Preview: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

witcher3_2Few books turn into good, let alone successful, game series. The Witcher series by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski is one of the few that has accomplished just this. While the author was able to create a diverse and unique fantasy world that includes humans, dwarves, elves and monsters, the most unique aspect of the series is its extreme focus on magic and detailed characteristics of its uses and conjuring. Andrzej was also able to create a unique character type that could act as a means of bringing his interpretation of magic to life, these warriors are called Witchers. Witchers are monster hunters that receive special training and are exposed to deadly positions and training at a young age in order to make them deadly sword wielders and powerful conduits of magic.

The first game adaption of the books came out in 2007, titled simply The Witcher and was developed by Polish developer CD Projekt RED. The fact that they are based in Warsaw allowed the developers easy access to Andrzej since he himself is a Polish national, which made the interpretation and story of the game so spot on and accurate. The Witcher was released on the PC, Mac, and Linux and was a well received RPG game since it was the developers first game to be published. A sequel was released in 2011 titled The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings on the PC, Mac, Linux and Xbox 360 and it continued The Witcher story beyond the books and was also well received. Now the final installment in the trilogy will be released on May 19, 2015, titled The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

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The story in the game series and the books follows a particular witcher named Geralt of Rivia as well as to several of his close friends and fellow witchers. The white haired witcher is a skilled swordsmen and hexer; this allows the players to use either magic or blades in combat. In order to be relatively good in the game however you will need to combine the two for various situations. CD Projekt RED announced that even though this is the 3rd and final game in the series, new players won’t be subject to a steep learning curve or confusing story since they are able to flush out the story in an easy-to-understand fashion in the beginning of the game to catch up new fans with the series. This will more than likely be achieved through in game dialogue and a intro cinematic, so don’t be afraid to try this game out. Though lacking in multiplayer, the previous games have a deep and truly unique story written by the author of the books, and this absolutely makes up for the fact. The only known plot lines revealed thus far talk of a war in the north of the kingdom that the game takes place in and of the raiding and sporadic attacks by an elvish cavalry unit called The Wild Hunt. Geralt will be tasked to fight both as they apparently tie into one another to a certain degree. CD Projekt RED has also announced that a female witcher in training named Ciri will be a playable character during different acts of the game, but the exact length of this is unknown.

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Gameplay in the series is a simple to learn, hard to master, hack-n-slash RPG with tactical elements thrown in to provide variety in combat. Like many other RPG games, The Witcher’s HUD includes a health bar and a bar that represents your magic reserve and active spells/abilities. Players will discover that different combinations of magic and attack strategies will be more effective on various enemies whether they are griffons, werewolves, vampires, humans etc. For example, if the player uses fire based spells with a silver sword while fighting a vampire, they will deal incredible amounts of damage. This brings up another aspect regarding the game. All witchers are equipped with a silver sword and a iron sword with fragments of meteors for increased durability. Silver swords are more effective on monsters and in some cases are the only means to hurt some enemies, while the iron sword is more effective on humanoid enemies (ie Humans, Elves, Dwarves). Potions and elixirs will also be present on the HUD in order to be used to regain health or buff your attacks or increase your magic reserve. In contrast to several notable hack-n-slash games, this series’s gameplay requires the player to dodge and block. This is different since most mainstream hack-n-slash games force the player to block or simply run from enemy attacks. In The Witcher series there is a dedicated button for dodging much like theDark Souls series. In other words, players will find the game difficult if they rely solely on blocking and taking hits. This is a result of the gameplay mechanics since the player can’t block every attack let alone receive little damage alone from a strike, so be prepared to dodge and role quite a bit in order to escape your enemies’ attacks.

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CD Projekt RED has out done themselves again with this game. Gameplay revealed has depicted a diverse and unique environment ranging from snow covered towns to lush green countrysides. The game will also be one of the first to truly utilize all assets set aside on the next gen/ current gen consoles. This is because the game will not be coming out on neither the PS3 nor  Xbox 360, but instead solely on the PC, PS4, and the Xbox One. The resolution and FPS differ on all platforms, yet visually, unless you are running the game on ultra with a PC, there is hardly a difference between the three. CD Projekt RED also announced that all 16 DLC’s for the game will be free, a nice alternative to publishers such as Ubisoft and EA who charge outrageous amounts of money for minimal extra content. This is a trend I would like to see more often. In fact most gamers would enjoy this (the 40% drop in Ubisoft profits defend this). I also included a simple graph chart above that CD Projekt RED made in order to explain the changes in the game compared to the rest of the series.

Gamers should expect a climatic and epic ending to the series as a whole with the release of this game. Because it comes out right before finals, I would suggest playing it after the fact in order to do well on the finals and since it is such a long and immerse game. Plus you will enjoy it more if you are able to play it in large chunks rather than 30 minute incriminates. It will be a good start for the summer and is actually the only notable game coming out in the summer release window. So I suggest picking up the game and playing the final chapter of The Witcher series.

Trailer link here for those wondering.

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