First-time players will want to put this on their radar
Those of you who haven't really gotten into The Witcher series might not be too invested in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt yet despite how great it looks. That's something you'll want to change leading up to release across PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One next year. This third installment may be wrapping up Geralt's story, but it seems like the perfect opportunity to jump into the franchise (or keep playing, if you're already a fan).
By the end of CD Projekt RED's sizable hands-off E3 demo, I was so on board with the new installment. Much of the emphasis this time around is placed on crafting an absurdly large open world -- one that takes 40 minutes to travel across on horseback -- and filling it with interesting, often dynamic things. You can seamlessly jump on a boat and sail to distant islands in real time without coming up against loading screens. It's magical. Unless, of course, you attempt to sail when the weather is bad and the sea is rough -- your ship will go down, and the water is too frigid to swim in for long. It might've seemed like a good idea at the time, but don't do that.
While the story is still integral to Wild Hunt, with consequences to most everything you do often taking form in unexpected ways later in your journey, it's the world itself I'll surely fall in love with. Save a man from bandits and their masters may come back later to wreak havoc or get revenge on Geralt. The appeal of these meaty action-RPGs has always been that of meaningful exploration, and CD Projekt seems to have gotten closer to crafting my dream game than any studio so far.
The other main point of interest was the monster-fighting aspect of Wild Hunt. There are no bosses -- only tough, intimidating enemies -- and they don't scale to match your level, meaning you can eventually decimate once-powerful beasts with ease. This is what we like to hear.
Stumbling across a minotaur-esque Fiend in some ruins, the CD Projekt demo player led it out into a clearing for more room to pull off dodges and set it on fire using his magic. This thing was stabbed repeatedly but would not go down. The beast repeatedly charged at Geralt and eventually used a hypnotizing ability that turned most of the screen dark, allowing it to escape to recover from its wounds. Using Geralt's tracking abilities, he could have hunt the monster down and finished the kill, but this was not done in the demonstration.
Combat seemed faster and all-around improved, which should make Wild Hunt more approachable to new players coming in with high expectations. Though we only got to see about half an hour of a game which supposedly has 100+ hours of content, all I can really do is comment on what was shown, and it all looked incredible. If CD Projekt can deliver its vision -- I'm confident that it can -- Wild Hunt is going to be one of the defining RPGs of this new console generation.
Azure Striker out next month in Japan, working on North American release parity
4:30 PM on 07.22.2014