Polish developer CD Projekt RED recently gave an exclusive look at their upcoming game changing behemoth, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, at E3. I managed to catch the presentation, and what I saw was truly one of the most amazing things on display at E3.
The presentation centered around a portion of the game in which protagonist Geralt of Rivia had to hunt down a Gryphon as part of a contract. We were told that only the last portion of the hunt was being shown to us, as the overall quest was much longer and involved more planning.
First off, the developers showed the meditation and crafting system, which seems to have remained largely unchanged from The Witcher 2. You can advance time and heal wounds by meditating, as well as make and consume potions. Other items like bombs and health elixirs can be crafted with items found in the environment.
Geralt’s silver and steel swords make a return, and are complimented by a new tool, Gabriel, a short crossbow that can fire a variety of craftable bolts. The developers used a special bolt that would split into smaller bolts when fired.
Upon locating the gryphon, Geralt fired Gabriel, causing the creature to retreat. More importantly, the special crossbow bolt caused the creature to bleed, which, combined with Geralt’s Witcher sense, allowed the player to easily track the gryphon’s trail.
Along the way, Geralt encountered a band of thugs attacking a hapless villager. Intervening was entirely optional, but the developers chose to engage with them.
Wild Hunt‘s combat seemed faster and more dynamic than previous Witcher games. Geralt could sidestep and dodge effortlessly around his opponents, and would perform combat rolls upon landing from a considerable height. Counterattacks were more varied, with one in particular making Geralt knee a thug to the chest. Things were more gruesome, too; Geralt could perform finishing moves on defeated enemies, which would dismember them at various points, and in one case, cleave an opponent’s torso apart diagonally. Also making a return were Geralt’s spells, like Igni, Axii, and Aard.
By rescuing the villager, Geralt affected the game world and opened up a potential avenue for new quests.
The gryphon hunt resumed, and Geralt found the creature hanging out at the top of a mountain. Along the way, the developers stressed the amount of work they put into ensuring that the world of Wild Hunt was both beautiful and massive. The draw distance of the game was incredible, and it seemed like the game world stretched far beyond most open-world games like Skyrim. “Everything you see in the distance is something you can reach. Everything. And its available from the very beginning; at no point do we restrict you,” said CD Projekt RED’s Senior Gameplay Designer.
At any rate, the fight with the gryphon began. The gryphon had a certain rhythm to its attacks, and it was apparent that careful study of its movements and dodging at the appropriate time would be crucial to success. The battle was also complimented by the game’s excellent soundtrack, which combined powerful orchestral sounds with tribal sounding beats and vocals.
The gryphon was promptly slain, and Geralt took its head to return to his contractor as proof of the deed. The town the Geralt rode back to was Novigrad, and it seemed that it would be a central hub of civilization for the world of Wild Hunt. Unlike similar locations, like the Imperial City of Oblivion or the Citadel from Mass Effect, Novigrad was a massive, legitimately sized city with all kinds of activity going on that made the central hubs of other RPGs seem like small cottages by comparison. Children played in the streets, and numerous locals conversed about everything from politics to lewd jokes.
Even though Geralt was speeding through the streets of Novigrad on his horse, it was apparent that the town, nevermind the rest of the game world, would take a considerable amount of time to fully explore. Some of the locations encountered in the town included taverns, brothels, and a sea port. “It would take us ages to just travel around and see every street,” noted the developers.
Overall, it is clear that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will be one of the biggest releases of 2015. What little they showed in the presentation sealed in my mind that the amount of content in this game will far exceed that of previous Witcher games and indeed, most other RPGs of its caliber.
Still, I was left with a few questions, such as how the game will make exploration interesting. Considering that the game world is so massive, I’m curious as to how uch of it will be densely packed with things to see and explore the way Skyrim was, and how much will be barren. Wild Hunt is an entire galaxy apart from anything CD Projekt RED has done in terms of size and scope, and while The Witcher 2 was praised because it presented a more focused and rich experience than its predecessor, I’m hoping that the studio will maintain the same experience without getting lost in the game’s massive scale.