The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt releases next week, and it’s already been getting some stunning reviews: Gamespot gave it a 10/10 (a score only awarded to 8 games since the site’s inception), Eurogamer called it one of the best open worlds they’ve ever seen, and Game Informer labeled it the future of RPGs. The positive press is a good sign for a game that has promised a lot, including a world that is 35 times the size of The Witcher 2. There’s always the worry that the hype will never live up to the gameplay, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for The Witcher 3.
The Witcher 3 looks like it’s going to be an amazing addition to the RPG genre, with thousands of small and big decisions that all have lasting consequences, characters whose stories develop in surprising and intimate ways over the course of the game, a world that would take weeks or months to explore properly, and a story that’s intriguing, complex, and emotionally charged. And all of that isn’t even why I’m most excited about the game – no, the #1 reason I’m going to be playing The Witcher 3 as soon as it comes out is a princess named Ciri.
Historically, princesses haven’t fared well in video games – they’re often damsels in distress (á la Peach) or heroines who help the hero in significant ways but don’t get much combat or story time themselves (á la Zelda). But Ciri is a little different – she’s a princess, yes, but she’s also an apprentice witcher, a master swordswoman, and…a playable character (it’s so cool that the series’ first playable character besides Geralt is a woman). Yup, Ciri will have about 10 hours of her own gameplay, following her as she tries to escape the clutches of The Wild Hunt.
The story of The Witcher 3 follows Geralt on his journey to find Ciri, but she’s certainly not a damsel in distress – though the game doesn’t shy away from addressing the struggles women often have to be respected by those in power. As Gamespot reviewer Kevin VanOrd writes, “Ciri is not a damsel to be rescued, though it may seem so at first, especially in this particular world. This is a place where women struggle to find respect as political candidates, as armorsmithing masters, and even as proper members of a functioning culture.” It’s a world much like ours, where women may be shrugged off before they’ve proven themselves – and prove herself Ciri certainly does. Geralt may be looking for her, but he doesn’t have to save her; her swordsmanship is as good as his, and she can hold her own against some of the greatest enemies in the game – if anything, Geralt ends up playing a kind of catchup to a princess blazing her own path of survival.
And she doesn’t look much like a princess either – or like a bar wench. With the poles of female costumes too often caught between overtly feminine and overtly sexual, Ciri’s look strikes a nice, functional balance of form-fitting leather and a shirt that reveals little skin. Yes, her boots have seemingly unnecessary heels, and a bra strap pops out every now and then, but I like to look at these possible failings as ways of recognizing that women – even women in heeled boots – can be just as powerful as men, no matter what they’re wearing. Not to mention the fact that a long scar across her cheek gives her an air of rugged experience that is normally only reserved for battle-tested men, rather than peach-faced women. A ruggedness that makes sense, given that Ciri is described as a “powerful, living weapon capable of both healing and destroying the world she inhabits.”
And even though she’s a princess, Ciri isn’t a romantic interest. Geralt found her as a child and trained her in the ways of the witcher, so she serves as more of an adoptive daughter than an end goal for the hero. To see an intimate, platonic connection portrayed between the main female and male characters of a game – much like Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us – is really cool to see, and it’s a relationship model I would hope to see more games adopting. It adds a level of maturity to a game series that has already taken advantage of the resources that large-scale, adult fantasy has to offer. Game of Thrones (and A Song of Ice and Fire) certainly has benefitted from the richness and depth that is added by having main female characters, and I hope The Witcher 3 will benefit in the same way.
The best part is that Ciri isn’t even the only female character in the game – besides the many female characters found in side quests, The Witcher 3 features returning characters Triss, a powerful sorceress and one of the founding members of the Lodge of Sorceresses (an all-female group of mages), and Yennefer, another sorceress who serves as a kind of mother figure to Ciri. Seeing as both of these women have been love interests to Geralt at one point or another, though, it’s even more exciting that Ciri will be able to stand more on her own. I know that I, for one, am looking forward to playing as a capable, female swordmaster with mythical powers – what about you?
Let us know your thoughts about The Witcher 3 in the comments!