I have to really like a game to read its books. Actually, that’s true of pretty much any flavor text. But it’s especially true of ingame books. I suspect game developers think they’re tricking me by putting backstory into ingame books. They think I’ll read every single ingame book just in case it teaches me a spell or gives me experience points. They’re right. Finding a book and not opening it to see if anything happens is like finding a chest and not opening it. You just don’t do it.
After the jump, Nilfgaardian best sellers
So far, there aren’t that many books in The Witcher 3. Which makes them easier to read. I’ve only found about a dozen. And I keep getting repeats. Royal Lineages of the North seems to be popular. At least it had a big print run in Nilfgaard. I’ve seen a few extra copies of A Sword for Witches the same way you always find a few extra copies of Grapes of Wrath in used book stores.
But what really makes my Geralt an avid reader is that the books are short. They’re no longer than the notices on the notice boards that I tear down so no one else can see them (which seems like a dick move). Every book I’ve found is a single page of text. I don’t have to turn to the next page, which is something Bethesda loves to make me do. In Skyrim, I’m paging through some turgid fable about an elf maiden and her lover wondering, dear god, how many more pages is this going to be? But I don’t even have to scroll down when I read a Witcher 3 book. They’re each one single page, entirely fitted into a single frame. Okay, so the bottom three lines of She Who Knows are below the frame, so I have to scroll that one down. Not so much scroll as scooch. She Who Knows is the War and Peace of Witcher 3 books.
The real test of whether you’re invested in a game’s lore is the journal. Do you click through each of the entries just to make that “hey, you haven’t seen this yet!” exclamation point goes away? Leaving those up is also like not opening a chest. Or do you actually read the journal extries? Like the codex in Dragon Age or the space codex in Mass Effect, the Witcher 3 journal fills with pertinent worldbuilding details as you reveal them. But unlike most journals, it’s not just a dry recounting of backstory. It has a voice. Like the Gospels, it’s an account related by a very specific witness, as reliable or unreliable as the witness himself. In this case, the witness is a foppish bard named Dandelion.
I’m not sure whether Geralt has ever met Dandelion in person. I’m not sure whether his journals are like the Gospels in the Bible, each written by someone who never met or even saw Jesus. I seem to recall Dandelion was in The Witcher 2, but maybe I’m just remembering his voice from reading his biography of Geralt. Didn’t Dandelion go on adventures with Geralt and some dwarf? At any rate, it’s not like he’s Sancho Panza to Geralt’s Don Quixote. He’s no Robin, Clank, Peter, or Podrick. But he has a very specific voice, he regularly updates his work, and like the rest of Witcher 3’s literature, he understands the value of brevity.
Although I should be clear that what Dandelion writes is not a journal, because the J key is for your quest log. Which isn’t the L key, because the L key is your alchemy screen. Which isn’t the A key because A steers Geralt to the left. Which isn’t the L key because WASD. The journal/codex/lore catalogue in The Witcher 3 is a glossary. Press the G key.