You've sat on the couch in breathless anticipation waiting for a new "Game of Thrones" every Sunday night in spring since 2011, and you don't know what you'll do with yourself when the fifth season finally ends. Or maybe you're completely done with the show after Sunday's latest shocking episode, but aren't ready to give up your obsession with dragons and complicated medieval-inspired politics. Either way, what's a poor fantasy nerd to do?
If you're looking for a new source of swords and sorcery, you could probably do a lot worse than the newest game in the "Witcher" series, in which you play a bad-ass supernatural monster hunter who travels across gritty medieval landscapes slaying witches and other nasty beasts for gold. Last month we got the chance to play through the first hour, and also sat down in person with CD PROJEKT RED co-founder/CEO Marcin Iwiński and Head of Global Communications Michał Platkow-Gilewski to talk about just what to expect from the game, which is available in stores today (May 19).
You don’t need to know all the backstory to jump in, but it’s there if you want more.
While this is the third game featuring Geralt of Rivia, you don't need to have played any of the previous installments to dig into into the new 50+ hour story, as well the extra 120 hours of side quests.
Direhard fans of the franchise, however, should expect some great nods to the world they already know and love. "We have a lot in store for them, because they will automatically understand the small little flavors we've put into the game." Platkow-Gilewski said. "But the game is built also with the general audience in mind, and of course it's a story driving RPG, so it is for people who want to get emotional about the game. "
And if you want to be able to take Geralt with you, say, on your public transportation commute? Just like "Game of Thrones," "The Witcher" also started out as a series of books, as written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski in 1986, and even has a few graphic novel adaptations as well. So you should have plenty of new material to tide you over until "Winds of Winter" finally gets published.
The world is very morally grey.
Of course you expect a lot of gore in a video game that gives you a sword and tells you to go kill stuff, but the game also has its fair share of OTHER kinds of adult content. For example, the tutorial drops you right into the middle of a scene that depicts two naked adults going about their lives together -- but it doesn't feel lecherous or weird, which is more than I can say for some "Game of Thrones" episodes, if we're being honest.
"It's a mature game," Platkow-Gilewski told us. "There's no clear distinction between good and evil, [and it's] mature in terms of a certain brutality of the world. But it's not emanating with sex just for the purpose of causing a sensation. It all plays a certain part in the story. It's a little bit like the contemporary world but dressed up in medieval clothing."
Of course, if you don't really care about nuance, there's also a scene where you get to have sex while atop a taxidermied unicorn. Don't worry, though -- that scene evidently also happens in the books. So it's canon.
At one point you get to play a character who's kinda like Arya and Daenerys combined.
Meet Ciri, a lost princess from the Northern Kingdom of Cintra and descendent of elves. In the opening tutorial (which is incredibly easy to pick up on without being condescending, a plus for gamers), you first meet her as impetuous young witcher-in-training whose skill with a blade is not so impressive as her unbridled enthusiasm for slaying ghouls. Later in the game, however, she is all grown up and ready to kick some ass -- and while you don't spend as much time with her as you do with the main character Geralt, PROJEKT RED says that her storyline will be waaaaay more action-packed than the rest of the RPG-styled game.
Plus, one of the big things about "Witcher" lore is that those who are mutated to become witchers sport a trademark white hairdo, like you see on Ciri above. You like the Targaryens? Get ready for a whole pack of Targeryens that don't need dragons to spray everybody with blasts of fire.
It looks so flipping gorgeous that you'll think you're in a real place.
Obviously the demo that we played was running on an impressive GeForce GTX TITAN X Graphics Card, which the casual gamer might not be able to get their hands on. But trust us, there's a lot of amazing little details to take in during "Witcher: The Wild Hunt," even if you're on a regular console like the XBox One or the Playstation 4. The tassels on Geralt's costume jostle as you move, and his beard actually grows in real time. His horse Roach will even eat apples on the ground while you're not paying attention.
But the coolest thing, both Iwiński and Michał Platkow-Gilewski claim, is all the little treasures you can discover all over the game. "Even though we are creating the game," Iwiński told us, "what really surprises me is I can find a detailed story in the places I believe no one should go." Meaning that you could stumble upon a tiny cave that has nothing to do with the quest you're on, and you might find an item that connects to the rich history of the world in a really satisfying way.
Basically anything can happen.
Most games these days try to give you an opportunity to impact the way that the story you're enveloped in plays out, with various degrees of success (ironically, the two game studios that are most known for their efforts in this field are Bioware, which produces the "Dragon Age" series, and Telltale Games, which is currently working on a licensed "Game of Thrones" tie-in. So if you need even more fantasy, check those out as well!).
"The Witcher: Wild Hunt" is definitely one of those games -- according to Platkow-Gilewski there are 36 different ending states, which creates an environment "where your decisions really matter and the consequences are quite often not forseeable."
You get to kill hella monsters and it is rad as HECK.
Some people only got hooked on "Game of Thrones" because they thought they were watching a show about warring families and political intrigue that just HAPPENED to exist in a made up world (like my aunt, whom I maaaay have tricked into watching the first season by explicitly telling her there were no dragons -- whoops), but then got caught up in all the giants and whitewalkers and mysterious king-killing shadow babies and couldn't turn away.
Now that "Game of Thrones" has completely been embraced by the mainstream, you don't have to be ashamed of your love for weird fantasy tropes any more! Go ahead, cast those spells and slay those dragons! No one's gonna think you're a weirdo when you excitedly tell your coworkers about that giant griffin you took down singlehandedly -- and if PROJEKT RED is right, "Witcher" might have that same level of complex real-world themes that "Game of Thrones" has on top of it all.
"Witcher: The Wild Hunt" comes out for XBoxOne, PS4, and PC today.