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    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, huge beasts and the biggest open world in gaming.

    In the midst of a fiery election season, here comes one Polish immigrant that even nigel Farage couldn’t turn away. After two cult RPGs that married the hardcore sensibilities of European role playing with the themes and style of Game Of Thrones, CD Projekt Red wants to own this genre and kick the likes of BioWare and even bethesda to the dirt. Are you ready for Wild Hunt?

    As you probably know by now, after delays, announcements, trailers and Twitter discussions, The witcher 3 is a true open world adventure. The previous games in the series allowed Geralt (our titular hero) investigate sectioned-off areas of a map, but never to move freely between them at will.

    Now we know that the promise of a proper open world is very much true, thanks to the rather exciting fact that The witcher 3 has gone gold. This is a land as grand as those of Skyrim or Oblivion. even more so in fact, where distant mountains can be reached and trips between towns are as interesting as the time spent within them.

    If you’re not familiar with the universe of The Witcher, then there’s a lot to catch up on. Originally based on a series of popular Polish books, the three games tell the long-winded and complicated story of Geralt, a Witcher, who spends his time hunting monsters for money, and is one of the most skilled warriors in the land. And like all Witchers, he is gifted with unnatural powers.

    After two engrossing but fairly confined adventures (albeit with branching narratives), Wild Hunt sees CD Projekt Red take a significant gamble with its most precious IP. Telling a tight story with compelling characters is significantly easier when you’re able to control the pace and direction of the narrative. This is now a vast open world game, one that’s reportedly way bigger than Skyrim, and while it has a story to tell, it prides itself on the ability for Geralt to take on whatever challenges he fancies in any order he pleases.
    The world of The Witcher 3 operates within the same kind of ‘realistic’ medieval fantasy as Game Of Thrones. A land that feel real and historically accurate, but also happens to be full of giant monsters and dragons.  Most fantasy games, and indeed fantasy fiction, owe a debt to Tolkien. This is a darker, more complex fantasy, one steeped in its own mythology, while the nods to George R.R. Martin’s Westeros are also fairly obvious.

    With a work of this ambition, there are always concerns that a team has overreached and pushed itself too far. Thankfully, and somewhat predictably given its track record, CD Projekt Red appears to have got everything very, very right. For starters, this game looks absolutely stunning. Console willy-waving isn’t the most dignified of pursuits, but it’s great to hear that the PS4 version maintains a 1080p resolution while its Xbox One counterpart only manages 900p. And The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt uses every single pixel, presenting a truly glorious, dense and beautiful world, complete with a sumptuous day/night cycle, a stunning range of environments and some of the most incredible creature design you can find outside of From Software’s catalogue.

    Given that the premise of Wild Hunt is all about hunting those beasts, the fact they look so amazing should be music to your ears. The Witcher 2 brought in strong, tricky combat that forced you to manage distance, your surroundings, and even to pre-plan with essential blade oils and potions before battle. The Witcher 3 expands up on this. Standard scrapping will still require immense concentration and genuine aptitude, as you control groups of enemies with a similarly weighty, precise melee combat to that you’d fi nd in the Souls games.

    Hack-and-slashers will be punished. While not every encounter will be as tough as The Witcher 2’s, purely given the volume of bad guys in the world, you can’t expect to mash buttons and get anywhere in this game. Where players will really cut their teeth, though, is on the titular hunts. These games have always prided themselves on heart-pounding encounters with gargantuan beasts, but The Witcher 3 takes this to another level entirely.

    Some of the many NPCs dotted around the townscapes (amazingly, we’ve not actually seen a single cloned character model, which if true has to be a first in open world games) will offer clues and tactics for taking down one of the many vast creatures terrorising the denizens of the world. If you wade into battle with one of these things holding only your sword and a prayer, you might as well just dive off a cliff headfirst (you can do that too, incidentally).

    The hunts require some meticulous pre-planning. An NPC might suggest a certain type of trap to make the early part of the fight smoother. You may hear about a specific potion or concoction you can craft to deal extra damage or resist an elemental effect. Preparation and planning are crucial. But when it really comes down to it, you’ve got to do the killing yourself, and those sword skills honed in combat with regular enemies will be tested to their limits.

    Hunting monsters (as opposed to Monster Hunting, Capcom fans) is a central part of Geralt’s character, and it’s how he earns money. A new bartering system even lets you push for more cash when dealing with quest-givers.

    So The Wild Hunt might just sound like a standard night on the beers for Geralt, but it actually refers to a mysterious and dangerous army that has been wreaking havoc in the Kingdoms Of The North. The Wild Hunt are looking for Ciri, a main character in the books, and you will actually be able to play as her for around 5-10 hours of the game.

    Unlike most open world games (Bethesda notwithstanding), side quests in The Witcher 3 are as important and meaty as the main quest line, and will take up at least 50 hours of gameplay to get through. Fear not, this isn’t your typical RPG fetch quest nonsense, and CD Projekt Red hasn’t felt the need to absolutely cram the game with truly pointless busy work. Side quests here have proper dialogue, characters and consequences, whether they’re long-form monster hunts, assassination quests or even murder mysteries.

    As if to reinforce the importance of side quests in the game, many will actually change the world permanently. CD Projekt Red has never been afraid to lock off entire pieces of content based on the decisions you made (a whole area of The Witcher 2 is absent if you make a specific choice), and there will be no cheap way of reloading if you think you’ve made the ‘wrong’ choice. The real skill of the developers comes from the fact that most of the time you won’t even realise you’ve made a sizeable choice. The story will flow, the immersion never broken. It’s a far better way of conveying a story than the ‘Good Versus Evil’ we’ve seen in countless BioWare RPGs.

    Of course, the main story will feature huge choices, but this isn’t a game that’s interested in preaching morality at you. Good and evil are mashed together in an ambiguous grey cloud. You’re never reprimanded based on your choices the world continues, life goes on, and you have to live with whatever decision you choose. Life and death isn’t, well, a matter of life and death. The Witcher 3 doesn’t admonish you like a naughty school kid or polish your halo like a law-abiding prefect. It’s a videogame that treats you like an adult.

    Beyond the satisfaction and gameplay journey of battling through side quests, CD Projekt Red is still very aware of what makes many gamers tick. Loot! Once the realm of the hardcore PC crowd, loot has become synonymous with almost every major game these days, from Destiny Glimmer farmers to COD Advanced Warfare quickscopers. Being an RPG, The Witcher 3 doesn’t disappoint, but as with everything in a game like this, you’re going to have to work for the good stuff.

    Geralt carries two swords at all times one for chopping up standard chumps, and a silver blade for monster hunting. He'll find new version of both and plenty more when out on his travels (although the game's clever enough to not have wolves dropping swords and other such inconsistencies), but when you hit the top levels, you're going to have to do some serious crafting. Weapons can be outfitted with gems, which can be crafted themselves, so you'll need to farm ingredients and really earn those high level weapons, We fully expect the world to feature some insane monsters that can only be tackled by those who have invested the time and effort to build the best armoury.

    And while plenty of horrendous beasts roam the savage lands in No Man's Land The Witcher 3's largest open area that's not the only place to find the kind of action that a guy like Geralt lives for, Some of the game’s fiercest foes can actually be found at sea. Yes , in The Witcher 3, Geralt can sail, and take to the treacherous high seas to seek out his biggest and baddest prizes. And with a weather systeme that can turn from sunshine to storm at the drop of a finely tailored hat, you can bet that some of Wild Hunt's most memorable moments will be spent wrestling booms and jibs, as well as trying to fend off terrifying forty-foot sea monsters like a Witchery white haired Jack Sparrow.
    Talking of the weather not really something you'd perhaps expect to read in a giant feature about a hardcore RPG The Witcher 3 might just have the best day/night and weather system in any game outside of Driveclub. The lighting is model in the RED Engine is absolutely incredible, up there with the likes of Destiny and GTA V, and it creates vistas that look like they've been lifted from an oil painting, Couple that with the inclement weather, and the game just oozes atmosphere. A giant forest is scary enough without shimmering twilight and a light haze of grey drizzle.

    The sheer volume of detail in this world is quite unlike any other open world game, barring perhaps Rockstar's finest, and the scale is considerably bigger than anything in GTA and even Red Dead Redemption. Nothing is procedurally generated every inch of the environment, every dungeon, literally every single pixel has been hand crafted by CD Projekt Red's world-class artists.

    The detail actually informs the world you’re moving through. too, it’s not just there for show. Towns have individual and unique houses, but as you move out into the suburbs, you’ll find farmers and craftsmen in homesteads, creating the necessary produce to keep the town running.

    Even cooler is an example the development team have discussed. A Griffon makes its nest on the crest of a hill, and needs wood to do so. As you get closer to his net, you may notice that the trees have been snapped in half, with twigs and branches scattered across the ground, as the Griffon has decimated the forest to build his lair. Does it affect gameplay? Not directly, at least outside of helping to track the beast. But as a tool to pull you into this incredible world? Brilliant stuff, truly.

    Even more impressive, then. is the fact that many of the various town’s buildings can be entered and explored, with every interior telling its own little tale. In classic Witcher style, though, the most interesting stuff happens when you’re a few ales into an evening. Pubs play host to all manner of hijinks and tomfoolery, from scraps and romances to a few boozy games of Gwent (a brand new and original card game) and a drunken stumble home. Pay attention and you may perhaps stumble across a conspiracy being hatched over a few empty tankards, or you may accidentally ingratiate yourself with the right people to help you take down The Wild Hunt.

    CD Projekt Red is a developer like no other. The fact it owns PC retail website Good Old Games means that it can support this type of vast and unfiltered project, and the good will it has built up in its relationship with publisher Bandai Namco likely leads to very little publisher intervention. This is a studio that doesn’t charge for DLC (kind of) and wants as much value for its customers as humanly possible. Like its Polish compatriot Techland, it’s a team that values its customers very highly.

    And those customers are going to be very satisfied come late May. Barring some sort of catastrophe, or if the game simply stops working after ten hours, this is going to be one of the essential PS4 games of 2015. An all-engrossing, life-swallowing journey into the heart and mind of one of gaming’s truly great characters, and an open world of absurd detail and rare quality. It’s time to get excited. It’s time to die your hair grey. It’s time to get ready for Wild Hunt…

    FREE  L C
    CD Projekt Red isn’t like other development studios. Not just because it makes vast, complicated and intellectual videogames, because there are a few teams that do that (hello, From Software). No, CD Projekt Red isn’t like other studios because it doesn’t have any interest in bleeding its customers dry. Now, in truth, it’s more likely greedy publishers than dev teams that came up with season passes, on-disc DLC and microtransactions, but regardless, CDPR doesn’t like the sound of any of that nonsense. As with its predecessors, all DLC for The Witcher 3 will be free. There will be expansions as well, larger batches of content that come less frequently and will be monetised. But given how much will be in the core game (and how much extra stuff you’ll get for free), you have to expect that the full expansions the first due in October with the second to follow in early 2016 will be positively bursting with things to do.

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