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The Witcher 3 Preview: A Guy Called Geralt


The Witcher has always been something of an awkward series, first struggling with translating what is, ultimately, a very Polish fantasy series for a worldwide audience. Then the second game fought against the western RPG tradition of “do anything, be anyone” freedom with a strong and specific characterisation of the titular Witcher, Geralt.

However, the series absolutely has its fans (and not just for its tendency to include a lot more potential sexy times than a hero called “Geralt” ever should), and it’s definitely these fans that CD Projekt Red are looking to thrill. The kind of fans that felt that Commander Shepard was just a bit too personalizable. Who–though they don’t want to be taken for a ride by Geralt–are more than happy for him to guide the steering wheel.

In The Witcher 3 you embody a slightly more grizzled Geralt, but this time his story promises to be more personal — one of self discovery as he jobs his way around the world and faces off against the “Wild Hunt,” a mysterious army of monsters burning their way across kingdoms (based in a European folk myth.)

As a result, The Witcher 3 looks to be trying to intertwine its side quests into the main plot as naturally as possible. While players are promised more freedom in the world than ever before (the world is still two hundred times bigger than that of The Witcher 2), side quests are intended to be more than static events.

As an example, during our E3 demonstration Geralt, while on his main quest to discover the next movements of the Wild Hunt, finds himself in a village where they’ve been suffering murders due to a local monster. This plot appears naturally after Geralt gets what information he can from a villager who survived a previous Wild Hunt raid, and it’s up to the player to decide to intervene or not.


It’s these organic moments — more so than being shown Geralt’s ability to pilot ships, or realistic time and weather systems — that make the Witcher 3 seem so exciting. Sure, Geralt’s character is fairly established after countless books and two games, but the Witcher 3 promises to offer a more realistic space to maneuver within that to be the version of Geralt you want to be than ever.

In the village, the elders believe the monster is a natural part of life; the younger folk argue that destroying the monster is progress. Which Geralt are you? The one who walks away? The one who protects the old ways, stands for progress, or stands only for making coin?

There are over 80 species of monster in the game — all bosses, of sorts — with huge amounts of lore to pour over in an in-game bestiary. Earlier in the demo Geralt faced off against a Fiend in a huge battle that made CD Project’s Red’s decision to not offer any form of multiplayer seem utterly depressing (a “Monster Hunter”-a-like on PC would be too wonderful to be true) but the one terrorising the village in our demonstration was a smaller foe. A Leshen, a genuinely intriguing forest spirit that could only be killed if the villager who had been “marked” by it was nowhere near its nest.


To be honest, our demonstrator wasn’t the most admirable Geralt (sometimes at pains to point out just how dark, down right Game of Thrones-y The Witcher can get) choosing to side with the leader of the younger folk, who salivates at the thought of an elder being in cahoots with the monster. When Geralt uses his new “Witcher sense” (Batman’s detective mode, basically) to identify the unknowing victim, a young woman in the village, he doesn’t really go out of his way to explain that they just have to move out of town for him to kill the Leshen. He just skips off merrily to murder the heck out of the beast.

It’s a rather involved procedure, involving a bunch of Witcher sense shenanigans to find out where the beast’s fetishes lie in the local woodland, setting them on fire, and then dealing with the creature. The Leshen turns out to be twice the height of Geralt and made out of wood and bone, and can teleport about and fire deadly crows pretty much endlessly.

Back in the village, well, the leader of the younger group has bludgeoned the innocent girl to death. Geralt takes his cash, but not before he makes his point that while he did kill a murderer, one still remained in the village. The entire village raise their handbags and go “oooh.”


So it’s all rather grim, and to be honest I don’t really expect that going in another direction is going to lead to anything other than another tragic outcome (you know, side with the old folks and it’s revealed they’re actually vampires; try and ignore the whole thing and it’s revealed the Leshen is a ploy to scare everyone off so they can build a big Tescos on the land, or something).

It definitely feels, however, that with The Witcher 3 CD Projekt Red are trying to get the game in this “sweet spot” of being a continually evolving narrative and an open-world fun-a-thon; trying to rationalise that dissonance that happens when there’s a town being destroyed by a dragon in Skyrim but you’re busy shopping for socks. If you’re familiar with The Witcher 2’s wildly divergent paths you know they’ve given this a shot before and It probably still won’t quite work (the acting seems as bad as ever) but combined with a massively open world and far more accomplished visuals and design, there’s something genuinely ambitious about The Witcher 3 that makes it exciting.