We did not get a hands-on with the game ourselves, with it still being in pre-alpha, but CD Projekt RED did have a live demo of gameplay during our meeting with them and if they game looks this good in pre-alpha, I can only image what's to come.
It opened up with a cutscene. And yes, I communicated my dislike of cutscenes with them, but they assure me that outside of reveals, like the beginning and a shift during dialogue to offer a closer angle, the game isn't taken out of your hands often. The opening demo cutscene showed a village being attacked by some nasty looking fellows - The Wild Hunt. A villager hides from the destruction and peering out the other side of the bushes and trees he hides in, he spots a ship floating in the air, with the same dark, angular build as the armor of the men attacking the village.
After the setup, the cutscene moves to Geralt arriving at a Jarl's keep, having been summoned to investigate this attack. During the dialogue exchange, CD Projekt RED points out that there have been 40 extra 'bones' added to faces for more improved expressions.
Geralt then heads down to the docks and grabs a boat to head out to the island village that was attacked. Boat travel looks fairly easy to grasp, control wise, but they point out that you don't want to be attempting this in a storm. With the dynamic weather, the seas will get rougher and Geralt could be tossed from the boat, leading to death in the frigid waters.
They do have fast travel, but you can only travel to an area you have previously discovered, so be prepared for heavy use of horse and boat to get around this huge map.
After speaking to the man in the village about the attack, the devs decide to take Geralt out and explore a bit. First he comes across some thieves trying to break into a man's home and decides to interrupt their fun. He makes quick work of them, the swordplay looks good. The man he saves mentions their boss, offering a bit of a sidequest and consequences to interferring. Geralt doesn't seem worried and moves on.
Finding some old ruins, this is where we get to see the battle briefly shown in the trailer above between Geralt and the giant antlered beast. The devs stress that even though this is a dangerous battle, they do not have "boss battles" and this is just a possible encounter you could come across elsewhere. The fiend also has special abilities, as many of the monsters in the game do, this particular monster can hypnotise its prey. We see the effect a couple of times during the battle, as the screen goes dark and Geralt's vision is greatly limited, making it hard to see where the beast is coming from as it charges. Near the end of the battle, both are fairly torn up and the beast retreats, leaving Geralt with the option to track it down or move on. For the sake of showing us more, they moved on.
As the day moves on, they stop to let Geralt rest. The spot they use was an existing campsite, and as he meditates, we see the time fast forward and the weather change. Looking out to the sea, the again remind us how dangerous the ocean is during this time.
Once he arrives to the next village to get more information about the attack, another possible sidequest pops up. This time they decide to have Geralt check it out, and we see the villagers getting worked up over another death due to some 'forest spirit'. The elders want to appease it in the old ways with offerings, but the younger folk would rather hire you to hunt it down.
Geralt heads into the woods to investigate where we get to see them use his monster tracking. When activated everything goes black and white, with clues standing out as red. What I liked was that these clues were still visible in normal vision if you knew what you were looking for and wanted to try your hand at tracking without it. While Geralt works, they tell us that there are over 80 different monsters, all with different clues and tracks they leave.
Once he finds out what sort of creature this is, he can reference his bestiary to find out more about the monster, if he has learned about it. This particular creature is a Leshen and he returns to the village to find out what they want him to do, if they are willing to hire him and inform them that the Leshen tends to 'mark' someone near it's territory and if that person is not also killed, the Leshen will be reborn.
Demonstrating the more difficult choices of the Witcher world, Geralt discovers the Leshen has marked a woman that the man hiring him is sweet on, much to the disappointment of the man who had hoped to have a reason to rid himself of the elders. He hires Geralt and tells him he will handle the woman.
Geralt heads back into the forest, first using his vision to track down the totems to weaken the creature. It's a very spooky atmosphere as he fights his way to the Leshen. Again, we see another challenging battle as the monster makes use of special powers to teleport around the battle in a murder of ravens, summon wolves to the battle, and call up roots to entangle Geralt.
Once defeating the creature, he returns to the village to see that not only have they killed the marked woman, but also used it as an excuse to kill the elder. Dialogue offers you the option to confront the murderer, or to just take your money and move on.
After Geralt moves on, they show us a cutscene journal entry that you would normally see the next time you returned to the village. It's a short story-format scene that shows you what has become of the village since you were last there.
SOME KEY DETAILS OF THE GAME
- Easy for new players to jump into as a new story is kicking off with new villains.
- 100+ Hours of gameplay
- 36 Different world states with three different endings based on your actions throughout the story.
- Sidequests and main quests can be done in any order, so if you wish to spend a day just doing random stuff, you can return to the main quest when it suits you.
- World is 35x larger than Witcher 2
- You can fight from horseback, but it's much more limited.
- Quicktime Events during combat are gone, the player gets complete control of Geralt.
- Geralt will assume a more casual fighting stance when he feels like his opponents are easy prey, giving you an indication of how tough the battle will be.
- Improved crowd AI means enemies coordinate with each other and change tactics depending on their numbers.
- Monsters and foes do not scale with the player, beasts can crush you with a single swipe at the beginning of the game or be easily handled by game's end.
- He will have a variety of unique combat animations, which will vary randomly or depending on factors like the direction of your attack. There are 96 new action sequences, compared to the 20 in Witcher 2.
- With new blocking moves, new attacks, new evasions, ways to stun foes, control their minds, poison blades, set traps, and more, players have more options to think creatively and develop their own combat tactics.
- Each button is connected to a single combat move, allowing you to break up your maneuvers easier.
- Romance will play a role in the game, with those decisions effecting a variety of things throughout the game.
- There will be 10 Witcher signs instead of five, and a second casting mode for each sign you can unlock as you level up. Signs are selected from a radial menu.
- You will have "combat skills" to call upon during fights, up to four slotted.
- You can drink potions in combat now, but toxicity is still a concern and pre-planning will still be helpful.
- Players will be able to combine skills from the three seperate paths - Swordsman, Mage, Alchemist - to create hybrid characters.
- Abilities gained will have a visible impact on combat animations.
- Crafting is expanded, adding new armor elements and weapons to Geralts arsenal.
- The game will be supported with post release updates and DLC.
- Will be available on PC and next-gen consoles.
Our game coverage goal at E3 was to dive a bit deeper into the games we've been covering, which means if you are looking for more info on Witcher 3, we may have covered it previously. Check our Witcher 3 tag to see all our W3 articles.