Sometimes I wish I could wipe my memory of an event, not because I want to forget about it, but because I want to experience it again completely fresh. This weekend, not for the first time, I wish I could start afresh with The Witcher.
The first Witcher game I played was the third Witcher game, the game that really cemented the franchise as one of the great story telling roleplaying games ever made. I had heard my friend Van Der Litreb talk about it before, but somehow it never landed until I made the plunge and started playing the third game. When I had done two play-throughs of the third game and both its extensive DLC’s, I decided to take a look at the second game.
I had already watched quite a bit of gameplay on YouTube in recent years due to my deepening obsession with the Witcher backstory, so I roughly knew what the game was going to be about, which beats it would hit, and which major decisions were there to be made. I also knew that the game was considered flawed in terms of mechanics and handling when compared to the third game, but an absolute masterpiece when compared to the first game. I’ve played some dodgy games in my time simply because I liked the premise so it didn’t stand in my way. Off I went.
I really, really liked it. I didn’t love it like I love the third game, but it held my interest and got me into the storyline. The game deals much more with the politics of the northern realms than the third game did, and it got me a shitload of insight into the backstory, despite having read the books and seen the footage.
I think the developers didn’t really make the most out of the possibility of giving the player the agency to determine the outcome of the story, though. In the end, the only real decisions you get to make is whether or not a handful of characters live or die. Which I already knew of course because those are the questions you get in the early hours of the third game to set up some of the storylines there. Did Aryan live? Did you fight Letho or let him go? Did Síle de Tansarville make it through the troubling portal incident?
All in all I am very glad I played the game, and there is definitely something about the atmosphere and art direction of the game that really appealed to me. I think that’s also partly the reason why so many people who really love the books say that the second game is closer to the books than the third game is.
I miss playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I miss Geralt, Zoltan, Ciri, Tris, Yenn, Vesemir, Eskel and even Lambert. I really wish I could start over and visit Velen, Novigrad, Oxenfurt, Kaer Morhen, Skellige and Toussaint again for the first time. I’ve done two full play-throughs now and I suspect I’ve seen almost everything there is to see. Still, I’ve started a third play-through. How I wish there was more content for me to experience. I still have several games ready and waiting to play; Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Middle-Eart: Shadow of War, Vampyre and I’ve been flirting with Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Still, I would happily trade all of those games in for another Witcher 3 DLC.
Having finished my second play-through of the Witcher, I’m struggling to come to grips that it’s over. I managed to discover so much more on my second go. I managed to beat the game on the highest difficulty setting, and I think I’ve done all that I would want to do. Sure, I could go back for another go and, say, let Radovid live, or choose Triss Merigold over Yennefer of Vengerberg, or let Ciri die… but I’m happy having killed Radovid on both my play-throughs. I’m happy with Yennefer on both play-throughs, and I’m happy with Ciri having become empress in my first play-through and a witcher on my second.
One of the reasons I decided upon a second play-through is because I had made a choice in the Blood and Wine expansion — which was amazing, I’d like to add — that lead to the death of both Anna Henrietta and her sister Sylvia Anna, which I hated. Replaying the DLC was a treat, and I got to experience an entirely portion of the story which I didn’t even know existed. The Land of a Thousand Fables storyline was amazing. But then, the Orianna storyline that I went through the first time was pretty cool, too.
Anyway, I’m level capped, I have all the grandmaster legendary witcher outfits, I’ve explored all the question marks on the map, and there’s little for me to do. I have to admit that it’s time to stop playing the game, even though I don’t want to yet. I had the same after both play-throughs I did for Mass Effect 1-3; I feel the incredible sadness and emptiness. I know I’ll find something new, that there are plenty more fish in the sea, but I can’t imagine anything gripping me as tightly and engrossing me as much as this game did.
But what now? What’s next? Well, I’ve started reading the books, which are amazing. I’ve also started playing the second game, which is okay. Both give me a lot of context for the game, and might tempt me to do another play-through of the game at a later point. I still have a few games that I could play, but in the wake of The Witcher, I simply don’t feel like anything will fill that void.
I know I’m a giant sap, but this brings tears to my eyes.