This morning, CD Projekt RED showed a 45-minute demonstration of The Witcher 3 to press behind closed doors at E3. I was lucky enough to be invited.
If there’s a game at this year’s show that is more impressive than The Witcher 3, I haven’t seen it yet. The demo showcased numerous improvements to the game, including a new open world and dynamic quest system.
The open world allows Geralt to travel to any one of seven different islands and complete quests at his leisure, including story quests and others. The team has interwoven main quests and side quests into one coherent package, with few seams between them. In one example, Geralt completed a portion of a quest that tasked him with finding a particular man. At the end of the quest, another man came and announced that the brother of the man Geralt was talking to had been killed. Players have the choice of whether or not to investigate. If you do investigate, Geralt will have to hunt down the monster and destroy it. There also seemed to be more decisions in that path as well, as the village has its own personalities and politics.
Additionally, the team showed off the game’s various dynamic events which build on events seen in games like Red Dead Redemption. In one example, Geralt came across a group of bandits terrorizing a man. Geralt can choose to ignore the bandits and move about his business. Alternately, Geralt can interfere and kill the bandits. It’s hinted that the bandit leader may then come after Geralt.
These are but a few of the examples that we were shown in the gameplay demo, which represented a sliver of the promised-100-hours worth of gameplay.
Additionally, the open world features a time and weather progression system, and the different time and weather effects shape and alter the world in interesting ways. For example, as it gets darker the wolves get more aggressive and stronger, creating a more numerous foe that is harder to kill. Additionally, certain towns and NPCs react to the rain and heat, depending on their attributes. Geralt also has a boat that he can use to travel between the islands, and it is possible for the choppy seas to damage the boat to the point where it sinks and Geralt dies.
The combat has also been upgraded, too. It’s not as rigid as The Witcher 2‘s combat, with Geralt being able to quickly dodge and parry attacks while returning them, as well. The animation was fluid, save for some (hopefully) alpha wonkiness, and the enemies seemed to attack in a more thoughtful and strategic way. The battles were cinematic, as Geralt kept his head pointed in the direction of the enemy he was currently fighting while setting up for another attack.
CDP has also refined the game’s graphic capabilities, although it doesn’t come across right away, and it may not come across in still pictures. It looks a lot like The Witcher 2 while played on a high-end PC, but when you take into account the improved lighting, weather effects and openness of the world, the scale and scope of what the team is doing becomes staggering.
The Witcher 3 releases next year for the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It’s easily one of my most anticipated titles of the coming years, and it is by far the best game I’ve seen at E3 2013.