The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Men & Monsters - Games Weekly

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Men & Monsters

There’s a marked tonal difference between American and Japanese RPGs and those developed in Eastern Europe. There are outliers, sure, that delve into themes and topics more commonplace in the other territories, but for the most part European RPGs are more sombre and lacking in overt heroics. America and Japan seem to focus mainly on chosen ones, grand destinies and, above all else, hope, whereas there seems to be a stronger focus on survival and doing what it takes to get by in RPGs created in Europe. “The roots of what you are speaking about lie, I think, in culture and history. Europe saw countless wars and was a giant battlefield countless times. This influenced the way Europeans see valour and heroism, it’s really more down to earth here”, say Macin Blacha, Lead Writer for The Witcher 3. “The hero is the guy who’s dealing with everyday stuff and this can be very tough on its own. At the same time, Europeans are proud and aware of their history, and are not afraid to dive deep into its darker corners in search for inspiration. With games like The Witcher, we want not only to entertain the player, but also provide him or her with food for thought be it the challenges that societies face, or the modern world and the mechanisms it’s governed by. There are a lot of references in the game that directly touch upon problems people try to tackle everyday”.

Jakub Szamalek, the Senior Writer echoes the same ideas. “I’d say that in both Japan and the US, the archetype of a noble, selfless hero, who always sticks to the rules and saves the world, remains popular and is treated very seriously. I think it’s quite telling that, for example, Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai was so alluring to the American audience and film-makers and was adapted as The Magnificent Seven with little more than the change of the setting. Both Japanese and American RPGs tend to tell stories of good versus evil, allowing players to become larger than life, be what people should be rather than what they are. In Europe, on the other hand, the noble hero figure is something of the past, something we can’t really believe in any more. Our stories tend to be more ambiguous, our storytellers more disillusioned and cynical. Having said all that, though, I think that both approaches can result in great stories and I don’t think one is better than the other. But the gritty, pessimistic worldview is definitely one of the defining features of the Witcher universe”.

This pessimistic view of the world is palpable from the first moments of the Witcher 3 . The game begins, as the Witcher stories always seem to do, with Geralt, trying to get laid, He reclines in a bath, naked and relaxed, A segmented creature, a little reptilian and a little insectile crawls into the tub and apparently tries to work its way up the white Wolf's fundament. Yennifer, a beautiful naked woman across the room laughs at Geralt's discomfort and banishes her magically constructed nuisance. It's a sweet scene of a loving couple, comfortable with each other and playful. It's also not real. It's nothing but a comforting dream distracting Geralt from the regours of life. He has to train Ciri, his young charge training to be a Witcher, He has to hunt monsters for people who hate and fear him. He has to deal with the consequences of the Nilfgaardian invasion. The dream and reality are far apart but one informs the other, Throughout the Witcher games, Geralt, in one way or another, has either searched for his lost love, Yennifer, or has sought to distract himself by becoming embroiled with wordly affairs he has no business being involved with, or between the legs of his many sexual conquests. The same is true of The Witcher 3. Geralt knows Yennifer has reappeared, and the search for the woman that “smells of lilac and gooseberries” drives him ever forward.

Rivia has never been the happiest of places in The Witcher, but in The Witcher 3 the outlook is grimmer than ever before. In the first town Geralt finds himself in on the trail of Yennifer, fear of outsiders, Witchers especially, is palpable. Nilfgaardian soldiers patrol the streets and keep brutal order. The first port of call is a tavern in which Geralt must search for clues as to who may have seen Yennifer and in which direction she is travelling. Getting information from the population isn’t easy. Nobody wants to talk. A little mind control magic can quickly loosen a tongue but it sets Geralt even further apart from the people of White Orchard, leading to a fight with some local louts. They prove no trouble for a trained warrior the witnesses know to fear The Witcher even more.
What is a Witcher to do? Hunt a man like he would hunt a monster
The town serves as an initial quest hub, but rather than busywork quests, the jobs on offer not only take Geralt back to his roots of monster hunting, they serve to tell the story of the post invasion world. One of the initial quests sees Geralt helping a dwarven smith discover who burned down his forge. The dwarf is a pariah amongst the townsfolk. Although he was once counted as a friend, since the invasion he has been forced to repair the gear of the Nilfgaardian soldiers and the people of the town are sure that the smith is growing fat off the coin he makes. There are no shortage of suspects everyone is full of hate for the invaders and those seen to be collaborating with them. What is a Witcher to do? Hunt a man like he would hunt a monster. Rely on his keen senses to find and follow tracks and markings. Find the culprit in the same way one would a werewolf or vampire. Tracking the culprit doesn’t only serve to complete the quest it also fleshes out the reality of the town, the long brewing racial divide, the fear of invaders and the growing resentment of anyone even a little different. Completing the quest reinforces how everything in Rivia is a remarkably dark shade of grey.

In the previous games, much of the investigation when it comes down to tracking monsters or finding clues was tied in to conversation. The decision to fully implement Witcher senses ties in to Wild Hunt in both a mechanical and storytelling fashion, says Peter Gelencser, a Level Designer on The Witcher 3. “We had a grand story we could tell, and now we have the chance to show many sides to your choices and consequences; and also involved in that we could show what Geralt does and how colourful, mysterious, and sometimes terrifying it is what he does for a living: monster hunting. That of course involves the activities leading up to tracking down these monsters, which is investigating and that kind of tied in with everything else you can do in the game. It’s like a secondary layer of exploring the world, getting to the bottom of things, and getting a taste of the lore. It’s a really cool thing in my opinion. It is greatly different from experiencing all the knowledge through dialogue, because it’s completely up to you how you pace it, and how you observe the environment”.

A quest later in the game clearly illustrates both the Witcher sense and the choice of how to observe the environment. A banquet on skellige with a group of Viking-like noblemen and their retinue, Tensions are high as some families look to further their political aims whilst others try to restore order, And then, a thing you rarely have the pleasure of writing, surprise bears. The doors to the hall ere sealed shut, but from out of nowhere three bears, big as life suddenly appear, tearing into the nobles present. In a clever little bit of visual signposting, upon seeing the bears, Geralt immediately draws his silver sword. In Witcher lore, the silver sword is used exclusively on monsters, Without a word being uttered the player is informed that these are no normal bears, They don't prove too much of a challenge to a seasoned monster miller a few sequences of light and heavy attacks strung together with nimble dodges to get out of the way of foaming jaws and slashing claws are enough to put them down but nobody, Geralt included can dispatch them fast enough to stop them carving through the noble families in the hall.

The survivors point fingers at one another, accusing them of setting the bears on each other to knock off any political opposition or for long-standing family grudges. This may be the truth, but to discover the veracity of the accusations, Geralt must do what he does best. Hunt monsters, How he hunts is another matter. The two children of the Jarl couldn’t be any more different from each other. The son, a hothead, wants to crack some heads to loosen tongues. The daughter, a strategist, wants to investigate the scene of the crime and find clues to point to a suspect, thereby hopefully avoiding further inflaming the situation. Do you choose expediency or thoroughness? Direct action or circumspect investigation. The choice is yours. Just be prepared to deal with the consequences.


The Witcher games have received almost unanimously positive reviews from all around the world and the original novels have been translated into at least 17 languages. What is it you think accounts for such widespread appeal of Geralt as a character?

Geralt is a very interesting hero  he’s a monster slayer, tough and fearsome. He’s an excellent swordfighter, he’s pretty witty, and gets the attention of many women. It’s just cool to become a character like that in a video game, I think. On the other hand, he’s an outsider, an outcast despised by society. He gets hired to do the dirty work everyone else is afraid to. He’s also a mutant, not capable of feeling emotions the same way normal people do, and this affects his ability to form relationships with others. People treat him as a living weapon and demand from him to act like one, while he himself tries to remain neutral. At the same time, he encounters a lot of everyday problems and has to make a lot of down-to-earth choices. All this is a really potent combination, players feel really empowered when they become him and at the same time solve problems that are sometimes resonating with them on a personal level.

So far, CDPR has been all about The Witcher. How does it feel to be finishing the story and moving on to other things?

It’s like going on a vacation without your family you have a lot of time and you can spend it however you like, but still you miss them.


The Witcher games have received almost unanimously positive reviews from all around the world and the original novels have been translated into at least 17 languages. What is it you think accounts for such widespread appeal of Geralt as a character?

I think Geralt’s allure lies in that he’s an anti-hero, rather than a hero. Yes, he’s a great warrior, peerless swordmaster, but he doesn’t want to save the world. Deep down, he’s probably not even sure whether the world’s really worth saving. People don’t like him and he doesn’t like most of them, either. Therefore, his goals are more personal, down to earth, easier for us to relate to. He doesn’t treat himself too seriously, has a wicked, black sense of humour, and many weaknesses. All in all, he’s just fun to read about and play games featuring him as the main character.

So far, CDPR has been all about The Witcher. How does it feel to be finishing the story and moving on to other things?

We’re very excited and can’t wait for the gamers to get their hands on The Witcher. We’ve prepared almost 100 hours of non-linear, exciting quests, during which Geralt does everything from hunting blood-lusting beasts to going to mask balls and horse racing. 

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