Any Witcher fans here?
This is a review of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt written by me back in February as an English exercise, I thought I’d share it with you if you’re looking for new games to play, new stories to experience, or just to have some conversation about it. As usual, it’s lengthy, a great read for your afternoon tea and biscuits
The Witcher franchise is more than a simple high fantasy. It takes its audience seriously and treats them like adults. For example, the way they depict and treat sex is something that you’ll never find in a traditional high fantasy. If I can compare it to something else, it’s similar in ways to the Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), and for me, it’s even better. The universe is rough, raw, and unforgiving. There are no black and white characters, everyone has a flaw or an agenda, and everyone is a complex character, even the peasants encountered during the smaller side-quests. For me, Ciri, Geralt’s daughter-by-choice is the best written character and best women character of the past years (which can argued I know, her personality and portrayal just clicked with me, I think she’s even better than Chloe or Max from Life is Strange, and that’s saying something). I’ve played all 3 Witcher games and I recommend it to everyone (and the original Sapkowski novels and stories too of course). Unfortunately the first one has not aged well graphically, and you can feel it’s their first ever game, the fight mechanics are weird, but even back then the storytelling was up to the task. The franchise uses some awesome Eastern European folklore and influences, so it has a distinctly unique feel that is close to my heart as a Hungarian (We are historically close to the Polish).
The thing about the Witcher 3 in particular is that the story is its main focus. It’s highly cinematic, and they’ve made it so that every little side-quest can have serious emotional conflicts in it and tough decisions. For example, there’s a little village. In this village someone contracts you to kill some monster terrorising the village, it seems simple. But as you talk to the folks and elders, you discover a complete history. Some say that the monster is a blessing, because they use it as a rite of passage for their young warriors. During the quest you discover that the monster can occupy someone so you start investigating. In the end, you can choose what to do, kill the monster as a true Witcher? Or make some kind of deal with it? Every choice has dark consequences.
In this, the world serves the story and not the story serves the world as in other kinds of open world games. And it just oozes the passion that went into it in every little tree, monster, sound effect, music, or character. My first play-through was 160+ hours, so you won’t see much progression in 5 or 6. I was a fencer in high school (the traditional Olympic kind), and I can say this with confidence that for me this game’s swordplay is the closest that gets to the real feeling with constant moves and countermoves. I played it on the hardest difficulty, and I was relieved when after 40-50 hours or so I’ve finally learnt the secondary defensive sign magic for my swordplay-build, it made a huge difference in terms of gameplay.
I’ll write another example that’s not a spoiler in any way. When I was around level 10-15, I saw an unidentified draconid flying through the air (it wasn’t tied to any quest), it did not care about me, and it was kilometres beyond my level, so I quickly got out of there. Lots of quests and levels later I was stronger, more educated on the nature of these beast from the lore (there’s a huge bestiary and codex), so I said to myself it’s time to deal with it, just for fun’s sake. I knew from the bestiary that it liked goat meat, and if I could confine it to a smaller place I could easily cut it down. So I devised a plan. I mind-controlled a goat so it would follow me and I found an abandoned ruin along the beast’s flight path, so I went there with the goat and waited. The beast came and went directly for the goat, I quickly jumped out and cut it down after a fierce fight. If that’s not the definition of role-playing a monster hunter I don’t know what is, and it wasn’t even a part of the written story, it was just me playing with the mechanics of the world.
Since I’ve written this, Blood and Wine came out, a completely new region with 30+ hours of content, new stories, gameplay elements, and some fan service for both lovers of the book series and the previous games. I have around 224 hours in the third game alone. I cannot recommend this franchise enough! It’s currently on sale, you can get the first game at around 1.3 Euros.
What are your experiences with this game or stories like this? I love how game stories have matured over the decades and how gaming can be sometimes considered a genuine art form now, and a great platform for sharing cinematic stories to the world and creating great experiences. This franchise’s growth from the first game is a great example, just look at the cinematography of the third game, or the sound design, lighting design, production design, etc.