|Publisher||Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment|
|Developer||CD Projekt RED|
|Platform||XB1, PS4, PC|
Take the grittiest, grimiest Grimm’s Fairy Tale imaginable, crank up the bloodshed and violence a hundredfold—and toss in some Vincent Van Gogh–style self-mutilation for good measure. This is not an RPG world filled with generic do-gooder Prince Valiant types or spiky-haired, pretty-boy J-pop stars moonlighting as role-playing heroes. This is a cruel, savage landscape filled with shades of gray. The titular Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, concludes his trilogy here, but he’s going out with one of the most anticipated action-RPGs in recent memory.
I’ve called The Witcher the closest thing to Game of Thrones currently found in gaming (we’ll see if Telltale’s upcoming take on George R. R. Martin’s universe does it justice), and those feelings bore themselves out again with CD Projekt RED’s hands-off E3 demo. One of the things I love about the HBO fantasy series is that it’s a slow burn that rewards observant viewing, so it really earns its emotional payoffs that you might not even see brewing in the background until they hammer you over the head with battleaxe-across-the-neck force.
The Witcher III: Wild Hunt E3 demo played out in a similar fashion. Geralt’s task was simple: investigate the whereabouts of a mysterious, ashen-haired girl. I won’t spoil the details, but this set a cascade of events in motion that consistently built up palpable tension over the next 45 minutes, and when the climax delivered a powerful narrative wallop, audible gasps filled the room. One of the best ways I can tell that a game’s really grabbed me is when I feel emotionally spent afterward, and Wild Hunt accomplished that in convincing fashion. The game’s world-building and storytelling are clearly in competent hands.
Here’s my only issue with Wild Hunt so far: It’s now made spectacular showings at two consecutive E3s, but journalists still haven’t gotten any hands-on time with the game. I understand that the strong narrative elements might necessitate a hands-off demo, but I think CD Projekt RED has proven their point now. We know this will be a sight to behold—but will it truly see a massive upgrade from the last entry when it comes to the moment-to-moment gameplay? There’s the promise of streamlined, user-friendly combat, and these elements definitely seem vastly improved based on the demo, but I want to test them out myself now. I hope that, in the months ahead, CD Projekt RED lets loose the shackles and finally allows us go exploring on our own.