After saving a young girl from an apparition I head to the local herbalist, Tomira, to talk to her. After a lengthy chat I learn of the womn’s connection to the wraith, and her life of lost love. I later track down a drunk arsonist and see him taken away after yelling for mercy. This is White Orchard, a town that has been ravaged by the Third Northern War, and I am Geralt of Riva, the last of the few remaining Witchers of the Wolf.
The Witcher 3; Wild Hunt is my first foray into the Witcher Series, but it is not my first time investigating the lore of the “continent”. Based on the book series written by Andrzej Sapkowski, a polish fantasy writer, the series began many years ago with the original Witcher Game, and then added the second known as Assassins of Kings. The story has always from what I understand a mixture of gray morality, and grim fantasy. The world of the continent is not kind at all. Elves once ruled massive amounts of the continent, but now live as second class citizens along with dwarves and gnomes. This is a bit like Dragon Age, except this is not a story with evil blights threatening to take over. No, this is a world where the power of nations is often the driving force in what is going on.
I would between the various games i’ve played Witcher has attacked the sense of racism in the most blunt manner. It also includes many stories that are simply showing the problems that are riddled in small places. The local hunter who Geralt thinks might be a Lycan, and then the Dwarf whose lived there for so long. Each character I found myself interacting with drew me in even closer. It was the kidn of stories I loved about Dragon Age: Origins, but on a level much more with Inquisition (though inquisition is more about being the hero or the world changer).
Geralt is one of those characters that you get laughs off from his commentary. But its comments about everythign to why a Griffin might be attacking, to analyzing a crime seen speaks of a deep character. When he awkwardly speaks to women or tries to offer a helpful hand I feel for him. In a way Witcher has reached a level of storytelling that is filled in the nuances of life. I dislike comparing but I have to say that so far of the past two years Inquisition and Witcher 3 so far have driven it home the hardest when it comes to characters I love. Dorian is one of my favorite characters, but Witcher at the same time makes me love even the quest givers on a level that is rare in RPGs these days.
What I take Away
The Witcher is a story about a man trying to understand the mystery of a strange group known as the Wild Hunt, and why they want his old student, Ciri. Without giving away any spoilers, I want to discuss the setting itself. The Witcher’s World is perhaps one of the best when it comes to representation of class, national politics, and much more in a video game. Note my only experience with the universe is the game itself, but I have read about it for a while. Though the racial diversity when it comes to skin color etc is a tad bit limited, the game has so far presented a good level of prejudice that does not feel feigned or faked. People do stupid things for stupid reasons. They latch onto silly stereotypes and commit crimes.
Then there’s the actions of those that try to help, and in reality when you kill someone you aren’t going to garner a following. The truth is that much like what was presented back in the middle ages the world was a bit brutal. Witcher is very similar to the kind of pre-crusade Europe we often dream of. A place where war is a ongoing, and where heavily armed men are lookign for reasons to start a fight. Not to mention a good sense of political upheaval and patriotism often leads to the lines of morality getting all fumbled.
No, i think the game while using old tropes has done a good job on presenting everything on a level that is just tasteful and intriguing. Yennefer might be sexy, but she isn’t a sex object. Geralt might be a bad ass, but he’s not without his flaws, and his broken morality. The Kingdoms all around are filled with peasants who are easily swayed by the closest thing offering salvation. This is a world of problems, problems that cannot be solved by a dragonslayer (well not one you can’t pay).
I think the series does a good job portraying how morality in general can be defined and manipulated by others to control the masses. The loss of the lilies of Temeria in an Inn cause a ruckus with local patriots. A man who was saved by an enemy telling his brother to save the poor fellow. These kind of stories set in the backdrop of marauding freakish ghostly raiders only helps to enhance the experience. The game does a good job of re-imagining popular folklore not only in slavic contexts, but other European peoples. The Wild Hunt alone is quite similar to the ancient nightmare riding Fae of the Unseelie Court which only makes me want to delve more into who they are even more.