Eyes On: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Open-world seems to be the buzzword at this year’s E3. The ability for players to explore a vast foreign landscape with little to no inhibition is certainly a juicy prospect – one that it seems that Polish Studio CD Project Red couldn’t ignore. Their latest installment in The Witcher series of games will be featuring just that: a completely open world.

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For those that need some background, The Witcher is a series of RPG games made by CD Project Red, a Polish studio. Which is appropriate too, considering that The Witcher, or Wiedźmin, is based on a series of books by the same name by best-selling Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. It follows the adventures of Geralt of Rivia – also known as The White Wolf – a traveling monster slayer for hire. The game itself features a lot of Bioware-esque (if you can call it that) characteristics such as branching storylines based on dialogue choice, morality, and time dependent consequences. Both the game and the book feature a deep and involved storyline which is only enhanced by the addition of gameplay and visuals – suffice it to say it deeply impress die-hard fans and players new to the franchise regardless. And with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the game-making boffins at CD Projekt RED aimed to make something more: the definitive Witcher experience.

The game itself comes to us with little fanfare – we’ve known that it was in development since February of 2013 with some gameplay footage shown at E3 later that year. This time, they’ve aimed to show a more complete experience and I have to say it’s coming together nicely. The demo was hands-off; we were tasked with watching an employee play the game to a very well executed presentation. But even as I sat in the theater, lightly grumbling about the lack of a playable demo it didn’t take much time for my eyes to wander towards the presentation – and stay glued there.

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With every demo, it seems, the folks behind The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt have somehow made an already gorgeous game even more beautiful – it runs smoother, with lusher vegetation, more NPCs – and its clear that they have put a lot of effort in it. This particular one began right after the far more public Microsoft E3 Press Conference demo where Geralt slays a Griffin. (Which you can check out here.)Having completed the task, with the beast’s head along side its time to get the reward – which brings Geralt to Novigrad.

Novigrad - and it appears that you can travel anywhere in it as its unzoned and seemless. Impressive!

It is at this point in the demo where you really see how MASSIVE the game’s world is. During the Microsoft Xbox conference, the developers behind The Witcher 3 emphasized the seamless open-world available to players of the game and when Geralt walks into the enormous and gorgeous city with no load times, the sense of their accomplishment is truly overwhelming.

The Pleasure House is Back - An Example of a place in Novigrad.

The gameplay demonstration showcased a segment of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt where Geralt is hunting down a mysterious woman with ashen hair. While that plot in itself isn’t that interesting – at least to those new to The Witcher – it was a sort of detective-like chase that involved lots of exploring, lots of talking to people, and lots of quest-like chores – an ample selection of things to do and see in a demo for a new RPG. After turning in the quest that was completed during the Microsoft demo, Geralt proceeds to pursue his leads – and knowing our favorite Witcher this leads to combat in a dark swamp. The combat was showcased boasted the smoothest they have ever made – slightly twitchy but just enough complexity to be distinctly RPG. And while the demo shown to us at E3 only had fights with Bandits, Drowners and a Tree, the screenshots allude to some epic enemy and monster fights.

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The remaining part of the demo didn’t play much to the open-world changes the polish studio has made to the game – instead it followed what appears to be a small chunk of the main story which I won’t elaborate into here. That being said, there is appears to be quite a lot to look forward to and it certainly seems like an excellent game – if not one of the most anticipated RPGs of next year. Provided the developers make sure there is plenty to do and plenty to explore, it definitely looks like I’ll be picking up a copy come early 2015.