E3 2014: The Witcher 3 Goes Wherever I May Roam
As the developer showing off The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt talked about how Novigrad was the biggest city in all the land, I watched as Geralt sauntered though the cobblestone streets on horseback. The population was alive and well, and even within the walls of the city, the locations were varied and offered a great glimpse of the world beyond Geralt's missions. After picking up some information on a woman Geralt was tracking, the developers opened the fast travel map. Only then did the scope of just how big the world of The Witcher 3 was really set in.
Previously, CD Projekt Red has talked about how players would be able to visit any location they can see on the map in The Witcher 3. The developers also offered tiny glimpses into the varied and massive world map over the past year or so since The Witcher 3 was formally announced. Even knowing all of that, I was ill prepared for just how incredibly vast the expanses would be once actually in the game. It's easy for a trailer to render out highly detailed vistas or for the horizon to stretch for miles upon miles, but here, in the actual thick of The Witcher 3, Geralt feels so insignificant. Looking at a map and seeing a landmark is some indeterminate distance away is one thing. Looking out over the valley below while perched on a mountainside cliff, and seeing that landmark ever so itty-bitty in the distance is another entirely. Even more impressive, the draw distance pulls no punches, and delivers a presentation that's among the most stunning we've ever seen.
CDPR showed off some of the story and the combat, too, but the story is worth experiencing for yourself and the combat remains largely unchanged. That's a good thing. Battles in The Witcher 2 were action-packed and did require some modicum of strategy. The evade roll has been taken out though, and replaced with a more realistic dodge, but you can still count on the same level of brutality (if not more). For me though, it was all about the world. The Witcher's universe is incredibly compelling, and I enjoyed the mix of political intrigue with straight action heroics in previous installments. Seeing that the world will be bigger, and play a more integral part in the story was a major plus. Previously, Geralt's decisions didn't really have a major impact on the world, nor did the tertiary events happening that influenced the overall plot.
Now, the world will reflect the massive conflict raging across the land. Your decisions will impact not just how people react to your presence, but will also change the world. For instance, one side storyline had Geralt visiting a small orphanage. While Geralt was out and about, the many children there were kidnapped. One monster Geralt encountered said it could help us find the children if he let it live. For the purposes of the demo, the devs slayed the creature, and though we didn't see ramifications instantly, there were consequences to that decision. A brief time later, we returned to that orphanage to speak to the elder woman there, and there was not a child in sight. What that means to the overarching narrative remains to be seen, but where once an area was populated was now a shell of a home.
While this only touched but one small portion of The Witcher 3's world, these kinds of choices are littered throughout the land. With a world as fleshed out and vast as that in Wild Hunt, the possibilities are nearly endless. We have to wait a little longer until we can enjoy Geralt's next escapade, but based on what we've seen, the wait will be more than worth it.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will be available on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on Feb. 24, 2015.