throat if they look at him funny. Be prepared to spend a lot of time with Geralt’s badassery: The Witcher 3’s world is nearly 30 times larger than The Witcher 2’s, with far more gameplay than the previous two installments even come close to. We are talking over 100 hours of gameplay! Now that is impressive.
The demo started with Geralt traveling through the world. The game offers several different forms of transportation, including boats, horses, carriages, and more. However, these methods of transportation are affected as the world changes in real time around you. Horses will get tired, making it harder to ride at night. Horrible storms will erupt at random times, making it impossible to travel by boat. Luckily, Geralt can meditate whenever he wants in order to make time pass quickly; this can turn day to night and make horrendous torrents pass overhead. Unfortunately, this does make time pass during the game, and you can affect time-sensitive quests this way.
After Geralt wandered around the demo for a bit, he was assaulted by a huge beast which looked like some sort of strange, three-eyed pyro elk… weird. This beast was a member of the Wild Hunt, a wave of supernatural creatures that travel the land, slaughtering and destroying all in their wake. While a normal man runs from the Wild Hunt, Geralt seeks it. He seeks it for some strange and likely plot-relevant reason.
When fighting the fire-elk thing, Geralt had to deal not only with the beast itself, but also its control over his reality. It was able to essentially shift Geralt into another dimension, causing him to deal with a completely dark battlefield littered with dangers at every turn. Only after beating the beast back and stabbing it in its third eye was Geralt able to return to reality. Unfortunately, the beast ran off, leaving Geralt to track it down.
As Geralt searched for information about the beast, he came across a town that had itself a bit of a conundrum. You see, members of the town were being slain by a totally different beast, and there was a small civil conflict erupting over those deaths. Younger members of the town thought the beast needed to be slain, and older members of the town thought it needed to be worshipped as a god. The way this quest was introduced made it feel like it was part of the main quest line, even though in actuality it was a sidequest. From what I saw in the demo, it appears that all the sidequests in the game will feel more urgent. This will negate the feeling that Geralt is wasting time slaying wolves while the Wild Hunt destroys the world due to his distraction.
A huge theme of The Witcher 3 is choice. Geralt can choose to side with the young villagers or the village elders when tracking down this beast, and his tasks will end up different depending on who he sides with. In our demo, Geralt sided with the villagers, which caused him to head into the forest to track down the beast. At this point in the game, we were shown Geralt’s Witcher sense, which outlines important places of note in red. This led us to a series of clues that helped Geralt narrow down the type of beast he was stalking. These clues were stored in what was essentially a monster encyclopedia. When Geralt finally had enough clues to figure out what it was, he also knew how to kill it, which involved destroying a number of pillars and getting rid of a villager that the beast had marked.
While the villagers thought that the beast marked the elders, it turned out that another young villager, a love interest to one of the main-quest NPCs, bore the mark. While she could have been exiled or otherwise removed, the villagers rashly killed her to let Geralt do his job. What then proceeded was an epic tracking session where Geralt fought off rabid wolves and eventually slayed the beast itself. He returned only to find that the villagers had slain the elders; they were merely looking for an excuse to do so all along. Who are the real beasts here, hmmm?
Moral ambiguity is the other main theme in The Witcher 3. After Geralt slayed the beast, the villagers went on in relative peace. Unfortunately, this also meant that the hunters who were trained to protect themselves from the beasts of the forest lost their skills. A few short months later, the town was ransacked by raiders. The town was no more, and it was all because of Geralt’s decision. It’s OK though, CD Projekt RED assured us that the outcome to the other decision isn’t much better.
The Witcher 3 is looking to be an incredible, new RPG for the next generation. Unlike many other RPGs, The Witcher 3’s world really does feel living and active, like it goes on with or without you. Geralt has an important role to play in this world’s history, but perhaps the story of what the world does to Geralt is more important. Be sure to look out for The Witcher 3 when it launches next year.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
Date: July 18, 2013