Slavic mythology will never become as popular as Nordic or Greek myths, but its charm can’t be mistaken for anything else. Rejecting real beliefs of the first millennium, various authors have their own opinions on Slavic myths. Some make really authentic opuses about heroes (“bogatyrs”) and military commanders, and some create a fantasy universe where the mythical surroundings serve only as a screen for understandable everyday history, not without its glamour.
For example, there is Andrzej Sapkowski, who isn’t known to the whole world. This Polish writer, known mainly in the Slavic language group, and he is no less popular than some of the world’s greatest visionaries there. Not all of his books and stories are as good as they have been described, but almost all of them are monumental works that are worth reading. Keep in mind that Sapkowski is an extremely erudite man, and the number of new words, terms and concepts on each page of the text just rolls over, so even when reading some ordinary stories your vocabulary expands right in front of your eyes. So about the works. At least two of them deserve special attention: the first – a “Reynevan Saga” – a trilogy about a simple boy who was stuck in the midst of an aggressive medieval Europe during the Hussite Wars (magic too, but it is in the background and the focus is on real historical events). The second – the seven-book series “Wiedźmin” (“The Witcher”). Of course, two years ago, the eighth book was published but it has very little to do with the main plot, and is essentially the same as the game “The Witcher”: a free continuation of canon which one can argue about endlessly.
So, the witcher, named Geralt, a killer of monsters, a mutant, spooky-looking, with a terrible voice, and almost emotionless, suckled on potions and mutagens, passed through the most inhuman witcher rites because of which his hair turned grey. He wasn’t old, for witchers the concept of age in principle is very relative: they live long, are slow to age, disease and poisons don’t affect them and they die, mainly during the regular hunting of monsters, not in their beds. But that story isn’t just about him: half of the books continued to be about the story of Geralt and the other half – about the female witcher Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon, or just Ciri. And if she is a protagonist, why did the creators of the game remember her only at the end of their virtual saga?
It’s all quite trivial. Originally, “The Witcher” was just an RPG for the masses, and a little like the game “Gothic”. The hero was very different, the story was quite different, and in general it was the perfect game for those who didn’t know about the books and weren’t able to read them. The latter was particularly true of the United States, where the name of Sapkowski was a hollow sound. Later, the authors decided to take a chance, bought a new engine from the Canadians, redesigned the mechanics of the game, and still made Geralt the main character. As a compensation for the aforementioned ignorant masses, the authors awarded the hero with amnesia and began his world from a clean slate.
Alas, many didn’t like that game, and there were some media in the US who just criticised the game from every angle. But that didn’t hurt sales, and the authors have continued to risk further. In the sequel they returned Geralt’s memory, he’s remembered many other characters, including Ciri. But the plot of the sequel wasn’t about them, and so they weren’t necessary for the narrative. And now the triquel as the authors claim – the last part of the trilogy, incredibly big-budget, ambitious and a final long history of The Witcher. At this point it was difficult not to return Geralt’s lover Yennefer, nor his adopted daughter Ciri. The old company assembled, bookworms squeal with joy, others nod approvingly.
In fact the whole story of “The Wild Hunt” is a freestyle version of the latest books by Sapkowski. The runaway Ciri is suddenly back in the world. Her real father, the Emperor Emhyr var Emreis, is dogging her footsteps with that same Wild Hunt – creepy elvenkind creatures from another world. Geralt again embarks on a quest to find Ciri to save her, assisted at various stages by the sorceress Yennefer. There many paths which Ciri could have taken and Geralt tries each of them, seemingly always being just one step behind. Reaching the end of each story path, the game starts flashbacks showing what Ciri did while the witcher looked for her elsewhere. So, stone by stone, brick by brick, Geralt gets the whole story.
This plot alone will take you about 50-60 hours. The authors decided to sell a pair of kidneys, but make the most ambitious game about the Witcher ever. Because of that they had to make some concessions: the release of the game was constantly pushed back so that lots of its elements could be finished, then adapt it for consoles, which wasn’t in the initial plans. With the latest addition came the decline in graphics quality for any developer sets the mark at the weakest of the platforms when creating a game.
However, even if the game had the same graphics as the first part, I personally wouldn’t have noticed – everything is so saturated. In addition to the huge main quest, there are still hundreds of others. The Witcher will be hired for the extermination of monsters, curse breaking, or just to fight crime. “The Witcher’s sense” will find any traces on the ground and any strong odours in the air, making Geralt not just a professional killer, but also a good detective.
In addition, part of the tasks is simply not marked on the map. You will know that they are there only when you find yourself in the right place at the right time. You see soldiers bursting into the house – approach, make sense of the situation, intervene, and maybe save someone. Every choice, even in some of the side quests, will have an impact on the story: the people you saved can recognise you and offer to resolve the issue amicably.
Because of this, perhaps, there are no traditional ‘bring me this’ quests in this game. Each job is unique. They are all built on the structure with which Andrzej Sapkowski wrote his first stories about Geralt. That is, Geralt comes and gets asked for help, but asked for a reason, not in the style of “go out there and kill us griffin”, but as a bigger story. They talk about themselves, about the creatures, about their neighbours and relatives. Then Geralt goes to someone else and they will tell the same story, but from a different point of view. Backed by two and more points of view, Geralt executes the job and makes his decisions, sometimes diametrically opposite of the original purpose. Kill the werewolf who accidentally killed someone once, but who is still loved at home? Kill the street thugs if they can be re-made with a good word? Maybe it is better not to interfere at all, not to attract attention? That is why the jobs became the most enjoyable part of the “The Wild Hunt”. They were good in the two previous parts, but now they have become obscenely plenty, and with very large and interesting histories.
And I must mention the open world if I’m talking about quests. Here the authors cheated the players a little, as the very promised open world isn’t there. That is, the game has really big maps and three smaller maps, between which there are transitions. Moreover, by a large map, I don’t mean the whole map of the world, with the northern kingdom and the Nilfgaard empire, but simply a vast area south of the town of Novigrad (and of the city itself). Fans of the book saga will be unpleasantly surprised by lack of realisation for their dreams of the world as a huge canvas. “The Wild Hunt” is so monstrous, that it could be enough to create The Witcher MMO, and the players would be able to go through all the cities of Sapkowski’s world. Alas, no.
But, as I said, even in these tight conditions there will be enough to do. Geralt walks, takes jobs, waves his sword around, controls the minds of the opponents like a real Jedi in dialogues, and contemplates the neighbourhood. Yes, there are things to see. There are so many small parts in the world of “The Wild Hunt”, it is unclear whether they had been invented by someone or whether the authors actually went to old villages and made a detailed report of them. Carpets on the walls, painted huts, geese running across the roads, children playing with sticks (the world’s best toy, seriously), and in the forests predators hunt herbivores, as it should be in an honestly functioning world.
However, not all is so rosy, as it’s the time of the third war of the Northern kingdoms with Nilgaard. The Empire, taking advantage of strife between the northern kings by sending the witcher to kill rulers, and to pit the remaining against sorcerers, has started its new military campaign, which is why many flowering fields are watered with blood. Poles with the hanged, latrines and battlefields everywhere, and where people are dying, the carrion-eaters come. Not a very pleasant picture, but the reason we play “The Wild Hunt” isn’t to pick daisies in a meadow.
Some play to beat the monsters, some to complete quests, and some just like Geralt as a character, and don’t care what he does. The authors understand this, so now he can not only change his hairstyle, like in the second part, but also grow a beard. Yes, the longer you play, the longer beard grows. If you want smooth witcher cheeks – you have to shell out to the barber, since witcher swords aren’t very good at shaving stubble.
Speaking of swords. The set of loot and weapons has become really huge. Some things can be won in the tasks, some things can be found, and some things can be made by blacksmiths from the recipes you found in secret areas. And the things won’t just be different because they are rare, of good quality and have a high number of slots for reinforcing runes, but also because of their purpose: the common swords are good, but the best are the ones that are made especially for the witchers. These are very rare, but finding them is worth the time.
In general, timely upgrades and change of ammunition are the cornerstones of survival. For the hundreds of hours that I played, I have never encountered auto-levelling monsters – each being of a particular strength has their place. But it happens sometimes that fate puts you in those places where the beatings are very painful, and therefore always you have to be ready for distant and unpleasant wanderings: smith, repair, sharpen and oil the swords, load the bags on a horse to have a little more inventory space, don’t forget to stock up on provisions, to make some potions, put on sturdy armour and also pick the necessary passive and active skills. Levelling has now become even more hostile to the casual players. Upgrades are numerous, but also no more than twelve learned skill and four mutagen amplifiers can be used at the same time. Sometimes you have to prepare for each fight individually, and if the hunt is on some kind of unique creature, then one must not forget to peruse the glossary with a detailed description of the beast and how to fight it. If you can’t feel yourself to be in the shoes of a witcher after that, you never will.
Therefore, I really recommend getting a hold of this game … no, wait I don’t. I mean, it’s summer now, it’s a time for long walks, sunbathing, surfing, enjoying the fresh air. And if you sit down to play “The Witcher 3″, then you will have every chance of coming to your senses only in September. This game is addictive, and its duration is astounding. Get ready to drop out from reality for very long hours, days and weeks. Be extremely careful.
Excellent graphics and a world rich in detail and events
Excellent story, including every side quest
The Beard. You can grow a beard, gentlemen!
The world is limited, can’t explore the whole map of the world
The game crashes periodically
There is a chance of losing your family and miss the children growing up while you play