In addition to our main Game of the Year Awards 2022 (opens in new tab), each member of the PC Gamer team is shining a spotlight on a game they loved this year. We’ll post new personal picks, alongside our main awards, throughout the rest of the month.
If you’ve somehow missed Bathtub Geralt over the last seven years, then allow me to introduce you to our lord and saviour, Geralt of Rivia, aka the Butcher of Blavikan, Sir Ravix of Fourhorn. Whatever you want to call him, he’s the finest male protagonist to grace videogames, and now that The Witcher 3 next-gen update is finally here, I can tell you why The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is my game of the year. Again.
The next-gen update brings with it some much-needed quality-of-life improvements, a basic but enjoyable photo mode, and you can now show Roach a little love and give her a pat. The ray tracing is still a little iffy across PC and consoles, and while it’s still a phenomenal-looking game, The Witcher 3’s selling point has always been its story. A new questline to tie in The Witcher Netflix series has been added, complete with Henry Cavill’s iconic armour (opens in new tab). There’s also the option to switch things up and change the appearance of the Nilfgaardian armour to that of a pair of wrinkly testicles (opens in new tab) if you want to make this terrifying army look pathetic, like a slight breeze would ruin them.
Despite the violence, torture, and general depravity found in The Witcher 3’s story, there are tender moments where you can see a much more “human” side to the titular witcher. At its heart, the story focuses on a tired old dad searching for his adopted daughter, declaring his love to a sorceress—that’s Yennefer, thanks—and banding together with the last of his brothers and friends to save the world from a bunch of evil elves in skeletal armour. Just a simple fairytale adventure, really.
While there’s a lengthy main story to sink your teeth into, I still felt I had to emotionally steady myself before beginning a new playthrough, even if I can zoom into every character’s face in the most unattractive way with the new photo mode as a distraction. The Family Matters questline takes you through a complicated and at times extremely uncomfortable story about domestic violence and miscarriage which, even after seven years and several playthroughs, I still find a tough quest to power through. The opening hours can feel like a slog because everyone is miserable, the Nilfgaardians are wrecking the place and the despair is palpable—the perfect setting for a hero or two to emerge from.
Despite really liking Geralt, heavily influenced in part by Doug Cockle’s fantastic gravelly tones, he’s not a good guy in the traditional sense. He’s always taken his obligation to The Path, his vocation, and even to his child of surprise, Ciri, very seriously, but that doesn’t make him good. Sure he has a moral compass and, depending on your playstyle, you can shape Geralt to be more kind-hearted and, dare I say, more loving than other witchers you encounter, but at the end of the day, Geralt’s main aim is to remain as ambiguous and ambivalent about petty human squabbles as possible.
Pray tell, then, why I spent an impossible amount of hours helping people with their bullshit. While there’s always the option to walk straight past these individuals or tell them you’re too busy to help, completing these seemingly innocuous tasks often subtly changes the world around you which, at the very heart of it, is a witcher’s job. The Witcher books often weave in and out of different timelines, covering stories and events that shaped Geralt and lead to him finding his child surprise, and The Witcher 3’s sidequests do the very same, albeit mostly within a chronological timeline.
Without venturing off the literal Path, Geralt’s personality is a little stale and a lack of exploration and interaction will bite you in the ass further down the line—you certainly won’t earn any coin if you ignore people. A witcher is a master hunter after all, and if you want to roleplay as Geralt properly you’ll leave no stone unturned and no request unanswered.
Besides, if you don’t engage with any sidequests, you’re going to miss out on all the good stuff, like getting drunk and dressing up like sorceresses to prank call unsuspecting men, having sex with a bunch of hot witches, and tripping balls so you can talk to your horse and ask how it manages to fast travel to exactly where you are all the time.
The Witcher 3 has the best minigame of all time, too—I have a full Gwent deck in real life so if you ever want to throw down some cards, you know I’m game. Not only that, but the DLCs add on another 40 or so hours of gameplay—beautiful, wine-soaked gameplay with thespian vampires and making deals with a guy who’s really just a bald Satan—so it’s time to stop with the excuses and play The Witcher 3.