Games of the Decade: The refreshingly unfiltered Witcher 3

“You’re grey like my grandma!”

I’d forgotten how funny The Witcher 3 is.

I laughed a lot while playing this game. I feel like an idiot telling you what amused me because it makes me look simple – but it’s the random things people would say. Things like a boy running past me and declaring, “You’re grey like my grandma,” or the plague cart guy suddenly realising, “Fucking hell that stinks!” I snorted when the guy I took a dive for, in a boxing match, called me a prick afterwards, and I’m still laughing remembering the person who passed me and farted.

I don’t want to paint the game as a crude comedy – it’s nothing like that – but what I want to get at is how refreshingly unfiltered it all is. The Witcher 3 isn’t the fantasy costume party you’ve been to so many times before. It’s a world, like our own, where hard work makes hard people who ain’t got no time for pleasantries, and it feels so real because of it.

If it weren’t real, and weren’t unfiltered, it wouldn’t have been able to deliver something like the Bloody Baron. His is a story of domestic and parental abuse, a place so dark other games would flinch at the prospect of it. But not only did The Witcher 3 go there, it took time to try to change our minds about what we think we ought to believe. The Baron wasn’t simply slung in as another monster for us to fight, but rather a real, flawed human to try and understand.

The Bloody Baron features heavily in this. What’s great about his beautifully crude language is you can’t help but laugh at it, which softens him up, endears him to you, and makes the situation he’s embroiled in – and the final blow it deals – more powerful as a result.

It’s a great use of light and shade. By lightening the mood it creates room for hefty moments to breathe underneath. Hit everything one note and you’ll send people to sleep, and stories will be forgotten, but keep the mood rising and falling, and you give everything a chance at standing out. And so much in The Witcher 3 does stand out. Every day there’s another surprise, every day another delight, in a world of stories, not just one.

There are many more layers which come together to make The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt a classic, but it’s the world which sparkles for me. No other fantasy I’ve played has felt so mucky and rich, so real.

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