Opinion: Six Things We Want In The Witcher 3
So, it’s official. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is heading to PC and next-gen consoles in 2014, and developer CD Projekt RED have already confirmed some major changes for the eagerly-awaited sequel. It’ll be an open-world experience even bigger than Skyrim, with players guiding title protagonist Geralt around the landscape on horses and boats, while our old nemesis – the quick-time event – has been kicked firmly into touch.
Here at FMV we’re already excited about the myriad possibilities for the third Witcher title. And there’s a great deal of things we’d like to see in the next installment. Things like…
An even grittier backdrop
One of the great strengths of the Witcher series, relative to other fantasy sagas, is its magnificently brutal, bloody and engaging backdrop, which focuses on Medieval-esque power-struggles and political scheming rather than the usual swords and sorcery tropes. When all is said and done, its overriding narratives aren’t about the search for a mythical enchanted item or the thwarting of a great supernatural evil – they’re about very human stories of ambition and betrayal; salvation and loss.
The world of The Witcher is overflowing with violence, injustice and conflict, and it would be great to see this developed even more powerfully in the third game. With an all-out invasion of the Northern Kingdoms in progress, the opportunity is ripe for a compelling exploration of the effects war has on a land and its people – with the storyline, characters, quest-lines and landscape itself reflecting those hardships in a way that Skyrim’s civil-conflict never truly did.
An open-world full of intrigue – and free from the usual fads
Going open-world is an exciting development for The Witcher 3 – but there’s always the danger that broadening the scope of the game may result in less focus, and a more diluted experience. After all, one of the great joys of The Witcher 2 was the way in which the early settlement of Flotsam seemed such a believable living-and-breathing town; so well-detailed and cleverly-constructed that you really did lose yourself in its numerous local problems.
Rather than the usual plethora of mindless fetch-quests, one-dimensional NPCs and loot-heavy dungeons therefore, it would be fantastic instead to see the kind of simmering tension and complex sub-plots of Flotsam replicated to a number of towns and villages throughout the landscape, with each major location a hotbed of intriguing figures and thought-provoking themes, rather than simply being another source of head-scratching quest-givers and item-heavy shops.
Sharper combat mechanics
The news that CD Projekt RED are dropping QTEs from the action next time out is cause for celebration – but there is still plenty of work to be done on the combat front. Indeed, the fighting system in the Witcher series has arguably been its weakest aspect so far, with the mechanics and hack-and-slashery of its swordplay occasionally sluggish and not particularly satisfying overall.
It’s not as if this is an uncommon issue with RPGs, but if The Witcher 3 can make drastic improvements it will go a long way to taking the series up to a whole new level. Perhaps it should take a leaf out of Kingdoms Of Amalur: which boasted skill-trees full of cool abilities, skills and augmentations, while also packing a hugely enjoyable sense of crunch and bombast to every single scrap.
Full-on, extensive monster hunting
Geralt is a Witcher, after all – and Witchers happen to be monster hunters. So given that surprisingly little time has actually been given over to the pursuit and slaughter of specific creatures in previous installments, it seems an open-world aesthetic provides an ideal opportunity for the tracking, attacking, and slaying of loathsome beasts.
The subtitle ‘Wild Hunt’ is referring to an element of Geralt’s backstory, but it could very well also tie-in with a major new sideline in monster hunting too. Just the thought of stalking various dangerous, unique creatures in a range of locations, and taking them on with assortments of traps, tools and weaponry, seems intensely exciting. It could be like Red Dead Redemption – only with trolls instead of coyotes.
That said, the monsters themselves don’t need to be colossal God Of War-esque ‘bosses’. As lead animator Tomasz Zawada put it in an interview with us back in November: “There’s this idea that bigger is better in games. I’m not a fan of that.” We’re quite inclined to agree.
An even stronger approach to moral choice
As we’ve noted previously, The Witcher games offer a genuinely brilliant way of tackling moral quandaries and ethical dilemmas, eschewing points-based good/evil systems in favour of tough decisions that often come down to personal desire vs wider responsibilities, or what you want to do vs what you should do.
With full-scale war unleashed and a huge gameworld to navigate, the magnitude of the choices you make could be taken to sublime lengths in The Witcher 3. Who you ally with or stand up to, help or hinder, could effect the way in which individuals or even whole settlements and factions respond to you, while the overriding nature of the world and its events could alter heavily depending on your actions. In the second game a powerful king can live or die according to your will: it would be great to see the third installment actually explore the wider consequences of such a huge decision in real-time.
As an added point, it would also be cool if the personal vs the political could throw up some genuinely agonising dilemmas, with no cop-outs when it comes to eventual outcome. Would you be willing to sacrifice a loved one or friend for the greater good? Let the emotional turmoil commence…
A fitting end to the trilogy
It’s been confirmed that The Witcher 3 will be the final game in this particular series – and given the depth and richness of storytelling so far, it deserves a strong finish to the saga.
That means greater insight into Geralt’s mysterious past, of course; but it also means plenty of compelling plot-threads and narrative hooks to be explored and resolved. Most importantly, the major, overriding story arc needs to be grand enough to offer a sense of considerable scale and drama, while also being personal enough to feel intimate and relevant to Geralt himself.
With a successful series of books to draw on as source material and everything from inter-dimensional elves to feuding empires likely to be in the mix, we have every confidence that CD Projekt RED will deliver the goods.