E3 2014: Could The Witcher 3 Be One of the Best RPGs Ever Made?

Monster mash.

by

I try to keep my wits about me when I enjoy something, but it’s hard to contain my excitement when I see The Witcher 3 in action. It’s the kind of game that expresses such creativity, such character, such raw passion that I am legitimately moved by the images on the screen. I feel the care taken with every animation and every texture.

My latest viewing of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in action again lit a fire within me. I sat down with developer CD Projekt Red, which walked me through 45 minutes of combat, adventuring, and conversation. The demo began near Novigrad, one of the largest cities in The Witcher universe, and a major port within Redania. It was a good moment to take in The Witcher 3’s sheer beauty. As protagonist Geralt of Rivia galloped towards the city I marveled at the fluid way his steed sprinted forward and the way Geralt’s lanky hair bobbed up and down. I marveled at the lushness of the nearby trees and flowers, and at the clarity of the hills and mountains visible in the distance. The Witcher 2 was a gorgeous game, but the places it rendered were not fully explorable. The far-off places were no more tangible than a mirage.

CD Projekt Red is quick to point out that The Witcher 3 is not confined by any unnatural barriers; if you can see it, you can go there. We’ve heard this before from game developers and publishers, but the prospect of visiting these places brings me great joy, in part because I got to see several of these places during the demo. Geralt spent some of his time in Novigrad, riding towards his contact and listening in on ambient conversation. One such conversation involved some children wanting to play “burn the witch,” and one of them terrified that she’d have to play the witch. Even the most lighthearted moments are touched with darkness in The Witcher universe.

One thing I noted here was how differently The Witcher 3 portrays its cities, in contrast with many other fantasy RPGs. In many games, cities are built with such symmetry and precision that they seem, well, computer-generated. By contrast, Novigrad looks like a place actual human beings would live. Structures weren’t necessarily built as close to each other as possible. Homes weren’t lined up in unlikely rows, as if every edifice was placed according to the most pleasing geometry. Novigrad looked like a city that had grown since its founding. It sprawled outwards in an organic fashion. Such a place may not please an urban planner, but as a viewer, I enjoyed how the city looked so authentic, so lived-in.

The next leg of Geralt’s journey took him too far away from the city for CD Projekt Red to lead him there on horseback. Instead, the demoer visited a directional sign that was used as a fast-travel point. You must first visit a location to be able to fast-travel there later, but I don’t think passionate Witcher fans should worry too much about the fast-travel system sucking the joys from exploration. After all, this particular world is far, far bigger than that of The Witcher 2. After we traveled to the wilds, the game’s producer pointed out a far-off mountain peak, and stated that Novigrad was 14 times further away than that peak. Bigger isn’t better, of course, but I don’t worry that The Witcher 3 will be devoid of interesting places to visit.

Geralt next visited the wilds, and it was here that I saw how The Witcher 3 would allow you to use Geralt’s heightened senses to reveal where monsters had recently traversed. The witcher’s quest was leading him towards a childlike creature called a godling, a creature I don’t recall ever having seen in the series. This particular godling looked like a cross between Gollum from Lord of the Rings and an archetypical gnome, and his upturned lip was a silent sign of past violence. The little soul could not speak, however; his voice had been bottled and stolen, and he gestured to Geralt to follow, and so he trudged through the swamps to find the dastard who had committed this theft.

Geralt needed to perform a bit of climbing to reach his goal, but where The Witcher 2 had very limited, very scripted vertical traversal, climbing in The Witcher 3 is more organic. The combat, too, looks more natural in The Witcher 3 than it did in its predecessor. During the demo, I saw Geralt do battle with a werewolf, various bandits, and other creatures. It still looks like you’ll need to proceed carefully into battle, but the fluid animations made battle look to be more enjoyable on the whole, though I did not get to play the game myself. Geralt brings his swords with him once again--one mainly for human foes, and one for monsters. But he also gets a small crossbow this time around, which came in handy when the demo player had to bring down harpies out of the sky.

Geralt’s journey ultimately led him to a tragic elderly woman who channeled the spirits of three seemingly beautiful maidens depicted on a tapestry. They required a tribute, and directed Geralt to a man in the nearby village, who also had something for the witcher to do. (If there was any downside to this demo, it was the way it chained one fetch quest to the next, and to the next, and to the next. Everyone required a favor if they were to divulge information.) The tribute ended up being that same man’s ear, which he sliced off once Geralt had eliminated the tree-monster nearby that had cursed the village.

Let it be known, however: the tree monster tried to bribe Geralt before he slaughtered it by telling him it was the only entity who could save the orphans in the nearby village. I don’t know exactly what they needed saving from, but the unexpected result of killing the monster was that those same orphans went missing. But at least I had one more lead directing me to the young woman I was pursuing. (Clearly Ciri, an important character in the Witcher literature.) Upon presenting the severed ear to the channeling medium, the three “maidens” presented themselves. They were hardly the comely women depicted on the tapestry, however, but bizarre freaks of nature that could only barely be called human--if called that at all.

What is exciting about all this? It’s the vast world loaded with architectural and topographical details that beg to be explored, and reveal new and interesting secrets. It’s the grotesque creature designs, with each monstrosity and curiosity looking more unusual than the last. It’s how those tough choices are woven throughout the entire world, and how those choices may not have obvious consequences. It’s how those same consequences unexpectedly manifest, bringing grief to Geralt and others even when the choice might seem “moral.”

It’s the sense of a real journey that excites me most. All of these attributes combine to make the world of The Witcher 3 seem mysterious, deadly, and spiritual. This series has always had a lot to say, and with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, CD Projekt Red might finally be able to fully express its imagination.

Discussion

336 comments
Aaronp2k
Aaronp2k

it could very well be one of the best rpgs ever made. of course I didn't like the first one and didn't play the second so I have no idea what to expect. I do have faith in the witcher 3 though and I am buying it day 1.

BigGhost_AJT
BigGhost_AJT

Little bit of hyperbole in the title or what? Not sure where Van Ord makes the case for this to potentially be "one of the best RPGs ever made".

vadagar1
vadagar1

also if you still giggle when you see naked people....

then your probably too immature to truly experience this game  ;)

vadagar1
vadagar1

everything skyrim failed to deliver and then some

witcher 3 promises a  mature complex amazing adventure. i just cant wait till it release 



RyuRanVII
RyuRanVII

The Witcher 3 can be one of the best games ever made, but RPG? Hell no. It simply can't compete with other upcoming titles like Pillars of Eternity, Wasteland 2, Divinity: Original Sin or Torment: Tides of Numenera as a RPG.

Tranula
Tranula

Did they develop an all new game engine to make this?

Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

My most anticipated game, I want it so bad that I am ready for the collector's edition as soon as the pre-order is open. Not just the game that interests me, it is CD Projekt RED as a whole. Their attitude towards the game industry and how they favor the gamer's side of it with no DRM and collector's edition worth of content included with regular editions, all which just simply unmatched. Absolutely love those guys.

downloadthefile
downloadthefile

I really hope it runs decently on consoles.  I can't do this on my PC at all, I can only just do Witcher 2 on my PC and I don't have the money for a new PC.  Ah well.

hitomo
hitomo

it ones was a game that brought the best PCs on to ist knees ... after it became a bandai/namco game all the dev effort is spend to make it running on consles ...


its already looking outdated in those trailers, and when the next TES Comes it will be forgotten by all the People who praie it now ...

robertcain
robertcain

They probably shouldn't use the words "one of the best" here. The way CD Projekt Red is going, The Witcher 3 could be THE best RPG of all time. It has everything going for it right now; unbelievably passionate developers who won't bow to greedy practices, an ambitious structure that aims to go above and beyond the already fantastic Assassins of Kings in every way possible, and a story that offers real and detailed player choice across every area of it's story, including the overall ending.

mirakodus123
mirakodus123

Well, if you read the books, this game takes you to the complete new level of appreciation. Just like in witcher 2 - you could get to know some characters from the journal and cutscenes, but when you know the persons by heart, it's like even one sentence about your favourite character gets you crazy and hyped for more. There is still a lot of time to start reading :)

PeterDuck
PeterDuck

Who else here loved the Witcher before it was cool?

Darkhol0w
Darkhol0w

Thank you for this article Kevin, this game truly deserves it!

I simply cannot wait to get my hands on this game..it will be simply glorious.

rhymesmatter
rhymesmatter

Correction: IT IS the best RPG experience ever made!

Gankstar_VX84
Gankstar_VX84

cd projekt red has a penchant for biting off more then they can chew, this game definitely looks that way, it's going to be awesome and forgivable for the issues like all the games they make, but it's way too early to call it the best.

digigamerx
digigamerx

What got me from the first Witcher game was the mature story to it, and I was really impressed with the second one. I'm so looking forward to this one. Updated my graphics cards recently on my current gaming rig so I'm ready. Next year can't come quick enough! 

siziyman
siziyman

I've read plenty of comments written earlier here, so I'd like to both express my own opinion and write something that might explain some things people around here, as for me, just don't understand(no offense, it's just about being more or less familiar with Witcher universe)


As for my own opinion, it really can become one of those. If CD Projekt RED will really do those things they promised to have in TW3, this one would be one of best A-RPGs for me, because I love non-linear games, open-world games, I love strong stories, and this one is strong for me.


And these are some things, that some people might not know or understand:

First of all, this is based on book series by Andrzej Sapkowski. Witcher book series tell about earlier(than told in game) adventures of Geralt, who's main character there. And yes, he is kinda cynic man with two swords, relatively long white hair, and even that hair thing is kind of important part of plot and setting(elves call him Gwynbleidd - WHITE Wolf). So CDPR just can't add more character customizing without absolutely ruining all the world setting, 'cause there are characters from books almost everywhere. They're big part of game plot too. 

By the way, I'd absolutely recommend to read those series (reminder: Andrzej Sapkowski - Witcher series, first one is The Last Wish) for every fantasy lover(and it's not child books, it's mature one, kind of dark fantasy world maybe).


And one more thing - as for me, comparing Witcher and, for example, Dark Souls, is absolutely incorrect - DS series is not so strong in story/characters, as Witcher and some others are. In Souls series main emphasis is gameplay difficulty, and that's great, but it makes it not that ROLE-playing game - you don't have that much place to choose. And the same statement is partly true for Elder Scrolls - it's still pretty linear one.

sepir
sepir

Best is subjective. Doesn't matter though, it looks good and even though I waited for 1 and 2 to be on sale I pre-ordered this because I think it will be enjoyable, and to show my support for CDPR and their gamer friendly policies.

4kgamer_lmxxx
4kgamer_lmxxx

I love the Witcher Series and i do believe Witcher 3 will be one of the best A-RPG games to have been made until it's release. But i don't think it will be the best forever. A future game will top it up, it always happens. (maybe that'll be a CDPR game too though) Hehe


BTW, I'm more hyped up for CyberPunk 2077. I hope they show more footage of that game soon. :D

LordCrash88
LordCrash88

@Gamer_4_Fun Ahem, just for your information: the very limited collector's edition is already sold-out in most counries. I got my copy only minutes after they've gone live on amazon... ;)

blacksheperd
blacksheperd

@hitomo Umm outdated? Sorry you are wrong. CD Projekt has never taken out an outdated looking game. This isnt Mario, or COD, or AC. 

This game will hit the bar in console graphics and maybe even PC graphics...Both Witcher 1 and 2 still look amazing considering how long ago they both came out.

vadagar1
vadagar1

@hitomo not likely 


TES 6 will actually benefit from witcher 3 if Bethesda have an brains left to actually see how pros do games

remynova
remynova

@robertcain Witcher, best RPG of all time? That Title has already been crowned to Final Fantasy 7.

Darkhol0w
Darkhol0w

@robertcain One of the best is correct in this case. There are so many good RPG's from long ago that still stand remain as one of the great ones (cult classics): Planescape Torment, Fallout, Baldur's Gate.

Darkhol0w
Darkhol0w

@mirakodus123 I haven't read the books  yet, but I really gotta start doing it. Can you tell me exactly which books have been translated in english and in what order I should watch them?


I totally agree with you that extended universe books of games (Starcraft, Diablo, Warcraft) really add a lot to the immersion if you read the novels before playing the games (Storm of Light before Reaper of Souls, Flashpoint before Heart of the Swarm). You appreciate them so much more if doing so.

vadagar1
vadagar1

@PeterDuck ever since I stumbled on witcher 1 game and I was like:


MEHHH im bored i guess i can give it a try 


10 days later i was done playing :D

jimkirk
jimkirk

@PeterDuck i the original witcher was too long to finish its one of my favorites

_tr
_tr

@PeterDuck 

Me :)

You should know that the Andrzej Sapkowski's Witcher Saga is a very popular in Poland, Czech, Slovakia, Russia, Ukraine and Spain. So when CDPR done The Witcher it was bought mostly by Sapkowski's fans from those countries. I think that this was the case of the over 2/3 of buyers of The Witcher 1.

Darkhol0w
Darkhol0w

@PeterDuck Me..I think was one of the few people back in 2008 that was praising Witcher 1 while everyone spat in my face on how bad it was apparently.

Which is a bit ironic cuz in 2008 there wasn't an RPG with a choice & consequence system, gray morality and mature ontop of that. 

Guess people don't become aware of things 'till they get popular.

PeterDuck
PeterDuck

@sepir 

Best isn't necessarily subjective (nor would the "subjective aspect" itself diminish the quality in anyway) if the game outdoes everything, or close to everything, compared to the other games in the genre by a wide margin.

blacksheperd
blacksheperd

@4kgamer_lmxxx Yup, if anything tops Witcher 3, cyberpunk will. Heck the trailer already shows that they have the right mindset/direction for the game.

siziyman
siziyman

@Darkhol0w @mirakodus123 As far as I can see, English Wikipedia page contains enough information about that.

Right order of reading will be:

The Last Wish

The Sword of Destiny

Blood Of Elves

Times Of Contempt

Baptism of Fire


There are more, but they are not translated to English officially, according to Wiki.


And notice, speaking about Starcraft, Diablo, Warcraft, you speak about books, which are written AFTER games. And Witcher games are BASED on books series, so it would make even more sense than that ones.

Aaronp2k
Aaronp2k

@Darkhol0w I played witcher 1 when it released and stopped playing it after 2 hours. the game felt like a typical generic 3rd person rpg with no heart, dull combat and limited choice. this game (witcher 3) looks incredible though. I can't speak for the witcher 2 since I can't play it (pc not good enough and I am not planning on building a new rig till I can afford 4k). I know people say the enhanced witcher 1 is much better, but I highly doubt it makes that much difference. I have a feeling I would enjoy the witcher 2, and will probably play it after the witcher 3 if I enjoy it but I doubt I will bother with the 1st again.

siziyman
siziyman

@Darkhol0w W1 made me respect CDPR as developers very much for one more thing, which most people ignore/don't know. It was made on Aurora Engine, which is base for NEVERWINTER NIGHTS 1. It was more than 5 years old! And Witcher still looked okay(or even more) for 2007. 

adamosmaki
adamosmaki

@Darkhol0w I dont think there were many people that actually played Witcher 1 and hated it .Those saying was bad probably are haters and people that gave up on the game before the enhnced version was released. The game even has a higher user score on metacritic compared to W2 and imo W1 was indeed a bit better than W2 

Aaronp2k
Aaronp2k

@blacksheperd @remynova @robertcain what about ruby and emerald weapon, the hardest bosses in the game (even harder than sephiroth). you have to have nearly everything in the game and very high level to even attempt fighting them. also there is plenty of fun side stuff to do. gold saucer is just 1 of the things you could sink hours into.

LordCrash88
LordCrash88

@siziyman @Darkhol0w @mirakodus123 Well, the point is that the last book of the sage (The Lady of the Lake) which is not officially translated to English yet is the one with the most information in it about the characters in the world and their connections and what happened to them before Witcher 1...(Wild Hunt, Emhyr, Ciri, Yennefer, Geralt,...)

You should really read the whole library to get the full picture. It's so much worth it, even with the fan translations on the Witcher forum. The Witcher games will be even better after reading the novels believe me. You will begin to really feel with the characters and the world... ;) 

Darkhol0w
Darkhol0w

@siziyman @Darkhol0w @mirakodus123 Actually no..some of the books that I mentioned are novels that should be read before playing the aformentioned games for extra immersion (Flashpoint, Storm of Light respectively). 

Witcher books seem to me that it just gives a big backstory on the characters that are barely mentioned in the Witcher games, but ultimately will be about them in Witcher 3.

uxtull
uxtull

@siziyman @Darkhol0w For 2007 it was very nice looking game, Mass Effect was obviously prettier but they were running on much bigger budget and Unreal Engine.

Darkhol0w
Darkhol0w

@adamosmaki @Darkhol0w I liked Witcher 2 more just because that after jumping into Witcher 2 and finished it once I felt so satisfied by the fact on how much did CDPR listened top their fans and stepped it up on a whole another level.


Witcher 2 still remains my most finished game (finished it 10 times) with various choice based saved games ready for Witcher 3. I finished it two times on Dark mode, but never on Insane (permadeath).

siziyman
siziyman

@Darkhol0w @siziyman @mirakodus123 Nope, I meant for universe/setting of Starcraft, Diablo, Warcraft, games were the first to come. And Witcher universe was created by books, which were followed by games.

Darkhol0w
Darkhol0w

@siziyman @Darkhol0w @mirakodus123 Fair enough, still doesn't change the fact that it's a big plus if you read the books so you get more backstory of the characters you encounter in Witcher 3.

siziyman
siziyman

@Darkhol0w Yup, I've read all the books in this series(my native language isn't english, and they were translated&published here before Witcher game was released), and it makes game even better.