WE CHECK OUT THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT
GAMING PREVIEW BY PETER NELIS
Despite the fact that Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls series holds the bulk of the market share when it comes to huge, sprawling open world action RPGs, there’s always been a remarkably ambitious pretender to the throne in the guise of Polish studio CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher series.
The debut Witcher title may have been a little limited in its execution, but follow up, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings elevated the brand to a true Skyrimkiller status, building upon pretty much every mechanic in the original in a massive way, adding in a slew of refinements, and broadening the scope of the experience in just about every way imaginable. It may not have had the financial backing of its main competitor, but for my money it was a vastly superior game. The main reason for that is the way CD Projekt Red deals with morality within their games. While most titles opt for a black and white approach ( you know the sort, that incredibly simplistic binary “good vs. bad” system that rarely works as intended, and telegraphs the outcome of your decisions far in advance), The Witcher instead occupies constant grey territory, and
it’s all the better for it. This lack of a plain right or wrong means that players are free to explore the world and do as they feel necessary in a way that feels far more organic than anything else in the genre. It also allows for far more authentic interactions with the non- playable characters that add so much to the overall experience, thanks to some supreme narrative displays drawing from The Witcher literary series by writer Andrzej Sapkowski. Although the games have now moved well beyond their initial source material they stay true to the intentions of the written series, so players shouldn’t expect to see any major deviations in the way protagonist Geralt of Rivia behaves or tackles his tasks. That’s not to say that there aren’t some pretty major improvements to be expected in Wild Hunt, though, but rather that you probably shouldn’t expect to see Geralt running around with new primary weapons - it’s long been established that his silver and steel swords are his mainstay, and CD Projekt Red aren’t about to sacrifice that in the
name of evolution. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s combat has seen significant changes, though, and they’re shaping up to make it the most action- friendly installment in the series to date, and a fitting culmination to Geralt’s story. Realism plays a key part to the overall combat aesthetic here, with player immersion just as important, and for that reason the decision has been taken to ensure that players aren’t taken outside the combat mechanics for finishing move cutscenes as they were in the past - everything is choreographed within the main combat engine, ensuring a much more finessed experience overall. To that end, quick time events have also been removed from the equation. For so long the bane of gamers’ gameplay enjoyment, the QTE model is antiquated and has little place in modern action games, save for very rare occasions where they can add a level of acceptable simplicity to more complex set
pieces, so I’m thoroughly happy we won’t have to endure any during my Wild Hunt experience! Another welcome change is the addition of new parry moves, counters and dodges, allowing for a much more fluid combat experience than we’ve seen before in the series, with defensive manoeuvres now playing a key part overall, much in the same way as we’ve seen in Rocksteady’s Arkham titles. Wild Hunt will be about more than just combat, though, and it’s set to boast a game world larger even than that found in Skyrim, with an estimated 50- hour long story supplemented by an additional 50 hours of optional side quests. Given the sizable nature of Wild Hunt, the game implements a fast travel system to save players endless treks across the wilderness - however the nature of the genre means that those who are willing to put in the leg work will be greatly rewarded with hidden areas and new discoveries that’ll add even more time to gameplay. Thankfully, the temptation to implement any sort of multiplayer mode in the game has been resisted, and Wild Hunt is a solely single player endeavour. While some may feel that the new combat mechanics and increased scope of the world would have been a fine bedfellow for a multiplayer experience, the developers didn’t want to dilute the established gameplay to focus on something that has, so far, not featured in the series, and that’s a move that I’m happy to accept. Such is CD Projekt Red’s dedication to making sure that the game is as close to perfect as it can possibly be when it launches, the game has already been delayed several times to allow for additional tweaking of core mechanics - and all going well, the current expected launch date of May 19th will remain firm on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. All going well, it could prove to be a major milestone for the genre, and one of the best action RPG titles we’ve seen to date.