Witcher 3 is known to be one of the most successful recent video games. It is a 3rd person role-playing game. Upon its launch, it surprised the players with the multitude of options and how much of the storyline relies on player’s particular choices, actions, or even lack of action.
For the sake of this analysis, I decided to focus on an episode that is quite significant to the entire storyline. In the Witcher’s war-ridden universe, Geralt, the protagonist, encounters his past love – Triss. The woman asks him for help with smuggling persecuted mages, herself included, out of the city of Novigrad.
Based on this request is an entire quest called Now or Never, which involves countless decisions that we, as Geralt, need to make – whether to save the mages or refuse to, try to save Triss’ friends or focus on all mages, express feelings for the sorceress and ask her to stay or let her escape with others. However, I do not intend to focus on any of these specific decisions, but rather on the overall decision whether to take up and complete the quest or not.
The creators made a very smart move by excluding Now or Never from the main storyline. As it is merely a side quest, it was expected that numerous players would not bother completing it for the sake of focusing on the main story. However, it turns out that whether we decide to take up the task or not, has a large, but underestimated effect, on the ending of the whole game.
The entire anatomy of the choice is very subtle therefore, it is exceptionally easy for the player not to pay attention to some of the choices that they make. Moreover, depending on how we approach the quest, we might have much more than 2 outcomes: the mages might be saved, or might die, Geralt might end up romancing Triss at the end of the game, or not, etc. Moreover, depending on the outcome of our decision whether to take up the task or not, even more decision options open up for us. Given that Geralt fully aids in the escape of the mages, new quests appear, where we might decide the fate of the ‘Lodge of Sorcerers’ and Redania’s King, Radovid.
I believe that the questline designers did a brilliant job camouflaging this specific choice in a way where players might even not realize that they are choosing anything, as in the opposite to most choices we make, we are not given option A, option B, etc. Instead, we are assigned a side quest that we might decide to follow, or ignore.
In terms of the interface, the creators of the Witcher saga did a good job minimizing the amount of screen covered by interface elements. Decision-making is usually based on dialogue choices, that also have low opacity and cover as little of the screen as possible, which is how we choose to take up the task and help Triss or not.