The Witcher 3 Hands-On: Everything Matters. Everything.

By Matt Hawkins . June 24, 2013 . 12:30pm

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the end of the road for Geralt of Rivia. Born from a series fantasy novels and short stories from Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher has since starred in film, television, and video games, obviously. His latest interactive journey, slated to be the last one, is earmarked for the Xbox One and PS4. It was one of several next gen games that were on hand at E3. But very few, perhaps none, were as impressive as it, on a purely technical level.


Just the numbers alone, given at the behind doors presentation, were mighty impressive. A game that promises to be 20% bigger than Skryim, plus a world 35 times bigger than The Witcher 2. When all was said and done, the main mission, plus the side quests, and all the randomly generated missions, will total 100 hours.


Much of it will deal primarily with The Wild Hunt; a dark, destructive (as well as supernatural) force that is wrecking havoc all throughout the kingdom. The demo begins with a village that has been decimated by said spectral harbingers of doom; two weeks that have passed since, with Geralt on the hunt for the Hunt.


The landscape, which in this case is the Skellige islands, is a sight to behold. We’ve witnessed medieval landscapes before (see: Skyrim), but never before have they been as vibrant, teeming top to bottom with life. Every cloud in the sky, every blade of grass on the ground, is beautifully crafted and stunningly visualized.


Nothing demonstrated the technical prowess of the game more than when Geralt went to meditate on a cliff side. As time is sped up, we see the sun go up, then down, stars appearing on a clear night sky, then storm clouds gathering during the day, bringing with them stormy conditions. And it’s all about as photorealistic as you can get.


The game’s developers, CD Projekt RED, state that if you see something, you can go there, period. Granted, it will take time to scale that mountain, or swim across that large body of water, but it is possible, with absolutely no invisible barrier. Lofty promises, ones that have been uttered countless times.


Yet, here it seems actually plausible. And more importantly, everything is so vividly realized that it’s all so inviting. You’ll want to believe the game’s potential and promises. The demo showed Geralt navigating the open seas via boat, crossing the countryside on the back of a steed, plus strolling through the rocky countryside on just his two legs. And one can’t wait to give it all a shot.


The name of the game in more ways than one is the Hunt, though the demo was designed to show off one of the many side missions. After getting some intel from an old friend, Geralt sets forth to a village, where a resident might have info pertaining to the Wild Hunt. Along the way he sees a number of bandits terrorizing a lone peasant, who jumps into action. Combat is a combination of melee and magic; Geralt is able to execute both disciples with total skill and ease.


Once more, when you get down to it, it’s nothing you haven’t seen or heard before, and yet it’s never been this pretty either. Anyhow, the victim who is saved is thankful, and the audience is told that every event, every action, has an impact later down the road. It could it be minor, it could be huge—and who knows what this act of kindness will lead towards.


Geralt afterwards arrives at his destination, though the village is in the grips of drama. A man’s death has split the townsfolk into two halves; the elders believe it is a forest spirit of some sort that is punishing everyone for not following tradition, while the younger folk who could care less about the old ways think that it’s simply a wild beast—one that must be hunted and destroyed.


Given that Geralt is by trade a monster hunter, he decides to lend some assistance, which leads us to the forest, and the overwhelming of the senses once more—in particular, all the individual leaves and branches of every tree, swaying in the wind. Geralt is able to isolate the tracks of this beast and, with the help of bestiary, determines that said creature is an ancient beast known as the Lechen.


As it turns out, this monster shares a bond with a villager, unbeknownst to him or turn. Upon further investigation, it’s a her; the girlfriend of the most vocal member of the younger camp, in fact. And despite it being his love, this man wants to prove the elders who really runs things, and tells Geralt that if he goes to the forest to kill his town’s tormentor, its link (his gal pal) will also be snuffed out, which is essential for the Lechen threat to be completely eliminated.


The Witcher 3 is built heavily around interpersonal relations, and the player is given a variety of options during conversations, to help forge a path, a code of conduct that will again have repercussions throughout Geralt’s journey. In this case, he can try to convince the villager to spare his girlfriend, but instead, for the purpose of the demo, Geralt opts to just do what he does best, since it will also line his pockets with gold.


So back to the forest The Witcher goes… deep into it. Eventually, he finally comes across the Lechen itself… a tall ghastly figure, perhaps close to 15 feet in height, draped in a black cloak, whose head is a deer skull, and sporting branches for arms. Aside from being terrifying looking, it can attack by drawing tree roots from the ground, plus sending ravens towards Geralt at command. He also has familiars in the form of wolves. The battle between The Witcher and the Lechen was intense. So much so that it locked up the demo PC entirely. Hey, it’s a work-in-progress.


But after the machine was restarted and a save file employed, Geralt was able to emerge the victor. Although, upon returning to the village, instead of finding the residents all jubilant that the forest spirit has been defeated, we find many of them slaughtered. The young man that sent Geralt on his mission decided to take over the village, which meant killing all the elders that opposed him, and all their supporters. Again, The Wticher doesn’t want to be involved, though he does let the village’s new leader know what he thinks of him. It’s not so nice.


We are then treated to a cut scene… one that would normally take place later in the game, that shows how the village ultimately succumbs to hardships and eventually bandits, thanks to less-than-stellar leadership. The same point is reiterated: everything is connected, and in a small way, Geralt is partly responsible to the miserable fate that will eventually befall the village.


Man, that sure is a lot of pathos for just tiny little side mission! One of many, and who knows what lies in store with the main game? One simply cannot help but become excited by The Witcher 3, even if one normally could care less about such fare (like myself); it did more to genuinely wet one’s appetite and light one’s imagination that anything else that was on the busy E3 show-floor.


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  • I am very excited for The Witcher 3. It was definitely my game of the show for E3 this year. Even with all the other really cool things being shown off, Geralt’s final adventure was what really stood out to me.

  • XYZ_JolteonZ980

    Whats with that light blurring thats going on. Looks impressive but that doesnt seem realistic, just looking around in my workplace environment with such lights. I hope its good game as Im hyped for wrpgs.

  • malek86

    “The game’s developers, CD Projekt RED, state that if you see something, you can go there, period. Granted, it will take time to scale that mountain, or swim across that large body of water, but it is possible, with absolutely no invisible barrier. Lofty promises, ones that have been uttered countless times.”

    Yeah well, I imagine that at some point, they’ll need to give the world map some kind of limit :P

    I’m pretty hyped for this game. I do hope the open world isn’t going to hurt the narrative, but after experiencing The Witcher 2’s weak second half, I think we could use for less linearity.


      It would be funny if going off the map takes to the other side of the world.

      • malek86

        That could create all sorts of problems unless they make the world actually spherical.

        Morrowind actually had an “infinite” map in that, if you kept swimming in one direction, the game would just add more and more sea. There was nothing though.

        Arena was even more egregious: the game was specifically built to only have cities which you could move between via fast-travel. If you tried going out the city gates and toward the direction of another city, you’d never get there. Oh, it was still worth it, you could find dungeons and monsters outside. But if you kept going on one direction, the memory overflow would eventually cause all sorts of glitches (first you’d see the scenario repeating itself, then you’d see color glitches, and then you’d get stuck in some world tile).

    • Solomon_Kano

      They should put sharks in the water when you get too far, so there’s no invisible barrier, just a hungry one. Worked in Jak and Daxter.

      • malek86

        Crysis did something similar (if you went too far, you’d be taken down by missiles launched by the aircraft carriers near the island), and it worked too. Kinda. Not completely, because I once managed to somehow sneak off and get past the aircraft carriers. I don’t remember anymore, I think there was an invisible wall after a while, but I’m not sure.

  • Sardorim

    I hope Ciri shows up somewhere down the line.

  • Solomon_Kano

    Having missed out on the first two due to a weak PC and no 360 by the time 2 hit, I’m kinda amazed at just how hyped I am for this. It really sounds like the end-all, be-all of WRPGs to me. It’s everything I love about WRPGs with a hint of JRPG and some nice, action based combat. I couldn’t ask for more. I need some gameplay footage, stat!

    That said, no matter how much I’m looking forward to this, I can’t stop myself from feeling this is a stopgap to Cyberpunk for me. That had to be the most interesting announcement I’ve heard in some time. So once The Witcher 3 hits it’ll be doubly awesome, since I’ll get a good game and be that much closer to another.

    • MrTyrant

      The first one doesn’t need much of a pc to play. For the second you need a powerful one.

      • Solomon_Kano

        You would not believe how poor my PC is.

        • Brandonmkii

          I’ve never used anything that required a graphics card until this year. I know where you’re coming from.

        • KnifeAndFork

          My PC couldn’t even run Dragon Quest X PC benchmark : (

          • Solomon_Kano

            I didn’t even bother to try the benchmark. I didn’t wanna embarrass myself lol.

      • Zeik56

        It needs more than you might think. I actually just played the original Witcher for the first time, and I went into it thinking my computer could at least play it at moderate settings, but it could barely run at the lowest settings.

    • I hope we get something like the mass effect comic since some of the choices from the previous games will affect the story.

      • Solomon_Kano

        That would really be ideal.

        That said, CDPR has said that the game’s story is standalone enough that you’ll be fine without playing the other two, while having played them will just make you more aware of certain things.

  • Xillia

    Never tried this game, is it like Dragon Age ? cause that one is awesome.

    • MrTyrant

      It’s better than Dragon Age if you ask me. At the same time is different, the first Witcher and the second are also very different from each other.
      The game is more action based but you have your open maps and role playing around the continent with decicions to make about most side/main quest just that the world isn’t like TES series. Witcher 3 is the first one that would do that it seems.

    • Dragon age serie > shounen manga
      Witcher serie > seinen manga.

      Gameplay is different since you don’t have companions in Witcher serie.

  • Arizato

    Caaaaan’t wait for this. The first one had some flaws but I stuck with it and I’m really happy I did. The Witcher 2 has to be one of the best Western RPGs I’ve played. Even bought the books because of the games.

  • rainelee

    I didn’t think I could get any more excited for this, how naive I was. 2014 can’t come fast enough.

  • Demeanor

    CD Proj Red are geniuses, the care, realism and adult atmosphere they fuel in this series is truly admirable!

  • Ethan_Twain

    I am precisely the person who would get a ton out of these games, but I keep waiting for the first one to get touched up to be more in line with the less demanding second and third installments before jumping in. I really want to love these and I really want to play them in sequence. Sadly, I’m not an able PC gamer nor do I really deal well with steep difficulty curves. My understanding is that these would both be problems when approaching The Witcher.

    • Zeik56

      What do you mean by “less demanding”? The original game is actually pretty simple mechanically, especially if you play on normal or easy. You only really have two things you need to pay attention to in combat: 1. Whether you need to use your steel or silver sword. 2. Which stance is most effective against the current enemy, (Strong, Fast, or Group), which you can usually tell just by looking at the enemy. Outside of that you just have to have a few potions handy when the situation demands it and maybe throw out a Sign (magic) every now and then.

      Frankly, the original Witcher is a pretty easy game overall. The combat is kind of just a means to an end. Most of your time is spent questing and talking to people, which isn’t really handled any different than any other WRPG. The Witcher 2 seems like it has a much more steep learning curve than the original honestly.

  • Sergio Briceño

    It’s amazing how The Witcher 2 screens look a lot better than many next generation titles. XD

  • Masa

    The first picture used in this post is from before the Witcher 2 was even released as its the old look for Geralt that they changed before the game came out…..websites always use that picture, maybe a little research before posting?

    • Zeik56

      Several of those pictures are from Witcher 2. There aren’t that many pictures of Witcher 3, so it’s not really that big of a deal.

  • KnifeAndFork

    The vista looks good but not as pretty as MGSV’s vistas

  • ragingmerifes

    I really love the atmosphere in this game.

  • Mordina

    I’ve always had some interest for this series, but I haven’t played these games mostly because of no female main char. I do love the atmosphere and music though <3 I think I'll watch my brother or a Let's Play of this when released.

  • brian

    What is the point of having this much content?
    I guess it provides a ton of replay value but I’d think people that replay it because of that content would get burnt out and take a break from the game, come back and forget pretty much everything they did, making it pointless.

    • AndyLC

      So when you talk to your friends about it, you have different stories to tell

    • Zeik56

      I don’t know about anyone else, but my memory is at least decent enough that I can remember at least the major choices I made in a previous playthrough, even after a long break.

      But really, having lots of choices with varying consequences isn’t about replay value so much as it is catering a personalized experience. Even if you only play the game once, your experience with the game will be your own, and if they do it right, it will feel like the only version of the story that is the correct one.

    • Arizato

      Both Witcher games had detailed descriptions of the quests in the quest logs. They’re almost like reading the books. Just take a look in the quest log the next time you play the game after a long break!

      • brian

        Do the quest logs list the choices made or at least something list choices?
        I also have a big problem with open world games that use (mandatory) auto save and/or only one save slot, since experimentation is a big deal with stuff like this.

  • PK212

    I both like and dislike the fact that every single outcome from every mission matters (if it does actually end up being that important). The reason I am conflicted is because I am generally pretty benevolent but every now and then I don’t always act within the NPC’s best interest.

  • Yuri

    “with Geralt on the hunt for the Hunt”
    Sorry, this cracked me up and I couldn’t read the rest of the preview without a silly grin on my face!

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