E3 2014: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt preview: It’s everything you’re expecting (spoilers not included)

CD Projekt Red are the darlings of the gaming industry, and for good reason. They align with gamers when it comes to DRM, and they have this little series you might have heard of called The Witcher. Of course you’ve heard of it; even President Obama has heard of it. Odds are you’ve played, beaten and loved The Witcher and The Witcher 2. Good news: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is more of the same, just better and on a much larger scale. It also wraps up Geralt’s story.

I've seen a lot of other journalists/bloggers/gamers share their E3 experience of Wild Hunt by recounting, step-by-step, everything that was shown and said in a line of quests. F*ck that. I wouldn’t want anything in the story ruined or spoiled for me, so I’m not about to do that to you. Just know that everything I saw follows up the fight with the griffon that you saw during the press conference.

Here’s what you need to know…

the witcher 3 city

The Witcher 3 is a truly unique open world experience. It’s vast and detailed. Everything you can see in the distance you can get to. The cities are living, breathing communities, and the choices you make in them will affect how your adventures play out. There’s so much going on in cities, so they have a lot to offer. The details that have gone into the world and cities are stunning, as well. Everything is researched and finely detailed – the building, their materials, the plants, everything. Environments are varied – from swamps to mountain ranges – and they’re all stunning to look at and explore.

For one of the quests, we had to travel to a swamp quite far away. We used fast travel (which you could do if you’ve visited that location before to unlock it), but if we didn’t fast travel, it would have taken 15 to 20 minutes to get there. That’s the scope of the world we’re playing in. Also, dynamic weather gives us everything from bright, sunny days to thunderstorms. That and the time of day affect the people and the environment. Time of day will also affect the types of enemies you encounter. Those enemies also range from disgusting to epic. They have created some of the most disturbing character/enemy designs I’ve seen.

To expand on the utterly amazing visuals, the animations of Geralt’s attacks and movement are top-notch. And effects from his spells will rock your world. For example, Igni (his fire spell) has embers fly off from the fire. Whether from the spell or from an explosion, you’ll notice the glow from the fire reflect on Geralt and his armor. Combat is fluid and majestic, but there is a lot of dodging, countering, and strategy that goes into it. Always pay attention, and you’ll find something to help you in combat, like defeating your enemies by using Igni on a flammable gas cloud in the swamp.

the witcher 3 wild hunt

That said, there were some moments with minor stuttering, and I did notice a fair amount of screen tearing during the 45-minute gameplay preview. Does this concern me? Not at all. I know that CD Projekt Red will iron out all of the visual kinks with the time they have left. If it was any other developer I’d be worried, but not with them. I don’t care how that sounds; it’s true. They have an impressive track record and I believe in them.

One last thing to note: quests have different decisions to make in them. In one of the quests we saw, we had the choice to kill a monster that came across as evil and demonic, but was insisting he wasn’t. It was kill him or set him free. He insisted that the children would be lost without him. We made a decision, but they were not without their consequences. Choices you make will affect the game and how things play out. Just keep that in mind.

It’s easy to get excited about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and that excitement is easily justified. It’s everything that’s so great about the series but improved and expanded upon. It’s shaping up to be an epic ending to Geralt’s story, and I’m confident this early on saying that CD Projekt Red has done it again. Get those ‘Game of the Year’ awards ready next year when it releases on February 24, 2015 on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.

Stay tune for our interview from E3 with CD Projekt Red, including questions you submitted on Twitter and Facebook.

You can follow Senior Editor Lance Liebl on Twitter @Lance_GZ or email him at [email protected]