CD Projekt Red invited me to sit down with their Senior Level Designer and watch 45 minutes of exclusive gameplay footage for The Witcher III: Wild Hunt at E3 this year. Although I know about as much about the world of The Witcher as I do Metal Gear Solid, I couldn’t help but be impressed with its achievements in creating a grim, cohesive world similar to that of Magic: The Gathering’s Innistrad.
The footage I watched was a direct follow up to their publicly-released Griffin Hunt gameplay video. Here’s what we saw:
- Geralt is riding his horse around the wilderness just outside the game’s central HUB, the Free City of Novigrad. As he enters the city, we’re told that the game’s fish market can actually double as a kind of underground black market if the player makes the right choices.
- He was here to meet a man named Dijkstra, who tells him that the “ashen-haired woman” Geralt is searching for was last seen with a creature named Johnny, who looked much like a child. They were last seen around Velen, a small area inside of what the game calls “no man’s land”.
- Leaving Novigrad, we are told that there are no artificial barriers anywhere in the game. We then move to No Man’s Land, a gigantic swamp area that’s ravaged by war and famine. On horseback, at a high level at top speed, it would take 25-30 minutes to travel there from Novigrad.
- Peter, the level designer, points to a huge mountain in the distance. We are told that Novigrad is 14 times further than the distance between us and the mountain. The game is huge.
- Approaching a burrow, Geralt finds a small child-like demon-looking creature called a Godling. He’s lost his voice, and he implores Geralt to find it. There are several ways up a mountainside Johnny is pointing to.
- Geralt shows off his new weapon, the crossbow, which can use customizable ammunition that the player makes from the things they find.
- Bodies left in swamps can actually become reanimated in No-Man’s Land (there is a possibility I misheard this, it may have been an explanation as to why enemies like the aquatic “Water Hag” were in the area).
- Johnny gets his voice back, and we find out he’s quite the campy little lad. He apparently saw the ashen-haired girl while taking a morning constitutional, which he says is the greatest part of the day, but knows nothing more. He takes her to see an old woman.
- The old woman owes Johnny a few favors, and so she takes Geralt to consult an entity known only as “the ladies,” which are represented in this part of the game as three beautiful women on a tapestry. The woman channels them and speaks to Geralt, telling him to destroy a beast in Downwarren. He is given a dagger for some reason.
- Elements in the environement can be used to your advantage. Peter cites the poison gas in the area that can be ignited with Igni, a fire spell. Magic in this game ranges Traps, shields, offensive spells, and charms.
- When you hone your senses, you will see both visual clues and audible ones.
- You can meditate to pass the time. Day and night will affect all sorts of thing—the availability of quests, the types of monsters, the strength of certain kinds of enemies.
- You can augment stats with Mutagensm, but too many of them will add to a toxicity level in your body that, if too high, will have negative effects on Geralt.
- Geralt eventually encounters a sort of huge, beating heart built into the roots of a tree underneath an area called the Whispering Hillock. The entity tries to convince Geralt to let him go so that it can help the children. You can make a choice here to kill it or let it live – these choices are all over the game.
- The player decides to kill the giant heart. Geralt returns to the village elder, who uses the Dagger The Ladies gave him to cut off his ear (as tribute, apparently).
- Geralt brings the ear back, and the ear is offered as tribute on a stone. The Ladies crawl out of the woods, they’re disgusting gothic horror versions of the fates from the animated Hercules film. That’s the best way I can describe them. One of them has a necklace of ears.
The Witcher III will be released in February 2015. Look forward to an interview the game’s developer on Siliconera next week.