Dear Video Games – The Witcher 3 Review
Dear THE WITCHER 3 – WILD HUNT,
You came to me when I started a new life; when I finally bought a PS4 and had just enough money left for one game. It had to be one that sucked me into its world and wouldn’t let go. A game that I would not want to end but still had to play to completion. A game that would last long enough for me to accumulate the funds for another. I am forever grateful to you for being that perfect first PS4 game for me.
I’ve heard a lot about you before, you know. Saw glimpses of you in the PC world, a gaming “cool clique” I just couldn’t seem to fit in. They always made fun of us; called us “consolosers”. When the final installment of your trilogy hit every platform and received rave reviews all across the board, I thought it was time to give you and me a shot.
There was no way to predict how much you would change me; what influence you would have in my life. You did more than just hook me into your story. You made me dive so deep into your lore, I began reading the books, bought the guide with more background info to everything in the world of the Witcher, and got some merchandise from your official online store. This might not sound like a lot compared to other hardcore fans, but I don’t have any merch that I actively sought out and bought from any other video game.
It’s incredible to play with you. Well, it’s not really the gameplay; no, in its core that’s pretty basic hack’n’slash combat with the usual RPG elements like skill-trees, dialogue choices, armor and weapon upgrades, and so on. But your characters, who are your focal point just like they were in the books, are amazing and lovable. Even the smallest side quest introduced me to what felt like real people living in this world. These aren’t fetch quests the likes of “bring me three boar skins and I give you gold”. They all contribute to building the world that is trying not to crumble under the weight of warmongering dictators and racist tensions between humans and non-humans. Oh, and of course the prophecy of everlasting winter that will wipeout all of life.
I will have to elaborate on one of my favourite side missions: that of the hunter whose wife is missing. I followed clues which lead me to the woods where I found her dead body, torn apart by some monster. Further investigations turned out that there was a cave under a lonely lodge somewhere in the forest; a cave that was home to a werewolf. It seemed like a cut and dry case of killing the werewolf and bringing its head to the hunter for a reward. But after the beast was wounded, the dead wife’s sister stepped in and protected the werewolf. She said that creature was in fact the hunter, who hid in the lodge every time he transformed. She also revealed that it was her who lured the wife into the woods. She was in love with the hunter, despite knowing of his curse, but unfortunately he chose to marry the other one. Hearing this confession and realizing that it was his own wife’s blood which taste lingered inside his mouth, the werewolf leaped towards the sister and left me with a choice: Slay the werewolf before it harms the sister, or let him kill her. Which monster deserved death more? With you, THE WITCHER 3, I never know how a contract might end up, even if it starts out as a simple missing person case.
You are filled with quests containing plot twists, deeper meanings, character reveals, and references that one would only expect from the main story. Normally, side missions in open world RPGs are a grind. They are a distraction to level up so you can move on to the main plot, but yours are different. They are mini stories of their own and made me seek out as many as possible before continuing onto the main path. I wanted to meet the people and learn about the problems one would have in this world. Hunting down monsters by searching for clues felt like detective work. I was investigating crime scenes and examining dead bodies to conclude what type of pest needed to be exterminated. Then followed the preparations: reading up in the bestiary to find the creature’s weak points and recommended use of potions was crucial to fulfill the job without a hitch. Despite the aforementioned “button mashing to win” combat style, there was a fair amount of research and strategy one could implement before battles to have an easier time.
I need to mention your characters, because I fell in love with them so much, that after playing the game three times, I still couldn’t get myself to choose the “bad” ending. I needed these people to triumph.
Geralt of Rivia, the main playable character, is more than just a grumbling macho man kicking ass and taking names. He’s hilariously sarcastic and so done with this shit after years of witchering. As a veteran RPG player, I felt represented in his demeanour of taking on missions. He was never excited to go on another adventure that would side-track him from the main goal. His responses were basically “fine”, “sure”, and “uuuugh, alright, alright”. It all made sense. Geralt is trying to find Ciri, his long-lost ward who’s hunted by a special group of emo-elves, and as any loving father figure, he doesn’t want to waste his time helping a witch to get rid of a couple rats in a tower or recover some old ladies frying pan. He wants to find his daughter who he loves and misses and worries about.
Playing snippets of Ciri’s story every time I found clues of her whereabouts reinforced my drive to go after her. I could experience firsthand what she went through and got to know what kind of person she was. Generous, kind, and just; strong-willed but sensitive towards other’s feelings, with a passion for helping people despite putting herself at risk. Ciri had the power to save the world. She was the main protagonist of the story all along, with Geralt merely assisting her in achieving that goal. He was a shoulder Ciri could lean on for support in order to fulfill her destiny. Throughout your game Geralt would encounter many story altering decisions to make, but it’s not the number of monsters slayed or curses broken that defined the nature of the ending. The choices I made when interacting with Ciri were those which either give her the push to stop the White Frost, or fail to encourage her and doom the world.
You are special, THE WITCHER 3. You are the greatest of all time. Despite the graphical glitches that occur on occasion, or the sometimes bugged-out treasure hunts that prohibit me from gaining a trophy (I’m still slightly mad about that), or how I’d prefer to take more time by walking to my destination than try to deal with my horse’s horseshit when I summon her; yes, despite all that you are the best open world RPG. You will have a special place in my heart forever.
With all the love,