"Video games are fiction, but the emotions are real." I don't remember who said that, but I remember it well because this perfectly illustrates the feelings accompanying interaction with our favorite medium. With a well-directed script, in front of the screen, we may rejoice, be sad, get angry, shed a tear or cry.
One game that was definitely very emotional was The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Despite being released over eight years ago, it is still often considered the opus magnum of the Polish studio CD Projekt Red. If you ask an average player about the event that moved them the most, the dramatic death of a particularly significant character in the storyline is often named this moment.
The remainder of this news contains major spoilers from The Witcher 3. They concern the second half of the game, so we recommend those of you who have not finished it to stop reading now.
You might have guessed we're talking about Vesemir, whose life is literally squeezed out by Imlerith during the battle for Kaer Morhen. Dunno about you, but I did shed a tear – not precisely when Uncle Vesemir drew his last breath, but at his gripping funeral, as the White Wolf turned his hollow gaze toward the smoke spiraling from the pyre. I wondered which of my choices had influenced this turn of events, even though deep down I knew I probably had no control over it.
But I regretted that it befell on Vesemir. I even regretted calling him out for playing cards in White Orchard... though the crossbow he won came in handy. It turns out that this effect was fully intended, deviously conceived by Pawel Sasko, the main quest designer in The Witcher 3.
- Interview with Pawel Sasko
CDPR's lead quest designer gave us an interview, which you can read in full by clicking on the link above. When asked about the emotions in the game in general and the death of Vesemir in particular, Sasko said:
GP: I assume such quest could only be done at a stage when the previous threads that led up to it had already been mostly tied up?
PS: Yes, relatively. Everything was still changing anyway, because this process is always prone to changes. This is work of constant iteration. So, if earlier stages of the plot would have been changed, my entire plan for the Battle of Kaer Morhen would suddenly collapse. It was absolute madness – the hardest quest I've ever done in my life. Also from the narrative perspective – because you know, this whole story arc with Vesemir, whom I had to kill... that was actually my idea. I had a problem with how to anchor Ciri in this story and how to properly change her in this segment to such an extent that her actions would be credible to the players. It had to be a real shocker. If the events that unfolded didn't have this magnitude – for example, they were just beaten and able to escape – then there would be no suitable trigger for her actions. It just had to be powerful. How to achieve that? Well, make it hurt. Because that would always hurt.
GP: By the way – why Vesemir, of all people?
PS: Because he was a very well-constructed character narratively, and I needed someone whose death would hurt Ciri. When you look at this story, its structure, the only other people were Yennefer, Triss... and maybe Zoltan? And I think that's it. Lambert and Eskel weren't important enough to her. And we chose Vesemir through the process of elimination. In the prologue of The Witcher 3, Vesemir is Geralt's mentor – even his father figure. And once we knew he would die, we decided we would set up an even more shocking stage for it. We did it to make sure it would hit as hard as it could.
Well, if you felt the same way as I did when playing through the third part of the series for the first time, we can only thank Pawel Sasko. And even though we realize this comes at an emotional cost – I wish there were more quests and games like this.
- The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt Switch Review – The Art of Compromise
- Review of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on PS4 – A Brilliant RPG That Needs Some Polishing
- Witcher 3 Next-Gen Review: Polished and Pretty
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt game guide