The Witcher 2 wowed us with its storytelling and challenging, yet fun combat. According to a fact sheet released by CD Projekt Red Studio, the next chapter of Gerlat’s exploits, titled Wild Hunt, shows a lot of promise. ‘
The plot in Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will involve a war between the fearsome Empire of Nilfgaard and the severely weakened Northern Kingdoms, but as the name suggests, the spectral riders known as the Wild Hunt will have a prominent role in the 2014 PlayStation 4, X-Box One and MS Windows title.
The Polish developer promises to completely do away with linearity. The core and side quests can be attempted in any order, with a much more in-depth system of choices than before. The choices Geralt makes throughout the game will affect trivial matters, as well as entire sub-stories. CD Projekt Red is promising that the choices will be very morally ambiguous, with no clear good or evil decision. These choices will affect practically all parts of the game – monsters, NPCs and locations.
A staple for any non-linear game is an open-world environment. The world map of Witcher 3 will be roughly 35 times the size of Witcher 2 and take 40 minutes to cross end-to-end on horseback. The player will be able to explore it to their heart’s content without loading times or any other limitations.
The world of Witcher 3 will be divided into three distinct parts to make it more interesting. No Man’s Land is a war-torn swampland with dark, monster-infested forests. Novigard, inspired by medieval Amsterdam, is a port city whose colorful looks are huge contrast to the mage-hunting cult and shady underworld characters operating in it. Finally, there is Skellige – an independent island that’s currently preparing for a Nilfgaardian attack.
The term “living, breathing world” has been used a lot with RPGs, but CD Projekt is promising to take it even further. Prices on goods will vary depending on multiple factors, including resource availability at the given location (i.e. fishing villages will have dirt-cheap fish) and even competition between merchants. Predators will hunt prey, people will try to get under a roof when it rains and REDengine 3 will provide very realistic day/night cycles and weather effects.
One of the greatest and most unique things about the Witcher franchise has always been its realistically difficult combat, where flanking and isolation tactics are a necessity for survival. Wild Hunt will improve on that by making combinations of different attacks, whether swordplay, magic or bombs, much more lethal and efficient. There will be 96 action sequences (almost 5x Witcher 2’s 20), split into three stances. Geralt’s combat behavior will be visibly influenced by the skills the player invests in – higher sword skill will mean faster swipes, while a higher magic skill can turn the Igni sign (fire spell) into a much more powerful burst of blue flame. Geralt will also be able to use the environment against his foes – an Aaard sign can be used to push objects into enemies, beehives can be destroyed to unleash a bee swarm on the target and much more. The player will be in full control of Geralt at all times, without QTEs of any kind.
Geralt will need all of his new tricks in Wild Hunt. There are 80 types of monster he can encounter. Like in previous games, they all have their specific strengths and weaknesses, but are much smarter this time around. The White Wolf’s foes will communicate and work together to try to surround him and launch combined attacks. Enemy morale will play a role as well – enemies will be cautious when scared, reckless when desperate and will beg for mercy when defeat is certain.
The third installment of the Witcher saga will include a lot more RPG elements than its predecessors. Stats will affect Geralt’s interactions with the world, while the skill trees, alchemy and crafting offer a lot more to play with. Signs will have two modes in the game. All this gives the player a lot of choice in terms of combat tactics.
Lastly, CD Projekt Red Studio is promising to make Witcher 3 the new standard in RPG visuals, on par with high-end shooters and action games. The new engine will provide superbly realistic weather and lighting effects and detailed high-polygon environment renderings.
Lastly, NPC interaction will be much more immersive. Geralt will be able to deliver surprise attacks while speaking and NPCs will be able to talk to each other while walking or riding. The cinematic camera work will make all conversation that much more realistic.
The only thing that may raise a few eyebrows is the lack of level scaling for enemies, which may or may not make the game a little boring towards the end. Still, the Polish studio seems to be on top of their game with the rest of the features, so judgment about this little nitpick is best reserved until the title’s release.