The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.
[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]
Game: The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is an action-adventure RPG based on The Witcher series of fantasy novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, it is the sequel to the 2011 game The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.
Release Date: 19 May 2015
Developer/Publisher: CD Projekt
Genre/gameplay mechanics: Players control protagonist Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter known as a Witcher who fights, rides, walks, runs, rolls and dodges, jumps, climbs and swims. Weapons include bombs, a crossbow and two swords: steel sword is used primarily to kill humans while the silver sword is more effective against creatures and monsters. Geralt has five magical signs at his disposal; crafted mutagens increase magic power. Players can learn about their enemies and prepare for combat by reading the in-game bestiary. A dialogue wheel allows players to choose how to respond to NPCs. Geralt must make decisions which change the state of the world and lead to 36 possible endings.
Setting: Open-world with a third-person perspective, set in the Continent, a fantasy world surrounded by parallel dimensions and extra-dimensional worlds. Humans, elves, dwarves, monsters and other creatures co-exist, but non-humans are often persecuted for their differences. Europe was the basis of the game’s world, with Poland, Amsterdam, and Scandinavia as its primary inspirations. Locations include the Redanian cities of Novigrad and Oxenfurt, the no man’s land of Velen, the city of Vizima, the Skellige islands (home to several Viking-like clans) and the Witcher stronghold of Kaer Morhen.
Storytelling: The Continent is caught up in a war between the empire of Nilfgaard led by Emperor Emhyr var Emreis and Redania ruled by King Radovid V. Geralt of Rivia is looking for his missing adopted daughter, Ciri on the run from the Wild Hunt, an otherworldly force determined to capture and use her powers. The writing is infused with real-life aspects like moral ambiguity in a deliberate attempt to avoid simplification, impart authenticity, and reflect Sapkowski’s novels.
Further details: Game Wiki + Kirk Hamilton’s Beginner’s Guide to the setting, story, and more.
Releases + Expansions:
- Two expansion packs, Hearts of Stone(2015) and Blood and Wine (2016) were also released to critical acclaim.
- 16 DLCs were released that included cosmetic and additional gameplay content.
- A Game of the Year edition, with the base game, expansion packs and all downloadable content, was released in August 2016.
Formats: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Origins (Chronological) – these range from Sapkowski’s books, other writers such as the Brothers Grimm to Edgar Allen Poe, as well as Polish cultural elements. The main sources include:
- 2007 – In 2007 Polish video-game developer CD Projekt Red released The Witcher, the first game based on Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski‘s saga. CD Projekt had acquired the rights to the book series for about 35,000 zloty (approximately US$9,500) from Sapkowski, who wanted all the payment rights up front, rather than through royalties. However, as Sapkowski said in a 2012 interview by Eurogamer’s Zbigniew Jankowski, “The game – with all due respect for it, let’s say it openly – does not create any “alternative version”, let alone any further sequence. The game is a free adaptation that uses elements of my creativity, an adaptation made by other artists.” He also noted, “‘The Witcher’ is a well-made video game, its success is well deserved, and the creators deserve all the splendour and honour due.”
- 1990s – The Witcher appeared in Bogusław Polch‘s six comic books, which he drew from 1993 to 1995 – Maciej Parowskiwrote the story with Sapkowski, already a popular fantasy author.
- 1986 – Andrzej Sapkowski’s first short story, “The Witcher” (“Wiedźmin”), also translated as “The Hexer” or “Spellmaker”, was published in Polish science fiction and fantasy magazine Fantastyka. By 2017, The Witcher series encompassed two collections of short stories (1992-1993) and five novels (1994-1999). The 69-year-old author has become one of Poland’s most distinguished fantasy literary icons. Despite readers’ pleas, Sapkowski gave up the idea of continuing The Witcher His next series was the fantasy Hussite trilogy, the main character of which is Reinmar from Bielawa.
- Although the author denied any similarities between Redania and Poland in the books, the game developers do make use of Polish elements. Marcin Blacha, Story Director at CD Projekt Red said in a December 2016 interview, “We have the perception we were taught by the poets of Romanticism. Every time we look into the sources, we don’t study old Polish literature or archeologic manuals, but culture which refers to those elements. We don’t draw from the source itself, but from the pulp processed by cultures, and we try to make it look that unique way in which we ourselves perceive it.”
- 1820-1864 – Romanticism in Poland, a literary, artistic and intellectual period in the evolution of Polish culture, began around 1820, coinciding with the publication of Adam Mickiewicz‘s first poems in 1822. It ended with the suppression of the Polish-Lithuanian January 1863 Uprising against the Russian Empire in 1864. The latter event ushered in a new era in Polish culture known as Positivism.
- 13th-15th century – Marcin Blacha said, “…The Witcher is a tribute to the Polish language and to Polishness in general. At least I always treat the game that way”. For instance, supposedly, the annual re-enactment of the Battle of Grunwald(1410) was recorded for the sounds of battle, marching, blacksmithing, and the firing of arrows. However, it is impossible to focus on a specific era, although the 13th century might be the nearest – or is that because the game world says May 1272 – in another dimension.
- 12th century – Across Central, Western and Northern Europe, the Wild Hunt is a well-known folk myth of a ghostly leader and his group of hunters and hounds flying through the cold night sky, accompanied by the sounds of the howling wind. The supernatural hunters are recounted as either the dead, elves or in some instances, fairies. In the Northern tradition, the Wild Hunt was synonymous with great winter storms or changes of season.
- 6th century – The world in which these adventures take place is heavily influenced by Slavic mythology. The first authoritative reference to the Slavs and their mythology in written history was made by the 6th century Byzantine historian Procopius, whose Bellum Gothicum described the beliefs of a South Slavic tribe. However, as Marcin Blacha of CD Projekt Red said, “The truth is that every time we start creating some monster – like the botchling or a noonwraith – we don’t perceive this monster like pre-Slavic people did, because we have no idea what their perception of the monster was. We have the perception we were taught by the poets of Romanticism.”
Adaptations set in ‘The Witcher’ game universe – CD Projekt Red studio head Adam Badowski in response to the Eurogamer interview, said, “We want to develop The Witcher’s universe in other media, not only video games. We have Mr Sapkowski’s blessing and what we create is in line with his vision of the world, no matter how the saga will evolve. We want The Witcher’s universe to be a part of pop-culture like Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, and for our fanbase to expand rapidly. We just have to carefully and diligently do our thing.”
- 2011 – second video game The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.
- In 2007, Kuźnia Gier developed two card games based on CD Projekt’s The Witcher video game. One, Wiedźmin: Przygodowa Gra Karciana (The Witcher: Adventure Cardgame), was published by Kuźnia Gier; the other, Wiedźmin: Promocyjna Gra Karciana (The Witcher Promo Card Game) was added to the collector’s edition of The Witcher in some countries.
- Another card game, Gwent was released with The Witcher 3: Wild Huntas an in-game activity. In 2016 a stand-alone Gwent online card game was announced and then released as Gwent: The Witcher Card Game by CD Projekt Red.
- In May 2017, Sapkowski’s The Witcher was picked up by Netflix, to be adapted as a television series. Sapkowski will serve as a creative consultant on the project. The series of eight episodes is set for release in 2020.
Recommendation: The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt received critical acclaim, with praise of its gameplay, narrative, world design, combat, and visuals, although it received minor criticism due to technical issues, some of which were later patched. It received numerous Game of the Year awards and is considered to be one of the greatest games of all time. By August 2016, CD Projekt said that The Witcher 3 had received over 800 awards since its release.
The game was also a commercial success, shipping nearly ten million copies by March 2016. GameSpot and Eurogamer gave the game their highest rating.
In 2010, the game was included as one of the titles in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die
4.7 Stars: I must confess that I have been sucked into The Witcher world – hence this long post. Plus, my research is ongoing as a reader, writer and gamer. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is my first adventure in the world and the settings are brilliant. The storytelling is great, underpinned by reading the 1993 collection of short stories. Also, the side quests do tie into the overall world-building. The gameplay element was more complex than other games with a lot to learn and master. However, it was entertaining, and I got my partner hooked. As for its roots, well, that’s an ongoing quest.
- Setting: 4.75*
- Storyline: 5*
- Gameplay: 4.25*
- Entertainment: 4.5*
- Genesis: 5*
Alternative ‘W’ thoughts:
W as in When Women Were Warriors, the best trilogy since The Lord of the Rings, and also for Wonder Woman – the original comics, the classic TV series and the enjoyable 2017 movie.
+ ‘W’ Games played: World of Warcraft, which was my original W game – until the research started.
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