Skip to main content

Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

On the day The Witcher 3 next-gen update arrives, we remember our favourite stories about it

Eager to go Crookback?

Geralt of Rivia, glowering at the camera, hand on the hilt of a sword. It's the game's cover art.
Image credit: CD Projekt Red

It's Witcher day again! A cool seven-and-a-half years after The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was released, a brand new next-gen update has arrived to make Geralt's Big Adventure look better than ever.

I thought I'd take the occasion to celebrate some of the things we've written about the game over the years. We've done some good stuff, you know, and I'm not just saying that because I wrote some of it, I promise!

Let's start at the top, with what's happening today: the next-gen update. This is free and brings, most notably, a buffed up Performance mode and brand new Ray-Tracing mode to the game - for newer consoles and PC. There's a lot of incidental stuff in there too, though, such as quality of life improvements to controls and camera angles and much more.

And, there's brand new content in the game - a new Scavenger Hunt quest to unlock Geralt's armour from seasons one and two of The Witcher Netflix show. I've played this and it's a good quest, though don't get overexcited, it's only one good quest, not more. You can also now toggle on or off the Nilfgaardian 'ballsack armour', as it's colloquially known these days, and Jaskier/Dandelion's look from the show - though I'm sure it's the topless look people are really after.

If you're curious about what DF makes of the full release, know that Tom Morgan is working on a video about it right now - I can see him doing it on his desk behind me in the office. He's found a few frame-rate drops, too, but that might be tidied up at any moment in a new patch. He estimates Sunday will be when his video is ready.

Here's what Digital Foundry made of The Witcher 3 next-gen update after our recent visit to CD Projekt Red. Tom Morgan is currently working on a new video to reflect the full patch release. I'll input it here once it's done.Watch on YouTube

That out of the way, let's go back in time a bit. One of the pieces I still pinch myself about having the opportunity to write was when I embedded myself at CD Projekt Red for a few days while The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt launched. That means I was there, inside the studio on 18th May 2015, when the game was released to the world. The Polish Prime Minister even showed up at one point.

One way or another, The Witcher has resulted in some memorable reporting opportunities for me. It's why I hopped on a train five years ago to meet the person who created it all: Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski - a person who, at the time, had a fearsome reputation time for not liking video games.

Andrzej Sapkowski and me - best friends forever.

He was at a book launch event in Birmingham so I arranged an interview there, and the encounter resulted in one of my favourite photos ever taken: he and I, side by side, me looking delighted, him looking fed up - I laugh at it still. The truth of it, though, was that he was delightful company, spirited and full of stories, as I suppose you'd expect.

The Witcher was also why I hopped on a train to meet a man called Doug Cockle, who was teaching acting at Bournemouth Arts University. He's a well known name in games now, of course, as the voice of Geralt of Rivia, but back then, his story was relatively untold.

I was lucky enough to catch up with Cockle again recently, to see how things had changed. We talked about The Witcher Netflix show and him meeting Henry Cavill, and we talked about whether he'd been called up to do any voices in the new Witcher projects CDPR is currently working on - The Witcher remake and The Witcher 4/Polaris. And this time I recorded it all as a podcast so you can watch it too. What a lovely man.

Doug Cockle, the voice of Geralt of Rivia in The Witcher games. But who does Geralt's voice better, me or him? This interview begins with a showdown.

The popularity of The Witcher was also why I decided to learn to become one. You read that right: I learnt to become a Witcher. I flew to Witcher School in a freezing cold Poland and stayed for a long weekend in a castle stripped of any signs of modernity, while in costume, to learn the witcher ways. It's an experience I'll never forget. But after several years of operation, The Witcher School has now closed.

But it's not all about me! He says, several hundred words later. Here, in no particular order, are some of the other pieces about The Witcher that I recommend you read.

  • What The Witcher 3 got right - Former Eurogamer editor-in-chief Oli Welsh was the person who originally reviewed The Witcher 3 for us. I remember my CD Projekt Red contact turning their phone to me on the night the game came out, and our review was published - we were in a mall in Warsaw at a midnight launch event for the game. I didn't know what the score would be so I held my breath, but Oli had given it an Essential and called it "the best role-playing game in years", so I breathed a sigh of relief. And his love of the game hadn't faded five years later when he wrote this piece.
  • The Irishness of The Witcher 3's Skellige - Eurogamer contributor Cian Maher is one of the biggest Witcher fans I know of. Here he is, writing about the real-life Skellig isles from his homeland of Ireland, and the dark folklore that surrounds them. And here Cian is again, writing about what you can do once you finish The Witcher on Netflix and fancy dipping into the books. Where to start? It's a question often asked.
  • The writing of The Witcher 3 - Unsurprisingly, bringing the huge story of The Witcher 3 together wasn't an easy job, and here, Keith Stuart talks to lead writer Jakub Szamalek about how it was all achieved.
  • The making of The Witcher 3's greatest villain - Who is the game's greatest villain? It isn't an obvious answer, although it might be if you've played the Hearts of Stone expansion. Here, Kirk McKeand talks to senior Witcher 3 writer Karolina Stachyra about how that villain came to be.

Also, if you're embarking on a new playthrough and want to collect everything this time, or perhaps you're playing for the first time and need a bit of help somewhere, then we've got many guides to keep you covered.

Read this next