Is Geralt of Rivia the new Michelangelo? Does the Witcher represent a new face of humanism? Does the humanism inside his scarred body reflect a new morality in contemporary gaming? I traveled with Geralt for over 80 hours chasing monsters, seeking out treasure, and sleeping with sorceresses, only to grow accustomed to a new, variable world in gaming.
The qualities of variability make the game a stark revolution within the history of gaming. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt offers the gamer a sense of morality both great and small. Every character and situation in the game, be it moral, amoral, immoral (good, neutral, and evil, in other words) comes with a choice. These choices sometimes affect the game, and sometimes they do not. For example, you might learn that a man has been claiming an identity not his own, and then turn him into the local authorities, or choose to forgive his desperate attempt to be a new person. The end result? Whether his presence in the game continues, or he is dragged off to become one of the many hanged bodies on the trees throughout the countryside.
In other situations, game decisions are drastic and represent decisions of fatherhood, of knightly provisions, and of brutality capable of chiseling Geralt’s identity into an arrow point. Though I only played through the game once, The Witcher 3 operates on a level where those key decisions which define your identity are immersed within both the plot and the startlingly beautiful landscapes. This “virtual world” is beautiful because of those human (and humanoid) characters that inhabit it, and that they can die, and they can live, and that they all sit upon a far vaster scrape of world than most games previous have been able to achieve.
I have a theory that every game requires a bit of abdursity to carry forth its waves of moral assertion. Games cannot simply be cold, logical journeys of good and bad. That sense of ugly that creeps throughout the world, that shadowy presence within every relationship and every individual screams and laughs at us from the distance. The Witcher 3 is no exception to absurdism. Many of the highest points of the game are a result of the absolutely ridiculous qualities of minor characters and foes. From drunken tavern-goers to succubus seductresses, from the fantastical antics of Dandelion (the poet of the game) to the riveting relationships Geralt carries with Yennefer (current lover) and Triss (previous lover), the gamer encounters the other type of eye-opening experience.
Living in a Post-Witcher 3 world is one that approaches the most comprehensive artistic qualities discoverable within a game, and agrees to take for granted The Witcher 3’s trumping of previous efforts. But what now? How do we move forward? Perhaps the most reasonable solution is not to look forward but to look at where The Witcher 3 came from, what led to its creation. When we are done looking, we will be ready for the next incredible game.