For more than 300 hours of my life, I was not myself, I was transformed into someone fantastical, someone inexplicable but mesmerizing, someone hated by the masses but unavoidable, someone who could chug vials of potions that were life-threatening for simpler folks like beer mugs in Oktoberfest, someone who was charmed by blood curdling cries in the darkness of woods to explore further, someone who could take snide remarks with equally appropriate gold coins, someone who never wasted single opportunity to wallow in fornication. I was the white wolf, Geralt of Rivia, the eponymous Witcher. And accompanying me in my epic quest, my utterly faithful quadruple companion, my stallion; Roche.
My love of “witchering” was fated to die early as if following one of the dark Witcher quest-lines while I was getting hold of complex battle system (2 swords and 3 stances and than skill tree of each combination) of first witcher game. But somehow (witcher quest-line analogy still holds) I persevere and became master of my craft. Andrzej sapkowski’s books might have entombed to limited geography and audience if, at time small but confident and quality Polish game developers had not excavated it to its current glory. It was the uplift well deserved for sapkowski’s genre-defining flavor on dark fantasy.
First witcher game was sleeper hit. Not due to unusual RPG elements but for capturing weirdness of the world truthfully in game format. If witcher 1 was true in its sense of showcasing the mystic world, Witcher 2 has unfurled other equally engaging aspect of the same world;politics, royal and otherwise. Witcher 2 also introduced true “consequences” of your decision making as Geralt of Rivia in the form of gut-punching mid-game decision which can change the whole course of play for third act. CD Project Red was on top of his game. Witcher 2 improved over it’s predecessor in every sense except game length. Writing was blooming, characters were played out like reading sapkowski’s books, monsters were well-established, combat improved a lot and even RPG elements getting into grooves with right amount of challenge and various witcher development path on RPG tree.
And third incarnation
Then came Witcher 3: wild hunt. Witcher 3 was perfect amalgamation of both the previous Witchers with abundance amounts of quality improvements. Super massive world was choke-full of Witcher quests and adventures. And have I mentioned that it was one of the most beautiful also. It was common day for Witcher (and me as player) to bask in majestically scattered crimson sunrise before pursuing yesterday’s nagging quest on other side of the hill or sometimes other end of the map. But worries are not for the transport but to transpire the truth at the end when faithful Roach is your companion. Journey was constantly interrupted while passing through lush jungle/rolling meadows/ bustling villages/ sprawling towns/ ice-caped mountains/ brooding caverns/ and much much more. Each location brimming with more quests and in turn more riches. If lucky enough not to reach designated place in time or hit one of the many jubilant town taverns, you might witness eye-popping display of crimson and pink shades mixed with magenta as part of digital sunset. And if you are luckier than lucky, you will end up spending night at alluring adult love house with silken robes and more silky arms. No tidings. No attachment. You start the next day with unattended quest of the previous day again. I was so enamored by Witcher 3’s world that I obsessed myself to never use fast travel option ( except only when cut scene compelled me). Always travelling with Roche or on foot.
Quest-line of Witcher 3 were so ingeniously designed that simple fetch or kill quests could sometimes tumble into something totally bizarre. And sometimes it might just prod those unexplored territory of darkest mind. Writing is top-notch. Characterization is heavy and appropriate. Sense of humor is dry and fitting to Witcher world ( New Netflix series on the Witcher has failed to attain this one specific aspect for sure)
Now that Netflix has already released the season 1 of this very compelling world at the time of writing, people might notice the Witcher more. CD Project Red is not going to make further Witcher games for now. So us fans have nothing but the series to rely on. Though Netflix series is promising enough, it has way more to catch up. And sometimes watching can not evoke the same character play and interaction as games. Especially, how you replicate the joy of playing Gwent !!!