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Apparently CD Projekt RED intends to make an even bigger and deeper RPG this time, and we sincerely hope they succeed:
Our March cover story gives a world-exclusive peek into the next generation of RPGs with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. This standalone sequel takes the fascinating stories and characters, non-linear plotlines, and difficult decisions that the franchise is known for and puts them all in an open world 30 times larger than the previous game – an enormous setting even larger than Skyrim's vast expanse, made possible with the new REDengine 3 technology that developer CD Projekt RED is debuting with the game. Our huge feature dives into everything The Witcher 3 has to offer, and it's a lot: the detective work that precedes deadly combat when monster hunting, storylines that weave and twist together between political intrigue and otherworldly menaces, and a tired hero who wants to set things right but can't put down his swords until his conscience allows – if it ever does.
Coming in 2014 on PC and "all high-end platforms available" (CD Projekt RED isn't saying flat-out that it's a next-gen game, but it's a safe bet that new console announcements in the coming months will define the term "high-end platform"), The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt stretches from stormy islands to war-torn forests and a sprawling dark fantasy metropolis without a loading screen anywhere to be found.
Making a world vaster than Skyrim and not make it either too empty or procedurally generated doesn't really sound easy, but if there's something CD Projekt has proved with their earlier games is that they are improving extremely fast, which makes me hopeful they're up to the task. Oh, and we have the announcement trailer!
Update: The NeoGAF thread has some details from the GameInformer issue:
World supposedly 20% bigger than Skyrim's, says development team. [Tentative, obviously]
30-40 minutes to cross world on Horseback
New streaming technology (CDRED Engine 3)
Geralt's Memory is restored
Dude is fucking DONE fighting for everyone else
Everything from solving MYSTERIES to slaying monsters
Coming out on "all top-of-the-line" consoles - I'd say that confirms next-gen is in.
So it's saying that they had to change up their design philosophy when developing TW3, due to the open world structure. So NARRATIVE comes in three forms:
Lowest level = free form activities like crafting, monster slaying (seems to be much more extensive this time around) and questing.
Next level = Political situation of Nilfgaardian invastion is resolved through a core plotline for each area. These areas? -> Skellige, Novigrad and No Mans Land!
Final level = Geralt's main plot line, his search for his loved ones, and the chase of the Wild Hunt.
Sounds like a lot of interwoven plotlines, decision making. You can skip things if you really want, but there will be consequences to your actions if you do so.
So more about the monster hunting:
Clues build up information (like a Bestiary perhaps?)
Books garner information about monsters
Townsfolk provide information
Potions and such are important
Time of day and other conditions affect where monsters appear, and their abilities
[Some combat info]
Critical strikes in areas that matter depending on how much you learn about said monster
You can disable a vampires poisoning attack by hitting its venom gland (Vampires are poisonous?) or skewer BOTH ITS HEARTS with a thrust attack (instant kill)
Monsters drop loot like unobtainable alchemical and crafting ingredients for unique potion, mutagen and item crafting.
Provides income as well
Enemy AI completely rebuilt, scripted bosses out Environmental combat 'contributions' (a dozen types of interactive objects) ---> Wasp hive irritated using Aard
Magical signs retooled
Igni = new flamethrower effect
The magic tree advancement allows secondary sign forms = ie. Igni and a 360-degree blast Yrden = small trap can be modified into a larger field that slows any enemy
Other trees, Swordsmanship and Alchemy
New strikes under Swordsmanship, boosts like improved stamina and parrying
Mutation mechanic under a different development path
Not much information given about Alchemy path, other than it being based on potions
Horse could be used to access long term stash, as well as Inns
Team aware of frustrations of inventory management in The Witcher
Committed to a less tedious process
Crafting critical to maximize Geralts potential, but weapons and armor can be found in many ways Players can customize their crafted weapons with some components, ie, monster scales for leather in armor
Each armor piece has unique appearance, new cloth simulation tech.
Barber is in from the get go. Dyeing hair is OUT OF QUESTION, White Wolf.