Dear fearless reader, if you are rather familiar with colloquialisms such as “Wiédzmin”, “Čemeřica” and “Sápek”, there is no need to introduce the award-winning gaming masterpiece the Witcher 3. However, if you don’t consider yourself amongst Andrzej Sapkowski‘s aficionados and neither you are gaming enthusiast, this following lines may be your chance to discover something new and exciting. Building upon the foundations of fantasy saga penned by Andrzej Sapkowski and crafted to a perfection by Polish game developer CD Projekt Red in 2015, the last entry in the Witcher’s role-playing trilogy entitled “Wild Hunt” has shaken the boundaries of both PC and console gaming. Moreover, the Witcher trilogy had recently celebrated its ten years anniversary, and such accomplishment deserves at least few words to be spared about the last and arguably the most successful part of this gaming Magnus opus.
The player takes the role of Geralt – a legendary monster hunter following the trail of his adoptive daughter Ciri kidnapped by malicious elvish spectral conquerors crossing boundaries of alternative spaces and occasionally harassing Slavic-inspired lands of Temeria. At first glance, the story looks like a pleasant fantasy ride, though it quickly unfolds into a multi-layered narrative littered with excellent storytelling, unique adventures and ambiguous characters. The world of Temeria is populated by desperate peasants, violent knights, not-so-fair maidens, cunning harlots, scheming sorceresses, quarrelsome kings and myriad of fantastical creatures; all playing colourful parts instead of one-dimensional archetypal roles. What truly draws the player in, however, is the feeling that Witcher’s universe and characters act like genuine beings with bicameral minds, which is even more evident when it comes to principal characters with strong personalities like womanising bard Marigold, loyal dwarvish drunkard Zoltan, caring sorceress Triss or Geralt’s femme fatale Yennefer.
Although similar to Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones in its deep lore, the Witcher 3 paves the way for a rather fresh Slavic culture and its historical heritage. It opens up doors for rich mythology to be discovered by masses all around the world. Over recycled orcs and goblins from generic Western fantasy are absent this time, and the helm is rather taken by magical beings like Drowners, Kikiimores, Noonwraiths, Strigas, Bruxas and Leshens.
The grim and dark world of kingdoms torn apart after years of military campaigns and infested by various monsters is epitomised by human’s racist attitudes towards dwarfs and elves living as second-class citizens, outcasts or even rebellious bandits. After spending few hours playing the Witcher 3, you will think twice before you go hiking into the Czech woods again.
Indeed, racism is one of the pivotal elements of Witcher’s universe especially because Geralt is an outcast too. Being a witcher, Geralt is often called “a freak” due to series of herbal mutations called “Trial of the Grasses”, which is, in fact, nothing less than painful intoxication of one’s body with alchemical ingredients to enhance human physiognomy, reflexes and skeletal structure. As such, player’s avatar is constantly labelled with all kinds of racist insults and mockery because Geralt’s white hair or yellow-cat eyes. As it stands, players can easily immerse into the character and experience what it is like to be a target of rampant racism and discrimination. Thus, Witcher 3 may serve as the unique eye-opening journey for many people.
As such, the game leaves a strong impression by making the player choose between decisions that are far from being black and white and each single quest, therefore, presents a small moral dilemma with possible tragic outcomes. For instance, one excellent storyline confronts the player with an uneasy decision to help reconcile local baron with his daughter and wife or instead leave baron’s wife in a year of servitude to evil crones. Well, did I mention that the baron was repeatedly beating his wife and she ended up in clutches of spiteful hags because she had run away from her abusive husband and traded her freedom for a magical abortion of her unborn child?
Since the story does more than enormous justice to the world of computer games, it would be heresy to describe its details in this article and thus spoil the whole experience for those, who want to give it a shot. It combines the best motifs from classical epics such as the Iliad, the Odyssey (yes, you will be herding and saving men turned into pigs like mighty Odysseus) or the Argonautica and blends it with medieval fantasy elements. Nevertheless, the paramount strength of the storyline is that it makes the player think about parallels with the real world problems instead of dragging the gamer away from them. Conversely, the experience from the gaming remains exceptionally absorbing, rewarding and strong enough to deliver the cutting- edge entertainment. In short, the Witcher 3 challenges countless gaming stereotypes.
Beyond the realms of fantasy, the Witcher 3 offers a relevant and thoughtful political and socio-cultural commentaries corresponding with our comfortable zones. Be this as it may, when one embarks on the journey through lovingly detailed landscapes composed of snowy mountains, yellow fields, dense forests, dreamy lakesides, stormy Skellige islands and vivid towns, the world of Witcher suddenly appears to be all sound and well. That said, The Witcher 3 stands for the perfect synthesis of the music, visuals, voice acting, engaging gameplay, well-written dialogues and meaningful story.
The game proves that the past ten years of gaming development culminated into a real milestone. In short, it succeeds in all disciplines – what the game does – it does perfectly. All in all, the Witcher 3 carries its unique blend of American triple-A production values, but it remains faithful to its authentic European storytelling and Slavonic “flavour”. The game just feels complete, and one feels complete after finishing this piece of art no matter if one belongs to seasoned RPG players or casual gamers.
Since the cold winds are howling through the streets of Prague and icy fingers will soon start to knock on our doors, it is, perhaps, the proper time to grab a bottle of Hellebore spirit and dive into the world of the Witcher 3 once again. The Hamletic dilemma of all Witchers remains – hunt or be hunted?