W is for Witcher

W

 

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 PolandAmsterdam, 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:

  1. Two expansion packs, Hearts of Stone(2015) and Blood and Wine (2016) were also released to critical acclaim.
  2. 16 DLCs were released that included cosmetic and additional gameplay content.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.”
  2. 1990sThe 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.”
  5. 1820-1864Romanticism 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.”

  1. 2011 – second video game The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Witcher-3-13

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.

  1. Setting: 4.75*
  2. Storyline: 5*
  3. Gameplay: 4.25*
  4. Entertainment: 4.5*
  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.

Enter this portal to reach other Worlds in my A2ZMMORPG

Hela da

 

 

A Hero’s Tale – a review

This is the third Book in the When Women Were Warriors fantasy trilogy and when I reviewed the second book, A Journey of the Heart, I had to read Book 3 at once. I wasn’t disappointed, although I must apologise for this belated review – life & health conspired against this getting written.

 Hero'sTale

A Hero’s Tale (When Women Were Warriors #3)

by Catherine M. Wilson (Goodreads Author)

In Book II, Tamras moved from her home into the lands beyond its border. In Book three, the stage widens further: she deals with the struggles of whole peoples. Caught up in intrigues that would once have been far above her, the heroine risks everything unless she can not only learn to swim in treacherous waters, but to master them. The heroine ‘s inner journey continues to match her outer one. She must confront the meaning not only of personal love, but the love that extends beyond oneself and those we hold dear. Catherine Wilson ‘s skill at tackling the big issues of love, meaning, and humanity is so deft that it all seemed, to me at least, to flow naturally from her narrative in a way I found technically quite breathtaking. “–from a review by Charles Ferguson on the Goodreads website

“Being the third and last volume in a series I enjoyed immensely, I knew that I could expect this last book to deliver a happy and satisfying ending. What I didn’t t expect was the intricate and daring storyline of this last volume. It is bigger and broader than what has come before, and it is spectacular. this time the story unfolds on to a whole new level. More characters, more intrigue, greater losses, wonderful reunions. There ‘s no taking the easy road here the story opened up into unimagined dimensions to tell a tale that really is that of a hero.”

When Women Were Warriors manages to blend mythic storytelling with characters who feel so real you could imagine stepping into the pages and having a conversation with them. A Hero ‘s Tale skilfully weaves the questions of love, faith and fairness into a dramatic story; not only of a relationship between the main characters, but of a quest so much bigger it takes the breath away. There is everything you could wish for here power struggles, forces for good and evil, dramatic tests of faith, daring rescues, fatal rivalry, but it is managed with such a deft hand that in the end it is all one beautiful story. What else is there to say? This is not just lesbian fiction, but a story about being human. It ‘s not to be missed.–from a review by Kate Genet on the website, Kissed By Venus

In Book III of the trilogy, Tamras must make her own hero ‘s journey. She ventures into the unknown and encounters a more formidable enemy than any she has ever faced. Character is destiny, and the destiny of Tamras and all her people will depend upon choices that come less from the skills she has been taught than from the person she has become, from her own heart.

 

Review 5 stars

It has been a few weeks since I made the final stages of the heroic journey of Tamras but so much of this world ‘when women were warriors’ lives on. I am tempted to slip back into her vibrant world again as the characters and settings feel so rich, and the writing still weaves its spell over me.

This is the epic climax and the story grows in intensity as the events become more complex. Tamras faces new challenges that are a true test of everything that she has learned. The younger and less-experienced Tamras of Book 1 might well have failed, and even after progressing so much, she still stumbles. Yet, Tamras struggles on.

The character has grown to the point where she can stand alongside some formidable characters, sharing her brand of wisdom and still learning as unexpected events unfold. Some key motifs and threads come together in well-constructed echoes and actions that made me feel this tapestry was being woven together neatly. Wolves and mysteries were my thoughts, but I will say no more about that.

Yes, as with any epic saga, there are threads left to tease the reader, but no saga truly ends as life continues beyond ‘The End’. Without those, this reader would not be creating my own imaginings of where Tamras goes next. Do we want a ‘happily ever after’ ending?

The central element is again ‘Love’ in all its forms, true and perverted, uplifting and shattering, emotional and physical. We all need to learn who to embrace and when. The key is to follow your heart and the truth will be revealed.

All the evocative words and images are there again, all the rich and flawed characters, and some unexpected actions and decisions. All these make A Hero’s Tale another recommended read and the perfect end to the trilogy. Finally, I have the signed paperbacks to place in my bookshelf alongside my prized hardback copies of The Lord of the Rings.

When Women Were Warriors too will be regular re-reads over the years to come.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Diversity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

 

A Journey of the Heart – a review

This is the second Book in the When Women Were Warriors fantasy trilogy and when I reviewed the first book, The Warrior’s Path , I was excited to read Book 2. I wasn’t disappointed.

Journey of the Heart 

A Journey of the Heart (When Women Were Warriors #2)

by Catherine M. Wilson

A Journey of the Heart Book II] shows the same strong storytelling ability of the first book. The language is still almost musical and wraps its sweet spell around you. Storylines that were just starting to grow in the first book are also very well developed here. Intrigue and conflict are fleshed out and take some surprising twists. All that I had hoped for, reading the first book, begins to bloom. “–from a review by Kate Genet on the website, Kissed By Venus

“Catherine Wilson creates a magical sense of place, and of belonging to that place. Within that, she also tells how it feels to not belong. Ms Wilson ‘s is a tale of bone wisdom. It whispers of what we remember when we sleep at night and dream. It calls us to remember that women had, and still have, a wise and powerful place in the world.”–from a review on the blog, The Rainbow Reader, by Baxter Clare Trautman, author of The River Within

“In this book, we see Tamras world open from the House of Merin and its immediate environs into the lands beyond its borders. She meets other peoples, whose ways are different from those she knows. Similarly Tamras inner life expands as well: the feelings within her blossom into the romantic love that will be the linchpin her life will hinge on “–from a review by Charles Ferguson on the Goodreads website

In Book II of the trilogy, Tamras ‘s apprenticeship as a warrior isn’t turning out quite the way she expected. Her unconventional choices lead to her crossing swords, almost literally, with Vintel, the war leader of Merin ‘s house. She finds herself embroiled in a power struggle she is doomed to lose, but the loss sends her on a journey that will change her destiny and decide the fate of her people.

 

Review 5 stars

When Tamras continued her journey ‘when women were warriors’, I slipped back easily into her world again as the characters and settings were familiar from Book 1. As was the writing, which continued to weave its spell over me.

The rhythm that Catherine Wilson chooses continued to remind me of an oral storyteller. Once again, the beautiful poetic phrases kept me reading and held my attention throughout.

As events at Merin’s House and on the northern frontier unfold, Tamras faces crucial decisions and discovers her real friends – and the conflict with Merin’s war leader Vintel intensifies as does her relationship with Maara, the warrior that she is apprenticed to.

Love is the central theme to this book and the trilogy. Not just romantic love but the emotion that is special and deep, that ties people together and gives them life but also hurts. Love is explored in a multitude of ways – mother/child, siblings, woman/woman, warrior/apprentice, wife/husband, first loves. The writer helps the reader feel the intricacies of the emotions involved, never rushing the scenes where characters interact with dialogue, glances or caresses.

Although women are central to the tale and women hold the main warrior role, this is not a simplistic role reversal. Some reviewers, mainly fellow men sadly, have missed the fact that there are warriors at Merin’s House who are men. In modern society, women wanting to fight was frowned on until recently, to the extent that some disguised themselves as men. In contrast, this world-building portrays a more balanced society where such strict divisions are not present.

The reader experiences the battle emotions and reactions as Tamras has her first encounter with the raiding northern tribes. In most cases, the reactions are rooted in respect between fellow warriors and apprentices, and even between rivals.

However, this world is realistic with characters that have been slaves and that issue is gradually explored as the revelations paint a complex world and the war that created much of the backstory emerges into view. The reader discovers more about Merin and her fellow elders as well as her importance to Tamras.

Caring for others has many angles – and complications – as Tamras learns…with love playing its complex role. Once again, there are lessons at every growth point regardless of age and previous experiences. How does one wield that delicate position called ‘Power’ and what is the nature of that ability? The novel is filled with crucial questions for Tamras and the reader – challenges.

The characterisation continues to be rich and the central characters grow as events unfold. Some learn, and others just react, although motives are cleverly revealed – but not too soon. Tamras’s path got clearer but rockier as the mid-point of the trilogy was reached. From there onwards, lines are drawn as the inner and outer conflicts simmer. There will be a climactic clash but as in other great epics, that is being set up with physical and psychological skirmishes that test characters.

There is more great wisdom here, and there are ancient tales woven into the whole – fireside storytelling within a saga. Tamras, especially, told stories that she had learnt while growing up – tales that are told in the style of oral ‘tales of yore’. These add to the magic of the novel, and to the sense of an older world more in touch with its roots.

All the events and revelations set up Book 3 neatly, so A Hero’s Tale has moved top of my ‘Must Reads’ list. Although I’m reading the trilogy on Kindle, I have just ordered the paperbacks to place on my bookshelf alongside my prized copies of The Lord of the Rings.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Diversity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

The Warrior’s Path – a review

My reading to explore diversity and minority rights issues continues with The Warrior’s Path. This is the first Book in the When Women Were Warriors fantasy trilogy that I became aware of when I first embarked on this quest to move beyond the narrow taboos of modern society. However, this novel was in many ways different from the first read on this journey of enlightenment.

Warrior's Path

The Warrior’s Path (When Women Were Warriors #1)

by Catherine M. Wilson (Goodreads Author)

When she was a child, the author of When Women Were Warriors happily identified with all the male heroes she read about in stories that began, “Once upon a time, a young man went out to seek his fortune.” But she would have been delighted to discover even one story like that with a female protagonist. Since she never did find the story she was looking for all those years ago, she decided to write it.

In Book I of the trilogy, Tamras arrives in Merin’s house to begin her apprenticeship as a warrior, but her small stature causes many, including Tamras herself, to doubt that she will ever become a competent swordswoman. To make matters worse, the Lady Merin assigns her the position of companion, little more than a personal servant, to a woman who came to Merin’s house, seemingly out of nowhere, the previous winter, and this stranger wants nothing to do with Tamras.

 

Review 5 stars

When Tamras sets out on her journey to become a warrior, the evocative language makes it clear that this is a world of women warriors and her family is part of this tradition. However, the Path is not easy from the moment that Lady Merin assigns her to the position of companion to the introverted stranger, Maara whose past is a mystery.

The writing wove a spell akin to listening to a storyteller. Beautiful poetic phrases kept me reading. The opening flowed and wove me in like one of those fireside tales and held my attention throughout.

The tale is not rushed but Tamras has many things to learn at Lady Merin’s house and throughout there is always the feeling of things to come. We learn with her and yet Tamras already has the seeds of some wisdom in herself, but she must understand through situations and encounters. She grows as she discovers more about herself, about Maara, and about other characters – and they also grow.

This is a beautifully-rendered matriarchal society where the Mother is at the heart of the community. The whole mystical aspect of the Mother is portrayed in believable scenes filled with a deeply spiritual and sensual weaving that evoked in me images of shamanic journeys. The Mother relationship to the Child takes on a more profound meaning towards the closing scenes.

Realistic same-sex relations are the norm and they are the fabric that holds the society together – reminding me of the bonds forged by the male warriors of Sparta. The topic is treated as the norm, alongside the female-male relationships that many aspire to. This aspect was handled subtly as with many aspects of the telling. This is a rich and thriving community that is painted well – elements easing into place as the tale progresses.

The characterisation is rich and worth the steady pace as the seasons change. So many emotions are explored but not rammed at the reader. As winter drifts in then grips the world in its embrace, emotions and relationships are tested. The pace is raised as the tension mounts, but Catherine Wilson is never tempted to let frantic pace outstrip her crafted storytelling.

Words of great wisdom are crafted into the unfolding interactions – like some epic tales. Some characters show great insight, much of it gained with age and experience. Yet, other characters are shown as hasty in their actions and decisions. Spring brings new growth and change in any world so well-painted.

The inevitable conflicts sow seeds for later in the Book and in the trilogy. I was expecting frustrating loose ends, as in some other fantasy trilogies, but the closing scenes were warmly satisfying. The most pressing threads were tied up but more than enough simmered under the surface for Book 2. I came to rest in a comfortable place – one that reminded me of when I had finished The Fellowship of the Ring.

However, as with The Lord of the Rings, I couldn’t wait to buy Book 2 and Journey of the Heart has moved top of my ‘Must Reads’ list.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Diversity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars