(ALERT: SPOILERS! Reader beware. Best read while listening The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt OST)
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I don't even know where to start.
Let's put it this way: I played a lot of games, watched a lot of films, read a lot of books, listened to a lot of songs in my life. Nothing ever had the impact for me that this epic masterpiece did and still does.
There are certain elements, I believe, that have a life-changing influence for a person. This game, this era changing lightyear leap in storytelling and gaming, this art piece to challenge the works of Rennaisaince masters, this haunting experience, this 50 GB of pure wonder...
Music to make my skin tremble like I was dropped to a pool of ice water, plot which absorbs the player, graphics that seem to have jumped out of an oil painting, characters that become "people you know" rather than vectors, pixels and code...
However, rather than writing here why the game is a marvel, which I find quite unnecessary at this point, I would like to talk about something much more personal. How I miss Geralt, my old friend.
First time I played TW3, I had an old gaming laptop with overheating issues. I would put the laptop on top of a fan (a real size room fan, not a computer fan) and connect it to the TV to extend system crashing periods from every hour to about every two hours. Soon after I completed the game, I bought a real gaming computer with my first salary ever and started again. This time I played it the way it was meant to be played. Once the DLCs were released, I started again with the New Game+ mod. I completed everything the game offered from each side quest to every treasure hunt. I tried to keep fast travel to a minimum. I skipped nothing, listened to all the dialog, paid attention to every detail. Sometimes just galloped through the wilderness, sometimes just walked in towns, sometimes played Gwent for hours.
Obviously this was due to how perfect the game is. How it took me and didn't give me back to myself, how I was no more a programmer from this world but friend to a Witcher and a father in another.
However, there was more to it than this. Something more hidden, much more personal. I just couldn't push myself to say what I always knew I would have to say eventually: Goodbye.
I didn't save Ciri because it was the objective of the game. I saved Ciri because Ciri was Geralt's daughter and I loved her for that. I was ready to do anything, play the game for all my life to save Ciri simply because Ciri was Geralt's daughter. When I laughed for them being happy together, when I filled with happiness to see Ciri's recollection of her loving moments with her father right before she sacrificed herself, when I shed tears believing she was gone, when I cried like a little girl as Geralt and Ciri ran towards each other in that little cabin on a land unknown- it wasn't the game. It wasn't the music, it wasn't the graphics, it wasn't anything you can point at and show. It was simply because TW3 made me care about Ciri in a way I thought impossible towards what is actually hidden somewhere among that 50 GB of code.
To whoever made this scene: Thank you. Thank you for giving this to the world.
The thing is, it wasn't just Ciri. It was everyone in this game for whom I genuinly, honestly and as humanly as possible felt something. Not always love and care but sometimes hate, sometimes annoyance. I wanted to kill the entire Wild Hunt as if they actually did a personal wrong to me. I wanted to have, I prayed I could have, something, anything I could do to help Vesemir or at least repay his unforgettable, incredible moment of self sacrifice.
-Who taught you how to fight like this?
-The witcher you slew!
I wanted to keep Geralt as away as possible from the poisonous Yennefer. I wanted to help a group of misfits I found on a side quest, I never really wanted to kill that werewolf who had suffered so much already. I wanted to make things better for the Baron and his family, my heart ached at the misfortune they brought on themselves as does so many people. I wanted to protect Johnny because he was so good. I kept the drawing that little girl gifted to Geralt as a possession so valuable and looked at it with emotions which surprised me for being as real as they were.
Nevertheless, nobody, not even Ciri came close to the connection I formed with my old friend, Geralt.
Sometime ago, I saw on a forum a post about a mod that turned the game into a FPS. I was horrified. It was wrong. The point of TW3 was never meant to be feeling as if you are Geralt. The point is not, at all, to be him. The point is to be his friend. To company him through good and bad, great and terrible. To go through adventures and life side by side, best friends, brothers. This is how I felt about Geralt. Without me even realising, he became family. Someone for whom I wished good and happiness, someone with whom I had memories of great value as real as any.
Whoever made this scene, whoever wrote these lines, whoever directed it, those evil bastards knew this. Definitely.
When the game, the DLCs, all side quests and everything else finally ended and it was time to say goodbye, it was very difficult. However, at the same time, it had a sad, very sad happiness to it. I knew Geralt would be alright. In his beautiful new estate, in a beautiful new land. His daughter safe, his Triss there. All his friends, who cared so much about him, always willing to keep him company. Healthy, happy, strong and surrounded by loved ones, in a world better than it ever was. I didn't want to say goodbye at all but I knew it was the right thing to do. After all, we had a bond none of them had and like Sam and Frodo, we needed less than words.
Often I like to imagine, wherever he is now in the secret corner of my SSD from which he will never be removed, he is doing great. He is enjoying some quality Toussaint wine with Triss, listening to Ciri tell him her latest adventures as a witcher, playing cards with Zoltan and Dandelion while they tell him about their latest scheme to make money. Perhaps taking some contracts every know and then, not because he needs it as we did save quite a bit amount of gold for his retirement but just to stay sharp. Maybe he visits Kaer Morhen sometimes, talks to Vesemir who he knows can hear. I know when he is alone, he remembers me too and the adventures we had together, sitting next to a fireplace and reminiscing.
I am fine, really. It is sad but it is how it's meant to be and there is a lot of happiness to it.
In the end, there are really not words for me to describe everything. As I said in the beginning, I still don't know where to start. Maybe all I can say is, Geralt, old friend, I miss you and I hope all is fine. Send me a letter once in a while, tell me everything. I will see you again when I can but till that and always, remember that you are a brother to me and that I will run to your help whenever you need.
When I finally said goodbye to Geralt and Ciri, Triss and everyone else- suddenly I found myself sitting in my room in front of a computer turned off. I felt like waking up from a dream of a million years. Where was I, really? I didn't know what to do exactly with myself.
It was quite some time, a really good amount of some time, before I could even play another game. All the games I bought through the following few months, I returned and asked for a refund after some minutes of trying to play. It was just not good. Eventually I understood, it would never be good. Not anymore, after I knew TW3. Accepting this and lowering my expectations considerably, I let time do its thing and slowly I was able to play again. Not with the same joy, not with the same excitement but playing nevertheless. I made my peace with the fact that me before TW3 and after could not be ever the same again.
So. Dear people of that amazing, wonderful company CDProjekt Red. With all my heart, thank you. I am in your debt all my life. Writing this article in a blog nobody knows about is my only way of expressing gratitude. You are an incredible company and I will be honored to be a fanboy for the rest of my life. Once more, thank you and may you always prosper.
It's been a long day without you, my friend
And I'll tell you all about it when I see you again