The Witcher series has been lauded for its exceptional storytelling and challenging, multifaceted combat. For The Witcher 3, CD Projekt Red is focusing on adding a massive open world to the mix. Our demo showed off just a tiny corner of that world, but revealed five new facts that will please fans of the expansive RPG series.

Beyond The Horizon: CD Projekt Red states that the world of The Witcher 3 is 35 times larger than that of The Witcher 2, with different regions based on various cultures and mythologies. Our demo showed off forests, coastal regions, and a few small towns, as well as the dynamic day and night cycle and weather systems. Those systems aren't just cosmetic; for example, your boat can be smashed apart on the rocky coasts if you try to take it out during a storm, and werewolves pose a significantly greater risk during the night. Your exploration of the world will be driven by a wide variety of main quests, side quests, and random events, which CD Projekt Red is attempting to blur together.

Side Quests That Mean Something: The majority of our demo focused on an optional side quest that involves Geralt helping a town plagued by murderous creature living in the nearby woods. The townsfolk are split on how to best handle the beast, and it's up to Geralt to investigate the killings, deduce what type of monster is responsible, and choose the best course of action. The side story contains several twists and interactions with the townsfolk, along with a challenging battle against the culprit – a mystical, tree-like monster called a leshen. Geralt ultimately gets paid for his services, but true to the series' intricate storytelling, the outcome of the mission is far from black and white, and Geralt isn't entirely happy with how things turn out. This is just one of countless sidequests that the player can freely skip.   

Monster Mash: The leshen in the demo is a formidable monster, but it's not considered a boss. CD Projekt Red says The Witcher 3 contains over 80 such creatures, each with their own characteristics. Before tracking to the leshen, Geralt checks his bestiary for help, which contains a wealth of information on the monster, including its size, the sounds it makes, its special abilities, and vulnerabilities. Defeating the leshen requires tracking down and destroying three totems in the woods to weaken the beast before taking it on.

Coming To Your Senses: The Witcher 3 introduces a new ability for Geralt, called Witcher Sense. Activating the ability turns the world black and white and highlights important elements in color, similar to Batman's Detective Vision in the Arkham series. While tracking down the leshen, Geralt uses Witcher Sense to follow blood spatters and claw marks to its lair. Later, Geralt learns that the leshen has marked one of the nearby villagers, and can resurrect as long as that human remains alive. Geralt once again uses Witcher Sense to identify the unlucky victim: an innocent young woman named Hilde.

Living With The Consequences: The Witcher series is known for the freedom it affords players to shape the narrative with their actions and choices. The Witcher 3 is no exception. The optional side quest we saw carried both story and environmental consequences. Defeating the leshen lifted its curse on the woods, transforming them into a sunnier, more hospitable environment. However, they also resulted in tragedy for the village; not only was Hilde sacrificed to ensure the leshen would not return, but a young and ambitious villager used the opportunity to kill off the town's elders and take control. Returning at a later time reveals a grim fate for the community in the form of a flashback – the village was eventually raided due to the regime change and its inhabitants were slaughtered. The outcome could have been completely different had the player made different choices – or chosen to skip the side quest altogether.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is coming to PC, PS4, and Xbox One in 2014. For more on the game, including exclusive interviews and videos, check out The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt hub