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Witcher 3 E3 Preview at Rock Paper Shotgun

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Witcher 3 E3 Preview at Rock Paper Shotgun

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 13 June 2014, 20:58:55

Tags: CD Projekt; The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Rock Paper Shotgun's man in the US, Nathan Grayson, has written about his impressions of the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt demo build that was shown at E3 this week. He's ("ever so slightly") worried about the game. Here's one of the reasons why:

I love gigantic open worlds more than the next guy (who doesn’t know shit about open worlds, tbh), but they do have their drawbacks. For instance, how do you fill such a massive place – in this case, one 50 times the size of The Witcher 2 – with interesting stuff to do? Some of it is bound to be cookie cutter, right?

It sort of felt that way in our demo as Geralt bounced from “I’ll help you, but only if you do me this favor” fetch quest to fetch quest. Each character’s motivation made sense in the context of the story, but it began to feel a little tedious as we inched ever closer to our actual objective: a tiny sliver of information on the “ashen-haired girl” who seems to be responsible for the titular Wild Hunt, which Geralt aims to stop. Like, yes, I understand, everybody wants something, but can we get to the point?

That said, the quest chain had some wickedly interesting (and downright wicked) characters, including a childlike “godling” whose internal monologue never stayed internal for long (“Defecating into the sunrise, my favorite part of the day” was one of many choice lines) and beautiful Lady spirits who were… not what they seemed.

The other upside here? CD Projekt is apparently trying extremely hard to avoid the sorts of “kill X number of whatever” quests that pop up in, say, Skyrim. Apparently every quest will have some kind of story.

“We call [those Skyrim quests] ‘FedEx Quests,’ and we never want to have them in the game,” game director Konrad Tomaszkiewicz told RPS. “We’ve created a bunch of encounters you can find while wandering the world, and every one of these encounters has its own small storyline. We want to create the feeling that characters really live in this world.”

“We’ve got a lot of more traditional quests, and also we created the plan B of monster hunting, which is how Witchers make money. So you have to gather information about the monster you’re preparing to take down, you’ve got to collect special ingredients for alchemy and potions – those kinds of things for each unique monster. We don’t want to make generic quests where you do the same stuff repeatedly. It’s better to just leave the area with the wandering monsters and the same quests behind. We want to give you a feeling like you’re in a real world. If you change a part of that world permanently, hooray! There will be other stuff for you to do [elsewhere].”​

He also had issues with the game's combat, writing and animations. But there are some things about it that impressed him as well:

So yes, I’m a little worried about a few elements of The Witcher 3, but largely it remains one of my most anticipated games in ages. During the E3 demo I managed to find even more reasons to stand in awe of its mucky, grease-stained radiance. For instance:
  • Cities feel amazingly alive – You thought Skyrim’s “Radiant” AI was impressive? Or if not impressive then at least a cut above the mindless mobs that tend to populate videogame worlds? Well, Witcher 3′s variation on the theme looked magnificently natural. Children shouted and played tag, adults walked and chatted, fires crackled, water wheels churned, etc, etc, etc. It was so palpably alive. Our presenter noted that NPCs react the all sorts of things, too: the time of day, weather, Geralt punching them - every valid and rational human concern. Afterward, I went to a demo of Dragon Age Inquisition, and the difference was night and day. DA’s denizens were stuck in their tracks like they were born and raised in a vat of quicksand. No sudden movements. Really just no… movements in general, actually.
  • Geralt can climb stuff now – Cliffs and hillsides getting in your way? No problem. Like a sprightly assassin or Notch’s envisioning of a horse, Geralt’s got enough spring in his step to vault up/over whatever pitiful rock formation might stand in his way. He doesn’t animate quite as well as, say, the main character of Assassin’s Creed Unity, but it’s a useful skill nonetheless.
  • The draw distance is absurd – Our presenter stood at the top of a cliff after vanquishing its harpy residents, and from there he pointed to a tree on a mountain seemingly miles away. “You can go explore that,” he said.
  • Environmental interaction is apparently a big focus – CD Projekt claims that it always wants to offer you some sort of environmental option in most encounters to add extra oomph to your combat arsenal. During the demo, I saw bee hives you could knock from trees and explosive objects you could tickle into combustive laughter with a few light sparks from Geralt’s fire spell. However, there was then a bit where the presenter tried to burn away some path-blocking roots with said fire spell and it didn’t work, which didn’t even make sense to him. So these things aren’t entirely consistent yet.
  • Day/night doesn’t just affect townsfolk – It changes monsters too. Quick word of advice: maybe don’t plunge into Clearly Demonic Forest when the sun’s down. Just a hunch, is all.
  • People react to your accomplishments – After our presenter slew a werewolf, entered a cave, and came back out, villagers had gathered around the werewolf’s body. Makes sense: it was causing them no end of trouble, and I imagine they were quite happy to see it go.
Nathan apparently spent an entire day in CD Projekt's booth, so there'll be more about Witcher 3 from RPS in the coming days. Hopefully it will not consist entirely of SJW whining.

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