The reasons for The Witcher 3 endures five years laterTime: Jun. 8, 2020
Today marks five years since the launch of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and players from around the globe are still becoming enamored with its refined universe of monsters, magic, and madness. Its stories, and the game that holds them, continue to endure, but why?
The success and endurance of The Witcher 3 may be boiled down to a single sentence from Polygon’s original review that the Witcher 3 makes what should have been a terrifying risk look like the most natural evolution in the world. Previously known for The Witcher and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, developer CD Projekt Red had already established itself as a studio known for crafting great games — but not open-world games. So the team took the philosophy of its other, non-open-world games, which placed a huge emphasis on the quality of storytelling, and decided to rework it to keep what was special about its games, without compromising on that for the open world it wanted to create.
Philipp Weber, senior quest designer at CD Projekt Red, told Polygon that Our quest director Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz, who used to be the Lead Quest Designer on The Witcher 3, summarized it nicely for us, He said that the main goal [of The Witcher 3] was to combine the design philosophy of previous Witcher games, which was to create a complex and mature story that has choices and consequences, with an open world. There’s a really good example of this approach at the very beginning of The Witcher 3. In White Orchard, the tutorial area where you stalk a griffin, there’s a little house down by the river. An elderly woman is outside, claiming that the person in the hunt borrowed her frying pan but never gave it back. Your job is to find a way inside to investigate on her behalf. Sure enough, the pan’s inside. Conducting a little investigation around the hunt’s interior reveals more details — there are burned papers in the fireplace, and some of the writing is still legible.
Weber explained that there used to be this preconceived notion you would hear a lot that open world games can’t tell interesting or deep stories, So that was something we took up as a challenge. As it turns out, a particularly crafty spy had borrowed the pan because of how dirty it was. He scrubbed it clean and used the soot to write a coded message. But that’s not the cool part — on the floor, you’ll see a smashed silver monocle. One of Geralt’s companions from previous Witcher stories is well known for wearing such an accessory. And when you meet him much later on in The Witcher 3, you’ll find out that yes, he was there, in that exact hut. There’s more to the story than pans and soot: It appears the whole ordeal is part of an elaborate and ongoing plot to assassinate a king.
The Witcher 3 had other pop culture strengths, including the popularity of the book series the game franchise is based on and the recent, successful Netflix adaptation of those books. But none of that would have mattered if the game itself hadn’t been good. New fans are finding The Witcher 3 all the time, joining the veterans who have played since launch and still return. And it’s that living, cohesive world of choice, adventure, and story that keep them coming back. It’s a loyalty the team tries not to take for granted.