Bigger than big
If you saw our E3 preview of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, you'd know that the game's world is so big that it takes 40 minutes to travel across on horseback. It's one thing to say that, but it's another to see it and really get a sense for just how big that is.
A new segment of the game shown off at gamescom this week does a nice job of showing just how bit the open world of The Witcher 3 is, as well as just how much CD Projekt RED has packed it full of things to see and do.
How's 100 hours of gameplay for huge? We were told that The Witcher 3's world is 35 times bigger than that of The Witcher 2. In fact, just one of the islands in the world of The Witcher 3 is bigger than the whole world of its predecessor.
In this world you'll find a blend of their main story, sidequests, varied encounters, and vast lands. Main character Geralt will walk, run, jump, climb, and swim through his freely explorable environment, and if that doesn't take him far enough, he can ride horses, take boats and more. There are no artificial barriers -- if you can see it, you can go to it.
But a big world is pointless without something to do in it. The developers have spent a lot of time making sure that this world is dotted with enough encounters and points of interest that you'll always have something to do. In a live demonstration, we saw that at any one point there's always at least a few things in the distance you can run up to and interact with.
For example, we saw a bunch of bandits attacking a small home in the distance, beyond a field of wildflowers. While players are free to ignore these points of interest while following the main quest, we decided to jump in and save this home, knocking off the bandits in the process. While nothing big happened in this case, in some cases your choice could reshape your overall journey a bit. Anything from earning new items to unlocking other sidequests can take place.
Before this diversion we were following the main quest that had Geralt seeking out a man named Bjorn. Bjorn's village, Dalvik, was burned to the ground and raided by Wraiths on the Wild Hunt, and Geralt needs to learn their path to follow them.
On his way to the village where Bjorn now resides, we saw more of the island in this archipelago. For a game set in a dark time, this setting was pretty nice to look at with its fields of flowers and soft blooming light. Ruins dot the horizon and beg to be explored. Careful, though, as the game's Fiends -- complex non-boss enemies -- can put up quite a fight. One battle I watched with a large moose-like beast required a lot of dodging and falling back, and that's not to mention the fiend's special attack that manages to blind Geralt.
As the demo continued, I was drawn in by how the main plot weaved through other quests. Quests seamlessly lead to other quests, or to main story points. No loading, no menus. With how it's presented, and when you add in some very nice voice work, The Witcher 3 kind of washes over you, making it seem like it would be just as enjoyable to watch someone else play.
Oh, and this game looks great. We were reminded that we were seeing early in-progress gameplay and that it was not representative of the final product, but even with that it still managed to dazzle.
The Witcher 3 looks to be a rich, open RPG that players can get lost in. In just watching it for 40 minutes I could sense that this is a massive game. Here's hoping we'll see more soon.