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OPINION: My Take On A (Possible) Witcher MMO

Poorna Shankar Posted:
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I wrote last week about how I’ve been playing Witcher 3 quite religiously these last couple of weeks, ever since the Netflix show reignited my love for the game. This week, I figured I’d try my hand in discussing what a potential Witcher MMO could look like.       

When and Where

Before we get into anything like mechanics, combat, and the like, the most important thing to discuss in my opinion is the setting and time period. The world of The Witcher is so damn rich in history that it’s very easy to forget that the books and games take place in a very narrow slice of time compared to the age of the world at large.

You may or may not know that the Netflix show and the games take place on The Continent, effectively the landmass of The Witcher. Within The Continent lies many kingdoms. For the purposes of this discussion, I’ll refer to Witcher 3 when I refer to the games unless I indicate otherwise, purely because this is perhaps the game with which most people are familiar.

Witcher 3 takes place in the Northern Kingdoms when Emhyr var Emries is invading from Nilfgaard, which is in the south. But this isn’t the first time Nilfgaard has attempted to invade the north. In fact, this is technically Emhyr’s third time invading the north.

You get a glimpse of young Emhyr in the Netflix show, where he goes by the nickname Duny. The Fall of Cintra takes place during the First War with the North led by an older Emhyr. Having a game set here would be interesting, but it looks like this is the time period in which the Netflix show will play out (at least initially), so to me at least, it would feel like retreading ground.

I mentioned previously that the history of this world is ancient. There was an event called the Conjunction of the Spheres roughly 1500 years before the novels and games which brought forth monsters, magic, and humans into the world. But even before this, dwarves and elves lived on the Continent for over 1000 years.

This is where things get interesting. As I see it, there are three potential time periods in which a Witcher MMO could take place. The first would be right before the show, specifically Ciri’s timeline and the Fall of Cintra, and in the Northern Kingdoms. This is what I’ll call the recent past.

Think of this setting like LOTRO in which you’re following the Fellowship, as it were. You’re not Geralt, Ciri, Yen, or any of the other major characters, just like you’re not Aragorn, Frodo, or any member of the Fellowship in LOTRO. Instead, you’re just some guy who is in the world just before the events of the Fall of Cintra. And like LOTRO, you meet up with important characters from the books and games as you quest and explore.

The second setting would take place shortly after elves and dwarves arrived on the Continent, effectively genesis. I’ve always been extremely interested in how things began, so having a game set here would be really cool. As a player, you could take part in shaping the Continent. However, given that this is before the Conjunction of the Spheres, choices for race and a lack of magic would be extremely limiting from a gameplay standpoint…

This brings me neatly into the third option, having a game set just a few hundred years after the Conjunction of the Spheres. During this early period, there was a lot of unknown, making it an optimal moment in time for a game. From a gameplay standpoint, selection of multiple races would be available, plus the inclusion of magic. I always find the unknown to be fascinating, and so having a game set so far in the past would almost paradoxically seem new.

The What and How

From a storytelling and quest standpoint, I’m heavily biased towards Elder Scrolls Online. I know this game has its fans and detractors, like any game. But I personally love ESO. I love its focus on story and characters, in addition to its outright freedom in many respects.

In that sense, I’d want a Witcher MMO to take a similar approach with a heavy focus on quality storytelling. This means little to no fetch quests, and little to no FedEx quests. Considering virtually every quest in Witcher 3 feels unique and tells its own story, I’d want the same care and effort implemented into an MMO.

With respect to freedom, again I take inspiration from ESO’s approach. I absolutely love the fact that I can walk basically anywhere and the content will scale to me. It isn’t “level-gated” as was MMO design in the past. I’ve heaped praise previously on its One Tamriel and Tamriel Unlimited updates, and I’d like to see the freedom brought by those updates implemented into this hypothetical Witcher MMO.

The Continent is absolutely massive. My playstyle is centered almost entirely around exploration. There are few things I love more in games than picking a direction and just walking, exploring for the sake of exploration.

This sense of exploration and openness is not without merit, as it’s a key pillar of gameplay in Witcher 3 even more so than its predecessors. Allowing the player to explore The Continent with no restrictions would merely help sell the size and continuity of the world.

I’d also love first person and third person perspectives. Personally, I absolutely love first person and so it’s my primary choice. But I can totally see why third person, which I use during group play in ESO, would be greatly beneficial for spacial awareness. For me though, exploring the vast world of The Continent in first person would really sell the size and scale while also grounding me and providing me that amazing sense of immersion I love from this perspective.

Classes and Combat

Classes are one thing I’m slightly torn on. I fully understand the appeal of classes. They provide structure and guidance, while simultaneously forcing you to think ahead and make a meaningful choice with respect to how you wish to play the game for the next tens or hundreds of hours. I get it.

On the flip side, I see the benefits of having no classes, providing complete and total freedom. For players like me, I like that lack of restriction. However, I think for this Witcher MMO, I’d prefer to have classes, but not have those classes completely restrict your playstyle. After all, how many of us know for absolute certainty the exact playstyle with the exact type of armor and weapons we want to play for the next hundred hours? I’d wager people like that are the exception, not the rule.

Therefore, I’d want classes to act as a starting template, as a guide to help get you going as you figure out how you want to play the game. Classes could be Sorceress, Druids, Mage, Doppler, etc. Continuing with this theme of player choice, I’d want full choice in which armor and weapons I use, with new skills tied to those weapon class and armor class, and not necessarily to player class.

As far as races go, the world of The Witcher is filled with plenty. Personally, I’d like to have our choice of Humans, Elf (include Aen Elle, Aen Seidhe, and Black Seidhe), Gnome, Dwarf, Godling, Halflings, Nymph, Succubus, Higher Vampire, and of course, Witchers.

Factions could exist in Scoia’tael (even though this didn’t exist for centuries later, but shh), Witcher schools (even though they weren’t technically created some time after the Conjunction of the Spheres), and various rising kingdoms. The level of granularity required for Class, Race, and Faction is something which requires, to be blunt, actual experience in game design, something my amateur armchair musings will in no way bear out.

As far as combat goes, I’m personally not a fan of “traditional” tabbed targeting. I like faster, more fluid, skill-based, active combat. So here, I’ll propose a combat system similar to Conqueror’s Blade. I think such a combat system would suit the world and setting more so than slower, more deliberate systems. Mouse buttons would bind to primary and secondary attacks, with QERT or 1234 serving as skill abilities.

Let the Fun Begin

What I’m proposing here isn’t new in the slightest. These are just the thoughts of one man, taking part in a fun thought experiment. I’m sure some of you may agree with what I’ve discussed here, while still others may be typing away furiously disagreeing with everything I’m saying.

However, this is the type of Witcher MMO that I’d like to play. This is a game I can see myself having fun playing. The true point, really, is that the world of The Witcher is absolutely massive. There are so many different ways a game, whether it be MMO or not, could be designed. This surface-level discussion is what has been rolling around my head for the last week or so, and so I figured I’d share with you folks. We may never get a Witcher MMO, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun dreaming.


Poorna Shankar