The Five Faces of Geralt – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Preview

February 23, 2014

The Witcher 3 looks incredible. More than incredible. So much so that I must have broke some kind of salivation record while sitting through almost an hour of gameplay lead by CD Projekt RED’s Head of Marketing, Michal Platkow-Gilewski. The Nilfgaardian’s have invaded the Northern Kigndoms, but while the upper class are distracted by the onslaught, Geralt roams the wild searching for bounties.  In doing so, The Witcher 3 places the focus back on the grizzled Witcher’s personal journey and, between changing drip buckets, I was exposed to five different sides of of the famous White Wolf.

Geralt the Traveller

The Witcher 3’s biggest change from previous titles is the addition of a huge open world for players to explore. To give you an idea of what this means, the island we were on was the size of the entire Witcher 2 game alone, with a mounted trip from the top to the bottom taking players roughly 40 minutes. The world has been designed to reflect an eclectic array of mythological epics, creating wastelands, towns and forests inspired by the stories of old. No Man’s Land, for example, is a reflection of a famous Slavic legend, depicting a war-ravaged territory made up of swamplands and overgrown forests, whereas Skellige, a wind swept archipelago, is the setting of many Nordic and Celtic sagas. More importantly, there are no painted horizons, everything you can see you can travel to.


Geralt can travel between all these locations as he pleases, whether it be on foot, horseback, boat or the new fast travel mechanic. Each place is a dynamic life force and will develop whether the White Wolf is around or not. An integrated economy system means prices will vary depending on the state of the landscape and the distance to the items origin, and characters will continue to interact with each other on a daily basis.


One of the most impressive visuals we saw was the REDengine3’s powerful weather simulation. When Geralt went to rest at a campfire, the camera began to spin around our hero as clouds rushed by, switching between day and night in a magnificent time lapse. When we stood back up, it was suddenly storming, the world around us raging with thunder, lighting and billowing rain. Geralt’s hair blew fiercely in the winds, and the surrounding environments reacted just as intuitively. It was truly awe inspiring, which leads us onto our next Geralt…

Geralt the Hunter

Now the war is over, Geralt can finally focus on his trade, namely “Killing. Monsters.”. As he travels from town to town, Geralt can pick up contracts from the local government, but from what we saw, The Witcher 3 also leads the contracts to you by creating dynamic events that pull you unknowingly towards them. For example, after battling a Slavic Fiend that we happened across in the wild, Geralt entered a small town in which the townsfolk were gathered together causing a ruckus. On closer inspection, we saw someone had been impaled by a tree root risen from the ground. The crowd was in an uproar, with accusations flying to and fro, but Geralt decided to gather more information before committing himself to the hunt.


To do this, we activated our Witcher senses, a similar technique to the Arkham game’s Detective Vision or the Eagle Vision in Assassin’s Creed. Here Geralt’s senses are heightened and anything beast related appears in a glowing red. Following some animal tracks into the forest, we slowly found clues that helped us piece together what we were dealing with, and the further we delved the more we found out about the creature. Its weaknesses, fears, strengths etc. were all revealed, thus giving Geralt an idea how to handle things moving forward.


Upon consulting our bestiary (a much less confusing version of The Witcher 2’s countless books and journals) we learnt even more about the subject at hand, namely a powerful Leshen, a forest spirit that appears alongside a murder of crows. With all these facts at hand, players can now make educated choices, choosing whether it wise to hunt the creature or leave it be, as well as whether they’ll be strong enough to take it on. There are over 80 different beasts scattered throughout the world, and Geralt is able to hunt them all.

Geralt the Warrior

The skill tree in The Witcher 3 has been modified to incorporate a larger array of active skills, expanding on the meagre passive upgrades of The Witcher 2. The tree remains focused on the three strands of Swordsman, Mage and Alchemist, but each skill increase has a notable affect on combat. Putting points into the Swordsman branch, for example, will not only unlock more combos and skills, but will also increase Geralt’s general swordsmanshipl depending on how many points lie within, whereas more points towards signs will see the Igni flame build to a fierce blue and so on so forth.


Combat plays out in a similar fashion to The Witcher 2, only that swordplay has expanded to 96 action sequences in order to create a much smoother system, compared to the Witcher 2’s mere 20. On top of this, signs are more streamlined to slot into combat, becoming more accessible than in previous titles. For the Alchemist path, potions operate in largely the same way, with Geralt only being able to handle a certain amount of potions at the one time. A nice addition comes in their execution. however, for while they are still required to be drunk before battles, they can now be activated at the players will, no longer being wasted on the periods of dead time before conflict.


Geralt the Wolf

One of the more exciting parts of the gameplay wasn’t necessarily the most action based, rather it was the return of the gruelling decision making system. While inspecting the surrounding forests, Geralt discovered that the Leshen marks a person from its neighbouring village, meaning it cannot die while that person still breathes. Believing it was one of the elders who had been defending the beast, an ambitious young villager openly declared that whoever was marked needed to die in order for the rest of the village to live. On closer inspection it was his lover who was marked, and as we chose to tell him publicly, we were impressed when the young man went through with his words.


After slaying the beast however, we returned to the town to find the elders massacred anyway by the man and his brigands. And while he paid the Witcher the money promised, we left the small town with a bitter taste in our mouth and a not so pleasant exchange. The Witcher games have never shown a black and white morality, but the murky grey of Geralt’s current world is masterfully handled, and the White Wolf’s isolation was outlined perfectly in this exchange.

Geralt the Lover

A Geralt that was glaringly absent from the gameplay was the infamous lover, but once pried for information, Michal Platkow-Gilewski revealed that Geralt is still “up for the ladies”. In fact, he was adamant that in The Witcher 3 he is “much more romantic” than in the previous two titles. This most likely means that he’ll be more focused on the two swords strapped to his back, and not as quick to use the one below his belt.


At this stage, The Witcher 3 boasts 50 hours of main story and 50 hours of side quests, and while a release date is still unconfirmed, it’s easily the most ambitious in the series so far. The game will be available on Xbox One, Ps4 and PC later this year. Until then, stay tuned to Rocket Chainsaw for all your Witcher 3 needs..