The fine folks at CD Projekt RED were kind enough to show us a nearly hour long gameplay demo of the upcoming high-fantasy RPG blockbuster, as well as answer some of our nagging questions. Here is what we took away from what we saw.
The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt is set several years after the events of The Witcher 2, meaning that there are few direct connections to previous games in the series. The decision was made to distance the third title from the previous two so that the team could step away from the political intrigue of the previous titles and focus on Geralt’s personal journey. In The Witcher 3, Geralt is in pursuit of a terrifying and deadly group of spectral warriors known as the Wild Hunt. In the game world, witchers were originally monster hunters and that aspect of the game world will become the central focus of the story.
There are several new features being added into The Witcher 3:
Trading and Bartering: the new system will make it profitable to travel around the world buying and selling items to locations that might have them in short supply to earn a profit. For example, fish will be cheap in coastal towns, while towns farther inland or far from bodies of water will pay well for fish.
Transportation: With the dramatically increased scope of the world, the team at CD Projekt RED wanted to make it easy to traverse the world. To this end, they included abilities and vehicles like swimming climbing, sailing, riding, and fast travel. These means of transportation are not without their hazards however. We were cautioned that sailing into a storm, could result in a ship wreck and having to swim to shore and that swimming comes with its own dangers, like freezing from ice water.
A Day/Night Cycle: You will be able to rest and change the time of day. This will have various effects on the monsters you hunt and how you hunt them. The example we were given was that if you were to fight werewolves, you would be better off fighting them in daylight, rather than under the light of a full-moon.
Witcher Senses: the visualization of Geralt’s years of training. You’ll be able to see the important investigative markers that will help you track monsters. These clues will lead you to monsters or give you clues regarding how to best defeat them.
The scale of The Witcher 3 has increased dramatically. For the purposes of the demo, we were only shown one island, but we were told that island was bigger than all of The Witcher 2. In fact, the entire world is 35x larger than the previous Witcher games and it is entirely open world. The team at CD Projekt RED designed the world to be large, but also dense, so there will always be something new to explore and see just over the next hill or behind the next tree.
We were shown a portion of the main quest, which revolves around Geralt’s mission to destroy the Wild Hunt, a ghastly, deadly, and evil collection of spectral warriors. In the gameplay segment, Geralt was searching for Bjorn, the sole survivor of a raid by the Hunt. Traveling to the small village in which Bjorn has gone to stay with relatives, the demonstrator steered us toward some intriguing ruins on the top of a hill. He explained to us that the team has worked very hard to make such areas appealing so that players will want to diverge from the beaten path and explore. In the ruins, we discovered a hulking creature known as a fiend. Looking like a cross between a stag and a rhinoceros, the fiend charged Geralt and we were given the chance to see the titular witcher in combat. More dodge moves have been added since The Witcher 2, increasing maneuverability within combat scenarios. Geralt can also do minor magic, like shooting sparks and flames from his hands. These spells will have different effects on monsters, like lighting them on fire which can then spread elsewhere.
As the fight with the fiend progressed, it demonstrated how important it is to know your adversary in The Witcher 3. When you discover what kind of a beast you are going to be facing, it is best to consult the Bestiary, a compendium of Geralt’s lifetime of monster hunting and adventuring. This will give players insight into how best to tackle the creature. With the fiend, he can cast a spell of darkness and shroud itself in shadow, the only visible thing remaining is a singular red eye on its forehead. It can use this opportunity to either attack or escape, making an unprepared attack on the fiend a very poor idea.
For prospective players who are just hearing about this series now or who are intrigued, we were assured that players won’t have had to play the The Witcher and The Witcher 2 in order to understand what is happening. The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt will release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC in early 2014.