The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Preview: a brutally visceral role-playing adventure
Diversions aside, Geralt’s attention now shifts back to felling this magnificent beast, who is now proudly perched atop a small mountain, surrounded by an immaculately-conceived skyline. As we embark on the noticeably craggy ascent, the camera pans to reveal the sheer scope of exploration on offer; snow-tipped mountains and trees seemingly hundreds of miles away, all readily available for excursion should you choose to do so. It’s an overwhelming experience, we assure you, and there’s absolutely no letup in graphical fidelity, either. Luckily your mounted steed, which you can of course fight atop of, will be there to guide you along the vast chasms and walkways. Nevertheless, there’s a more pressing matter at hand; the small issue of a threatened, mythical beast who’s eyeing up the sheen on Geralt’s trusted broadsword. In a moment of near-filmic quality the Griffin – now surrounded by a flurry of birds – leaps from its peak and onto an open plain of land. The battle begins.
Taking a more calculated approach, Geralt casts a ‘Quen’ spell which gives added protection for the proceeding encounter as well as going on an all-out offensive with a flurry of ‘Igni’ fire spells; it’s a devastating barrage that causes the Griffin to slam into the earth, screeching to a halt. Following a moment of composure the beast arises, only to be met with a stunning sequence of swipes and slashes, culminating in Geralt’s blade snapping under the pressure – a testament most definitely to the ferocity on show. A pre-rendered cutscene overtakes the gameplay as the battle draws to its close, showing a fitting finale of Geralt entering a beautifully-crafted village, championing the head of the bested Griffin on the side of his horse.
For a title as robust and colossal as The Witcher 3 is ambitiously striving to be – with its world map roughly 20 percent larger than that of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – developer CD Projekt RED could perhaps be forgiven for lapsing with regards to consistent graphical lustre and sheen – thankfully that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Witcher 3’s animation and visual polish is simply a triumph, with little intricacies proving as jaw-dropping as the overall scope of the project; the draw distance, the twinkle of leaves on fire, the dispersal of dust particles when met with wind resistance and the incredible fighting mechanics are so finely-focussed it’s practically unheard of in such a vast, sprawling RPG.
Just like PSU’s very own Kyle Prahl echoed in his post-E3 thoughts last year, the narrative-driven focal point of The Witcher 3 is something that deserves special praise, too. More often than not RPG’s of near-insurmountable length seem to lack a thematic focus with their options and branched-out choices nothing more than a ruse, masked with the tagline of ‘important’. The Witcher 3’s an entirely different beast, with the sheer amount of consequential choices nearly overwhelming – providing a practically custom playthrough to cater for gamers’ specific tastes.
With the beauty of hindsight considered, The Witcher 3’s delay way back in March is looking like a blessing in disguise as the game’s certainly shaping up to be the go-to RPG for the beginning of next year. And with the competition for February’s best title already beginning to flex their muscles - the likes of Ready at Dawn’s The Order: 1886 and Dying Light are pencilled in for release within days of each other – there’s little doubt that The Witcher 3 will hold its own, providing a stunningly visceral and mature adventure that will thrill and engross in equal measure. We can’t wait.
The Witcher 3 is scheduled for release on February 24, 2015 across all next-generation consoles. Don’t forget to give us your views on CD Projekt RED’s stunning RPG below.
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