FORGING A PATH THROUGH THE WILDERNESS
The Witcher series has offered a lot to gamers in its past two iterations, but has struggled to make it into the big leagues of The Elder Scrolls or the recent Assassins Creed games. It has all the trappings of a great RPG – collecting items and leveling your Jedi-like witcher is a blast. But the linear story and non-licensed universe it’s set in creates an up-hill battle.
So it comes as no surprise that the ambitious CD Projekt Red wants to step up their game and thrust Geralt into an open world. Normally this throws up red flags for me: many games have tried to make this transition and failed to stock the world with engaging activities (sorry Batman Arkham City, but it’s true).
By refocusing on Geralt’s specific job description as a monster hunter they’ve supplied just that though. Outside of the considerable main story line, there’s an almost limitless supply of intensely powerful creatures for him to hunt down, an affair that proves to be much more than simply slashing away.
As demoed during my time with the development team, a typical scenario for crossing paths with a creature might start with Geralt coming across a town troubled by unsettling murders. Typical RPG fare – so far so good.
Now he must try and discern which foul monstrosity specifically is at play, which involves referencing the handy Bestarium. Analyzing corpses and different slashing patterns provides clues that help you narrow in on what you’re hunting. During this investigative process – powered by his ‘hunter vision’ – Geralt will verbally remark on different details that will later help you in your fight. In this case he observed the broken trees and bones and reasoned that the beast was too powerful to rely on parrying its attacks.
The Bestarium provides further details that will help you: it makes this kind of sound, leaves these kind of markings, requires this kind of material or herb to effectively slay, etc. The day-night cycle and weather plays a part as well. Hunting werewolves during a full moon is not really a good idea, as you might imagine. Going after one beast in the rain will make it impossible to track, but will help illuminate another that can use invisibility.
Clearly a lot of thought was put into making each and every one of these hunts a feat that must be approached with care and consideration. That does much more for me than statistics about the rest of the game: 100 plus hours of content, a giant world that you can traverse, intricate dialogue trees, blah blah blah. Bread and butter mechanics are King.