The Wildest of Hunts

Witcher 3: the Wild Hunt has been leaked by retailers in the United Arab Emirates, there are Youtube videos appearing from people playing the game and so far, there haven't been story spoilers - it's mostly been about the free roaming antics of their early level Geralt's and the slaying of monsters in the massive prologue area known as White Orchard.

I've been waiting for this game for ages, but it hasn't stopped me checking out a bunch of videos that have appeared over the last few days from various sources who got hands on in Warsaw when invited by CD Projekt RED to play the game for around 12 hours. Gamespot, IGN and a bunch of other people (some who have big Youtube channels) have barely scratched the surface of what could well be one of the biggest, best and most immersive action roleplaying games of the decade, let alone 2015.

Witcher 3 is heading in the direction of GotY material and CD Projekt RED have been working hard tweaking the game post gold master - with a day one patch to optimise the game even further, adding 900p to 1080p dynamic scaling to the Xbox One version it's looking like there's going to be something for everyone to enjoy platform wise come May 19th.

It's an exciting time to be a fan of the Witcher, but never fear, if you're not a fan and you're new to the series Wild Hunt has got you covered. The first two games were quite mystifying to new players of the series, me included. They had complex systems that weren't really introduced in a friendly and timely manner by an expansive tutorial. Well, Wild Hunt's first few hours are spent in a sprawling prologue area and whilst you can go off the beaten track, ignore the story and poke around to your heart's content - everything in White Orchard has been set up to teach you the fundamentals of the game, allow you to become comfortable with the numerous tricks and powers Geralt has at his disposal as a professional monster hunter.

Also Wild Hunt will allow you to make a few choices based on conversations, things that Geralt will have done in the previous games, especially Witcher 2. This will allow console gamers or people who don't have a save to import from the previous Witcher to do just that, create a game state that takes into account Geralt's past choices and actions.

So with the new approach to tutorials, and the staggering attention to world detail Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is looking rather good. Don't take my word for it, if you're looking for some video footage to show off some of the things about the game, well, here's some footage for you!

All you need to know about the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Witcher 3 Gameplay video

Xbox One scaling footage - Xbox One 900p to 1080p scaling

PS4 footage - Playstation Access - Playstation Access talk about Witcher 3 with gameplay

Precious Cargo Quest (PC) - Shiny PC graphics, and a side quest - lite on spoilers

Rage & Steel Trailer - Showcasing the brutal combat in Witcher 3

Charles Dance's interview - Charles Dance speaks on his role in the game

Big Trouble in Not-So Little Temeria

What immediately draws me to the Witcher 3 is the open world, and unlike many open worlds, this one isn't empty. You only have to look at Gamespot's series on the game recently, or many of the videos floating about now to see why it's been described as a fantasy Red Dead Redemption, a comparison I'm quite happy with. CDPR want the player to feel as if the world moves around Geralt, and that he's not only making waves, but spectating as events happen - choosing to intervene or just walk away. This comes across on several videos, especially a recent German LP of the game where it showed off one of the early side quests in the Prologue area and proved to me - Witcher 3 has the chops to make even the smallest side mission pretty interesting.

Explore off the beaten track like Jesse Cox and you might even stumble on a secret or two, the Youtube video of Jesse chronicles his level 1 Geralt vs. A wraith and his escapades as he attempts to bring it down. This showcases the developer's mentality of: just because it's hard, it's not impossible. After several failures, Jesse takes down the creature and bags some sweet loot - in his words: totally worth it.

What does Jesse think about Witcher 3, well, he recently put up his impressions of the game here: Jesse Cox's video

Witcher 3 promises a robust levelling system, one we haven't seen before in the Witcher series - with skills that can be switched in and out to change Geralt on the fly after they've been unlocked. The combat looks fun, tactical and is no longer hampered by the need to prepare and take potions before a fight. Yes, you can prepare them, but during the fight you can hotkey and use potions like any other action RPG. This change alone will make it a lot more accessible to new players, a change I'm quite happy to see.

I like everything I've seen of the Witcher 3 so far, from the card game Gwent to the combat, horse riding, exploration and the overall look of the game on PC and console. The ingredients are there for one incredible experience come May 19th and beyond - a game that takes at least 100 hours to beat in story if you're an average player with little-to-no guidance. 25 hours if you're a tester with all the help, skipping cut-scenes and dialogues, and CDPR to guide you. 200+ hours if you want to see and do everything.

Then of course there are two massive expansions out later, one this year, one next. The latter adds 20 hours and a brand new huge area to explore...

Have you seen the size of the Witcher 3 map yet?

It's massive, it takes 40m just to ride from south to north on one part of the map, there are no loading screens unless you actually enter a big new map and CDPR have packed it with density - so even if there's a lot of wild open land, there's always something to see/do in that game space.

A stunning achievement across the board.

Think I'm blowing smoke, and want to spoil yourself on the map and some locations? Gamespot, IGN and more have spoken at length about this...

Check out this pair of videos!

Wild Hunt map part 1 

Wild Hunt map part 2

This doesn't show the whole of the game spaces you'll be able to explore, and CDPR have hinted you can go to some pretty fantastical locations - I can't wait.

Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is out on May 19th on PC, Xbox One, PS4