A browse around any mainstream gaming website (sadly, there are rivals to The Reticule out there) over the past day or so would have revealed that we have passed the 10th anniversary of the release of Red Dead Redemption and that The Witcher 3 has turned five. And as I look through our archives, it saddens me that we have not covered this game as it deserves. Somehow we managed to deliver not one, but two Verdicts on its predecessor. Even then, I ended up writing about it myself as well. The third one though? Apart from a mass of pre-release coverage, the most we talked about The Witcher 3 was in Our Favourite Games of The Reticule Years.
I know not the reason why we have not talked at length multiple times about Geralt’s finest adventure. Not with a review from the time of release, nor something to tie in with hype that surrounded the release of the Netflix television series recently. But I have been pondering writing about CD Projekt Red’s behemoth recently. The Netflix show brought me back into Geralt’s fold, and during the early stages of the lockdown I struck the decisive blow in the unfought battle against Gaunter O’Dimm who Kirk McKeand described as the game’s greatest villain on Eurogamer. In the four plus years between starting my adventure with Geralt and starting the Hearts of Stone expansion, I had long forgotten that the Master Mirror had teased his role in the world in the prologue to The Wild Hunt.
Kirk was on the money when he wrote about O’Dimm in 2016, he truly is the ultimate villain in Geralt’s story. A tome’s worth of words have been written over the years about The Bloody Baron, (and I implore you to read Andy Kelly’s words from PC Gamer in 2015) the quest that for many defined their initial experience with The Witcher 3. While that was indeed a deep, layered storyline that deserves to be remembered, O’Dimm sticks in the memory for other reasons. While it is one of the most recent major quests I have completed, the similarity to the Randall Flagg from Stephen King’s universe is also striking, while others are sure to compare him to the G-Man. At all times O’Dimm is in complete control of all earthly, and non-earthly matters and come the end of his tale in the Blood and Wine I did not hesitate in stepping in to help Olgierd von Everec.
Olgierd himself, expertly voiced by Paul Thornley, is a man with many facets to his personality. As you learn about the relationship with his wife Iris and the webs that O’Dimm wove around him, you will come to hold his life in your hands. I chose to release him from the curse of immortality placed upon him by O’Dimm, while I would fully sympathise with those who felt that Olgierd had brought his fate upon himself. There are some great moments in the quests that surround O’Dimm and Olgierd, with my favourite being Dead Man’s Party where Geralt reunites with long-time friend Shani to attend a wedding.
Hijinks ensue, and during the celebrations and partying I saw a Geralt that I had not seen before. A Geralt who could let loose and have fun, a Geralt with a smile on his face. A Geralt not being torn between his love for Triss and Yennefer for one sweet evening. It was a version of Geralt that could only be revealed after banishing The Wild Hunt and saving Ciri in the main game, and a version of the lead character that emerges again in the Blood and Wine expansion.
Blood and Wine sees you adventure to the lands of Toussaint, a duchy of Nilfgaard ruled by the glamorous Anna Henrietta. It’s a place far from the war ravaged lands of Novigrad, although still filled with beasts and quests. A Mediterranean flair accompanies proceedings in the wine rich lands, whereby Geralt even gets a place of his own to call home in the vineyard of Corvo Blanco. While it isn’t The Sims, having a place to call home puts everything that has gone before into a new perspective. Geralt is no longer a Witcher that is looked down upon by some and living inn to inn with Roach at his side. Geralt turns into a respected citizen with a safe place to put his feet up and rest.
The expansions, which can easily be overlooked massively expand the end game aspects of The Witcher 3, even before you venture into New Game+ territory. Aside from the upgrades and restorations you can splash out on to bring Corvo Blanco up to date, there are new Enchantments to further boost the power of your weapons and armour. That’s not to mention the Mutations which take your existing abilities and crank them up a gear. Of course, being The Witcher the path to empowering yourself with these new abilities involve quests. Even when so far into the game, these are not throwaway quests, but ones with meaning. How does someone from a far-off land adjust to the rhythms of life in Novigrad? How does a father react when he learns his son has been taken and changed by the Witcher’s at Kaer Morhen?
All told, CD Projekt RED delivered as masterpiece with The Witcher 3. The main storyline around Geralt’s quest to rescue Ciri is touching and filled with dramatic battles, the world is rich and lived, the characters have a depth few other games have matched while even the smallest side quest has a sense of meaning. I am nearly 100 hours into the game at the start of the Blood and Wine expansion and have plenty of old quests to complete still. It has something for everyone and will truly go down as a game that defined the RPG genre and the console generation.