An in-depth breakdown explaining my thoughts about why Ciri should lead the next game. Many spoilers for the games and the books.
Why A Sequel With Ciri Makes Sense
By Noah Strasmann
January 20, 2021
Pt 1: Plans for a new game
I’ve seen a lot of debate online over what the next Witcher game will entail, and the question that always come us is: “Who is going to lead the next game?” We know that Geralt’s story is over, as CD Projekt Red senior writer Jakub Szamałek said back in 2015: “I think good stories must have an ending…You cannot extend them indefinitely, and we felt that Geralt has had such an amazing adventure, and his saga is already so long and complex that this seemed like a good point to think about an appropriate finale for the story.”
This makes sense, as at the end of Blood and Wine, Regis says to Geralt that they have been through a lot and “after all that toil, I believe we deserve a bit of rest.” Geralt replies “That we do” and smiles and looks directly into the camera. This felt like a much more final ending than the main game, especially when Yen, Triss, Ciri, or Dandelion shows up at Corvo Bianco, implying that Geralt will live out the rest of his days, (or at least a little while in some cases,) with whomever shows up.
Originally the games were planned as a trilogy. Said Adam Kiciński in an interview with Bankir: "The first three 'Witchers' were by definition a trilogy, so we simply could not name the next game 'The Witcher 4'. This does not mean, of course, that we will leave the world of The Witcher." I couldn’t find a date for this interview, so it is possible that he was referring to the standalone Gwent game that released in 2018 when he said they wouldn’t be leaving the Witcher world behind. As of now, 2021, CDRP has confirmed that there were three studios working on Cyberpunk, and two working on “other projects.” Likely, one of the projects was The Witcher 3: Enhanced Edition, the other remains a mystery. CDPR co-founder Marcin Iwinski has gone on record saying “This is the end…there won’t be any Witcher any time soon – if there ever will be one.” Without any outright confirmation and other smaller Witcher side projects it is very hard to say if there will ever be a triple A, RPG-style Witcher game again.
Now we come to the interesting topic. When asked about a “Witcher” game specifically, CDPR makes it seem like there are either no plans for another, or they just say that Geralt’s story is definitely over. But when asked about Ciri specifically, they change their tune. In an interview with VG247, Jakub Szamałek was asked if we would get a game with Ciri as the lead. In response, Szamałek said: “I don’t know…would you like to play a game as Ciri?” In my experience, whenever game developers say “I don’t know” and then ask you a question, it is cause to be suspicious. Another very suspicious quote come from later in the interview: “Due to obvious reasons – well, she’s pretty much gone for two thirds of the game – she didn’t get quite as much screen time as we writers would have liked. But hey, maybe it’s something we’ll get to get back to in the future.”
I did find an article from May 18th 2020 claiming that CDPR actually confirmed that directly after the Cyberpunk release, work on a new Witcher game would begin “immediately.” Who knows if this will actually happen, we all know how Cyberpunk’s launch went, and how much work it will take to fix. Adam Kiciński also said that this Witcher game would not be a direct sequel. All evidence points to the next Witcher game featuring Ciri’s two years traveling with Avallac’h through different worlds. This is a pretty obvious choice, CDPR could literally go in any direction with this game, and it wouldn’t be a “typical” Witcher experience. Also, Kiciński mentioned that “we would love to explore more of Ciri’s past,” and Ciri’s past means the opposite of a sequel. Not to mention the fact that Ciri ends up in very different circumstances depending on the ending of Wild Hunt. To make a game led by Ciri set after the Witcher 3, CDPR would have to make one of the endings canon and then take the game from there, right?
Wrong! Ciri’s situational endings are actually more similar than you may think.
Pt 2: Wild Hunt Endings
We all know there are three endings to the main story of the third game: the ending where Ciri becomes a Witcher, the ending where she becomes empress of Nilfgaard, and the ending where she dies. This is the main roadblock from a story perspective, as each previous Witcher game’s storyline flows perfectly into the next. It seems impossible to have a cohesive storyline without a definitive ending, and it would be completely unlike CDPR to make an ending canon. Also, a canon ending would only serve to undermine the other endings of Wild Hunt.
It is possible to have a cohesive storyline following Ciri after the events of the third game without having to make any ending canon. Remember how cool it was to load your Witcher 1 and 2 saves into the next game and be able to meet characters and have unique interactions based on the decisions you made in the previous game? I believe that a sequel with Ciri leading the game will adopt this strategy, but to a much larger degree than we saw in Wild Hunt.
We can see the strategy that could be employed with the release of Cyberpunk. One of the coolest things about that game (at least before launch,) was the idea of multiple lifepaths. While done before on a much smaller scale, I believe that this idea could be the future of RPGs in general. Obviously, once Cyberpunk was actually released, it quickly became apparent that the beginning lifepath didn’t really matter to the rest of the game, and only gave you a unique opening. But that could be exactly what the Witcher 4 (I’m calling it that, but we know it won’t be titled “The Witcher”) needs. A unique beginning based on your Witcher 3 save that has you beginning the game in a different area of the world with a unique intro that only lasts maybe 30 minutes to an hour. Ciri’s “lifepath” would be an introduction to what happened to her after the third game, and how she makes it to the events of whatever the fourth game has in store. People were disappointed with Cyberpunk’s lifepaths because they had no noticeable effect on the game’s story, only really giving some new dialogue options in conversations. This would not have been too much of an issue if the game’s marketing had not overemphasized how much of a difference these lifepaths would have on the main story. This wouldn’t even be a problem for the Witcher 4, however. New dialogue and a different starting point are all that would realistically be needed, although the company could make more story-altering changes to the lifepaths if they wanted to. The reason I do not expect this though is that it would be a lot more work to write differing stories that branch away from each other, and people would always just pick the same stories anyway, as with the third game, I always pick the Witcher ending because I just can’t bring myself to get the bad ending (lol.) If there is no marketing saying how different the game will be depending on the Witcher 3 save you have loaded, there will not be any backlash if that difference is not felt in any more ways than a different intro and different voice lines.
Now the obstacle for a Ciri-lead sequel to Wild Hunt comes down to the endings themselves. I’ll break down each ending separately. I’ll also be assuming that Ciri is the one coming to Corvo Bianco, since her voice lines there are very important in deducing what happens to her in the future.
Ending #1: Ciri Becomes a Witcher
This ending is referred to as the “good ending” by most of the fanbase, so I will call it that from now on. This ending is probably the easiest to make a sequel out of. Geralt tells Emhyr that Ciri has sacrificed herself to save the world from the White Frost, and that the body will never be found. Emhyr then tells Geralt that he never wishes to see him again, and they part ways. Geralt then meets Master Ort, a swordsmith in White Orchard who has made Ciri a matching silver sword that is also named Zireael (cause who chooses The Flash That Cuts, I mean come on,) the same name as the sword she gets from Esterhazy in Baptism of Fire. It is almost identical to her steel weapon and is meant to show her starting her life on the Path. In the ending slideshow, it says that Ciri and Geralt started out on the path together and then parted. In Blood and Wine, Ciri explains why she left Geralt and told him not to try to find her. I find it hard to believe that Geralt didn’t go look for her after she left, because let’s be honest the entire story of the books and third game is basically Geralt looking for Ciri.
Anyway, she shows up at Corvo Bianco and tells Geralt that the reason she left was because she didn’t want to live in his shadow and had to prove that she could be a successful Witcher on her own. They go up to the hillside and Ciri remarks that she could “stay here forever.” When the option “What’s stopping you?” is chosen, she remarks that there is really nothing stopping her.
This ending suggests that Ciri will stay in Toussaint for a while. This is the easiest ending to make a starting lifepath for another game out of, because Ciri is free to do whatever she wants and can go anywhere she wants. Nothing is making her stay in Toussaint, she is only staying because she wants to, contrary to all of the third game and the books where she is forced by the circumstances of the plot to go to certain places. Anything could draw her away from Toussaint, the CDPR writers would just have to make sure that it was a problem big enough to make her want to leave the easy life at Corvo Bianco. A very open-ended ending, and a starting lifepath for a new game could really go in any direction with this one.
Ending #2: Ciri becomes empress of Nilfgaard
I will call this one the “sad ending,” because when I got this ending, I had a lump in my throat the entire time. It begins with Geralt, Dandelion, Zoltan, and either Triss or Yen in the inn at White Orchard. They have been traveling together for some months with Ciri and are making for the Blue Mountains, though it is never mentioned why. Everyone is very happy, and it’s an altogether joyful scene, all the friends have finally defeated the Wild Hunt and are free to roam the Northern Realms together.
Geralt goes to find Ciri and chats with her as they go to see the site where the griffin Geralt kills at the start of the game has its nest. Geralt is talking about how the future is bright and Ciri is answering in monosyllabic phrases, indicating that there is something bothering her. As they walk in the woods, Ciri and Geralt play in the snow, and walk back towards the village. When they get there, a Nilfgaardian envoy is parked in the middle of the road, and Ciri tells Geralt that she has decided that she is going to Nilfgaard because she believes she can do the most good as empress. After an emotional farewell, she gives Geralt her sword and rides away with the Nilfgaardians. The ending slideshow says that Emhyr is preparing to crown Ciri empress.
When Ciri shows comes to Corvo Bianco, Geralt is surprised because he never thought he would see her again. There is a nice moment where she says that she likes coming back into this life. They go up to the hill again, and the dialogue is different on the hill.
I don’t think that Ciri every will actually become empress in this ending. The ending slideshow’s exact quote is: “After years in exile, Ciri returned to Nilfgaard, her paternal home, where Emhyr prepared to name her as his successor.” There are a few strange things about this quote. First of all, Nilfgaard is not her paternal home, Cintra is. Second of all, it says “prepares to name her as his successor” and not “names her his successor.” I believe that the developers originally intended her to become empress, but after the massive success of the game they wanted to keep the possibility of a sequel open. With the release of Blood and Wine, CDPR hints that Ciri will actually never take the throne.
First of all, she returns to Geralt. The fact that she comes back to him at all was doubtful with the base game ending, as she tries to get him to come to Nilfgaard with her. The second piece of evidence that she will never be crowned is what she actually says to Geralt on the hill. She has the same voice line where she says she could stay forever, and when Geralt asks what stopping her, this time she says “Obligations, duties. I’m only here because Papa, I mean, Emhyr concluded I must get to know what I’ll rule once I take the throne. So I’m on a tour of the provinces with a small swarm of advisors.”
This quote makes little sense to me. Why would a tour of Nilfgaard’s provinces even take Ciri to Toussaint? Yes, Toussaint is technically a vassal state of Nilfgaard, but it is not actually governed by the emperor. In Lady of the lake, Shilard Fitz-Oesterlen explains exactly how vassal states of Nilfgaard work when discussing what will happen to Dol Blathanna after the empire pulls out of the north. He says that Dol Blathanna will become a duchy, like Toussaint. They have to pay homage to Nilfgaard but will be able to make their own laws and have their own court system. Thaler also mentions this after Radovid is killed in the third game, how Temeria will become a vassal state and be self-governed. So Ciri would never actually rule over Toussaint as she says. Also, when Geralt first comes to Toussaint, Reynart de Bois-Fresnes, the first knight errant Geralt ever meets is slaughtering Nilfgaardians to help Geralt and his companions. Not to mention the fact that Stefan Skellen hides out in Toussaint after his attempt to kill Ciri because he says that the duchy is the only place in the world where he could be sure he would be safe from Vattier de Rideaux’s spies. The only place in the entire world there would be no Nilfgaardian spies. Think about that. Not only is Toussaint disregarded by Nilfgaard, but the rest of the world largely ignores it as well, thinking of it as “the place we get wine.”
Ciri says some other things on the hill too that make it doubtful she will ever ascend the throne. She mentioned how she is stalling for time in Beauclair by telling her advisors her knowledge would be incomplete until she has tasted each of the year’s wines. The reason she gives Geralt for this stalling is, and I quote: “Though actually, just between you and me, I’m not certain I’m cut out to rule, govern, all that…” Geralt asks her if she is going to give it up, and she says “I can’t say just yet. But I’m not willing to rule it out.”
Geralt also asks her about how the coronation preparations are coming along, and she responds with: “Not at all. I told him I’m in no hurry.” She later tells Geralt she could make him “Court Witcher” which could suggest that she may become empress after all, but this comment was made more as a joke than anything else, and I don’t believe that “Court Witcher” is a title in Nilfgaard or any other province for that matter.
The third reason I don’t think that Ciri will ever become empress is that it is antithetical to her outlook on the world. All she ever wanted, through the games and the books was for people to leave her out of their schemes so she could make her own decisions. I know everyone will say it was her decision to go to Emhyr, but she is sort of manipulated by into becoming his heir. We know Emhyr has wanted to capture Ciri for a long time because of the books, where literally every king wanted to capture her so that they had a ruler of Cintra that could be manipulated easily. The other reason he wanted to capture her was so that he can marry her and produce a son that will rule the world. Yeah, her father wants to marry her. It’s messed up. And Ciri knows this was his plan. So why does Ciri go to him instead of staying with Geralt in the sad ending?
We will never know what happened in the conversation with Emhyr and Ciri, but we do know that they argued, and then she got a letter at some point either after she entered Tor Gvalch’ca or shortly before. She then made her decision to go and be empress, because she felt like she could do the most good there. Then when Geralt says “You could have told me,” Ciri says: “I wanted to, but I didn’t know how. I’ve been happy here.” It is so unlike Ciri to leave a situation where she is finally happy. There are so little of them that she always wants to stay to be happy as long as she can. In the books, she stays with the gang the Rats, and when Geralt dreams about her it is mentioned that he feels her happiness. The reason why she leaves is only because she wants to find Geralt, the person she is literally leaving in the sad ending ending! (Yes, also it’s because the Rats all get killed by Bonhart, but she leaves them before that.) The only other time she leaves a situation where she is reasonably happy and safe is when she leaves the Cyberpunk world to come back and find Geralt and Yennefer. (That is the reason she gives when Geralt asks about it in the hut.)
Ciri says that being empress is what she wants, but it’s really exactly what Emhyr wants. Ultimately, all she ever wants is to make her own decisions, but she forces Geralt to make the decision that ultimately decides her future, whether or not she should go to see Emhyr directly after the events at Kaer Morhen. Also, Geralt can decide if Nilfgaard will win the war or not. This forces her down the path of either Geralt’s actions or Emhyr’s actions determining her future. And while Geralt will make her want to stay with love, respect, trust, and the bond developed even before she was born, Emhyr will draw her away with wordplay and manipulation. I mean, how do you think that Ciri came up with the thought that she could do the most good in Nilfgaard, by herself, or through what Emhyr said to her in the letter? All Ciri’s life, she has only wanted people to leave her out of their plans and have freedom, and she loses that by becoming empress.
For these reasons, I believe that even though this ending is known as the “Empress ending,” there is almost no chance that she will actually take the throne.
This leaves CDPR in the same situation story wise as the good ending. A new game with this ending could have Ciri about to be crowned when something happens, or she can give up and refuse to rule for some reason, because I don’t think that a game with Ciri as tied down as empress would be as interesting as one where she is free to wander the world.
Ending #3: Ciri “Dies”
This ending begins with Geralt hunting down the last crone to retrieve Vesemir’s medallion. He meets a werewolf who tells him that it is not worth the risk to fight the crone, as she is dangerous, and tells Geralt to find another trinket for his daughter. Geralt replies “My daughter’s dead.”
When he finds the crone, she tells him that he will not survive this fight. Even if he kills her, the swamp village is completely surrounded by monsters and he won’t get out alive. Then she tells Geralt that Ciri is dead, which is not news to Geralt as he already knew that.
Geralt kills the crone, and then in anger trashes the inside of the shack. He finds Vesemir’s medallion in a box and holds it, while monsters surround the shack from the outside. We know that Geralt does escape though, because it is canon that the events of Blood and Wine happen after the Wild Hunt is defeated. Geralt actually has different voice lines in this ending when he is talking with Regis about Ciri. When Regis asked if he ever found Ciri if you got one of the endings where Ciri survived, he says: “Back then, yeah. But we parted again soon after. And when the time was ripe, she returned and we defeated the Wild Hunt together.” But if you get the bad ending, he only says: “Back then, yeah. But we parted again soon after” in a sad voice. So he survived the swamp because he still believes Ciri to be dead. Yes, he has no epilogue, but it really wouldn’t make sense for him to die in the crone’s village since technically every ending is supposed to be canon with Blood and Wine. We know that he survived that ending…but did Ciri?
It is hinted at a few times throughout the game that Ciri will die at the end. There is this soothsayer in Benek who tells Geralt that Ciri knew that she was going to have to sacrifice herself to stop the White Frost. The crones tell Geralt that if he finds her, she will die shortly afterwards. There are also many voice lines from the sorceresses and Avallac’h telling Geralt that he needs to stop controlling Ciri and let her make her own decisions or he will regret it. Ironic that Geralt’s decisions ultimately decide Ciri’s fate anyway.
I think that the question of whether Ciri survives come down to a few factors: number one being the White Frost itself. The White Frost in the books is an inevitable event that happens due to the northern hemisphere of the earth tilting further away from the sun. In the games, it is more of an entity, a force that blows through multiple worlds and times, burying everything in ice. The way that Avallac’h wanted Ciri to stop the White Frost in the books was to maker her have a son with the king of the Aen Elle, who would be much more powerful than she. Then the son would use his powers to teleport the population of the Aen Elle’s doomed planet to another. Avallac’h also says that he will save the humans and the Aen Seidhe living on the Earth when the time comes as well.
In the games, it is not clear what Ciri must do to defeat the White Frost, but we do know that Avallac’h needs to make Ciri stop it as quickly as possible, which is made clear by his lab notes. He actually hates Ciri, as she reminds him of his love for Lara Dorren, who spurned him for a human mage. He only wants her to stop the White Frost so his world will be safe and then he will be able to get rid of her.
The question now arises, is it necessary for Ciri to die to stop the White Frost? In my opinion, even though the ending is very ambiguous, the evidence the game does give us points to no. Ciri tells Geralt that she will come back if possible when he implores her not to enter the portal in the tower. She believes she will survive. Also, while Geralt watches the portal, it eventually closes. The portal was opened by Avallac’h so that Ciri could slip away while Geralt was busy fighting Eredin and Caranthir. It is likely that Avallac’h told Ciri what to do to stop the White Frost, since she seems very sure of herself when she enters the portal. She does not have to die though, in order to stop it. The way I see it, she probably stopped it one of two ways.
One, The White Frost is an actual being and she fought and defeated it in combat. This doesn’t seem very likely, as even though the White Frost in the games does appear as more of an evil god or a demon than a force of nature as in the books, I don’t think it likely that she would just stab it with her sword and it would die. It could have been some curse she had to break, but even if this is the case it would not require her to sacrifice herself.
Two, Ciri isolated the worlds that the White Frost was blowing through, cutting off passage between the worlds that were affected and the ones that weren’t. This makes a little more sense, as the elder blood gene is supposed to control passage between worlds. But it doesn’t explain then how the world of the Aen Elle, not to mention the earth are saved, as the White Frost was already blowing through both of those worlds. I believe that the since the White Frost is a more of a being in the games, it was probably residing in one world and then blowing through to others from there. Ciri could have cut off the world it was residing in, causing it to be trapped there forever and saving the worlds that were affected by it. This theory seems like the most plausible, but there is one problem with it. We know Ciri stopped the White Frost, as the portal in the tower closed before Geralt and Avallac’hs eyes, but if travel was cut off to whatever world the White Frost was residing in, how did Ciri escape that world? There really seems to be no explanation, because we know that she succeeds no matter what ending you get, and she is able to travel back to the witcher world afterwards in the good ending and the sad ending.
It really doesn’t matter exactly how she did it, it only matters that she did because that is one thing that we know happened. The portal closing, the conjunction of spheres stopping, and Ciri coming back (in 2 endings) all happened for sure. We can assume she succeeded in her task. So then, why does she die in the bad ending? I find it hard to believe that she just committed suicide by staying in the frozen wasteland just because she doesn’t like Geralt anymore. She actually has tried to commit suicide before in the books, but couldn’t bring herself to do it. I’m not sure why she would finally succeed in her task, be free from all the people trying to use her for their own purposes, and then freeze to death just because she thinks that Geralt doesn’t believe in her anymore. But Geralt truly believes she is dead in the epilogue. The crone says it as well, but the crones have made bogus predictions before, such as them actually saying to Geralt earlier in the game that they would be the reason for Ciri’s death. The crone knew Geralt was distraught and angry, and she could have taken advantage of this by telling Geralt that Ciri died in order to make him more angry and less focused on the fight. Also, when Ciri tells Geralt she will come back to him, she says “if I can.” We know now that she is able to, and yet doesn’t, so it would make sense for Geralt to believe her to be dead.
So what actually happened to her? It is not clear, as she doesn’t have an ending monologue like Geralt when you get this ending. The next game could see her anywhere, just trying to figure out why Geralt made her feel as if she couldn’t stand up for herself and that he was making decisions for her. But it wouldn’t make sense for her to be able to stop the White Frost and then just die. It is much more plausible that she decided not to return to Geralt.
Other Arguments Against A Sequel With Ciri
#1: Too Overpowered
I’ve seen some people argue that after the events of the third game, Ciri is an incredibly strong fighter and would easily defeat any opponent she came up against, making fighting in the hypothetical sequel uninteresting and boring. It also wouldn’t make sense to nerf her abilities in the next game, as it would go completely against the lore, and would almost be an insult to her character to dumb down her abilities for a new game.
The thing that most people don’t realize is that Geralt of Rivia was already an extremely overpowered character. The witchers are much stronger fighters than humans, able to take on multiple foes at a time with relative ease. Geralt is the strongest of the witchers, having the most mutations and has had almost a century of experience by the time of the games. Triss Merigold thinks to herself at one point when she is heading to Kaer Morhen in Blood of Elves that Geralt was the greatest fighter she had ever seen. Yen also remarks in the books that there are only a few people in the world that could have a chance of beating Geralt in a fight. Likely one was Vilgefortz, who Geralt makes no mistakes at all against and still gets beaten in only a minute or so. The other was probably Leo Bonhart, who never actually fought Geralt, but we know he has killed at least three witchers because he carries their medallions with him. Not to mention he fought the entire gang of Rats at once and killed them all in a one versus six battle. The only way Ciri was able to defeat him was by luring him into a very specific situation in the ruined part of Stygga Castle and using the pendulum trick she learned at Kaer Morhen to make him fall.
Summing up, it doesn’t make sense to say that Ciri is too overpowered to have her own game, because we got three games with Geralt who was already one of the best swordsmen in the world even in the first game. I think that CDPR could definitely balance the difficulty of combat in a sequel with Ciri as they already did with Geralt in the trilogy.
#2: Character Creation
Another thing I’ve seen people saying is that they want to create their own witcher to play through a new game. I guess I can understand the roleplaying potential of a game with a customizable witcher, but I don’t see how this will fit the lore at all. There are so few witchers that it wouldn’t really make sense to all of a sudden bring out a new witcher who was in hiding or something into a world where their trade is declining. Also, if the game was set as a prequel when there were more witchers around, it wouldn’t make sense that the wolf school witchers from the first and third games wouldn’t be able to refer to this past witcher by any identifying features because every playthrough’s witcher would be unique.
Also, we know from Marcin Iwinski that the next game won’t be called “The Witcher.” I find it highly unlikely that the third game will be about any of the witchers, or a new one that we don’t know about yet. I also think it very unlikely that we will see a standalone game with either Triss or Yen as the lead, because picking only one of them as a protagonist will leave fifty percent of the fanbase disappointed. This kind of leaves Ciri as the only choice, because I would find it hard to believe that most of the fanbase would not want to see a game about her.
I just wanted to add these at the end because I wanted to address the issues that some of the community would have with a Ciri sequel. Do I actually think the next game will be a sequel starring Ciri? Well, evidence right now points to no. I just wanted to compile some ideas about why a sequel would make sense though, because I have a feeling that a prequel game with Ciri will unfortunately not be an open world RPG. I think that the obvious story to tell is what happened to Ciri right after she dropped Geralt off at Kaer Morhen with his memory wiped. It would be heartbreaking to see Ciri trying to get Geralt to flee the Wild Hunt with her, but he doesn’t remember who she is and so she has to leave him in the woods and run away without him. Then the game would follow her through all the worlds she jumped through to escape Eredin. This does not sound like an open world game, since there would be so many worlds in it! I’m not saying that a game like this would be bad by any means, I’m just saying that I would rather have a game like Wild Hunt, but in a new area (like Cintra maybe,) and starring Ciri.
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