It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since the release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Its widespread and critical success made household names of both the Witcher franchise and video game development studio CD Projekt Red, and five years later we’re still waiting to hear more from the two, as the 2nd season of the Witcher Netflix series is set to release next year, and CDPR’s latest project Cyberpunk 2077 is set to release this September.
With a game as huge and content-packed as The Witcher 3, it’s easy to get carried away doing secondary quests, as each one makes the game’s environments feel more lived-in, further enriching the lore of the Witcher universe. Some of the secondary quests can also branch out to other quests or affect the main story depending on their outcomes. In The Witcher 3, there’s a lot of merit in completing those secondary quests, whether it’s for rare loot or a Gwent card, but some of the best secondary quests in the game are those that reward the player with unexpected cameos, humorous twists, and some cool extra lore to read up on.
In celebration of The Witcher 3’s 5th anniversary, let’s take a look at five of the most interesting and memorable secondary quests in the game. (Note: as some of these quests will reveal some details about the main story, be warned that there may be spoilers if you haven’t played the game yet.)
One of the things that makes The Witcher 3 so much fun is its tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. In the secondary quest, Of Dairy and Darkness, you’re tasked with finding your way through a maze clouded by a fatal gas, which you soon find out to be poisonous fumes from aging cheeses. The maze was created by a tyromancer, whose source of magic comes from the scents and maturing fumes of cheeses, and the reward for the quest is a sword called The Emmentaler.
I don’t know what’s funnier, the fact that you’re made to explore the lair of a cheese warlock, or that the reward for the quest is a sword named after Swiss cheese. Either way, Of Dairy and Darkness is a prime example of how The Witcher 3 masterfully shifts between tones from its serious main campaign to its whimsical and absurd secondary quests, providing the player not only with those epic monster-slaying sequences but also some moments of lighthearted fun.
Master of the Arena is one of those video game side quests that pit you against a seemingly impossible enemy that you can only defeat through unconventional means. The solution however, is much simpler than needing a secret item or weapon, and it flew right over my head for the first few attempts I made at fighting this “boss”.
When you arrive at the arena in Hov, you discover that it hasn’t been used in years due to a wraith that haunts it. Once you talk to the villagers about it, you find out that the wraith’s name in his human life was Ulle the Unlucky, and that he was cursed to never win a fight, even in the afterlife. If you engage Ulle in combat, he won’t pose any difficulty, but every time you defeat him he’ll only respawn. In order to truly defeat Ulle and lift the curse on the arena, you have to let him win. It’s one of those galaxy-brain meme moments that just leaves you feeling dumbfounded that you didn’t think of the solution sooner.
In the Polish fantasy world of the Witcher franchise, despite all the magic and trickery in it, there’s still a need for some good ol’ black market forgery. Fake Papers is basically a quest to get a forged border pass, as mega-douche King Radovid closed off all borders to Redania and now requires anyone who wants to enter, to present a border pass.
Fake Papers is a short and simple secondary quest, but its presence in the game makes for a more immersive experience. Much like Paperchase, a secondary quest in the Blood and Wine expansion that requires you to walk around a bank to fill out forms to withdraw some money, Fake Papers lets Geralt engage in the activities of the Witcher universe’s common folk. It’s like seeing Geralt head to Recto to get himself a fake ID, as if he couldn’t just cut down and Aard away every Redanian guard in his path.
As you travel through The Witcher 3’s huge map, you’ll encounter all kinds of NPCs, from lowly merchants and master blacksmiths, to vampires and werewolves. It’s rare to encounter a fellow witcher, but when you do, it makes for an interesting secondary quest.
In Where the Cat and Wolf Play…, you meet Gaetan, a witcher from the Feline School with a mysterious air about him. You find out that a massacre that occurred at a nearby village through which only a single young girl survived, was actually committed by the hands of Gaetan. He explains that he was given a monster-slaying job by the village people, only to be shortchanged after he had completed his task. When the village people tried to ambush and kill Gaetan instead of paying him, he retaliated by slaying them all, save for one young girl that reminded him of his sister.
Where the Cat and Wolf Play… is an interesting look at the troubles that witchers face when they offer their services to the common people, and as Geralt, you get to decide whether to kill Gaetan for his actions or to spare him. With Geralt’s history as the Butcher of Blaviken, it feels like you’re in no place to decide Gaetan’s fate, and it’s a tough decision to make. It’s one of those Witcher moments that show the audience how nothing is ever as simple as black and white. They ought to call Geralt the “Grey Wolf” instead (*ba-dum tss*).
Ghosts of the Past is a treat for those who’ve played the first two games in the series prior to The Witcher 3. If you played The Witcher 2 and decided to let a certain witcher from the School of the Viper live, you’ll be glad to find that your mercy won’t go unrewarded in The Witcher 3.
In Ghosts of the Past, you make your way through a trap-filled farm to find Letho, the Viper witcher and kingslayer, hiding and on the run from Emhyr. Letho drags you into battle as armed men suddenly appear, and from there you and Letho go on the run to find whoever put a bounty on his head. It’s a series of investigation and combat tasks that feels like the Witcher universe equivalent of Bad Boys for Life (2020), and if that’s not fanservice enough, you can even ask for Letho’s help in the endgame during the Battle of Kaer Morhen. There’s no need to fear the Wild Hunt when you’ve got Letho on your side.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is chock-full of interesting and memorable secondary quests, and the ones above are just the first ones that came to mind. If you still haven’t played it in the five years since its release, I highly recommend that you give it a try now. It’s available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch, and if you’re lucky you might even be able to get it on sale on digital stores for $20 or less.
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