This afternoon I had the opportunity to look at – not touch – a gameplay demo for Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, and it looks like CD Projekt RED has outdone themselves.
“The Wild Hunt”is a dark force, a ghastly entity of sorts, so the demo opened appropriately with a town in chaos. Flames rose everywhere with menacing soldiers clad in Sauron like gear killing townspeople, before a cut to a Viking-like ship floating in the sky. There they are… the Wild Hunt.
Keeping in mind that the footage was an in-game pre-alpha build, the visuals looked very smooth. Character models were highly detailed, voice sync was spot on, and the facial animations are lifelike. Witcher 3’s game world was fleshed out beautifully, lights and shadows falling in all the right places, nice particle effects adding extra glean.
The most noticeable upgrade from previous titles is the scope. Chew on this: the island shown in the 45 minute demo is larger than all of Witcher 2‘s maps together! That impressive size isn’t just for show, as Witcher 3 is 35x bigger than Witcher 2 , offering 100 hours of gameplay between main and side quests.
Travelling this massive hunk of real estate can be attacked depending on your preference. For the speedy, streamlined approach, Witcher 3 has a fast travel system using the in-game map, so Geralt doesn’t have to manually travel everywhere. If you’re more inclined to immerse yourself in the game world, Geralt has a sailboat to get around the islands of the Witcher 3.
A limiting factor for manual travel is a real life concern – weather. The game world experiences dynamic weather changes that have effects on the world. During a meditation session, the dynamic weather system kicked in. As the world went from night to day, a storm began, making ship travel impossible. This dynamic will rear its head in various ways, including full moons making werewolf hunting much more difficult.
In a genre with steep competition, Witcher 3 is going to bring a game changer to the open world experience – zero load times while traversing the world. Thankfully, this luxury won’t come at the expense of the immersion factor. Hordes of NPC’s live their own lives, populate small towns and interact with each other to provide a sense of the world being alive. They can (and will) randomly interact with Geralt. It could be something as simple as asking for a ride on Geralt’s horse, or more engaging action such as attacks from evil doers, a la the bandits in Red Dead Redemption.
A redesigned combat system is going to be paired with the updated locale, and it already looks like a smoother transition from exploration into fighting action. A monster hunting quest was the highlight of the demo – Geralt used various spells and the environment to take on the monster, the initial conflict coming to an end with the monster returning to its lair. Geralt can then use his monster hunting vision to track one of the 80 unique monsters that leave unique signatures behind.
Clues appear as oddities in the world – not blatant, but subtle hints that help progress the quest. While searching there were a few random beast attacks along the way, a harsh reality during night travel when more enemies come out to play.
Once the clues are gathered, Geralt proceeded back to the original quest givers with a choice of which faction to go with. He had to choose between killing the monster via one group, or keeping it alive with another. For our demo, they went for the killing option. Once Geralt found the leshen (the monster he’s been hunting) another battle ensued. As with most encounters, large or small, a special approach needs to be taken to defeat the leshen. Monster fights are big, but they’re not considered boss battles.
After seeing what Witcher 3 had to offer, it seems like a critically acclaimed series is only getting better with each sequel. This game is going to be epic in both scale and substance. While 100 hours of gameplay seems preposterous, the little side quest shown to the press clocked in at around 45 minutes. There’s no doubt that CD Projekt RED is headed in the right direction with their latest RPG.
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