A few nights this week have seen me wandering the streets of Vizima, The Witchers’ first major city, unraveling plot threads and engaging with the locals. Antics involving a shady dwarf, a questionable guard commander, a few games of poker and a lot of drinks were constant and joyful.
It’s seriously impressive to think that this game was CD Projekt’s first. Many medieval cities in games are more microcosms of a city environment than a living, breathing space. While I’m sure there’s a bit of development magic gone into making Vizima feel so alive, it does so much to provide a mood and larger-than-life feeling that’s hard to get in similar games. The streets feel alive with people going about their own days, the buildings rise around you oppressively and the interiors feel like lived in spaces. Despite the more obvious places where budgets forced some cuts (the very small number of character models stand out for example) CD Projekt have done so much with so little.
It’s strength lies in the city’s independence from the player. Where a place such as Skyrim’s Whiterun feels like a toy box that comes to life as the dragonborn interacts with it, only for it to pause upon the players departure, Vizima feels like it has history,like it will go on with or without your engagement. The city holds both a slight hostility and an indifference to you in its walls, which is oddly freeing in a way that other games aren’t. You don’t have to be the hero in this space - you are already on your own path with your own goals, and as a Witcher you engage with other people through necessity rather than curiosity - you need to earn gold to live, and you do so by slaying monsters. Whether you care or not about the situations others have found themselves in is entirely up to you. That’s refreshing, even 10 years after release.
This is definitely a series I want to take my time and soak in, and already I can understand why it has become such a cult classic. Very much looking forward to digging in as the game and series progresses.
Games Left to Play: 114
Currently Playing: The Witcher