Based on author Andrzej Sapkowski’s fantasy novels and short stories, The Witcher video games have attracted acclaim for their immersive gameplay and innovative consequences system. With millions of copies of The Witcher and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings sold, the series’ fan-base has been eagerly awaiting another instalment – and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is set for release on May 19th 2015.
Despite being a sequel, CD Projekt RED are apparently keen to point out that players can still enjoy the game without having played either of the previous games. The story continues (and, apparently, concludes) the exploits of Geralt of Rivia, following on from the previous instalment. Geralt is one of the last Witchers: specially-trained, modified humans trained to hunt monsters using supernatural abilities.
Following the events of the previous game (which featured various branching paths and plots, with numerous endings), The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt looks set to embrace the high quality and freedom the series is known for, as well as introducing some exciting new elements.
What can we expect? Let’s take a closer look.
Making your Own Way
Throughout the game, players can expect their actions to have deep, far-reaching consequences. Each quest offers plenty of options for completion, with each outcome being different every time. This should give players huge incentive to play the game through again and again, to try different approaches and follow alternate events through to new conclusions.
The game’s huge open world is 35 times the size of that in The Witcher 2, and CD Projekt Red has told gamers to expect around 100 hours for full completion. Factoring in the multiple playthroughs most fans will want to enjoy, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt should provide months (if not years) of fun.
A Living, Breathing World
The development team has gone to great lengths to make Geralt’s world feel believably organic. As well as a dynamic weather system, the game will also offer a realistic day and night cycle, which affects the ways in which certain monsters behave, which ones Geralt can even see, and the availability of quests.
The in-game economy is also fluid, with prices varying dependent on the conditions of surrounding environments and their location in comparison to Geralt’s: players may have to pay more for fish (for example) if they’re far from water. Such details are small, but all help to maintain the illusion of a complete world existing around Geralt. Players can go anywhere they want right from the start, though certain areas will prove too deadly due to overpowered monsters on the hunt.
Monsters will also roam the world, causing death and destruction at will, reminiscent of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim‘s dragons. Thankfully, Geralt is something of a badass, with a refined combat system on hand to help him handle any threat: fighting is now smoother, but still somewhat tough. With multiple enemies typically on screen at the same time, players must balance attacking with countering in a comfortable rhythm to come out on top – while combat appears easier to handle than in The Witcher 2, this may still take some getting used to, particularly for newcomers.
The Sign system has been overhauled too, giving players two different ways to use the five Signs in combat: using magic will be just as fun as before, but now Geralt has more abilities at his disposal, allowing players to mix physical and magic-based combat with greater fluidity.
One new feature fans are sure to love is Witcher Sense. Anyone familiar with the mighty Arkham series of Batman games (which is likely everybody!) will understand how beneficial Detective Mode is at times, and so Witcher Sense plays a similar role here. Geralt can use this to track enemies, and following the visual trail laid out will help players find monsters easier, though – as with the Arkham series’ Detective Mode – they may want to use it in moderation.
Of course, all the RPG elements fans will expect are here too: the Alchemy system is intuitive, allowing Geralt to play around with creating new blends, while the character-development and Crafting systems are now more advanced, immersing players deeper into the The Witcher’s world.
From what we’ve seen of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the graphics are absolutely stunning, with incredible light and shadow effects, and smooth movement between open areas without long loading times causing annoying lag. As you move through landscapes, wildlife is visible all around, while cities and settlements have their own distinctive qualities.
Sequels allow developers to build on the successes of previous games while ironing out any creases, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt looks set to be the finest entry in the series yet. If this really is the conclusion to Geralt’s video-game journey, at least he’ll bow out on a high.