Toss a coin to your Witcher — or perhaps CD Projekt Red.
Netflix’s “The Witcher” brought author Andrzej Sapkowski’s amazing fantasy series to life on the small screen with an amazing first season of entertaining television. Seeing “Man of Steel” star Henry Cavill take on the role of Geralt of Rivia was wonderful to watch. And while it was easy to blow through all eight episodes within a single day, it left me wanting more adventures in the dark fantasy world. With another season not due until some time in 2021, there was one easy place to turn — CD Projekt Red’s “The Witcher III: Wild Hunt.”
I’ve dabbled with the game before, and have always enjoyed my experience with it. It easily claimed game of the year for 2015 and will certainly be in the running for game of the generation by the time this console generation concludes. But it can be overwhelming at times, as the game throws so much at you in the form of world lore, characters and storylines that it can be hard for someone who doesn’t know much about Sapkowski’s settings to understand what’s going on. Even as someone who has read some of the books, the world of “The Witcher” can be dense and hard to get into.
The world of “The Witcher” is on a continent that has experienced a “Conjunction of the Spheres” at some point in the past. Through magic, multiple dimensions were combined into one — throwing human and monster together in an unnatural balance. Witchers, mutated hunters, were created in order to fight off these monsters in a feudal medieval society.
The video game series takes place after the conclusion of the book series — and subsequently long after the events of the first season of the Netflix show, which itself is an adaptation of “The Last Wish,” the initial book in the series that serves as a collection of short stories chronicling Geralt’s adventures. So if someone is interested in jumping into the video game series, you don’t need to read up on nearly 30 years of novels in order to understand what’s happening.
Developers CD Projekt Red do an amazing job of translating the world into video game form — even if the number of monsters and creatures are increased for gameplay purposes. Book purists take issue with a number of changes and have called the games glorified fan fiction. But again, they’re set many years after the conclusion of the books, so it’s a moot point. But the writing and world building do create one of the most unique settings in video games, if you’re willing to dive in and read many of the journals and materials around the world.
From a gameplay perspective, “Wild Hunt” provides a solid role-playing experience, admittedly with some caveats. Geralt controls like a tank and can be slow to respond, which can be a problem in combat surrounded by numerous enemies. Combat is probably the worst aspect of the game, but so many quests and encounters allow you to take actions that don’t involve fighting your way out with steel or silver.
“Wild Hunt” is packed with more than 100 hours of content, and that’s not even counting the two very impressive downloadable expansions. So much of the fun of the game can be derived by simply riding across the countryside on Roach, Geralt’s trusted horse. It features some of the best side quest design in an RPG with real, fleshed out characters with their own storylines that can be just as interesting as the main quest. The game does a good job of capturing that wandering adventure that Geralt often finds himself in in the source material.
“The Witcher III: Wild Hunt” was already a popular game, winning numerous awards during its launch period. It’s constantly recognized as one of the best games of the generation. But the success of the Netflix series has given it a second wind. The game enjoyed the most concurrent players in its history on Steam last week. It’s also shot to the top of the sales charts for both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. For those that were left wanting more adventure with Geralt of Rivia, toss a coin to CD Projekt Red and enjoy an amazing video game experience.