The Witcher games have proved to be a huge worldwide hit, with Wild Hunt selling millions of copies across the globe. While many people will only be familiar with the franchise due to CD Projekt Red’s titles, the truth is that the series is actually much older. The original books on which the games are based on first released in 1993 and became a hit in Eastern Europe before being translated into other languages.
With a new Netflix series on the way, The Witcher is about to be introduced to an even wider audience. Those who want to know as much about Geralt and the rest of Andrzej Sapkowski’s fictional world might well have to choose between playing the three games or reading the eight novels Sapkowski’s has written.
Each type of media certainly has its own strengths and weaknesses. There are some things that the games do better and others that the books are far superior at exploring. If you want to know which is right for you, this article will run you through the things each medium gets right.
20 Worse: Making The World Realistic
Although the games don’t focus too much on fantasy, trying to create a somewhat realistic experience, the truth is they don’t always pull this off effectively. On the other hands, the books are far grittier and have a far more solid base in realism. For instance, Geralt is not some superhuman, but an individual who is genuinely vulnerable and not just a hero.
19 Better: Being Less Dark And More Fun
Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels have a reputation for being particularly dark and bleak A lot of what goes on in the stories, such as Blood of Elves, is depressing and full of tragedy. Meanwhile, the games forsake some of these darker themes to create a more enjoyable experience. Players can have more fun because of this as they are not bogged down by the overly depressing elements of the novels.
18 Worse: Humanizing Geralt To Make Him More Relatable
The games portray Geralt very much as if he is a superhuman heroic savior who can battle powerful enemies and come away unscathed. This is a simplified version of his character that is very different in the novels. The books show Geralt as a more relatable person, with wants, vulnerabilities, and struggles. He finds it difficult to get contracts to earn enough money to get by, giving him flaws that make it so you can relate to him more.
17 Better: Having A Focused Story
One of the things that the games do better than the books is keeping a more focused narrative. As the novels deal with a wide variety of issues, such as the political situation in the world, they struggle to keep the story focused. While the games do branch out, they have a more linear plot that is easier to follow.
16 Worse: Getting The Complex Morality Right
In The Witcher games, the morality of the world is set out in a very black and white manner. This is very different in the books. There is a more complex system of morality in the story, with people doing what they have to do in order to survive in such a harsh word. It creates more depth that forces you to think about the actions of the characters, especially as Geralt struggles to come to terms with not being able to remain completely neutral.
15 Better: Characters End Up More Likable
The harsh world of the books gives most characters a more rugged and rough personality. They need this kind of characterization in order to survive in such a dangerous environment. This is not a problem in the games where the world is a bit safer, giving the characters a more likable persona that you can get invest in.
14 Worse: Establishing The Backstory
With six novels and two books filled with short stories, there is far more material to get to grips with than there is in the games. This means that the author Andrzej Sapkowski has been able to have an expanded backstory in terms of the world and the characters, giving you more insight into exactly what is going on and why people act the way they do.
13 Better: The Pacing Of The Story
A major problem that many readers have cited with Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher books is that they are not paced very well. The fact that they deal with complex political and philosophical themes means that the central narratives sometimes takes a back seat. This does not happen in the games, which balances the split more effectively so that the story keeps a constant pace.
12 Worse: Having A Huge World
No one can deny that The Witcher games have huge open worlds, especially if you look at Wild Hunt. Yet, the developers were only able to fit so much due to performance and time constraints. Meanwhile, the novels are free to roam from country to country as necessary, creating a much larger world to explore.
11 Better: Making Geralt Feel Like A Hero
Although the books do humanize Geralt a bit more, the games make him feel like a very powerful protagonist. This is important as players would not want to control a feeble character. Instead, they want to be able to battle huge monsters and deadly foes. So the games portray Geralt as a stronger and faster character, who feels like a proper hero and warrior.
10 Worse: Telling A More Complete Narrative
The games start with Geralt having amnesia and not knowing much about his former life. While this provides a blank slate for players, it means there isn’t as much focus on everything he has done and the rest of the story. The books are able to provide a more complete narrative that gives readers a better understanding of everything that has happened to Geralt and the world around him.
9 Better: More Suited To A Western Audience
Although the novels have proved popular in their native country and Poland, they have not found as much fame outside of Eastern Europe. A major reason for this is that the text has had to be translated from Polish into languages such as English. These types of translation are never perfect and always lose something from the original prose. With the games, this isn’t as much of a problem and they are therefore better suited to Western audiences.
8 Worse: Showing Different Characters Interacting
The nature of video games means that the focus of The Witcher titles has to be almost exclusively on Geralt. However, there are many other characters in the franchise that are just as important as him and play an equally important role in the narrative. The books allow you to see these characters interacting with each other rather than just with Geralt.
7 Better: Making Geralt An Effective Protagonist
The Witcher games make Geralt more like a traditional protagonist. This gives the character a more appealing personality so that players can easily put themselves in his shoes and feel as if they become him while playing through the campaign. He isn’t as sly or sarcastic so you can easily assume his role.
6 Worse: Explaining The Thoughts And Motivations Of Characters
With the game’s focus being almost entirely on Geralt, you rarely get to know what other characters are feeling or what their motivations are. That is unless they are talking directly to the protagonist or interact with him in some other way. Of course, this is less of an issue in the novels where you are able to examine their thoughts directly.
5 Better: Bringing The World To Life
Many people enjoy reading because they can use their own imaginations to bring the world to life. On the other hand, there is nothing like seeing a world realized in such a beautiful and vivid way as is the case with the video games. The wide cast of characters, the various creatures, and the range of settlements & towns really help to engross you in a world that feels authentic.
4 Worse: Attaching You Emotionally To The Characters
Due to the fact that you get to know more about the other characters in the franchise and see more of their thoughts, it is far easier to get emotionally attached to them in the books when compared to the novels. This gives important moments in the story more drama and emotion as you can emphasize with the characters. It also can lead to you feeling their tragedy in a more visceral manner.
3 Better: Making Geralt Handsome
In the books, Geralt is often described as an unappealing man. He is not exactly conventionally attractive, with his long thin body and unpleasant voice. The games make Geralt more charming so that it is easier to be sympathetic towards him. He’s bulkier and has a more wholesome voice that helps make players like the character.
2 Worse: Giving Different Perspectives Of The World
Another advantage of being able to experience the point of view of other characters is that you get different perspectives on events. This is not really possible in the games but the novels can pull it off. It ensures you have more context and don’t just have one character’s thoughts so that you can more fully understand what is going on and how something affects all the people involved.
1 Better: Involving You In The World
Books are great but they cannot match the interactivity of games. The Witcher games really involve you in the world and make you feel as if you are a part of the story. Meeting characters and fighting monsters feels more authentic when you actually take on the role of Geralt rather than just reading about the things he has done.
Sources: Kotaku.com, GameInformer.com, Polygon.com, IGN.com, Forbes.com, Eurogamer.net, PCGamer.com.