There have been many video game series that could stake a claim on being the best of the past few years. One dark-horse contender that has slowly crept up the ranks of public consciousness is The Witcher. The original and its sequel presented rich and complex storytelling, unique combat, and a mature dark fantasy world to explore. While the first game took a long time to find its audience, The Witcher 2 was an instant hit which means expectations are through the roof with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. We stopped by the CD Projekt Red meeting room at E3 to see footage from this game, and man oh man were we impressed.
The developers started off by giving a bit of background about the story setup for The Witcher 3 (Reader’s Digest version — monsters attacking from the south and Geralt embarking on a personal journey), and then showed us about 40 minutes of gameplay. They prefaced the demonstration by saying that the game was still in pre-alpha and that we should bear that in mind. I found that quite amusing actually, because even in this state it looks nearly as good as just about anything else out in the market right now. The world presented is absolutely massive and beautifully detailed. For perspective, the island sections we saw were twice as large as the entire world of The Witcher 2. According to CD Projekt Red’s fact sheet, the world of the Witcher 3 is 35 (!) times larger than that of its predecessor.
Not only is this world huge, but it is full of characters. The developers really wanted to make this as much of a living world as possible, and the behavior and actions of non-playable characters is dictated by time of day, weather, and random occurrences. Along with people to talk to, this world is full of dozens of enemy types. There are no bosses in The Witcher 3 per se, but the process of taking some down has to do with much more than loading up on potions and button mashing. You need to study the land, search for clues, and figure out the enemy before going into a fight. It’s an incredibly innovative mechanic that rewards an inquisitive mind as much as a quick sword.
One of the most appealing characteristics of a developer like CD Projekt Red is that they are incredibly ambitious, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt might be one of the boldest RPGs by any developer in a very long time. I can’t wait to see how this game turns out once it’s ready for release.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is scheduled for release in 2014.
You can also check out our brief interview with CD Projekt Red.