After speaking with a jarl, the demo took Geralt to the seas, where he passed a raiding party's ship (the rowers' song reaching across the water). We then saw the fast travel option, which is quite appreciated in a game of this size. The game, which can occupy a thorough player for over 100 hours, is 35 times larger than The Witcher 2. Yes, it's also larger than Skyrim, although comparing the two misses a few points. Allegedly it takes Geralt 40 minutes to pass from one end of the world to the other. On a horse. The developers actually have tools to develop realistic geography. They have one tool, for example, with a single purpose: to measure where rain would gather on terrain and allow a forest to grow.
I later interviewed Jonas Mattsson, an environment artist, and he explained the construction of the world as "organic," a term I commonly use when critiquing level design and world building. He assured me that the player would encounter something interesting every two to five minutes, and I believe it. From a single vantage point, we could see a house on a little island cliff, a fallen ruin, roads leading away, farmhouses, mountains, a forest, and probably more things I missed. That I couldn't take control of Geralt and explore almost killed me. There are sure to be side quests, caves, monsters, and treasure along all these routes, and some of the quests randomly pop up, although none are randomly generated. The entire game is handcrafted, which gives it a feeling of immense authenticity.
When Geralt headed to some ruins, he discovered a Fiend eating a corpse on the ground. A Fiend is a hulking three-eyed antlered beast of terrifying composure — you can spot it in the E3 trailer. It immediately attacked and an intense battle unfolded. The Fiend unleashed its special attack: using its third eye to hypnotize Geralt, causing his vision to darken and blur. The effect was horrifying, exciting, and unique — probably the coolest single thing I saw at E3.
Littering the landscape are mobs of creatures and monsters, small and large, as well as bandits, mercenaries, and other humanoid opponents. Like any good open world action game, whether or not you engage your opponent is entirely up to you. If you see bandits attempting to ransack a house you can, if you desire, keep on walking and let them go about their business. Or you can intervene. Doing so might give you access to secrets and lore about the world around you, fleshing out Wild Hunt‘s narrative, or may even open up an entirely new side quest story. Either way, if you do chose to engage opponents you find Wild Hunt has changed up the combat in a few ways from Assassin’s of Kings. Enemies are generally a lot tougher and methodical to take down, Geralt’s sword play faster, and sign powers like Igni easier to chain into battle (like incinerating your enemies). CDPR have also noted the negative reception from fans in regards to Assassin’s of Kings quick time events, removing all such things from Wild Hunt‘s combat.
Graphically speaking, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt captures those little details beautifully. Although we were reminded that we weren't seeing a final version of the game, the graphics were simply stunning. One sequence showed Geralt meditating for hours, and as the sun moved around him and day turned to night and night turned to day, the complex weather system and dynamic landscape of The Witcher 3 really came to life. Rippling grasses, wispy clouds and impressive lighting effects looked as good as anything I've seen at E3 and the team at CD Projekt RED should be (and is) proud of their product. But it's more than just a pretty game. Mattsson reaffirmed the company message that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is about bringing an intense, gripping story to the open world genre.
"Story can be lost in the open world," said Mattsson. "We want it to make sense. There is no 'collect ten flowers' or 'take this package over there' type questing. We are eager to prove that we made an open world with a strong story."