Let me get this out of the way to start with, The Witcher 3 is undoubtedly going to be the best game of 2015 for me. CD Projekt Red definitely succeeded in creating a western-style RPG that delivered greatly on all fronts, especially in terms of the character development. It is the standard to which new RPGs will be held against.
I am a huge fan boy and like all huge fan boys I am now going to be overly critical. The very heights they achieved with their well-crafted characters only lend to highlight all the ones that fell short. This is evident in more than just the side or one-off characters; this problem extends into the main cast as well, particularly the villains.
(The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already played the game. – The Gemsbok)
Badly Written Characters in The Witcher 3:
For example, the main antagonists of The Witcher 3 show a lack of any depth to their motivations. It has been pointed out in other online discussions that the big bad, the main villain, KIIIIIIING OF THE WIIIIIIIIIIIILD HUUUUUUUNT, Eredin, only has approximately 12 lines of dialogue. He comes off as so incredibly bland because of this. You never really get his true motivations for trying to capture Ciri or at least any motivations that make sense.
All you know is hearsay from other characters so you never really get to know him, which is a huge problem if you are trying to create a compelling character. If he is trying to stop the White Frost, why doesn’t he just let her and Avallac’h do it? Is he just trying to save his people? They already have the ability to teleport, albeit slowly, into other worlds to escape their demise. All this makes the final confrontation with The Wild Hunt even more disappointing than it really should be for something that is in the title of the damn game.
Besides the lackluster boss fight, the weird plot twist seemed incredibly rushed because nothing was introduced or hinted at before in the story aside from, “guess you can’t trust Avallac’h.” If anything, Avallac’h spiriting away Ciri should have been a whole additional fourth arc. This is especially grievous because in the end it really wasn’t that much of a twist, Ciri was in on it the whole time plus CD Projekt Red just hand waved the actual confrontation with what I guess is just climate change.
Now contrast this with the other antagonists in the story of The Witcher 3, like the crones and to a lesser extent Radovid, and Emhyr, the most prominent reason that they are better antagonists in the story is because they actually have lines. They have motivations. The crones’ reasons may be alien but they are actually explained and revealed over the course of their segment. When it came to fighting Imlireth and the Crones, who did you actually care to fight? The Crones of course, especially when the other option is just some dude you don’t really know anything about.
To see how well this could have gone you need only to look at the most recently released expansion for The Witcher 3, Hearts of Stone, to realize how much the main antagonists failed to be compelling. Both Gaunter O’Dim and Olgierd Von Everec both had deep and rich personalities that you really get to know throughout the story. Actually I am not going to spoil that one; get Witcher 3 and play two thirds of the main quest and then Hearts of Stone—you will get the best story elements out of the game. The only real reason to play the ending is for the epilogue, unfortunately.
Overall, this comes together to create an overarching story that isn’t all that compelling. The individual pieces and segments are superb but the lack of strong overarching villains and motivations make the whole less than the sum of its parts.
Why was Eredin trying to stop Avallac’h? If anything, they should have been conspiring together to end the White Frost and save their people. What does Ciri even do to combat it in the end? All these issues are just hand waved away in the epilogue to highlight what was done extremely well: the central father-daughter relationship. While this does work and I definitely did feel a sense of closure to the story, it just makes me wonder about how much more engaging the entire third act and the overall story of The Witcher 3 could have been if these qualms were ironed out a bit more.
The Witcher 3’s Worst-written Characters