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15 Minutes with Geralt of Rivia, #EBEXPO2014

The Witcher 2 ranks up at the top of my list for most “Incredible opening cinematic” and that was on the xbox360 – I can’t wait to see what these guys do next.

Witcher3_packLast week at the #EBEXPO2014 in Sydney I stepped behind a curtain and into a room that delivered a standout preview of The Witcher 3. After being ushered into a front seat by  the fabulous Stephen O’Leary (Namco Bandai) I settled in to watch two key members of the CD Projekt Red team taking Geralt through their latest demo.

We’ve all seen the youtube trailers and hi-res screens and I’ll say this – they don’t do the game justice. Watching the demo roll out on a massive screen I was quite taken by the level of graphical detail on offer, foliage, lighting, shadows, water effects, ambient sounds – all combining to land a crushing reminder that this is the new generation.

The_Witcher_3_Wild_Hunt_Fight_In_the_WoodsThe opening sequence took us through a mission where Geralt undertook a hunt for a Griffin. First off he wandered through a dense forest, the player activated a ‘Detective / Eagle Vision / Witcher” view to focus Geralt’s perspective and highlight any threats in the neighbourhood.

One such threat was a huge Griffin, imagine a giant lion body with wings and an eagle head buried under a giant mane. Geralt stealthily crept up on the creature then, utilised a special crossbow bolt to wound the massive creature, and as it flew away then began tracking it by the blood trails it left spattering the landscape.

TW3_NovigradGeralt gave chase on foot, keeping the Griffin in sight he raced through fields and splashed through streams. Here I paused to take stock of the fidelity, the water behaviour in the stream he was charging through as it cascaded of rocks was sublime, plus the way it reacted to his running feet. It was some of the best environmental effects I had seen.

The giant beast flew on and evaded Geralt, at which point the demo player wandered off track and ran into an encounter at a farmhouse. Violence quickly followed, which was a great opportunity to show off some Witcher magic and finishing skills. It wasn’t long before the brigands were diced and some buxom NPC had thanked us in the breathy way that Geralt tends to evoke.

TW3_fightAfter ignoring the potential side quest, we continued pursuit of the Griffin and soon found it. The battle that followed was a strategic affair, key magic skills and brute strength both playing a part. The Griffin for it’s part wheeled and dove, for all intents behaving in a quite organic manner, never once really feeling like a predictably scripted Boss Fight. Fair to say it didn’t end well for the creature.

We also saw some examples of the extent of the world on offer, cities teem with NPC life. People work and play, these medieval towns appear well populated. As for the environment in general, the horizon holds wonders in every direction and we are assured each point of interest has a story and will add a layer of detail to the tale. The guys running the demo also assured me there will be plenty of easter egg in-jokes again too.

TW3_vistaThe Witcher 3: It looks stunning and it appears as if the combat has been massively improved, being more Dark Souls 2 than Witcher 2. There is going to be a ridiculous amount of things to do in the world, visit and get lost in, I have not felt such wanderlust since I first played Oblivion way back in 2006.

Let me at it.