The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Preview and Impressions from E3 2014

Geralt has never been better

CD Projekt RED’s Witcher series has continually furthered the role-playing since the original release of The Witcher in 2007. Following the game’s massive success and critical praise, CDPR released a follow-up in 2009. The second title in the series, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings built upon the previous title and improved just about every aspect possible, creating for what is generally considered one of the greatest RPGs of all time.

The third title the series, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been one of the most highly anticipated and eagerly awaited video games in recent memory. At this year’s E3 show, The Witcher 3 was on full display, the game’s stunning visuals and tremendous gameplay were featured in a lengthy trailer. After the trailer, more Wild Hunt gameplay was showed by CD Projekt RED in an impressive preview demo.

The first thing that became clear during The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s gameplay preview was the staggering scope of the game. When it releases in February 2015, gamers can expect to invest hundreds of hours into the game just to experience everything Wild Hunt has to offer.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s E3 preview began shortly after the game’s gameplay trailer revealed earlier in the week. Right off the bat, Wild Hunt stood out visually, looking considerably better than last year’s build thanks to absolutely impressive lighting and improved textures. It was hard not to stare in awe at CDPR’s craftsmanship; every element –down to the lifelike flowing hair textures – was a visual treat.

As the demo progressed, a massive city was featured. Absolutely thriving with characters, the sheer amount of NPCs seen simply going about their daily routine added a whole new level of believability to the game’s fantasy world, making viewers feel as though they were strolling through the streets of an actual city. Similar to the overall improvement of Wild Hunt’s build this year as opposed to E3 2013, the various NPCs were well-modeled and detailed each with lifelike and believable animations.

After viewing the city, a view of the game’s map was put on display, once more showing the game’s massive world. Fast travel will be possible in The Witcher 3, but players must have already visited a given location. This notion compounded by the CDPR’s statement that some locations in the game will take over fifteen minutes of travel by horseback to reach, guarantees that exploring all of Wild Hunt will be an expansive task.

The next scene put on display during the E3 demo took place in a swamp, as Geralt used his skills as a Witcher to hunt down a godling named Johnny. The swamp featured a selection of earthy tones and stood in stark contrast to the city shown previously, but was lovely nonetheless. The water physics and lighting worked together perfectly with swamp setting, creating a rich atmosphere for Geralt to explore.

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Geralt ultimately found the godling, an impish creature, who could not speak. Geralt had to help Johnny get his voice back in the swamp, allowing for more of the environment to be seen as the godling led the Witcher through the area.

Following Johnny also led to the first instance of combat in the demo. A general improvement from The Witcher 2, Wild Hunt boasts remarkably fluid animations and responsive movement when in combat. These improvements allow for a robust combat system, all while still providing a challenge that fans of the series have come to expect and love.

Once Geralt locates Johnny’s voice, the Witcher is able to interrogate the godling about the whereabouts of a woman. During this exchange, the writing of Wild Hunt shines through. The previous two Witcher titles have always featured top-notch writing, and from all the dialogue featured during the E3 2014 demo, Wild Hunt seems to continue this tradition in a great way.

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After coming to an agreement, Johnny and Geralt set off to locate the woman in question; moving throughout the swamp as thundering stomping sounds can be heard in the distance. Ultimately, Johnny and Geralt meet a woman named Gran, whom the godling negotiates with in order to assist Geralt.

Shortly thereafter, Gran takes the two to meet the Ladies – three spirits that Gran can be possessed by in order to gain otherworldly information. As it turns out, the Ladies have the information that is important to Geralt’s mission, allowing him to move forward on his quest. Before he can, as is par for the course in RPGs, Geralt and Johnny must help the Ladies with a side quest.

While on the journey to fulfill the Ladies’ request, Geralt encounters creatures that aim to halt his progress. Once more, the combat of Wild Hunt shines, as Geralt uses a fire spell to engulf the environment in flames, thinning his opponents’’ numbers. In keeping tradition with previous Witcher titles, Wild Hunt once more offers a variety of options in combat. Players can utilize the game’s weapon wheel to equip various spells and signs, allowing them to be used in combat quickly during a fray.

Upon arriving to a small village, Geralt eventually encounters his target from the Ladies’ task, which he speaks with in order to gain further information. Dark forces, the mysterious character informs Geralt, have been returning due to the war that has been waging on.

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Eventually, Geralt’s meditation is put on display, showing how the Witcher can use different mutagens in order to boost various stats in preparation for difficult fights. Meditating also allows for time to pass, changing from day to night before Geralt moves forward on his mission.

At night, The Witcher 3 shines. The game makes great use of the moon as a lighting source, creating ethereal glows and shadowy effects across the environment. Geralt moves through the night on his quest, eventually encountering group of werewolves. Combat does not break out however; as the Witcher realizes that the creatures are not the dark forces he has been tasked with stopping. The werewolves are located near a blocked path, forcing Geralt to find an alternate path in order to move forward.

The Witcher eventually dives into a nearby pool of water, swimming beneath the surface until he locates a hidden passage which allows him to progress further.

At long last, Geralt comes to the source of the evil – a horrifying creature that looks something like brains and guts turned inside out at best. Upon encountering the evil spirit, Geralt is forced to make tough decisions in order to determine how the situation will turn out. Any given choice can – and will – directly impact later events in the game, urging players to think carefully at every option.

In the demo, Geralt slays the spirit with little delay and returns towards the Ladies in order to collect his hard-earned payment. Upon collecting his payment, Geralt is granted the ability to see the true form of the three Ladies. More monster than woman, the grotesque Ladies finally reveal the location of the original woman Geralt seeks in a flashback.

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Visually, the flashback is a cinematic treat. Once more, the game’s visuals steal the show, fully immersing the viewer into what is on the screen. The flashback reveals a white-haired woman, with a scar on her face, before sizzling into blackness, signifying the demo’s end.

All in all, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s demo was one of the lengthiest and most impressive on display during E3 2014. It is clear the CDPR is attempting to outdo themselves once more with Wild Hunt, something that seems like a very real possibility.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is set to release on February 24, 2015.

 

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