In the last of our The Witcher Week posts – falling conveniently enough on the same day that the Netflix series premieres – let's talk about the story in the video game trilogy, and what impact it may (or may not) have on the streaming service series as it possibly moves into second-season-and-beyond territory.
Let's start with some background on the video games:
12 years ago, CD Projekt Red published the first game The Witcher after the final novel came out in Poland in 1999. The first game was successful enough to spawn two sequels, The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings in 2011 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in 2015. The trilogy was not only one of the best role-playing video games of this century, but also an ambitious fantasy saga that matches the original books.
The story of the trilogy is actually a non-canonical sequel to the novels. It takes place after the end of the last novel, though its relationship with the books is complicated. No one has really written about how the games are an official sequel to the books.
Several stories from the first two story collections, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny are actually reconstructed and adapted into the games. The opening cutscene of the first game adapts Geralt's battle with a Striga that from the start of The Last Wish.
A sidequest in Wild Hunt also adapts a story from Sword of Destiny where Geralt has to find a doppler, a changeling who has been causing havoc impersonating the important people in a town and stealing their money. Wild Hunt even features a quest called "The Last Wish" that's a sequel to the original story. In the game sequel, you actually get the chance to choose whether Geralt fell in love with Yennifer on his own or if it was the djinn's spell all along and end their romance once and for all.
It's Like Playing Through Three TV Seasons
Each of the games contain literally tens of hours of story. That makes them the equivalent of playing through three very long TV series.
The Witcher begins with Geralt found unconscious and without memory of who he was before. He's nursed back to health by sorcerous Triss Mergold and his fellow witchers. Then he embarks on life of a witcher from scratch. He gets drawn into a political game where he's has to decide whether to side with an Elven guerilla army, a human army or maintain a witcher's neutrality. As the player, you become Geralt and your decision leads to different outcomes.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is a direct sequel that begins with Geralt accused of murdering a king. He's has to find the real assassin – a rogue witcher – before a major pact between kingdoms is disrupted. Once again, you play as Geralt and decide which side to take which can change what story you experience.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt finds Geralt with his memory restored and now searching for Yennifer and Ciri. This is where they finally appear in the games, which replicates the feel of the novels. Ciri is hopping between worlds and the Wild Hunt wants her for her powers. Yennifer and Geralt have to help her prepare for a final battle to save multiple worlds. They also have to reckon with their relationship at last and decide if they want to continue. You, the player, get to decide. Wild Hunt moves towards the endgame of Geralt's parentage of Ciri. His (your) decisions determines her fate, including whether she lives or dies at the end.
"The Witcher" TV Series: How the Games Impact the Show
Series showrunner Lauren Hissrich said the show adapts Andrzej Sapkowski's books, but you can already see plenty of visual references to the games in the trailers. Our image of Geralt and his world come directly from the games, and the show's designers seem to know that. You could say the games have also moved way beyond the scope of the show already, having covered the beats from all the books.
Henry Cavill said he got to be inside Geralt's head when he played the games. Playing the games means being Geralt, so that was how he did his internal research. He had to make Geralt's decisions as he tried to pick the lesser evil. Everyone who played the games became Geralt for their duration That's a level of immersion and empathy different from reading a book or watching a show. It'll be interesting for people who played the games to experience the show.
Join us when we cover each episode of The Witcher over the next few days.