As the first in our recurring “The World of…” series, Nicholas introduces us to Witcherland. Found in the pages of Andrzej Sapkowski, and in CDProjekt’s hit games, this is a world of dark magic and arduous rites of passage.
Witcherland. It sounds like the least aptly-named theme park in existence. In actuality, Witcherland is home to some of the best Fantasy story telling in the last few decades. A lot of Witcherland is still unexplored and not really spoken about. The main domicile where most events take place is simply called “The Continent”. Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, despite creating a very detailed and enthralling Fantasy world, left the naming of his universe up to the fans (who would choose the name “Witcherland.”)
Sapkowski first published the short story “Wiedźmin” (Polish for the Witcher) in 1984. I doubt he anticipated the longevity of the universe he created. Currently, there are six books in The Witcher saga, in addition to numerous short stories. Unfortunately, only a few books are available in English, the third book only being translated this year. Due to this, I’ll be focusing more on the story and background presented in the video game adaptations, which take place directly after the books.
If it weren’t for Polish game developers CDProjekt, the story of The Witcher wouldn’t be a recognizable name to Fantasy and RPG fans alike. Lucky for us, CDProjekt had a passion for Sapkowski’s books. They released The Witcher, an RPG for PC in 2007. This was followed by The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings in 2011. The Witcher 2 is considered to be a near perfect sequel. It dropped the classic RPG look in exchange for some of the best graphics that video games offered at the time; however, it kept the unique mechanics that made the original so successful, like: spell casting, game-changing decisions, and alchemy. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is slated for release in February of 2015, and is one of the most anticipated next-gen games due to its incredible graphics and the hype garnered from the first two games.
When looking at the complex world of Witcherland, one will probably ask: what is a witcher? A witcher is essentially a human, but not entirely. They are humans who go through something called “The Trial of the Grasses,” a rough and deadly ordeal with a disturbingly high mortality rate. This practice, when done successfully, grants one superhuman abilities. Geralt of Rivia, the protagonist of the books as well as the games is in fact a witcher. The games take place right after the books, when witchers have become a rarity.
Geralt of Rivia is the most renowned witcher in the land and has earned himself the title of “The White Wolf.” This is in no small part due to Geralt’s white hair and pale skin, which were both uniquely caused by his experience with the Trial of the Grasses, in addition to a wolf medallion that he was given after his witcher training.
Witchers reside in Kaer Morhen, a key area in the books and games. Witchers are powerful, but make no mistake about it: They aren’t authority figures. Humans only view them as monster hunters. The continent, as it turns out, is plagued with harpies, vampires, manticores, trolls, wraiths, and numerous other frightening and devlish monsters. Geralt carries a silver sword for monsters and an iron sword for dealing with humans. Though they may be presently slaying monsters, the witchers were initially called upon to aid in humanity’s wars against in the dwarven and elven races. But once humans built up large armies, cities, and castles, witchers were cast aside and alienated. For the most part, they aren’t looked down upon as much as elves and dwarfs (who are viewed as second-class citizens), but witchers certainly aren’t accepted.
The first witcher game primarily takes place in a city called Vizima, in the northern kingdom of Temeria. Vizimia is the capital city of Temeria, which lies south of the Pontar river and is the domain of King Foltest. Vizimia is the largest city in Temeria and is an important place for trading. Divided into three districts, the most notable is Old Vizimia, which houses non-humans and is essentially a ghetto. Geralt of Rivea finds himself in Vizimia and its surrounding areas for the majority of the first game. It’s here that Geralt is thrown into the middle of a conflict between the Order of the Flaming Rose and the elfish fighters of the Scoia’tael….