It wasn’t too long ago that I would’ve considered character creation an absolute necessity within the role-playing genre of video games. I grew up enamoured by games such as Oblivion and Skyrim all offering me the chance to embark upon my own adventure, all with the most idealistic protagonist possible.
But this all changed around the middle of last year. My stance on The Witcher 3 was slightly odd, considering I’m a fanatic fanboy of the role-playing genre of video games. In my research to prepare for the release of the game, I absolutely failed to grasp why anyone would be in the slightest bit interested by Geralt of Rivia, Witcher for hire.
In the first Witcher game he looked like a meth addict who’d been lost from civilisation for around a decade, and although the second game significantly changed the appearance of Geralt, he still didn’t exactly jump out at me as someone who I’d wish to spend 100+ hour with.
But perhaps I had it all wrong, because on release I was utterly captivated by everything that The Witcher 3 had to offer me. If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I love to preach about The Witcher 3 as though it was my occupation, but the game truly did change my perspective on the need for role-playing games to have a character creation feature.
Geralt actually boasts a fantastic back-story, that CD Projekt Red have worked tirelessly to properly incorporate from the pages of the book that I’m currently reading, to the game that I’m still continually playing over a year after release.
CD Projekt Red also very cleverly use Geralt’s back-story to inform the player, rather than having it restrict what he can and can’t do within the Witcher 3. He’s deeply in love with Yennefer in the books, but in the game you can take this lore and completely turn it on it’s head during the Last Wish quest, effectively forging your very own Geralt of Rivia.
You can have Geralt do things in the Witcher 3 that he’d never dream of doing in the books, and I respect CD Projekt Red for allowing the player to forge their own path as Geralt, instead of sticking tirelessly to the lore provided to them by Andrzej Sapkowski.
One of the defining traits of Geralt’s personality is that he doesn’t actually have that much of a personality, which at first seems incredibly strange. But CD Projekt Red have taken this, coupled it with the ability to stray from the source material, and effectively given each player their very own Geralt, that they can shape exactly to their liking.
The aspect that I found most appealing about Oblivion and Skyrim was the way the game let me step straight into the world, by using my created character as a portal. The Witcher 3 allows me to do exactly that, because CD Projekt Red have only created the appearance of the character they’re forcing me to play as, and leave the personality of Geralt entirely up to me.
I’d also like to argue for a moment that this is what Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain does extremely well. Kojima claimed that this game was him passing the metaphorical torch over to the player, to take control of their own Snake, and this is exactly what the game succeeds in doing.
I could either go through the entire, 60+ hour game (it’s been WAY longer than that for me) brutally murdering absolutely everyone in sight, or I could take a far more subtle approach, merely knocking everyone out and being the hero that all those soldiers on Mother Base claimed I was.
The nature of Big Boss being a character for the player to fully inhabit perhaps isn’t as subtle as it is in The Witcher 3, but it still has largely the same result. Although The Witcher 3 is a sprawling, open world experience and The Phantom Pain is a military sandbox, both present ready-made characters that only appear to have a foretold personality.
The Witcher 3 and Metal Gear Solid V have, to a degree, entirely reshaped my perspective on role-playing games needing to have a character creation feature. I no longer feel the need to put myself directly into the game I’m playing, and instead I feel fully comfortable with viewing the particular world through someone else’s eyes.