Geralt of Rivia is a witcher; a genetically enhanced badass with unparalleled fighting ability, control over arcane arts called signs, and a penchant for monster slaying. The third entry in the Witcher series takes the amnesiac hero on a personal journey to discover his lost past after the events of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, and makes changes to some of the series core elements of the franchise.
The Witcher has been praised for it's outstanding storytelling, amazing visuals, and engaging gameplay, and with the announcement of the third installment in the series, it looks like the developers at CD Projeckt Red are looking to push the envelope even further. We talked with the developer's Lead Gameplay Designer, Maciej Szczesnik and Gameplay producer Marek Ziemak as they gave us the more details on what we can expect from the upcoming medieval fantasy adventure.
Updated on 6/13/2013
The world is much, much bigger...
The amnesiac Geralt once again sets off to uncover the truth of his past, but now he'll have much more ground to cover. In the previous games, Geralt's adventure generally went along a linear path, moving from one location to the next according to the branching story arch. For the Witcher 3, Geralt will be able to explore a massive open world, which the developers are saying is 35 to 40 times bigger than the environments in The Witcher 2.
The world is broken up into three main locations. One area includes a large city called Novigrad, the second is a swampy location called No Man's Land, and the last location is a snowy, mountainous tundra. Each location has a self-contained encompassing story that weaves into Geralt's overall, personal narrative. It will be up to the player which area gets tackled first, since the entire map is open for exploration from the beginning (and without load screens). You'll have a seamless, open-world adventure in front of you, and the developers are making sure the world will be filled with plenty to do.
...and there is much, much more to do
A witcher's job is never done. In Wild Hunt you'll have to take on the witcher profession to fill your pockets with enough money to get by, and that means you'll be hunting ugly, dangerous monsters. Monster hunting is Geralt's main source of income, and taking part will give you the cash you need to purchase weapons, armor, crafting materials, and (if the barter system is anything like the Witcher 2) a tankard of beer from time to time.
The developers mentioned that there will be multiple, optional side activities and jobs that Geralt can take that make use of his unique abilities. Monster hunting, for example, forces players to use Geralt's enhanced Witcher Senses to track the ferocious beasts. Activating this mode highlights visual clues to the monster's whereabouts, but it was also mentioned that players will also have to listen for the various growling and bush noises the different creatures make in order to hunt them down.
You’ll explore a living world
CD Projekt is striving to create a living world in Witcher 3 and many factors go into creating a believable setting. Villagers will go about their daily routines, emergent quests will spawn from your travels, and even the weather can affect your adventures. Your location also reflects the state of the region and the activities you’ll partake in. So, when you travel through the wartorn and dilapidated No Man’s Land, you’ll encounter thieving thugs abusing innocents, where in a more stable location, you’d have to deal with political problems.
Even the time of day and weather can affect your adventures. At night, the wilderness becomes more dangerous as it fills with enemies like vicious wolves. If there’s a storm brewing in the skys you’ll want to avoid traveling by boat. The powerful winds kick up waves that can knock you off your seafaring vessal, leaving you sinking into the sea.
Choices can have dire repercussions
A big part of the Witcher 3 is making choices. As a witcher, Geralt is neither an infallible knight in shining armor nor a ruthless brigand; he exists in the morally gray. As you encounter characters and villages in the world you’ll be presented with various choices. Will you rid the villagers of their monster problem, or leave them to their fates? Will you take the side of the brash village leader, or the superstitious village elders?
Whatever you choose, the repercussions are often unpredictable since Geralt isn’t always the be-all-end-all decision maker in most situations. The villagers make choices and act on them as well. After Geralt decided to help the village and kill a rampaging forest monster, the village leaders decided to kill off their rival elders. After you leave the quest and return after some time passes, you discover what happens as a result of your decisions in a short cutscene. In this case, the ambitious village leaders opened new trade routes which lead a group of bandits to their homes resulting in the town’s destruction. Heavy stuff.
Geralt's Witcher senses have improved
Outside of hunting the occasional spider-like arachas, Geralt's senses have been enhanced to provide him more than just a way to analyse the environment around him. Geralt's heightened senses can now be used in combat. In previous games, the witcher could hunt down books and townsfolk that would give him clues on how to defeat certain enemy types. These weaknesses would mostly boil down to enemies being strong against elemental attack "A" and weak against attack "B." In Wild Hunt, your research gives you greater insight into the enemy's anatomy.
Now, when Geralt has done his homework on the monster or enemy he is attempting to kill, he can activate his Witcher Senses to highlight the vital organs and weak spots on the body. The developers gave the example that a vampire has a venom gland that enables them to poison the witcher. Activating the Witcher Senses gives Geralt a tactical advantage, allowing you to slow time in combat and pierce the venom gland with your sword, which will disable the vampire's poison ability. On top of the pre-battle preparations, combat in The Witcher 3 itself has become more intricate.
Combat has changed
For the Wild Hunt, the developers are making the combat more intimate by giving players greater control over Geralt's attack combinations and movements. In the previous game, Geralt would automatically unleash long string combos that (once started) could not be interrupted. Now, one button press equates to a single swing of your sword, which can be strung into longer combos and canceled at any time.
Szczesnik also stated Geralt's movements have been revamped. So now, Geralt will walk rather than run, he can enter a guard stance which allows him to perry and walk at same time, and the witcher will pirouette to avoid attacks rather than do dodge rolls. Light and heavy attacks also each have upgradable special attacks which can be earned as you level up. It seems CD Projeckt RED is making a lot of changes to Geralt's swordplay, but as any Witcher veteran knows, the blade isn't the only weapon in our hero's arsenal.
The signs have gotten an upgrade
So basically, witchers are medieval, monster hunting jedi, and signs are the Witcher's equivalent to the force. Geralt's signs can be used to blast opponents with a force push, shoot fireballs from his hands, set energy based traps, or perform mind tricks during story-branching conversations. Needless to say, signs are pretty handy. But you won't just be seeing the same old magic tricks from the previous games; the Wild Hunt is giving signs an upgrade.
CD Projeckt Red's lead gameplay designer told us the signs now have two different modes, essentially doubling the number of skills at your disposal. The example he gave was of the Yrden trap sign. Typically, activating Yrden placed a magical energy trap on the ground which stunned any enemy that stepped into it. In The Witcher 3 this is the sign's first mode. Activating the second mode creates a stationary turret that will launch energy blasts at nearby enemies. Sounds quite handy indeed.
You'll drink more potions
One of the things witchers are known for in the The Witcher's lore is their use of potions. However, the developers noticed that players were skipping out on the monster hunters' ceremonial sipping of brews before they entered combat. In the previous games, Geralt could pick various herbs and plants to create potions that would enhance his stats, improving his health, healing, damage, and resistances. Now, the potions will improve your chances of surviving an enemy encounter even more by providing additional skills. These skills can only be attained by drinking specific potions, and the developers are hoping this will encourage players to make better use of the alchemy crafting system.
Crafting has become more experimental
As we've mentioned before, Geralt will have plenty of activities to keep him occupied in the vast, open-world, but you can still expect to spend some time gathering materials and crafting your own items. Besides alchemy, Geralt can find recipes and pick up various materials and elements to build enhanced weapons and armor. But armor, and weapon crafting has been taken a step further for Wild Hunt.
The crafting system now makes use of multiple ingredient categories. So now, when you find a recipe to make a standard sword you will be able to choose the specific types of materials. For instance, instead of using iron for the blade, you can choose materials like silver or dragon scales to create the sword, which will give it different stats.
You're Witcher 2 choices matter
The developers weren't able to go into much detail on how the story of The Witcher 3 would be affected by your choices in the previous game, but your save will be carried over into Geralt's next adventure. So, far they've only mentioned that your saved game could change the story situation at the start of the game and that the dialogue between characters will change depending on who you sided with and interacted with in the previous game.
Having lasting repercussions for our actions in previous games and seeing the affects of taking sides at events like the battle of Aedirn in Witcher 2 would be a welcomed feature in Wild Hunt. We're curious to see if the continuous, branching story will go as deep as we hope it does.
That's all we've got, but more details on The Witcher 3 are sure to be popping up as we get closer to the games release on PS4, PC, and Xbox One in 2014. In the meantime, why not let us know what you think of the Wild Hunt so far? What do you want to see in the Witcher sequel? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.
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