(sharon) #1



The Witcher 3’s fiery

deuteragonist, CIRI


irilla Fiona Elen Riannon, Queen of Cintra,
Princess of Brugge, and Duchess of Sodden,
had novels of history before players ever
met her in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
Although we had become well-acquainted
with Geralt of Rivia and his supporting cast of men,
mistresses, and monsters during the first two games,
his adopted sort-of-daughter Ciri had yet to make an
appearance, despite her prominence in Andrzej
Sapkowski’s Witcher Saga.

Time is short, even in a
60-plus hour RPG, so the
team at CD Projekt Red
needed to think carefully
about how to introduce Ciri
to players elegantly and
efficiently. “Ciri has a very
rich backstory—a princess,
child of Elder Blood, heir to
the throne of Nilfgaard, a bandit, a magician,” says
principal writer Jakub Szamalek in reference to just some
of Ciri’s adventures in the Witcher Saga. They couldn’t
impart each of these formative stories, Szamalek says,
knowing that it would be a deluge of backstory.
Instead they chose two focuses: Her relationship with
Geralt, and her ability to traverse through space and time.

literal books of backstory that CD Projekt Red didn’t have
time to deliver directly. “Conveying all this to the
player—subtly, between verses—was one of the biggest
narrative challenges we faced.”
Geralt, his on-again, off-again sorceress lover Yennefer,
and Ciri together form an unconventional family unit.
Although the scene in which Ciri reunites with the group
at the witcher keep Kaer Morhen is many players’ favorite
for Ciri’s speechless excitement and Yennefer’s
uncharacteristic squeal of excitement, Szamalek has
another favorite moment.
“I think the scene where Yennefer and Geralt
eavesdrop as Ciri’s negotiating with the Lodge of
Sorceresses encapsulates their relationship best,”
Szamalek says, describing the scene where Geralt can
choose to accompany Ciri for an important discussion
with the powerful sorceresses or allow her to go alone.
The tone of the scene changes vastly based on Geralt’s
decision. With Geralt present during the discussion,
there’s tension in the room accompanied by an eerie
soundtrack. If Geralt stays behind, he and Yennefer banter
outside the door debating whether to listen in.
“Here, you can see that Yennefer and Geralt respect
Ciri’s agency, trust in her,
but cannot resist the
temptation to check how
she’s doing,” Szamalek says.
“In this brief scene, they are
both encouraging and
protective, proud of how far
she’s gone and anxious to
what awaits her. I think any
parent will recognize this tension—and I’m very happy
that we managed to portray it.”

One particular callback to Ciri’s adventures in the Witcher
Saga shows how CD Projekt Red chose carefully between
allusions to past events and full retellings. The rose tattoo


One of Geralt’s quests
belonged to Ciri originally

on Ciri’s thigh comes up in Wild
Hunt during her time at a hotspring
with villagers who rescued her from
the sea. The player can choose to
have Ciri mention that the mark is a
memory of someone special who has
died, but the story is left at that.
In the Saga, the tattoo is a
memento of Ciri’s lover Mistle during
her time with a group called The
Rats. “There wasn’t really space for
unpacking this complex episode in
the Wild Hunt—and it’s a shame,”
Szamalek says. “In this moment of
life, Ciri gave in to her darker side,
followed her worst instincts. Showing
this transition, and the remorse
which followed, would have made a
great story.” Although it’s a shame
that Wild Hunt could only afford
brief flashes and references to Ciri’s
backstory, Szamalek says of Ciri’s
time with The Rats, and if we’re
thinking wishfully, her other
adventures, “Maybe it’s something
we’ll get to revisit in the future.”
Lauren Morton

“The former was key to establishing
an emotional connection between the
player and the character [they were]
supposed to chase after for upwards
of 60 hours,” Szamalek says. “The
latter explained Ciri’s special role in
the universe, and allowed us to make
Geralt’s investigation a little bit more
mysterious and convoluted.”
Despite Ciri’s place as the arguable
main character of Wild Hunt and the
pin on which the plot later turns,
Geralt remains the protagonist and,
for the majority of the game, the
playable character. Sections in which
the player takes control of Ciri are
few and far between, making them a
precious resource for portraying
Ciri’s personality outside Geralt’s
supervision. “She has a playful, even
impish streak Geralt lacks,” Szamalek
says. “She’s unimaginably powerful,
but at the same time struggles with
self-doubt and runs away from her
fate.” Each of Ciri’s scenes had to be
layered with complex and often
conflicting emotions to get across the

“My favorite reference is a tiny encounter
which actually doesn’t feature Ciri. When
arriving in Oxenfurt, the player, controlling
Geralt, can come across a conman
presenting a ‘basilisk’ in a cage. Geralt
recognizes that the monster in question is
actually a [wyvern]. The creature breaks
free a moment later, and it’s up to our
favorite witcher to clean up the mess. This
whole encounter is a nod to a scene from
The Time of Contempt, where Ciri goes
through a similar event.”
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