As you may have guessed, we love single-player games. We share our love every day through the work that we do, but the pace of this industry means that we rarely get the opportunity to stop and look back.
Join us this week as we celebrate the best that single-player gaming has to offer as part of Single-Player Appreciation Week.
Countless articles on The Witcher 3 praise it for its plethora of content and offerings, and while I could go into detail on its RPG mechanics, world building, lore, and characters, the focus of this piece will be to honor the game’s side quests. Geralt of Rivia is a monster hunter for hire and, while the game has players experience a main story that is extremely personal for Geralt, the quests collected throughout his profession prove to have some of the most memorable moments in the game. A good number of gamers play video games for their narrative offerings and The Witcher 3 is a title that excels in that respect. In addition to its primary narrative of Geralt locating and protecting his adoptive daughter Ciri, The Witcher 3 contains secondary quests that further develop the world and characters around Geralt. One cannot deny that The Witcher 3 has set the bar for industry standards for meaningful and invigorating side quests.
Ghosts of the Past
Many quests within The Witcher 3 are gated behind certain requirements before becoming accessible for the player. Some players will complete the entire game seeking the 100 percent completion rating, while not realizing that it is unattainable due to a specific choice of dialogue from the beginning of the game. ‘Ghosts of the Past’ is one such quest, and it is only available to those who chose to spare Letho, the main antagonist of The Witcher 2. It can alternatively become available to those who select the dialogue option that indicates the survival of Letho during an interview after the game’s tutorial.
For this quest, Geralt is hired to investigate ghostly occurrences at an old farmstead, where a woman believes it to be haunted. Upon further investigation, Geralt finds Letho hiding in the attic and seemingly on the run from hunters. After the events surrounding The Witcher 2, Letho found himself on the run from hunters hired by Emhyr var Emreis, who now sees him as a threat due to his knowledge of their agreement. Once Letho explains his situation, Geralt can offer up his services to aid the fellow Witcher, and by doing so will continue the quest to fight for his freedom.
The significance of ‘Ghosts of the Past’ is that it provides more character development for Letho, who, up until this point, possessed a villainous persona. For those who did not fully grasp the concluding events of The Witcher 2, ‘Ghost of the Past’ further elaborates Letho’s motives for his actions previously taken and humanizes the man behind the knife. By the end of this quest, players will have understood that Letho is not much different from Geralt. Obviously, they are both Witchers, albeit from different schools, but in terms of principle and desire they are not that far off. Letho’s actions in The Witcher 2 were done out of contract requirements by Emhyr var Emreis, to which he was hired to assassinate a rival king to the Nilfgaardian Empire. Letho’s execution of the contract was done out of duty and obligation per his Witcher code, regardless of political allegiances.
Once the quest is complete and Letho is safe from hunters, he and Geralt have a final respite where Letho thanks Geralt for intervening while discussing what comes next. At this opportunity, players who have forgiven Letho can invite him to Kaer Morhen, where he will, in time, aid players in the Battle of Kaer Morhen later in the game. Choosing to ignore this option will see Letho talk about going to Zerrikania to spend some time there. Regardless of choice, this is one of, if not, the final moments Geralt and players will share with Letho, providing a fitting conclusion to their story.
This side quest is kind of cheating since the majority of its quest chain is a requirement for story progression; however, its concluding moments are only witnessed by players who are willing to take the extra time and aid the Baron in a personal matter. In short, ‘Family Matters’ is a questline that finds Geralt at the estate of the Bloody Baron, otherwise known as the Baron of Velen, while on the path to finding information on Ciri’s whereabouts. The Baron, while withholding information from Geralt, tasks him to locate his wife and daughter, who have gone missing. ‘Family Matters’ contains a variety of twists and turns that serve the character development of the Bloody Baron, making his character arc arguably the most interesting in all of The Witcher 3.
Without spoiling any details of this truly interesting questline, Geralt eventually gathers information on the Baron’s wife and daughter, while collecting his own on Ciri. After the Baron has revealed everything known of Ciri’s time in Velen, Geralt proceeds to part ways, but not before the Baron makes one final request of Geralt to help him unify his family again. Players who choose to take time away from the main adventure and help the Baron will witness a conclusion to a story that has taken up nearly 10 hours of their time.
To discuss the significance of the concluding side quest to ‘Family Matters’ without providing narrative context and spoilers is difficult. The story arc of the Bloody Baron is one that surprised many players upon first encounter. Initially, the Baron presented qualities that are held by that of a ruthless leader, toying with Geralt’s desire to locate his adopted daughter. A quick turn of events shortly after proves that not everything is as it seems in Velen, as the Baron provides backstory to his missing family members and the relationships they have. By the end of the quest, the Baron is a broken man, desiring nothing else but to recover what he has lost and find a better future.
Aiding the Baron with his request will see Geralt traveling back to a location that players visited earlier in the questline. Here, players will be rewarded by witnessing the past 10 hours or so of gameplay culminate into a showdown that will determine the fate of the Baron and his family. Depending on decisions made throughout the questline, players will experience different conclusions to the Baron’s story, either good or bad. Regardless of what happens, players will never forget the tragedy of the Bloody Baron.
The Last Wish
Perhaps the most significant of the side quests in The Witcher 3, ‘The Last Wish’ is a throwback to Geralt and Yennefer’s fateful first encounter. Based on the source material provided by the novel of the same name, ‘The Last Wish’ seeks to provide a fitting conclusion to the twisted fate of Geralt and Yennefer’s relationship. In the short story titled Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski, Geralt’s first meeting with Yennefer is detailed in the events surrounding a magical Djinn and three wishes. During the climax of the story, the Djinn is wrestling against its captivity with Yennefer, who is trying to capture it for personal gain. Knowing they no longer have the strength to contain the Djinn, Geralt makes one final wish to save the town and Yennefer, although readers never know what that wish entailed. All that is known is that after the Djinn was freed, Yennefer, who despised Geralt up to this point, was now enamored by him, and that their fates would forever be entwined.
In The Witcher 3, the side quest of the same name sees Geralt and Yennefer once again seeking to summon a Djinn and tame its power. After some lengthy struggle between the two characters and the Djinn, Yennefer is successful in capturing it. Before the quest ends, the Djinn bargains for its freedom, offering to relinquish the magic that has bound Geralt and Yennefer since their first encounter. Out of her desire to know if what is held between them is true, Yennefer agrees to the Djinn’s demands and the original wish made by Geralt is then broken.
After the Djinn is freed, Geralt and Yennefer have some time to recover after the battle, reconciling the events that unfolded. Since the magical hold determining their feelings for each other is no longer present, Yennefer confesses that she had expected to see Geralt in a different light post-wish, one where the feelings she once had would be gone. To her surprise, however, nothing changed, and her love toward Geralt was stronger than ever now that she knows it is genuine. During this moment, players are able to decide whether they would like to continue their romantic involvement with Yennefer, or end things on a somewhat mutual level. Since The Witcher 3 emphasizes player choice, CD Projekt Red has allowed players to craft their own relationship with characters throughout the story, leaving the fate of Geralt and Yennefer’s love in their hands.
Freedom of choice aside, ‘The Last Wish’ side quest provides a superb conclusion to the twisted destiny of Geralt and Yennefer’s love that predates the video game series. Fans of both the book series and video games will not want to miss out on this optional side quest, as it further develops the relationship between Geralt and Yennefer, while simultaneously providing context to why and how their fates are connected. Regardless of how players decide to continue this relationship, Geralt and Yennefer remain important influences on each other’s lives, undoubtedly making for some interesting family encounters with Ciri.
Do Not Skip the Side Quests
These optional quests are only a taste of the quality that The Witcher 3’s side narrative can pertain. Numerous secondary quests exist throughout the game that contain callbacks to stories in the books or flush out character development with important figures in the story. Players who take the time to experience all The Witcher 3 has to offer will conclude their adventure with Geralt quite differently than those who solely focus on the main story. This includes, but is not limited to, certain endings, powerful allies, and deeper narrative context.
Everyone who played The Witcher 3 while ignoring certain side quests should have another playthrough and take the time to appreciate the quality of writing they have to offer. Although the narratives of both expansions were absent from this article, ‘Hearts of Stone’ and ‘Blood and Wine’ both contain stories that rival the main game. If your experience with The Witcher 3 concluded before experiencing these two expansions, then you have done yourself a disservice and should rectify that as soon as possible. The Witcher 3 wasn’t named our fourth favorite game for nothing, after all.