The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, video game, box art, Geralt, Witcher, sword

The Witcher effect

Our The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review may still be in progress, but that’s not going to stop Ben: he’s had an idea that would bring a more cosmetic change to Geralt than just beard growth…

Title overview

Name: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Release date: May 2015
PEGI rating: 18
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
More information: Official website

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Ben says…

Just to be awkward, I’m going to start an article about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt by talking about Mass Effect. BioWare’s classic set a benchmark in the genre, most notably for its branching conversation trees and player-decision options that would not only alter the course of one game but others in the series too. Another of its legacies was the option to choose the sex of Commander Shepard, the legendary player-controlled character, which was another choice impacting how the story would pan out – especially when romancing characters came into the equation.

Irrespective of which sex the player elected to roll, BioWare included full dialogue and cutscenes for both, armour sets to fit the different body shapes and appropriate non-player character (NPC) reactions for the gender. That you could also customise the appearance of Shepard (which would carry across all three titles should you so wish) enabled the developer to deliver the story they wanted and at the same time make it feel unique to each person who played.

Shepard was the player’s to mould and develop as they saw fit. They could be good, evil or somewhere in between. The world, and the game, would react accordingly and consistently no matter which route, sex or look was chosen. In my opinion, it was a masterstroke and a trick they’ve repeated in Dragon Age.

I can’t tailor Geralt’s appearance to how I imagine him to look and there’s no option to change sex. It doesn’t make the title any better or worse: it simply dilutes the roleplaying experience.

I’m a big fan of role playing games, especially the huge ones where I can really get lost in my character. When I’m playing the avatar onscreen is effectively my residual self-image (hello Matrix!) for that particular game-world and all the decisions I make in-game are the same as I would were I presented with the option in the real world. To that extent I feel one step disconnected from Geralt of Rivia. He already has a certain personality that I have to stick to that, beard-growth and hair-style aside, I can’t tailor his appearance to how I imagine him to look and there’s certainly no option to change sex. It doesn’t make the title any better or worse: it simply dilutes the roleplaying experience for someone like me.

Now, imagine if the player was given the same level of customisation with Geralt as they were with Commander Shepard. You could make your Witcher how you wanted, drop them in the world and see how it reacted. It would add not only another level of immersion but also make every playthrough even more unique and personal to the player.

Yes there are all manner of constraints as to why this can’t happen and I’m fully aware that Witchers can only be male (because reasons), the game is based on a series of novels, Geralt’s adventures are canon and the plot of the title is such that it wouldn’t work with an original character. I get that, don’t worry. However, just allow yourself to imagine what it would be like to drop your own personal Witcher into Kaer Morhen and see how things develop… I, for one, would love it.

Do you agree or disagree? Would you like to see your own character in the world of The Witcher or are you happy to lead Geralt on his journey? Let us know in the comments below!

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