It's been a good year for video game endings! Not long after Uncharted 4's masterpiece, along comes The Witcher 3's final expansion Blood & Wine, which serves as a playable farewell tour for Geralt of Rivia, someone fans have been playing as for almost nine years now. And that farewell is good. Where Nathan Drake's goodbye was a triumph of design and the medium of video games itself, though, Geralt's is more a final reminder of just how good CD Projekt Red have been at telling his story over three very different video games.
Here's how Blood & Wine plays out: You're whisked away to a beautiful fairy tale kingdom, where you take part in a main storyline involving a pair of sisters and some vampires, but can also dabble in the usual assortment of smart and funny Witcher sidequests.
Most of that stuff is excellent, but it's what happens after you finish that main storyline that we're here to talk about.
Being the conclusion of not just this particular story but of Geralt's adventures themselves, Blood & Wine's finale had some work to do. How could solving this isolated, minor mystery also bring to an end the story of an adventurer who has travelled the world, worked with Emperors and visited parallel dimensions?
Effortlessly, it turns out. Where other games would finish with some credits and a brief "what happened next" epilogue -- indeed, The Witcher 3's main game does just that at its conclusion -- Blood & Wine does something I don't remember doing before, or at least doing so well in a game: You get to retire and begin living out your days in peace.
Once matters at the palace are restored -- concluding Blood & Wine's own story -- and peace and order restored to Toussaint, Geralt is encouraged to go home, in a manner that has echoes of your farmstead homecoming in Red Dead Redemption. You unsaddle, approach the front door, and the Majordomo of the estate approaches you with a warning: There's an unannounced visitor waiting inside.
It couldn't be...
Because I'd ended up with Yenn following the main game, and because my "best ending" then had plotted that we'd both retire peacefully to the country, here we were, living through the first days of that retirement, getting to play through what had previously just been a "happily ever after" splash.
There's not much you can actually do -- you can't hold hands walking through the vineyard at sunset, or enjoy a romantic meal, or have Yenn join you cleaning up remaining sidequests -- but she's there, chilling, available for quite a lengthy chat whenever you like about what she's been up to and what her plans are for the future.
There's even, if you poke around in the house, the very summer dress that's mentioned in the video above.
For all the fast travels you've made and battles you've fought and cities you've saved, this point, where you stand and talk with the woman Geralt loves, is where you're going to grow old together. The cheap cosmetic upgrades you can make to the vineyard aren't just temporary perks for an expansion pack, they're enhancements made to a place Geralt is going to call home for the rest of his life.
(Note that depending on your choices in The Witcher 3 you can also see Triss, Ciri or Dandelion here, but since none of those endings involve retiring in the same place, they don't pack quite the same punch).
I love this. We don't say goodbye to Geralt because he's died. We don't arbitrarily choose a point to leave him and be told how he ends up, what his further battles have been like without us. At the conclusion of The Witcher saga we get to walk Geralt right to the very end of his adventures, then get to see the first moments of a very well-deserved retirement.
It's about as perfect an ending as we, and Geralt, deserve. We've both been through a lot of shit to get to that very best of endings, so it's a great reward to be able to see him through to the very end. And know that now that he's there, he's happy.
So thanks, CD Projekt Red, for not just doing such a fantastic job telling Geralt's story over the last decade, but giving us such a perfect way to say goodbye to him.