The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

E3 2014: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Preview – What a Wonderful World

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Each and every time we get to see The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, it just seems to get better and better. Hell, we could dedicate this entire preview to the vibrant yellow fields of sunflowers waving gently on the breeze and the intricate, hand-crafted nature of the game's enormous open-world, but we won't. Primarily because that would be a bit boring. Suffice it to say that The Witcher 3 looks achingly pretty, but the game's real beauty lies in the promise of bustling towns, narrative intrigue, story-altering choices and flexible combat. All of this and more is on show in our latest look at the game, which is looking to benefit from its delay into early next year. On the strength of this new demo, The Witcher 3 is still a next-gen/current-gen RPG to watch, but then you probably already knew that.

Taking in an extended story quest that picks up with Geralt returning from a hunt on horseback, the head of his prize hanging from the saddle as a trophy, the initial view we're presented with is astonishing. On the horizon is the city of Novigrad, the game's largest settlement that's packed with people going about their daily business. There's a wealth of depth and detail on display in The Witcher 3's world, from the meticulous recreation of materials like brick and fabrics, to the humorous incidental conversations you'll hear on the streets or the changing behaviour of citizens based on the weather and time of day. Geralt doesn't spend long soaking up the hustle and bustle of Novigrad, instead ducking into a tavern to quiz Dijkstra as to the whereabouts of an ashen-haired maiden he's looking for.

Apparently, she's situated somewhere in Gors Velen, but Geralt has business to attend to in and around Crookback Bog. By horse, this would take around 15-20 minutes of travel, but via a fast travel signpost, you can call up the world map and instantly hop to any of the locations you've already visited and unlocked. Once he's arrived at the bog, Geralt calls upon his mutant abilities, including his acute senses to track down a godling hiding inside a hollowed tree trunk. A feral godling child named Johnny, he knows who can give Geralt more information about the missing girl he seeks. The only problem is that he's lost his voice, so Geralt will need to do the kid a favour and find it.

Escorting Johnny through the marshland, Geralt finds himself fighting swamp hags and drowners with his ever-reliable steel and silver swords, chaining powerful strikes and decapitating enemies. Geralt still has a range of spells, like Yrden, Igni, Quen and Axii, which he breaks out against a gang of marauding bandits and harpies who enter the fray later on, once he clambers up a mountain path. Spells can be enhanced with mutagens, while there's a whole bunch of other options for customisation, including customisable bolts for Geralt's crossbow. Upon reaching the mountain ledge, Geralt obtains Johnny's voice, meaning the godling child is now able to guide us to the ladies in the wood and the next clue in finding the woman with ashen hair.

Venturing into the bogs once more, we happen upon the Ladies of the Wood, a trio of beautiful women woven into a dusty old tapestry. With the aid of a medium convinced by Johnny to help us out, we're able to communicate with the Ladies of the Wood, who instruct Geralt to provide a sacrifice and rid the Whispering Hillock of an ancient evil. There's no rest for the wicked witcher it seems, as Geralt strides back out into the bog, disturbing beehives and hurling Igni spells into clouds of methane, igniting more enemies who rise out of the murky waters. Entering a village of thatched houses, the locals are having troubles of their own. There's a werewolf on the loose, which means it's time for our Gerry to go and flex his monster hunting muscle.

Meditating at the fire, you can roll the hours forward and take advantage of the best time of day to draw the werewolf out into the open. And sure enough, the toothsome lycanthrope emerges, and Geralt is duly prepared with silver shrapnel bombs to weaken the werewolf, before breaking out his silver blade to finish it off. Chopping up his wolf minions, Geralt realises that the ancient evil still persists within the Whispering Hillock, as a disembodied voice continues to taunts him. Braving a nearby cavern, Geralt dives into the waterlogged catacomb and swims to dry land deep within the subterranean rock. Here he encounters the giant beating heart of the tree spirit, imprisoned in a nest of gnarled branches. At this juncture, you'll be presented with one of the game's big decisions, which in this case asks whether to incinerate or spare the tree spirit. Pleading for its life, Geralt expresses his mistrust of the spirit, and burns away the branches before hacking the pulsating heart to mush.

This choice could have dire consequences further down the line or it could have a positive impact. You simply won't know until later in the game. Returning to the village victorious, the Ealdorman we spoke to earlier lops off his ear as payment, and Geralt takes it along to give to the Ladies of the Wood. 'Why did you cut off your ear?” he asks, to which the Ealdorman enlightens us, revealing that it's the price the ladies demand. And true enough, placing the ear onto a rock back in the bog where we came from, the beautiful Ladies of the Wood come out of hiding. Except they're not beautiful at all. They're hideous, monstrous crones who had a previous run in with Ciri, the woman with ashen hair, as they required the 'Blood of the Traitress'. It looks like Geralt might have a fight on his hands, and the price he paid to get to this point was simply too high. What happens next, we'll have to wait and see in a few months' time when The Witcher 3 launches, but we're already utterly enthralled.

Boasting a fully explorable open-world 35 times the size of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and over 100 hours of story and side-quests, this small slice of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is but a drop in the ocean. Geralt will be able to traverse vast expanses of sea, climb mountains, venture into dark forests and explore one of the largest RPG worlds we've seen in some time. That it all looks utterly jaw-dropping and promises masses of depth and detail is but the icing on The Witcher 3's gargantuan cake. CD Projekt RED may have outdone itself, justifying the delay with an RPG that's looking to deliver on its massive potential. February seems like a long way off.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is coming to Xbox One, PS4 and PC on February 24th, 2015.


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Game Info
CD Projekt RED


US May 19, 2015

Price: $49.99USD
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