While CD Projekt Red was busy blowing the doors off their game during the Microsoft press conference I was busy with the doldrums of the 9 to 5. It was not until the next day that I was on a flight to LA and then on to pressing the flesh at E3 checking out the field of new games. Finally at the end of that first day I sat in on the CD Projekt Red presentation and was able to see what all the buzz was about.
The way E3 is set up there are more than one type of meeting space. The show has the main halls with two giant floors where you see most of the press coverage take place on the live streams. Then there are temporary offices set up in low ceiling halls away from the hustle and bustle of the main show floor. In my experience, and the Witcher proved no different, the best presentations take place in a third type of atmosphere; the permanent meeting rooms on the second floor of the halls. These rooms vary in size from 200 square feet to a few thousand. It is in these rooms that I was able to get my hands on an Oculus for the first time last year and this year I was able to watch a 45 minute demo of Wild Hunt.
The demo in the meeting room picked up where the demo from the Microsoft presentation left off. During that MS presentation you were able to see Geralt of Rivia kill the gryphon. In the demo we saw Geralt ride back into Novigrad with the gryphon head to collect his bounty. Turns out Geralt was trading the head for information. Geralt is looking for the ashen haired woman. As payment Geralt is told who, or more accurately what, the ashen haired woman has been seen with. We then left the meeting place and travelled back through Novigrad.
Novigrad is a rather large city full of NPCs that have their own personality and will say things at you if you pass close enough, if not you can just hear their idle chatter in the background. While Novigrad was big the open world the Witcher III takes place in is enormous. From Novigrad we traveled south and made use of the games quick travel feature. Once you visit a key landmark you can open the world map and travel instantly between locations. Our tour guide on this presentation informed us if we had tried to travel on horseback from Novigrad to our destination it would have easily taken us 20 minutes. The horse seemed to move at a pretty swift clip too.
The next town we visited we had to help a child recover his voice. While he wasn’t really a child he did help us as promised for helping him. Geralt was then on to meet the three ladies in charge of this new town. The ladies tasked us with a quest to destroy an evil spirit in the woods. Once we travel through the woods and find this evil spirit that appears as a heart attached to a set of tree roots the spirit tried to convince Geralt that it is not really evil and the ladies he is helping are the truly evil ones. It is at this point that Geralt is faced with a choice. He can kill the spirit and go back to town, or he can believe the spirit and go back to town and take on the ladies. I’m not sure what happens if you believe the spirit because our guide choose to kill the spirit but I can tell you the ladies were in fact not what they seem. A village elder ended up cutting off one of his ears to appease the ladies. The Witcher spends a lot of time operating in this area. Everything is not black and white, in fact almost nothing in this game will be black and white. Most of the choices you will end up making are morally ambiguous and you’ll probably end up more than once second guessing yourself about whether you made the right choice or not. It’s meaningful choices such as this that are spread throughout the game that make your character feel like he has an impact on the world around him, it will also ensure that no two playthroughs are alike, and that the Witcher III will have tremendous replay value.
In addition to riding on horseback Geralt will also be able to sail and he also now has the ability to jump. That last one kind of gets a chuckle out of me. You never know how much you like to jump until you play a game and you can’t do it. FFXI anyone? That said this game is non linear and CD Projekt Red promises over 100 hours of hand crafted gameplay and sets to establish a renewed emphasis on exploration that may have been absent in the previous entries in a world that is 35 times larger than the world in Witcher 2.
Without going too in depth with what we saw during the demo and running the risk of giving out spoilers on the story the world of Witcher III looks amazing. The graphics are top notch. The world truly feels alive. CD Projekt Red aims to set a new standard for graphics in RPGs with this game and they just may have done it. Walking through a swampy area you have to be concerned that some unseen foe could surface and attack you at any moment. Along with new and improved combat animations the Witcher III is a treat to look at... other than those women I previously mentioned. They may just scar you for life. What has been seen cannot be unseen. When you play the game in a few months don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The only thing that I did not like about the Witcher III is that it is supposed to be the last one in the series. What about you? Have you played the first 2? Are you looking forward to Wild Hunt as much as I am? Let me know in the comments below.
Robert Lashley / Robert Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can find him spending his free time checking out the latest games and technology. Feel free to hunt him down on twitter @Grakulen
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