I have finally, after God knows how many years, managed to beat the mainline story of Witcher 3. Please be excited for me, because I am also very excited.
Although I still have more sidequests to finish, still need to snag every Gwent card, and further venture into the DLCs, I think it’s safe to say I can finally give my hot-take:
Witcher 3 is an absolutely blessed video game, and I’m very skeptical of people who denigrate it.
Before I go full “fangirl”, let’s address the elephant in the room:
Misogyny in Witcher 3
For all the criticism the game receives, either from r/gamingcirclejerk yelling about gamers praising “Saint Geraldo”, or feminist hot-takes by people who couldn’t quite enjoy it in full, so many gamers love it, and for good reason.
It’s a breathtaking accomplishment that has a whole lot of heart, pure and simple. I consider it a triumph of storytelling.
However, there’s to be a dark cloud that lingers above Witcher 3, concerning its treatment of female characters. I don’t hand-waive the treatment CD PROJEKT RED gives plenty of victims (often female) that Geralt can choose to save.
One striking example my fellow feminists like bringing up is Whoreson Junior’s serial killer crap where he mutilates prostitutes.
This is decidedly disgusting.
There’s a lot of gratuitous sexual/gendered violence in the game, which I’ll admit. However, I’m also hesitate to malign the inclusion of it, because Geralt doesn’t seem to condone it either.
Geralt would seem extremely out of character to not be disgusted by this. Although, as players, we’re given options concerning Junior’s treatment, it stands to reason that anyone actually fine with Junior’s repugnant behavior needs a checkup from the neck-up.
This specific quest reminds me of Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece” (1965), where when given the option to approach Ono—who was wearing her best suit—and provided with scissors, passerby’s did what they did: they engaged in their worst impulses, and many stripped her.
Witcher 3 definitely lends itself to grim-dark associations, but as someone versed enough in art history to see a parallel, and as a woman, I see the issue as a human issue.
Humans are often the problem, which Witcher 3 makes apparent, by asking: who’s the real monster here?
For example, is it the basilisk defending its territory? Or is it the people who trespass its territory despite being warned, and therefore killed? The basilisk never attacks you in Blood & Wine, it just sort of flies up there, minding its business.
Witcher 3 begs questions like this, and often.
Furthermore, supercharged gendered violence happens IRL.
I don’t blame Witcher 3 for exploring this topic.
As of 1998, an estimated 17.7 million American women had been victims of attempted or completed rape.RAINN.ORG
It’s not like I enjoy repeatedly being reminded that being a woman makes me vulnerable to predatory dudes, but I also don’t enjoy media pretending we’ve already overcome this. We haven’t.
Witcher 3 a caricature of what people experience in real life, with a fantasy backdrop, and very, very high stakes. I consider this good storytelling, and I consider it cathartic that I can wield Geralt like a jerk-destroyer.
When I played Witcher 3, I felt like I could dole out retribution. As a woman, who’s also incredibly small, that’s a powerful feeling.
Where the heteronormative cis-male ogling is concerned, there are plenty of pretty women to romance.
But if you do that, and how you do that, is up to you. The gaze is only weird if you make it weird.
Geralt, if you want, can basically sleep with anybody. As he’s quite handsome, kind (in my playthrough) and competent, I’m not bothered by it. In fact, competency is a huge, huge plus in my book, as is kindness. You can be the prettiest asshole in the world, and I want nothing to do with you.
(I already have a gorgeous, competent, kind man, but you understand what I’m saying. Niceness and being good at something goes a long way to me giving Saint Geraldo a pass.)
Furthermore, if you’re going for a finalized relationship route, you can sidestep much of this. I told Keira to piss off, shirked all entanglement with sex workers, and denied Triss like I was allergic to her.
Questionably, on my journey through the Hearts of Stone DLC, the game really, really wanted me to let Geralt sleep with Shani. As I align myself with Yennefer being the only waifu, I did not do this.
This is possibly the only part of the game where I found myself narrowing my eyes at the choices the game was trying to force on me. Shani may be pretty, but I like Loyal-Geralt, thanks.
The player can largely choose how they engage with the female cast, and tertiary female characters. The onus of treating other characters right, is on you. The male gaze does not necessarily have to apply.
Even Keira Metz, who seems to live and die by the “bras are the devil” mantra, and tries to get Geralt to fool around with her (for her own dubious means) doesn’t strike me as particularly out-of-sorts.
It’s probably very damp, very dark, very dank, and very gross in Velen. If I had to walk around weird forest-swamps and wash my clothes in a river, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even wear a shirt unless I was going into battle.
I can’t be arsed with bras IRL anyways, why would I get mad at women like Keira who seems to not give a shit either?
Geralt, if you want, can hire prostitutes. As a sex-positive feminist who thinks sex workers deserve unionization and sex work should be legalized to afford better protection, I don’t really have an issue with this until it feels exploitative.
But you, as the player, must make this exploitative. You can choose to see this as paying someone for work—sex work is work—or you can choose to see it as women not owning their sexual agency.
Regardless, the whole “Geralt can get down with basically anyone” thing doesn’t seem like a rational mark against Witcher 3.
Female Characters in Witcher 3 are strong, well-written, and wonderful.
They’re nuanced, they have their own motives, and they’re powerful.
I cannot overstate how much I enjoy the female cast of Witcher 3. Yennefer is of course a stand-out favorite of mine. She’s complicated, smart, and infinitely powerful. She’s maternal to a fault, which if you know anything about her backstory, is a powerful attribute.
If you took a glance at Witcher 3, and possibly decided it was just a T&A fest, then I’m not sure you were paying attention.
Yennefer wrestles with much: her status in society, her inability to bear children, the burden of her power, her feelings for Geralt, and even her direction in life.
I could write a whole article on every single prominent female character in Witcher 3, and I still wouldn’t do them justice. (I’m only cutting this section down because this article is already too long. Stay tuned for several articles featuring Triss, Yen, Ves, Ciri, Shani, Anarietta, Philippa, and Keira.)
Suffice to say every single one of them has their own motivations, their own story, their own desires, and the game does not at any point denigrate them.
Playing this game made me very happy, as a feminist and a writer. If you felt unhappy with the writing, perhaps you needed to make more feminist choices.
Now let’s talk about Geralt, and Fatherhood.
I am child-free by choice, but damn if his interactions with Ciri didn’t make me want to raise a kick-ass kid.
In order to get the good ending where Cirilla lives, you have to be a Good Dad. You have to make sure she feels empowered and confident in herself, and if that isn’t the most pro-good-dad anti-toxic-masculinity thing you’ve ever seen a video game dude do, I don’t know what is.
To get a bit personal, my dad is shit. I wish he’d treated me like Geralt is meant to treat Ciri. As Geralt, you can’t patronize her. You have to let her flourish, and be there for her when she stumbles. You just have to care.
I cared, and possibly way too much.
As I like to play Witcher 3 with my partner, and explore the story and have adventures together, a statement kept cropping up: Gotta’ save my daughter. Another one also joined the fray: Step off my kid, I will stab you!
Witcher 3 really, really made me care about its characters, and possibly no one character exemplifies my attachment more than Ciri.
From frightened girl-on-the-run, who gets coddled by those around her, to bad-ass screaming time-warping Elder Blood she-warrior—her journey was incredible.
Not only that, but you get to play as her, and navigate through her challenges!
If I had one criticism on this front, it’d be that I really wanted to play as her more often, so I could explore the other worlds she mentioned. Maybe if we ever get a Witcher 4, Ciri will be the protagonist.
I’d really like that.
As far as battle systems go, Witcher 3 is a tad bit clunky.
But once you get the hang of it, and get to crafting cool weapons, you’re good.
My main gripe about the interacting system in Witcher 3 is a weird mechanic: picking things up is X, and sprinting is hitting X a few times. This is a problem, especially when you’re just trying to snag some plants.
Furthermore, Geralt can’t really jump when he’s fighting, which has lead me to getting stuck going around a fence when there’s an enemy on my ass.
However, the pleasant thing about the battle system is that, despite sometimes being clunky, it lends itself to any play-style you wish.
If you’re a Quen-and-rush-in type of person, that’s a smart and fair play. If you like lighting assholes on fire, you can do that too. If you wanna gorge on potions and be an untouchable God, you can do that.
If you want to be a submarine, you can get a potion to dive into the deep ocean, and shoot enemies with your crossbow. Almost anything is possible, in terms of how you want to forge Geralt’s skill-sets.
All you have to do is allocate the right attributes, and make your way.
Another great thing is the crafting system. I LOVE finding diagrams, collecting loot, and synthesizing things. In fact, I’m obsessed with crafting in videogames. My addiction to the Atelier series is proof of that.
You can essentially style Saint Geraldo any way you wish, and get armor and weapons to also fit your playing style.
I really enjoy simple touches like this, because lord knows I will spend no less than 40 hours per video game just hunting for cool shiny things because I’m a raccoon.
I don’t really have to mention Gwent, do I?
The fact that the Blood and Wine DLC has a whole new deck is spinning me sideways.
Gwent is an amazing card game. I don’t care for the online version because I consider it needlessly complicated and takes all the fun out of it. The simplicity of Gwent is perfect, and snagging all the cards is way too enjoyable.
I liken Gwent to Triple Triad of FF8 fame, and lord knows I sunk far too many hours into the mini-game, because I just HAD to get the character cards, because reasons.
Gwent is not only a great way to pass the time in the game, and collecting things is too fun, but it can open up various quests, too.
Furthermore, the fact that Blood and Wine has a whole new Skellige deck, and somehow I’m expected to score that, and finish my own accumulation of cards from the base game, is impossible.
I think this mini-game is one of the best parts of the game, and if you’ve avoided Witcher 3 for some reason or another, it makes me truly sad that you haven’t yet experienced the joy of smacking someone down with a deck of Spys, Heroes, and Decoys.
In conclusion: Gwent addiction is probably real, and I should probably stop trying to get every single card.
Let’s wrap this review of Witcher 3 up, because it’s getting out of hand:
Final Verdict? The haters really do not know what they’re missing, but us fans do.
Witcher 3 can be wholesome, if you want it to be. It can be a tale of romance. It can be a tale of a Dad saving his adopted daughter. It can be about treasure hunting, a card game, defeating giant monsters, soaking up the lore, and more. But only if you want it to be.
Witcher 3 is the sum of its parts, and the sum of the parts that you prescribe to it. Humans play video games, not machines, so your actions directly affect the world this game exists within.
Your actions, and how you view the game, and the way you express yourself through playing it, make the game what it is.
It’s up to you to choose how you weave this tale, and if you’re ready for that, please pick up a copy and dedicate some time to experiencing a brilliant game with a brilliant cast and story.
I truly consider it a 10/10, and any score lower than that feels like people are actually allergic to fun, good writing, difficult topics, and amazing characters.