Editor’s Note: This is a preview piece for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Being that this game is very robust from a narrative standpoint, there’s a good chance that this piece may contain minor spoilers. Please be advised before reading forward–there are character names mentioned below that may appear spoiler-ish to fans of the series.
With a little less than a month to go before launch, The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt has some lofty expectations to live up to. Whether that is fair or not is irrelevant at this point, as the hype train for this one has long since departed, and is now going full speed onto May 19. It’s hard to blame fans for this, because as of this point every new piece of footage shown on the game increasingly impresses. Daunting numbers alone–like an estimate of over 200 hours of gameplay and over 30 different endings– have RPG fans biting at the chomps. Luckily for us, our good friends over at CD Projekt Red gave us an extensive look at an almost completed version of the game. Needless to say, we were impressed! So allow us to explain why your hype is warranted. Just as a heads up, the game was running on a PC at high settings–as opposed to ultra. What we were allowed to play was not vertical slices, but save files they had been playing on, and it wasn’t the final build.
First and foremost, the game is graphically stunning. We got to jump around between different scenarios, varying in the timeline of the story. What became immediately apparent through all these stop points was just how detailed everything in the world is. Landscapes are grand, and because of all the detail there is to every piece in this virtual world, it was begging to be explored. It was revealed to us that every piece of grass was added piece by piece, so the team was obviously meticulous with the amount of detail that went into their body of work.
To start off, we got a look at the intro sequence, just to learn some of the basics of combat and spell casting. It was a pleasant surprise to see that everything has become more streamlined and simple to use. Menus are easier to navigate, sword fights feel smoother, and overpowering enemies with your spells is as simple as ever. Previously, the user interface had been headache-inducing, with a mess of text and items to dig through. That seems to be cleaned up, thankfully. Even the skill trees have evolved, allowing you to mix and match skills, making it a breeze to change up your play style to better suit the situation. Potions also went through a drastic change this time around. Now you will be able to craft them on the go as long as you have the recipe and have created it at least once. It’s a smart choice, considering how large the world is and how much work it would take to gather the items necessary for said potions.
“It was a pleasant surprise to see that everything has become more streamlined and simple to use”
Dialogue choices will also become less clear cut and will rarely prompt you when you’re making a major decision. Some of the more game-changing choices will include timers with only two options so that you are always on your toes. Hopefully the rest of the game doesn’t make it clear what choices are good and bad. Keeping these important recourses in the grey area make for a more dynamic, emotional adventure.
After a nice introduction to the game’s mechanics, we moved on to the relationships Geralt will be involved in. As much of a fighter as he is, he is also equally quite the lover. Of course this meant we got a glimpse at both Triss and Yennifer, and their love-making scenarios with Geralt.
Sex. On. A. Unicorn. Yup! The great mythical beast is one of the many odd places where you’ll be making whoopee. These sorts of relationships will play an important role in your personal story arch. Let’s face it, sex is rather taboo in western culture and even more so in video games. Success stories of incorporating sexual interactions within these ambitious epics in a meaningful manner have been few and far between. Most of the time, they act as plot interjections that just end up feeling awkward. Even worse, they become quick time events that require the player to rapidly press down on a button. Previous Witcher installments have fallen prey to some of these issues, but Wild Hunt is attempting to be the outlier to the rule, taking a more mature approach to story telling. What types of relationships you build with different lovers will completely depend on you, and how much you invest in them will determine the different outcomes.
“Sex. On. A. Unicorn.”
Sex will be a means to build intimacy with the characters on screen and will provide different outcomes such as changing the amount of help you’ll receive from each character. Yes, to some extent, it is still silly-like having intercourse on a Unicorn, but it serves a much greater purpose in the long run. There are an abundant amount of locations where you will be able to have these relations as well and with all types of different partners. This is just one of the many experiences that you may encounter on your playthrough, so just know that each choice being made has its consequences.
Before getting to run around in the open world, we got a look at one of the many side quests that can be completed. Without spoiling too much, the mission involved finding a man’s dead wife. Two key observations at this point: Some side quests seem to have the same attention to detail and narrative depth that the main quests have. And secondly: they are extensive enough that veering off the main path will become a habit. What we saw was both equal parts sweet and disgusting.
Finally, we were able to roam around an open part of the map that included wildlife and all sorts of natural terrain. Just to share another one of those daunting numbers, the location we visited–which was just a small part in the overall map–would take 27 minutes to traverse from one end of the border to the other end while riding on horseback, speeding full gallop. This place is expansive! Just minding our own business, we went on horse back looking at different parts of the environment, when we stumbled upon a pair of weary travelers. It turned out one of them had broken his leg, while the other didn’t think it was much of a big deal. Offering the broken man some medicine allotted us some free experience points. What is important is that if we hadn’t had the necessary items, we would have had to go out and look for the goods in order to gain a boost.
“This place is expansive!”
Further along the path, we ran into a pack of wolves that made short work of us, and even ran into a giant troll that saw us as breakfast. All of these situations are pretty much optional, but it is clear that the main quest will become an afterthought once you lose yourself in this world. In other words: This will become your life-outside-of-life. There will also be mini-games like horse back racing, and a collectible card game. You will want to become an explorer, because going out of your way will mostly lead to rare loot. Over 200 hours of gameplay becomes more believable when taking all of this into account.
Don’t worry if you’ve never played any of the previous games. There will be a way to recreate the past tales so that the game will be shaped differently going forward. Transferring data will be available as well for those looking to link their past save files, but only on the PC version. Without getting a look at how it will exactly work, it sounds like how the Mass Effect 3 on PS3 handled the situation.
In short, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is looking like a title that will live up to the enormous hype behind it. It is gorgeous, expansive, and it tries to connect with players on an emotional level. If the rest of the game mimics the sort of grand epic feeling portrayed to us during the different snippets we got to play, look out because it will be something special. Cast your way down to the comments section below and let us know if you plan on purchasing this behemoth title? Stay tuned here for more Wild Hunt news.