The world of The Witcher reminds me of the Wild West. Witchers were a proud race of monster hunters coming to the aid of the scared and downtrodden to defeat beasts through super human swordplay and unearthly magic. Despite their past heroics, the world is changing and and becoming more civilized. As a result, the Witchers are a dying breed in the face of a populace who have grown to fear and resent their existence. And yet, when a new threat appears and leaves a path of death behind them, Geralt of Rivia may be the only one who can save the world. The closed door presentation of The Wild Hunt opens immediately after Geralt's epic battle with the gryphon shown in the E3 demo. With the creature's head attached to his belt, the Witcher travels to the port city of Novigrad where he must present the trophy to fulfill a bounty contract and be rewarded with information regarding a mysterious ashen haired maiden. As Geralt makes his way to a tavern, we get a glimpse of just how massive the game will be. Novigrad is a large city that teems with life. Men move about in a hustling and bustling fashion, going about their programmed routines while children play games in the streets. After dropping off the monster trophy at the tavern, Geralt is told to head south to reach his objective.
Geralt's world is fully explorable and without boundaries. As in Skyrim, should the player spot a landmark in the distance, they are free to travel there at will. Our presenter emphasized just how massive the game map will be, pointing out that getting from Novigrad to the next story objective would take fifteen minutes while riding on horseback at a full clip. This is where the fast travel system eases the burden of lengthy travel, shortening the time it takes for you to get from point A to point B. However, as with all fast travel mechanics, you'll have to have already visited the desired destination beforehand.
Just like in the previous Witcher adventures, fulfilling a quest is no simple affair. Geralt will discover that in order to progress forward, he must come to the aid of others. Before he is told the location of his target, Geralt will help a retrieve a godling's voice, consult a trio of grotesque witches, and - naturally - fight off monsters like werewolves and Drowners.
The demo showed off the game's combat, appearing to the changes made in The Witcher 2. Geralt's magical abilities supplement his prowess in swordplay. New to the game is the ability to interact with the environment. Traversal is easier now that Geralt can vault over cover and ascend cliffs and mountains. In battle, the environment itself can be used against enemies. While helping a godling named Johnny, the Witcher was met by an alarming number of Drowners in the swampy No Man's Land. FIghting off the creatures with the silver sword is certainly an option (the cutting and slicing will often leave behind severed limbs, torsos and heads), the environment can also be used as a weapon. For example, during a drowner fight, our presenter pointed out the presence of murky swamp gas that can be lit by Geralt's fire magic and cause a vicious wall of fire to burst into existence, causing serious, if not fatal, damage to his opponents. Additional combat tricks include the crossbow which is useful for bringing down flying enemies in order to kill them with more direct and devastating attacks. Smaller foes like Downers and harpies won't tax Geralt too much. An encounter with a werewolf, however, proved to be a significantly greater danger that required preparation through Meditation, where the player can employ Mutagens and potions to give Geralt an edge for the upcoming battle.
CD Projekt Red aims to shape the world of The Wild Hunt into a living, breathing entity. There will be consequences for Geralt's actions and interactions with other people. The conclusion of the demo presented a dilemma involving a sentient forest creature that claimed to be protecting a village instead of harming it, as Geralt's quest giver had suggested earlier. Our presenter chose to kill the forest creature that initiated a boss fight. There were no immediate effects of killing the creature, though I am certain the long term effects will make themselves known in the final game. There wasn't much to the dialog systembut then again, there wasn't much to it from the start. Communication with characters and deciding their fate is a simple affair.
I've always admired The Witcher from afar. I had a difficult time with The Witcher's mid-game slump and the complexity of The Witcher 2 left me feeling like I was all thumbs. The one part of the demo I feeling comfortable praising is its gorgeous and beautiful art direction. The port city of Novigrad really took my breath away. It was equal parts beautiful and ugly, with the city's common and poor areas looking wonderfully distressed, messy and tired. The No Man's Land was pretty but not as visually enticing and complex as the city area. I can only assume that those running a high end PC are going to get the most out of The Witcher 3. We've seen how good games can look on the new consoles, but if the demo was running the computer version it will be a thing of absolute beauty. Scheduled to be released on February 25, 2015, The Wild Hunt looks like it will have everything Witcher fans have come to love. Pre-orders for the game are currently available through Steam and Good Old Games.
Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.