This article contains spoilers for Andrzej Sapkowski's The Lady of the Lake novel, and events of The Witcher 3 video game.
As a fan of CD Projekt RED's Witcher games, albeit primarily the third, and subsequently Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski's novels that inspired it, I'm pleased as punch to see the franchise earn a Netflix adaptation, as reported last week.
Such a show, all fucking and fantasy and furious men making eyes at even more furious women (and, like, elves, and sorceresses, and so on) makes perfect sense, in these post-Game of Thrones days of stay-in entertainment. Not least of all because, if you read Sapkowski's earlier short stories featuring Geralt and company, it looks for all the world like George RR Martin has borrowed a handful of story beats for his own impressively popular fantasy saga.
If The Witcher 3 and its excellent expansion packs was effectively Game of Thrones: The Game (and more so than the Telltale version), the forthcoming TV show based on its source material is sure to be Game of Thrones: The Game: The Books of: The TV Show. If that makes any sense.
(And if not, don't worry—all you really need to know, going into the Netflix show, is this hunky dude Geralt, right, he's a witcher. Witchers are humans who've been subjected to all manner of frightful mutations as children, to improve their fighting ability and endurance, and they travel the land hunting down monsters in exchange for cold, hard cash. That's Geralt's daily bread—but the books, outside of the short stories, are usually about much more than pursuing a quarry for a little coin. There's romance! Rivalry! A charming vampire! An irritating bard! Buckets of blood and gore! Loads of politics! And more!)
When The Witcher 3 wrapped up with the release of the Blood and Wine expansion in May 2016, I wrote a little piece on three ways for CDPR to continue the franchise, given that Geralt's story was pretty much at its end. The studio's moved on for the time being, committing most of its time and resources to Cyberpunk 2077—but I am not done with this series yet, damn it. And while the TV show's cool, I'm excited, I really am hungry for more interactive Witcher-ing. That doesn't have to be in Geralt's boots—but it should be more than the Gwent card game that's in development.
Leave Geralt to the quiet life. It's Ciri who demands a game of her own.
My ending of Blood and Wine rang pretty true to what's in Sapkowski's books—in The Lady of the Lake, written in 1999 but only officially released as an English translation in 2017, it's said, at the end, that Geralt marries Yennefer, his long-time on-and-off partner (who, as aside, is a sorceress who could turn him inside out at any time), and they "had their own house afterwards, and were very, very happy. Like in a fairy tale."
These words are spoken, perhaps with sarcasm (and say no more Because Massive Spoilers), by Ciri, a character who anyone who's played The Witcher 3 through to its conclusion will know is probably the most important individual of the entire affair—the so-called "child of prophecy," the "lion cub of Cintra," she can travel through time and space, sometimes even on purpose. She's sort of Geralt's adopted daughter, thorough an in-fiction custom called the Law of Surprise. The details don't matter—all that does is that she's of massive importance to Geralt, which is why he puts his life on the line for her so many times, in book, game, and no doubt Netflix show to come.
And it's Ciri who I still feel—as I wrote a year ago— demands a game of her own. Leave Geralt and Yen to the quiet life; may Dandelion reap the rewards of running his Novigrad boozer; and Emhyr Van Emreis can continue to be a dick to everyone in that haughtily hostile way of his. What I wanted back then: "The Metal Gear Rising-style Ciri-gone-wild game that we all want, surely." And now: the very same, still.
There's a handful of sequences in The Witcher 3 when the player takes control of Ciri—and she's a twirling, slashing, teleporting superhero who makes Geralt look about as agile as a scarred lump of modeling clay. The standout for me is her brutal escape across Novigrad's Temple Isle—I mean, just look at how awesome she is, slicing all these dudes up during the game's "Breakneck Speed" chapter.
It was always a treat to switch to Ciri's perspective—but we really didn't get enough of it. I can recall four distinct instances, the above section included. There's the werewolf bit, which is the first time you control her; and the sequence with the bathhouse, and the fellow who takes a shine to her. (Did you crush his dreams, or lead him on? The poor lad.) Right at the end, she first takes the fight to Caranthir, the leader of the Wild Hunt, the game's end boss—but it's ultimately left to a properly pissed off Geralt, under your command, to deliver the deathblow. I know I've forgotten a few other bits—was there a horse race, at one stage? Ciri being on a horse rings a bell. Whatever, as the point remains: more, please.
The idea of a Ciri-starring game in which the player can make the most of her spectacular swordplay in a manner similar to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance's 360-degree "Blade Mode"—where everything goes slow and you can precisely position your blows, to make sandwich ham out of enemy limbs—gets my mouth salivating like mad. The books have, when necessary, made her out to be this ultimate ass-kicker; the games, though, have only offered this in fleeting glimpses. Indeed, her own creator has previously seen her as something of a monster, a savage killer with supernatural abilities—and to be let loose with that, in some supplementary story that doesn't overly impact on events of The Witcher 3, could be incredible.
Related, on Waypoint: A No Bullshit Conversation with the Authors Behind The Witcher and Metro 2033.
As the Netflix show will illustrate, there's a great well of stories within the Witcher books that the games simply haven't referenced to any meaningful extent—primarily because of the chronology of the franchise, with the games following on from the events of their source material.
Ciri's relationship with the bounty hunter Leo Bonhart, for example, would perfectly underpin an action-based game, relatively linear, a straighter A-to-B narrative than, say, this year's outstanding Nier: Automata, but possessing comparable combat (yes, basically, I want that sweet Platinum flow—CDPR, you know who to call). We hear nothing of the Rats in The Witcher 3, a Nilfgaard gang of Robin Hood-like robbers that Ciri was once an undercover member of. Nor of Ciri's encounters with unicorns, particularly the incredibly named Ihuarraquax, who plays a vital part in keeping her alive during the events of Time of Contempt.
I expect to see these things on screen, one way or another—but I've got to admit that it'd be so much cooler to play them, than it would be to just sit and watch, however much money Netflix throw at making these characters genuine household names. And, to refer again to The Lady of the Lake: I'd bet any money that in this video gaming world, a job could be found for a witcher girl, "because there isn't a world where there wouldn't be work for a witcher."