Postcards from The Witcher 3

Playing The Witcher 3 was a spectacular, standout experience. Despite not being mechanically very different from other roleplaying games, it manages to create a unique atmosphere and voice. This comes down to many different things, like the fantasy setting rooted in Slavic mythology, the mournful writing, and the commitment to naturalistic, believable world building.

It is nothing short of a masterpiece, and one of the most important games of the past 10 years.

I played the game on my trusty Playstation 4, and as always I took a bunch of screenshots while playing. Here are a few of them, selected in an attempt to give you a sense of the atmosphere of The Witcher 3.

Novigrad

Seven Cats Inn

Velen

Novigrad

White Orchard

White Orchard

White Orchard

Velen

The magic of the unknown

After some months of abstinence I’ve gone back to Skyrim. The extra content in Hearthfire and Dragonborn pulled me back, and I realized there are still quite a few things for me to discover amidst the original game’s snow, ice and dragons. The world threatening conflict of Dragonborn adds a bit of much needed energy to the old world, so I’ll probably not finish that quest line quite just yet. You see, once I finished Skyrim’s main quest the last of the tension, the life, the sense that anything could happen, poured out of the setting and it became a less interesting space to be in. Dragonborn mends that a little bit, but only a little.

It wasn’t just finishing the main quest – it was the 90+ hours I had sunk into Skyrim. After so many hours I knew that everything I would do, everything I would encounter, would be variations on a theme. I’ve realized that if I’m to be immersed in Bethesda’s game there needs to be something unknown waiting on the other side of the next mountain. If the world is to feel alive, there needs to be systems I still don’t know, like hidden treasures of potential that could allow me to interact with the world and its inhabitants in new, deeper ways. If that potential would ever deliver was of less importance than the potential itself.

I can’t help but to do draw parallels to life itself. When I was younger life used to feel like an ocean full of unturned stones. But then I grew up and realized that while there were still plenty of stones to turn, I had already seen all kinds of rock – and every stone I’d flip in the future would end up being one of those. I know the mechanics of a life now. Life, death, work, love, family, promotions, redundancies, achievement, failure, disappointment, pride, oceans, mountains, cities, stars and empty space. Tomorrow won’t surprise me, and neither will the next decade.

Perhaps the dreariness this results in is a big reason for why people believe in not only gods, but UFO landings, life after death, magic, conspiracy theories and everything else that spells “faith”. Anything at all that promise an unknown country hiding somewhere beyond the horizon. Something that whispers “there is more” into your ear when the earth beneath your feet is about to give way.

Hope. I used to dislike the concept, but I get it now. We all thirst for it. A vague, shimmering shape in the distance. The magic of the unknown. Some people pursuit it in religion. Perhaps a group of us faithless seek it in game worlds, as some sort of substitute. Did Skyrim show me some of the magic I no longer see in the real world?