What we've seen of The Witcher 3 looks breathtaking, but it's also only a tiny part of the game. The trailers and screenshots coming out of CD Projekt RED have all been taken from the Skellige Islands, just one of the many and varied locations Geralt will be witching through. Talking to us at Gamescom, story writer Jakub Szamalek revealed some of the massive RPG's other regions, as well as the stories to be found in them.
"There will be many other regions," Szamalek said. "The most important being the no-man's land. It's a territory that has been ravaged by war, through which armies have marched and they've burned everything they've come to on their way. It's a dark, creepy environment covered by swamps primeval forests. There are sparsely populated areas, small villages full of very distrustful people who are not welcoming to new-comers."
Where the previously shown Skellige Islands are based on Nordic culture and mythology, the no-man's land will have a different set of inspirations. "This part of the world is based off Slavic mythology and myths and legends," Szamalek said. "It has a feel of Brother Grimm's tales. It's a dark environment in which there are many secrets to uncover. At times it will feel like a Lovecraft story where you come in to a small community and you know from the start something is wrong, then you discover just how wrong things are."
That tone will also set the stories that Geralt encounters. "Nobody will be talking about dying a hero's death. It will be a new world with people behaving a different way, having different problems. On Skellige there will be a guy wondering how to become the fighter that people are singing about. On the no-man's land they will be thinking about how to survive until the next day, get food. That's going to be very different."
While Szamalek claims the story will have less emphasis on politics than in The Witcher 2, there is still a place for shadowy manoeuvring. "Another large region is the city of Novigrad, which is based on medieval Amsterdam which has pre-musketeer feel to it, so there's a political intrigue of cloak and dagger sort of feeling. They don't worry about food or honour, they want power and gold. This is what motivates them and what makes this environment work.
"It's not only a city, it's the surrounding forests, fields and residences of the nobles, of the powerful emergent for Geralt to go to parties and learn about the liberal schemes and so on. Again people will be talking in a different way, they are shaped by a different culture and so on."
Szamalek is clear that this is by no means the full range of environments in the game. "It's not just a huge world," he says, "but it's a very diverse world."
And it's a world you can experience in any order. "If you become tired, or bored, you can always go to a different place. What's exciting about the Witcher 3 main storyline is that it's not linear structure branching, it's actually a collection of elements which you have to find, combine and then get a full picture in your head.
"You can follow the main story and wherever you go, you can go to one location, get your hands on the main story, learn certain important facts, but at any point you can go to a different location get the main storyline there and then get back, for example. So there is another layer of non-linearity, and additional variation and I think you can decide how you face the story and which direction you can go.
"Actually the order you can do things influences how you can see them. In an additional play through you can try making different decisions and you can also try doing things in a different order and get a slightly different angle on things. That for me is a unique exciting thing as a story writer as it opens up new possibility for us to tell even more complex stories."