Despite an early alpha build, I not only had the opportunity to scope out some extended Witcher 3 gameplay, but also had a one on one with Game Director Konrad Tomaszkiewicz, and I’ve got to say that this game is coming out the gates looking rock solid. Despite some early alpha performance issues, it looks like The Witcher 3 has a lot to add to the series. With a heavy focus on narrative, we’ve been assured that the writing is top notch (though this is something we won’t be able to know for sure until we’ve gone through the completed title).
What we were able to confirm, however, was their narrative approach to some of the games content. The Witcher 3 makes a concerted effort at interweaving the primary narrative with all of the games collateral content. They do this, it seems, in two key ways. Firstly, in traveling between locations, there are many objects of interest. Ruins that stand out against a tree line, a farm by the side of the road with a commotion at the door, events and entities that are simply in the players path, and meant to grab their attention.
The second is side quests that are initiated as a part of the main story, but are not mandatory to follow up on. The example we saw during the demo was of a man who bore witness to the destruction of his village, and thus had information on the games chief antagonist (of one of the chief antagonists, it seems). However, in talking to him, the player is interrupted with knowledge that the man’s brother has been killed by a vengeful forest spirit. Right there, a side quest has been initiated simply by progressing through the game, and it’s done in a way that seems real. Immersion is maintained and the player is left with the choice of whether or not to act.
This was, according to Tomaszkiewicz, the games core strength. The quality of the narrative, the personal scope, and the size of the adventure is what will draw most players into The Witcher 3. That’s not to say it’s the games only strength though. Combat is reportedly more fluid than the series’ previous installments, despite seeming someone what basic in the demo. It’s obviously not the most complex or nuanced combat you’re going to see in gaming, but it’s not anything that should deter anyone from enjoying this title. Players will be able to specialize in different forms of combat depending on which playstyle appeals to them, and as long as the game is challenging and engaging, what else matters?
And engaging it did seem. I particularly liked the level of fidelity they included in to their monster hunting feature, which will supposedly be pretty important to the final game. All monsters will have details that make them stand out among the hordes. From special moves, to environmental weaknesses, to requiring the player to handicap specific body parts, it seems the developers have heavily pushed for a scenario where players will benefit from tracking an animal to discover which beast it is, and then using knowledge about that beast to bring it down.
All in all, other improvements revolve around player agency, unhindered exploration of the games larger world, and tweaking of the play mechanics to provide a more tactical and interesting experience. All in all The Witcher 3 seems like one of the more solid titles at this year’s show.