Games of the Last Decade - The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
In our ongoing series about the games that defined the last decade for us, Lisa looks back at a fantasy adventure that truly stands out from the crowd.
The past decade has brought some phenomenal gaming experiences to enthusiasts across the world and even though there are a lot of titles that one could potentially talk about when discussing the masterpieces of 2010 through 2019, one of the games that instantly comes to mind when looking through them all is CD Projekt Red's claim to world-wide fame, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
While the game starring the White Wolf Geralt and his witcher brethren, his protegée Ciri 'The Lady of Space and Time' of Cintra, the lodge of sorceresses and the elven-led, titular Wild Hunt, was the third game in the series, it was also the game that truly introduced the epic saga to gamers worldwide, prompting new fans to go back and play its predecessors from the decade that had passed. Not only that, the grand adventure is still topping sales lists and recently got an additional boost from the newly released first season of Netflix's The Witcher series with the novel-based narrative and game-influenced protagonist portrayed by unexpected big-time gamer Henry Cavill.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt had us hooked from the very start, where we steered the monotone, seemingly emotionless yet loveable protagonist through his calm life at the house of the Wolf witcher school at Kaer Morhen. There he trained his protegée and protectee Ciri in swordplay and agility. Later we helped the abusive yet loving father, husband and Baron of Velen to find his family. And by the end, we were searching for the Adult Ciri through different dimensions and working to defeat the menacing threat that was the Wild Hunt.
Not only was the narrative phenomenal throughout the 70+ hour adventure, but the world design was so well thought out that it absolutely floored us with its quality and level of immersion. An open-world setting can easily feel a bit too vast for a game's own good, spreading its content out wide but thin when. In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, that was far from the case. We explored every inch of each main location in the game, which was split into five sections: White Orchard, Velen & Novigrad, Skellige Isles, Kaer Morhen and Toussaint (the latter of which came in the excellent concluding expansion, Blood & Wine). We could travel freely between them, experiencing interesting locations and quests tied into the previous games, which added to the bigger picture rather than took away from the focus of the main narrative. The world was (and still is) breathtakingly beautiful, and it stands tall as one of the best in gaming, in regards to its cities and environments, just as much as its characters and quests.
Apart from interesting side adventures spanning tens of hours, phenomenally written characters, a fantastic, packed-to-the-brim world, fun combat variety and a deep sense of immersion, the game was also packed with consequences that depended on the player's gameplay and dialogue choices throughout the game, some spanning throughout the entirety of the adventure. These not only impacted the outcome of the story in big ways but also the relationships one would form with the characters within the game's metaphorical walls. These relationships weren't isolated to one type of character group either, instead, each major character in the game - regent, baron, protegée or love interest - could meet a bitter end depending on your choices, or alternatively treat poor Geralt differently come that character's consequential catalyst moment.
The perhaps most talked-about moment would undoubtedly be Ciri's fate or the outcome following a dual-romance love triangle, both of which have seen people making complete re-plays of the very lengthy adventure in order to set things right and do things differently. Staying on the topic of sweet romance, CD Projekt Red traded the original game's "erotic playing cards" which one would acquire after approaching random women in the game, for some casual adult stress-relief on the slower days in the life of a witcher, with genuine relationship building with fewer, more significant characters. Not only did the more limited number of love interests make the pursuit of these relationships feel meaningful, but the characters were all linked to the main narrative, some in minor ways, some in major ways, which meant that treating them badly could impact the narrative in a less favourable way.
While many games from the past decade have made an impact on the industry as a whole with some major features or specific aspects, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt blew the minds of the gaming world with the rock-solid and superbly detailed experience it offered to those who played it. The game doesn't have one specific moment or aspect that makes it great, rather it's a masterpiece that ticks every box from start to finish, which is a phenomenal feat for the once-minor Polish studio (with CDPR now seen as one of the world's best because of what it achieved).
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt managed to captivate a massive audience in a way that few single-player-only games have managed before it, and with re-releases, general improvements over time, phenomenal DLC releases, and spin-off games to flesh out the universe further, it's clear that the world would welcome a return to the Witcher universe. In the meantime, we'll just have to wait for the studio's next major RPG, Cyberpunk 2077, which lands on PC, PS4, and Xbox One on April 16, 2020.