The lights are on
We teamed up with CD Projekt Red to show off The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to the world with our magazine cover story last March. The developer walked us through a demo that includes some harrowing battles against strange creatures that Geralt stalks through the world.
The world is in chaos since the end of The Witcher 2. Spectral warriors of the fabled Wild Hunt are appearing throughout the land, sewing misery. CD Project Red showed off a cutscene where these heavily armored phantoms raze a village, save for one survivor.
Flash forward two weeks later and Geralt is on the case. The titular hero gallops through the hills on horseback with a dev at the controls. CD Projekt Red says the island world of The Witcher 3 is 32 times larger than The Witcher 2, with great draw distance and expansive, explorable landscapes reminiscent of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The kingdom Geralt rides into is guarded carefully, but Geralt says he’s a witcher and the doors open for him. Within, he’s given a quest to save someone named Bjorn, who may have survived the wild hunt and may have valuable information.
In addition to the new horseback transportation, Geralt can navigate the large game world by sailing on ships. A dynamic weather system can produce storms with troublesome waves, which changes Geralt’s boating experiences. While traversing the world, emergent side objectives bubble up. Geralt happens across a house with several thugs beating on the door. Appraising them as unwelcome nuisances, Geralt slays them. The goons belonged to someone named Zeymun. This little distraction doesn’t open up a story thread involving tracking down Zeymun, but CD Projekt suggest that other similar environmental encounters could lead to a new quest line.
Geralt also stumbles across a horned beast slamming his head against a castle wall. These large, challenging foes play out like involved mini-boss battles, though they’re technically just another creature roaming the huge game world. The monster taps into its third eye to disorient the player. A spot on its forehead glows red and the world around Geralt goes dark. The foe has altered the surroundings and is cloaked in shade and burning embers. This makes the fight trickier. The monster eventually goes invisible and stalks off. Geralt has the option to track the creature and finish it off.
Geralt finally finds Bjorn in a small village, but the developer playing is immediately sidetracked when he sees a group of townsfolk debating the cause of a nearby dead body. A bloody corpse is tangled within a bunch of roots. An elder thinks it’s a woodland spirit, but Geralt believes it’s a monster. He examines a dead wolf, noting thin, razor-like cuts and begins following a trail of footprints. A red-eyed wolf attacks from nowhere, and Geralt quickly dispatches it. A nearby stone is marked by the creature, indicating brute strength. Geralt comments that trying to parry such power would be futile. Players have a bestiary to crosscheck this evidence with. It appears to be a leshen, which possesses great power and makes forest animals more aggressive in order to protect itself.
Geralt talks to someone in the village and suggests what he thinks they’re dealing with. He uses his special sense to hunt for an individual marked by the beast. Geralt spots a flock of crows, a sign of the leshen, flying above a crowd. He investigates a girl somewhere beneath the birds and notices her mark. A leader in the village kills the marked girl, which weakens the leshen and allows Geralt to fight him. Geralt begins exploring the forest for totems seemingly set up by the leshen, setting them ablace with fire magic as he goes. Viscous wolves continually attack as he hunts the monster. A tall, slender beast with an antlered dear skull appears and attacks. He sends wolves after Geralt, attempts to ensnare him with roots, and teleports around the woods using a murder of crows. Geralt eventually slays the thing, which lifts a darkness from the forest. This brutal battle concluded our look at The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
Fantasy RPG players have a lot to look forward to with The Witcher 3. The next-gen visuals and well-written NPCs will likely drawn in plenty of newcomers, but I’m most intrigued by hunting monsters through new, lush environments. Geralt’s quest continues next year when The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt arrives on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.
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