It’s no secret that the talented people at CD Projekt Red love their jobs, and what we were shown did nothing but confirm that. After a short wait, whereby I was asked “Can girls be Witchers too?” about thirty times by NGB’s Editor-in-Chief, we were led into a dark room somewhat reminiscent of a cosy independent cinema and the magic began.
Straight away we are given a sort of disclaimer – “The Witcher is still very much about telling a deep and enthralling story”. Truer words have never been spoken, but now they have a living breathing world to help them tell what will undoubtedly be an epic end to Garalt’s story. Along with a seamless world, that is now 35 times bigger than the Witcher 2, we now have a living breathing world. NPC’s will go about their daily lives, instead of repeating the same sequence of events every time you enter their village. Active wildlife will also go about their business giving more life to the world around you. At one point while traversing to a village across the seas on Geralt’s make-shift raft a whale nonchalantly crosses his path. This I can imagine is one of many awe-inspiring examples of the world that has been crafted by CD Projekt.
Full night/day and weather cycles are in affect and I must say, it looks gorgeous, just like the rest of this title, but it doesn’t just stop at aesthetics. Time of day and the weather will affect the way you play the game. Not only in where, when and how difficult it is to traverse the land and its beautifully realised seas, but also as to when you choose to engage your prey. Monsters can now become weaker or stronger depending on the time of day you attack. For example, taking on a werewolf on a full moon is a scenario you problem want to actively avoid unless you relish the challenge and want to live life a little dangerously.
With a bigger world, comes more detailed quests and a heap of side quests. CD Projekt Red have packed the game full of side quests that you can choose to take or leave at your own discretion. This is not too dissimilar to the previous game, but just on a much grander scale. No longer are these exclusive to village hubs, instead they are more dynamic and can appear all over the land, so for completionists, exploration is key.
Story quests seem to have benefitted from an extra layer of depth too. In the mission we were shown Geralt finds himself in a village that is being attacked by a supernatural creature of some sort. After being recruited for the job, his first task is to discover which beast he is dealing with. This is where Geralt’s new witcher sense comes into play, allowing you to scan the environment for clues. This seems to have taken the place of the ability to research via purchasing books on specific monsters, but it still fills out a “monster journal” which makes a return. After coming to the conclusion that you are dealing with a “Leshan” a creature that likes to posses a host so it can infinitely resurrect, the next job is to inform your employer and hunt the son of a gun. This leads to a situation where the villagers start a witch hunt for the innocent that has been possesed. It is unclear whether Geralt can stop this at this point, but you are capable of seeking out this person with your Witcher vision.
For the sake of the demo, our demonstrator lets the mob do its thing and heads of to hunt the beast. This is where we are shown how a monster can have a severe impact on its surroundings. The leshan as it happens, likes to feed on the surrounding forest it inhabits. and so Geralts heads off on a totem smashing hunt while the forest around him distorts before he can meet and kill the big nasty himself. I was informed that killing some monsters will have an adverse affect on the environment, which might affect any near villages. How’s that for cause and causality. When Geralt returns to the village, he finds that the mob have killed the innocent civilian, meaning no Leshan comeback. Although we weren’t shown the consequences of this, we were told that in the final game, this will affect the story of that village when Geralt returns later in the game.
In turn, it was hard not to be impressed by what we were shown of the Witcher 3. CD Projekt seem to have taken everything that was great about the series and taken it to the next level. A fully explorable world, backed up by legitimately good storytelling, choices and consequences. I for one look forward to the final product.