The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt Preview — The E3 Primer
Game Front’s E3 Primer series is focused on providing previews of key games, companies and gadgets leading up to E3 2013 (June 11-13, 2013). Bookmark our E3 channel and check back for more in-depth preview coverage leading up to the big show.
The Witcher series is just about as close as you can get to pen and paper role-playing in a modern day video game. It emphasizes storytelling over errand-questing and substance over meaningless stats and numbers. There are no “kill 10 rats and return with their tails” quests, only those that move the plot forward. The Witcher 2 was one of the best games of 2011, and it’s set to see a sequel — and an end to the trilogy — in The Witcher 3, coming next year.
A Real Human Being, and a Real Hero
At the heart of The Witcher series is the protagonist, Geralt of Rivia. In previous titles, Geralt spent most of his time getting involved in the politics of the region, completing quests that were not his own, all the while attempting to recover his memory, lost within the “Wild Hunt.” Bits and snippets — shards of his shattered mind — were revealed throughout the course of both The Witcher and its sequel. But with little more than pint-sized bites to chew on, most of the focus was relegated to the political scheming and events that unfolded around Geralt, rather than the issues that really mattered to him as a character.
This is set to change in The Witcher 3. Geralt has regained his memory. He once had a family, and he remembers his long lost love, Yennefer, the sorceress. Geralt no longer cares about politics anymore. Though he may find himself involved in regional events as they unfold, players now can choose to skip some of those plotlines instead of being forced to see them all through. The main focus of the story is on Geralt and his personal quest, among everything else.
Beyond political battles that involve everyone else, Geralt can also involve himself in more local quests, including the stories of the game’s myriad of non-player characters, by performing side-quests and hunting monsters.
Skyrim with a Story
The Witcher 3 will have Skyrim’s wide-open style of world, coupled with the heavy storytelling that is the core of the Witcher series. The game’s developers believe that the combination the two is a natural next-step for RPGs.
“Previously, Skyrim has shown that Bethesda are masters –- they can create a full-of-life, unique world with a huge amount of events and small story quests, and as I’ve mentioned before in other interviews I admire this game very, very much — the only thing missing was a strong storyline,” Lead Quest Designer Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz said in an interview with IGN.
The developers state that unlike Skyrim, The Witcher 3 will not have scaling enemies that match levels with the player, nor will the game seal off areas with invisible barriers. The player will be free to roam wherever he or she likes, but with the caveat that monsters may be incredibly deadly if the player is not yet ready for the area. Instead of blocking the player off from visiting untamed locales, the player must simply be prepared to face whatever comes, armed with the knowledge of an area’s dangers and challenges.
At any point, it will be possible to ride a horse across the world, from the city of Novigrad to the borders of the wastelands, or to take a boat — or even swim — from island to island in the Skellige archipelago.
Monster Hunter Ultimate
As per the series of novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, hunting monsters for bounty is a Witcher’s main source of income. It is his job, and his calling. The Witcher 3 will place a strong emphasis on monster-hunting, providing it as a wide set of quests available to the player throughout the game’s new open-world setting.
As Geralt adventures through the world, he will encounter all manner of monsters, and quests to hunt and kill said beasts. There are terrorized villages who offer bounties for monsters, and monster tracks out in the wild, waiting for a Witcher — that’s you — to come along and hunt them.
More than just simple challenges, hunting these monsters will require no small amount of preparation and research — crucial elements to turning a bounty into a successful kill. Players must fight these monsters with knowledge of their weaknesses and behavior, or risk injury and death. Much like the Monster Hunter series of games, preparation plays a key role in gameplay.
It is possible for Geralt to slay these monsters without foreknowledge of their strengths and weaknesses, but it will be harder to do so. Some monsters may have the ability to regenerate, for instance, and fighting them without first disabling the organ responsible for their regenerative aspect may make them difficult targets to beat.
To that end, Geralt has an ability called Witcher Senses, which allows the player uncover hidden aspects of a monster, as well as clues with which to track them down in the first place. The system, which was first implemented in The Witcher and its sequel, will be much more core to the game this time around. You could say that Witcher Senses are Geralt’s “special eyes.”
Monster hunting will be a full-fledged portion of the game, and its developers are expecting these hunts to offer as much content to the player as the game’s 50-hour story.
A History of Violence
Due to the game’s new emphasis on hunting monsters, combat will be getting a complete overhaul in The Witcher 3. For those who’ve played the first two games, the combat will differ from The Witcher 2 as much as the second game did from the first.
Combat is designed to be much more fluid this time around, offering players the option to cancel their attacks mid-move and launch into new actions. According to its creators, the game will offer two forms of each of “10 to 12″ sigil spells, or “signs.” For example, the Igni sign, used to cast fire spells, can be cast either as a projectile or as a straight stream that seeks out enemies.
“We fixed all of the things that were not perfect based on response to the second Witcher,” says Game Director Konrad Tomaszkiewicz (via IGN). “The first of these is the responsiveness of the combat, and of course we’ve remade all the animations. Any time you want, you can cancel an attack and transfer into a dodge or other action, and all these attacks mix together to create very fluid sequences.”
Improvements to the combat system wouldn’t matter much without similar changes to the game’s camera system. To that end, players will no longer be forced into corners by foes they can’t properly see or attack. It will always be possible for players to see who is behind them. Additionally, the dodge animation has been exchanged for a pirouette, so Geralt can move in and out of combat and avoid his enemies with much more ease.
Topping off the game’s combat is the new duel system. Geralt will no longer turn his back to enemies. Instead, Geralt will have duels with his opponents, targeting and taking them on one at a time instead of facing a field of adversaries all at once.
Excited about The Witcher 3? Let us know what you’re excited to learn from E3, both about CD Projekt RED’s new personal direction of the series, and everything else that might be at the show.