While E3 2013 kept on rolling on the LA Convention Center show floor, several developers took to higher ground, holding their press meetings in rooms tucked out of the way on the second floor. One such group was CD Projekt Red and their game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, was easily one of the biggest of the show.
Environment Artist Jonas Mattsson led the show for Witcher 3, explaining beforehand that everything we'd be clapping our peepers on was from a pre-alpha build of the game, so we shouldn't be too surprised if the game experienced some visual or technical difficulties. Mattsson needed not worry, however, as the demo went of with nary a hitch.
An eyes-on affair, Mattsoon started with a bit of background for the uninitiated into CD Projekt Red's epic RPG series. The player takes on the role of Geralt, one of the most famous Witchers to ever slay a monster. They're sort of sellsword keepers of the peace, roaming the countryside and dispatching vile creatures causing problems for villages and kingdoms.
Witcher 3 takes place a number of years after the previous games in the series and features a brand new story in which The Wild Hunt, a legendary band of marauders, have returned from folklore to murder and pillage. The story is brand new and, according to Mattsson, was carefully planned so that the player does not need to have played the previous Witcher games to enjoy this one.
The Witcher 3 takes place in a massive open world featuring large islands and dozens of locations to visit. It's pretty dang easy on the eyes, too.
“But the world isn't just about size,” Mattsson explains. “It's about intensity and quality. There are no load times at all and, while anyone can have a big world, we knew that you have to fill it with something living.”
In that regard, Mattsson said that the the level designers tried to build the world of The Witcher 3 in a way so that, no matter where you're standing in the game, something in the distance should be visible to draw your attention.
“This world was built to draw you in,” he continued. “Wherever you turn the camera, there will be a man-made or natural landmark there to pull you in and make you want to explore it.”
In the demo, Geralt visited a meticulously crafted castle nestled upon a mountainside, where he first finds out that the Wild Hunt have returned. From there, Geralt rides and takes a boat to a different island to investigate. Mattsson explains that weather occurs in realtime and, while you can get in a boat at your leisure, you'll likely want to stay away from deep waters when a big storm rolls in.
Along the way Geralt comes upon various peasant NPCs, all going about their daily lives. Some provide conversation while others have dialogue trees that can blend naturally into a side quest.
Mattsson explained that there are no “bosses” in Witcher 3, just very big, very nasty monsters. There are 80 monsters in total, in fact, each of which leaves its own tracks and clues in order to discover its identity. As a monster hunter, your various tracking abilities and the knowledge they afford will help you prepare for each battle, adding a nice bit of process to the usual “run around until you find a monster and kill it.” While monsters can absolutely appear as dynamic events, most of the monsters that lurk in the shadows of the story must be properly hunted if you ever want to track them down.
The Witcher 3 demo showed off two such instances, one being a random encounter with the horned beast seen above, and the other being a paid hunt to assist a village in taking care of their “rogue forest spirit” problem. Geralt has many options when it comes to deciding how to handle these interactions and encounters and, in many cases, he can even return to locations after some time has passed to see what sore of impact his actions had.
If you're looking for a “next generation RPG,” then The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt might quench your thirst when it releases sometime next year for PC, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.