Daniella Lu­cas is... The Trav­eller

Dani takes a short city break in The Witcher 3’s Novi­grad

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Some­times when things get a bit much all I want in the world is to run away some­where and get lost for a while. Un­for­tu­nately that’s re­ally not a very good idea in real life what with all of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and these pages not be­ing able to write them­selves. The only an­swer is a short week­end get­away, and since I can’t fund con­stant trips to lovely for­eign cities, it’s up to games to save the day. Step in The Witcher 3 with its brood­ing hero and wind-blasted scenery, and while gal­li­vant­ing around the coun­try­side is also fun, I’m here to take in some cul­ture and get lost in what makes the lo­ca­tions in this game feel so real. So it’s time to jump on your horse and ride off to Novi­grad for a proper city break ex­pe­ri­ence.

It’s such an im­pres­sively char­ac­ter­ful city that I of­ten find my­self just wan­der­ing around its crowded streets for hours tak­ing in the scenery, com­pletely ig­nor­ing any Witcher busi­ness that I’m prob­a­bly sup­posed to be do­ing. Walk­ing these streets as Ger­alt is the clos­est you can get to vis­it­ing an old Euro­pean city with­out hav­ing to leave the butt groove on your sofa. It’s won­der­ful to be able to get so lost in a place that you feel like at one point, some­where, it ac­tu­ally ex­isted.

The docks is where Novi­grad is at its most nat­u­ral, with hun­dreds of NPCs go­ing about their day. It’s also fan­tas­ti­cally dirty in a way that gives you a real sense of what liv­ing in the city is like. Muddy pud­dles line the streets, while drunks puke into the bay af­ter too many ales. Cour­te­sans dis­play their ‘wares’ on street cor­ners, and gruff men work up a sweat un­load­ing ships.

Whirl­wind tour

Fur­ther into the city you’ll start to find more recre­ational pur­suits, par­tic­u­larly around Hier­arch Square. The nar­row streets and hig­gledy-pig­gledy, red-

“Drunks puke in the bay and cour­te­sans dis­play their ‘wares’”

roofed build­ings open out into a large space dec­o­rated by ban­ners and filled with stalls. Bards put on shows, while a crier might try to con­vince you to go to a lo­cal event. There are mar­ket stalls with tempt­ing meats and fruit hang­ing from their awnings and larger shops are nes­tled around the edges. Of course you’ll have to get used to the smell of burn­ing flesh – as it’s also the site of witch burn­ings – but that’s a small price to pay for vis­it­ing such a beau­ti­ful city.

While you’re out ex­plor­ing you might bump into Witch Hunters pa­trolling the streets that add an un­set­tling pres­ence to an area when you see them. It’s part of what makes Novi­grad feel so re­al­is­tic; it’s not all pretty an­cient build­ings and im­pres­sive bridges, there are plenty of dark cor­ners to ex­plore too.

Class di­vide

The city is ac­tu­ally made up of two is­lands, with a large, cov­ered cross­way called St Gre­gory’s Bridge link­ing the two to­gether. The bridge marks the point where the classes di­vide – no­bles and rich towns­folk live on Tem­ple Isle, and so the ar­chi­tec­ture shifts. The houses are grander, the streets cleaner, and gar­dens are dot­ted around for peo­ple to en­joy. It’s a stark con­trast to across the wa­ter.

Wind­ing up the hill you fi­nally reach Elec­tor’s square and the Tem­ple of Eter­nal Fire, the high­est point in the whole city and the largest tem­ple in the en­tire king­dom. It’s an im­pres­sive sight, like a gi­ant bea­con that can be seen from miles away. While you can walk in­side to marvel at the flame within, you can’t climb its tower. It’s the one dis­ap­point­ment in what is an in­cred­i­ble con­struc­tion.

Every­thing about the city and how it winds its way up to its high­est point is worth tak­ing the time to ap­pre­ci­ate. It draws you in, and soon you re­alise you’ll have spent six hours just roam­ing the streets just to see what’s around the next cor­ner. It’s the best made city in any game I’ve played and it’s well worth a visit just so you’ve got some­thing to com­pare ev­ery other videogame lo­ca­tion to. n

You can see more of Dani’s gam­ing trav­els on In­sta­gram: @daniel­lam­lu­cas.

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