The Witcher game series is extensive in lore, and backstory, and although the newest game in the series Witcher 3: Wild Hunt isn’t directly tied to the first two games, knowing what happened in these first two installments will further your understanding of the world, the witcher Geralt, and his companions. This recap will not cover every nook and cranny of the games, instead I will focus largely on each chapter of the game, and summarize the important things that happen in it.
It should also be noted that very little of the information mentioned in this article will pull from the Witcher Saga by Andrzej Sapkowski, the Polish author whose works the games are based off of. I am leaving the novels out of this, mostly due to their story taking place before the events of the game.
The Basic Questions Answered
Before we dive too much into the story, I’d like to clear up some of the basic information that you’ll need to know going into this world.
What is a witcher?
A witcher is a professional monster slayer who is trained from a young age to be the best he can. Witchers can only be males, and they are fundamentally transformed by mutagenic potions which help to heighten their senses, and ultimately make them the best monster hunters in the world.
Why does Geralt have two swords?
In the world of The Witcher monsters run rampant across the land. Geralt carries two weapons, a steel sword and a silver sword, because each weapon is more harmful to certain enemies. The steel sword is used mostly against humans, and non-humans, like elves, dwarves and so on. The silver sword, however, is used specifically against monsters because they are more susceptible to the material.
Well, wouldn’t using both swords at the same time work better?
Perhaps, but the reason that Witchers stick with weapons that can easily be controlled with one-hand is due to the nature of their magical abilities. Hunting monsters isn’t an easy job, and even witchers need all the help that they can get. This is where their magic, or Signs, come in handy. Using one-handed weapons makes it easy to switch up and throw out magic at their enemies. This allows them to make full use of their training and powers.
What do these Signs do?
So far there are five total Signs that players can make use of in the Witcher universe.
Aard is telekinetic wave that throws enemies back. It can be used to stun or knock opponents down. It is also useful for destroying obstacles like crumbling walls or barrels.
Igni is the pyromancer’s favorite Sign as it unleashes a gush of flame our from the witcher’s hand. It’s also great for detonating flammable objects and gasses emitted by some bombs.
Yrden is one of the most useful abilities for monster slaying as it traps your enemies, and wounds them over time. When upgraded it allows you to place multiple traps on the ground, fundamentally creating a barrier.
Quen is a protective shield that covers the witcher’s body for 30 seconds at the base level. It absorbs all incoming damage, and upgrade versions allow 50% of that damage to be redirected back to the enemy. The major drawback to this Sign, however, is that it keeps the witcher from regenerating Vigor (health).
Axii is a Sign that charms enemies. If the charm is successful the enemy will become the witcher’s ally for a brief amount of time, assisting in the fight.
You don’t start off with all these signs unlocked in the first game, however, you will have them all at the start of the second game.
What is a Source?
Later on in my breakdown of the second game I mention that Ciri is a source. This can be confusing to players who are new to the world. A source is a person who was born with innate magical abilities. Imagine ‘The Force’ but set in a fantasy world instead of a science fiction universe. Sources are fundamentally people with magical abilities, which manifest themselves at young ages. This can cause problems if the person isn’t properly trained to handle the transition, as even the least stressful of situations could cause their power to trigger.
It should also go without saying but... spoilers ahead. Read at your own peril.
The Witcher follows Geralt of Rivia as he struggles against amnesia. This part of the story picks up where the Witcher Saga ended, with Geralt half-dead after a mob began to attack non-humans in Rivia. Geralt, being the upstanding witcher that he is, stood and fought against the mob, falling to a man in the crowd. The dwarf Zoltan, and the sorceress Triss Merigold witnessed his death, however, his body was never found.
Geralt is found unconscious by his fellow witchers. They take him to Kaer Morhen, where he is treated. Remembering almost nothing about his life, Geralt struggles to find out who he is. During his time at Kaer Morhen, the stronghold is attacked by a group known as the Salamandra, where the mage Azar Javed, and an assassin called the Professor escape with mutagens and other belongings of the Witcher Order. This begins the long journey to figure out who the Salamandra are, and what their plans for the mutagenic potions include. From here the witchers all head off in different directions in search of information on their newfound enemy.
Chapter 1 – Outskirts of Vizima
Geralt travels south to Vizimia, the capitol city of Temeria, and home of King Foltest’s throne. It is here that he meets a young gifted child named Alvin, as well as Shani, an old friend whom he has no memory of. He learns that Vizima is in a state of quarantine, and also hears about the growing conflict between the Order of the Flaming Rose and the Squirrels, two militia groups in the area. After doing what he does best, slaying a few monsters, and making a few friends Geralt is allowed to enter Vizima. However, he is arrested before he can enter the city.
Chapter 2 – Temple Quarter
Geralt is offered his freedom if he will rid the city of a Cockatrice which is living in the sewers. He heads under the city and meets up with a knight of the Flaming Rose, Siegfried. Siegfried helps Geralt kill the creature, and then points him towards someone who can help him track down the Salamandra. Geralt continues is hunt, completing quests as he goes, and during the final moments of the chapter is comes face to face with Javed and the Professor. Unfortunately he is knocked unconscious, and the two enemies manage to escape.
Chapter 3 – Trade Quarter
Geralt awakens in the personal quarters of Triss Merigold. From here he eventually meets up with Princess Adda, one of King Foltest’s daughters. When she was much younger Geralt saved her from a curse which had transformed her into a feral beast. He uncovers evidence that she is working with the Salamandra. Shortly after he comes face to face with Azar Javed and the Professor, again, this time managing to kill the Professor. Adda then tries to have Geralt arrested, to hide her secret. But Triss Merigold teleports him away to safety.
Chapter 4 – Lakeside
Geralt cares for Alvin, and gives him an amulet that will help him control he unpredictable magic powers. The growing conflict between the Order of the Flaming Rose and the Scoia’tael (or Squirrels as they are often called) expands to the area that Geralt is hiding out. During a bout of fighting, Alvin becomes scared and teleports to an unknown place, never to be seen again.
Chapter 5 – Old Vizima
Everything hits the fan as civil war erupts across the land between the Flaming Rose and the Scoia’tael. All of the local non-humans join up with the Scoia’tael. Princess Adda’s curse is back, and King Foltest asks you to cure her of it. Geralt can either kill her, or actually cure her. Once he deals with Adda’s issue, Foltest helps him track down Azar Javed. He kills Azar, however, in the process he learns that the Grand Master of the Order, Jacques de Aldersberg, is working with the Salamandra.
While fighting with Jacques, Geralt and the Grand Master are teleported to a possible future that resembles the destroyed and ruined world that Alvin prophesied earlier in the game. Geralt learns that the Grand Master wanted the mutagens to create a race of super-human guardians that could protect humanity from the potential apocalypse. Once Geralt defeats Jacques, he finds the amulet that he gave Alvin back in Chapter 4. It is worn by time, and hints that perhaps Alvin teleported himself back in time and grew up to become the Grand Master, Jacques de Aldersberg.
Geralt stops an assassin trying to kill King Foltest after receiving his payment. After killing the assassin Geralt learns that he is a witcher.
The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings
The second game picks up a month after where the first game left off. At the start Geralt now works with King Foltest, who believes that Geralt is his ‘good luck charm’. Meanwhile Geralt and Triss Merigold have spent the past month trying to figure out who the assassin at the end of the first game was. However, they’ve turned up little to no information on the would-be assassin.
Prologue – Temeria
Geralt is held in a Temerian Prison for the assassination of King Foltest. Here he is interrogated by Vernon Roche, the commander of the Temerian Special Forces (known to most as the Blue Stripes). Geralt confesses that he witnessed Foltest’s assassination at the hands of another witcher, who managed to escape with the help of some Scoia’tael. Roche believes Geralt, and helps him escape with Triss Merigold to the nearby city of Flotsam.
Chapter 1: Flotsam
After their arrival down the shore from Flotsam, Triss, Geralt and Roche are attacked by Iorveth and the Scoia’tael. They manage to escape using Triss’s powers. Once they arrive at Flotsam Geralt is pulled into fighting a giant Kayran that is slowly destroying the city’s trade routes via the river. He manages to defeat the magically-induced creature with the help of sorceress Sile de Tansarville. After taking out the monster Geralt learns that Foltest’s killer, a witcher named Letho, has betrayed the Scoia’tael, whom he was working with. They face off in a fight, which Letho wins, and then Letho kidnaps Triss, forcing her to teleport him to a nearby kingdom so he can take out his next target. At this point Geralt has to choose whether he will side with Vernon Roche, or Iorveth. The choice made at this moment vastly changes how the rest of the game plays out.
NOTE: I’ll be writing out the next two games in two different version. The first version will cover Chapters 2 and 3 as if you chose Iorveth. The second version will cover Chapters 2 and 3 as if you chose Roche's path.
Chapter 2 (Iorveth’s Path) – Vergen
Battles break out between rebels and King Henselt, the reigning monarch of Kaedwn. A curse is unleashed onto the battlefield. Geralt’s group manages to escape to the city of Vergen with the rebels with the help of the sorceress Philippa Eilhart. Here Geralt learns from Philippa that Triss is being held by members of the Nilfgaard kingdom, and that these people are working with Henselt. Geralt moves to attack the Nilfgaard camp, but is taken prisoner in the process. At this point Roche appears again, and helps Geralt, however, the ambassador manages to escape with Triss in tow. Afterwards Geralt breaks the curse on the battlefield, and Henselt’s army attacks Vergen. The army doesn’t take the city, however, as Geralt, the Scoia’tale, and the rebel leader Saskia hold them off. It is also revealed that Saskia is a dragon in human form, whose mind is currently being controlled by Philippa. Geralt and the group travel to Loc Muinne for a Summit of the royal leaders.
Chapter 3 (Iorveth’s Path) – Loc Muinne
Iorveth and Geralt find Philippa imprisoned when they arrive. Here Geralt can choose to either help Philippa escape, or go and rescue Triss. If he helps Philippa, she will give him a dagger that he can use to break the mind control that has been placed on Saskia. From here Geralt and the group heads to the royal summit where it is revealed that Sile, Philippa, and the other mages placed Saskia under a control spell in order to use her dragon powers to re-establish the Mage Conclave. They also hired Letho and the other assassins to kill the kings and weaken the countries. From here Geralt tracks Sile down and learns that Letho betrayed her as well. Saskia will attack in her dragon form. If Geralt saved Philippa, he can use the dagger she gave him to break the mind control. However, if he chose instead to rescue Triss then he must fight and kill the dragon.
Chapter 2 (Roche’s Path) – Kaedwen Camp
A battle breaks out between the rebels and King Henself of Kaedwen. A curse is unleashed upon the battlefield, and Geralt and his group barely escape to Kaedweni camp with Henselt. Here Geralt learns that many in the camp are conspiring against their king due to his allegiance with the Nilfgaards. Geralt also learns that Triss is being held captive by the Nilfgaard, but they escape before Geralt can save her. From here Geralt stops two assassins who try to kill Henselt, and learns that both Sile de Tansarville and Philippa Eilhart are working with the assassins. King Henselt has Roche’s Blue Stripes killed after he learns that Roche was spreading the rumors about him working with the Nilfgaard. Then Henselt defeats the rebellion, and Geralt can either let Roche kill the king, or spare his life before moving on to Loc Muinne to track down Sile, Philippa, and Letho.
Chapter 3 (Roche’s Path) – Loc Muinne
The group learns that King Foltest’s kids were kidnapped, and that one died in the process. Here Geralt must choose to rescue Foltest’s daughter, Anais, or to rescue Triss. Saving Anais will allow her to either return to Temeria, or be taken under the wing of King Radovid of Redania for protection. From here Geralt tracks Sile down, learning that Letho betrayed her as well. The dragon attacks, and Geralt can kill it or leave it gravely wounded. He never learns that Saskia is the dragon when taking Roche’s Path.
If Geralt rescues Triss the Mage Conclave is re-established. If he rescues the other person in one of the path’s, Letho blames the assassinations on the sorceress and a massive witch hunt ensures. Letho saves Triss, and reveals that he and Geralt used to be allies. He then also reveals the assassination plot was all an attempt by the Nilfgaard Emperor to de-stabilize the region, and ripen it for invasion. Letho also reveals that he only agreed to the plot because the Emperor agreed to let him rebuild his witcher school. At this point Geralt reclaims some of his lost memories and remembers that he and his lover, the sorceress Yennefer, were nearly killed long again before being saved by Ciri, Geralt’s adopted daughter. It is also revealed that Ciri is a source, much like the character Alvin from the first game. Geralt also learns that the Wild Hunt, a mysterious group of spectrals, abducted Yennefer for her power, and that Geralt and Letho pursued them, and upon finding them, Geralt exchanged himself for Yennefer’s freedom. Geralt, of course, later escaped the Wild hunt, showing up near death and with almost no memory in the fields near the witcher stronghold of Kaer Morhen. This seals the tie between the first game and the second, and Letho also reveals that Yennefer is being held in Nilfgaard.
Nilfgaard begins their invasion into the north, moving quickly, destroying any villages in their path. Violence, death, and war rages through the world of the Witcher.
Josh Hawkins posted a new article, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Preparation – Witcher Series Recap
Last night I completed W1, and you give a good summary here :) Stopped reading there, though, as I enjoyed it enough to begin W2
No worries! This is mostly for people who don't have time to finish the first two games, or just have no interest in trying to before the release of the second game. (Or those who just need a brush up on info). I'm glad you enjoyed them enough though, currently finishing up Witcher 2 before I start on Witcher 3. They are by far some of my favorite RPGs. :)
Thanks for putting this up! I played through both games back when they came out but don't have the time, or the discs, to play them again before W3 comes out!