The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Displays a Reactive Open World with Organic Combat

The Witcher 3

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, one of E3’s most anticipated titles, is the final installment of CD Projekt Red’s award-winning The Witcher RPG series. The first two games are renowned for their gripping storytelling, and this appears to remain true for their successor. 

“The most important part of The Witcher 3 is the story,” says CD Projekt Red’s environmental designer, Jonas Mattsson, as we sit in a dark room awaiting the 45 minute long hands-off game play demo. “We are creating a branching storyline that gives true consequences to decisions.”

Our adventure with The Witcher, Geralt, begins on the largest island of the Skellige archipelago. Larger than the entirety of The Witcher 2, this northern isle is heavily influenced by Norse and Celtic mythology, an influence seen in the environment and architecture of the world. Astride his gray steed, Geralt gallops to a nearby city in search for information about the Wild Hunt, an enigmatic group of spectral warriors. He passes through a vibrant and lush environment that appears to go for miles past the horizon. 

Once in the city, we find information on the location of the Wild Hunt and  are off once more into the open world, one of The Witcher 3’s most ambitious and significant additions. “It’s not about the size,” says Mattsson, “It’s about the quality and intensity of it… the game delivers over 100 hours of emotionally charged game play and a huge diversity of visually stunning landscape, smoothly blending to create a coherent open world experience.”

After traversing through a small town, we eventually find Geralt putting on his sea legs as he readies a small sailboat to take out into the bay. It is here that we can truly see the vastness of the game – surrounded by vistas and mountains, we are free to sail wherever we see water. That is, we are free to sail unless a storm breezes in. The Witcher 3 offers dynamic weather that heavily affects both the environment and characters within the game. Because the weather is currently pleasant, we see a large raiding party leaving the city in a Viking ship. However, as soon as the storm clouds begin to pick up, we are advised to return to port, or risk sinking in open water. If the weather had been bad for a few hours prior, the raiding party would probably be found in a tavern socializing instead of out at sea. In this respect, the game creates a completely reactive universe with seamless environmental and NPC interactivity. NPCs have their very own schedules and lives; they interact with each other without the presence or interaction of Geralt. It is later noted that even beasts are affected by the dynamic weather, which holds sway over their weaknesses and strengths.