There’s a quest in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that best shows why the world Geralt of Rivia inhabits is so easy to get lost in. It’s not an epic battle against a Griffin, or a cursed foetus. It’s not even a naked Witcher in a hot tub. There’s actually no fighting at all in ‘No Place Like Home,’ a quest that takes place right before the game’s final act kicks off.
This is still the quest that my heart pings to my head when I think about why I find the game so charming, even if it ends up with three very drunk men cross-dressing and trying to summon women. The appeal of it might be that, in a fantasy world with tremendous stakes, ‘No Place Like Home’ feels as close as possible to something my friends and I might actually do, and that makes even the baddest of Witchers feel a whole lot more human.
After a quest where Geralt and Yennefer figure out how to lift the curse on Uma, the Ugliest Man Alive, they meet up with three friends in the Kaer Morhen keep so they can supposedly catch up. The setting is an unfitting place for something so casual to take place. Kaer Morhen is, according to The Witcher’s journal, “an inaccessible mountain stronghold which has been the headquarters of the witchers’ guild for centuries… The castle’s times of glory have passed, its battlements and moat have deteriorated, a cold wind blows through its spacious halls. Only a handful of Witchers live here now, but in past times droves of young boys underwent gruesome training along the infamous ‘Gauntlet’ near Kaer Morhen.” The keep is lined with the fossils of ancient sea creatures, and the moat at the bottom still holds the bones of those who died at the hands of an anti-witcher raid.
For Witchers, who are often hated, Kaer Morhen is home. They belong there, and nobody’s afraid of them. As a result of that comfort, the group of five bicker about old times, including some dialogue interactions pertaining to Geralt’s choice to either date Yennefer or Triss, fuelled by the stress of major events that have just happened and tension about what they expect to happen (no spoilers, don’t worry) the next day.
Depending on a choice players maker in an earlier quest, Geralt and Yennefer may sleep together. He’ll eventually head back to his friends and fellow Witchers, Lambert and Eskel, and proceeds to get very, very drunk. If you choose to stick around through the festivities (which you absolutely should), Lambert will eventually wander off and come back with a hat, obnoxiously mocking Vesemir as he does. And that’s where the game of ‘Never Have I Ever’ begins, where everyone gets mocked. It transcends into moments of crying over drunk brotherly love, and then Eskel disappears to get a bottle of vodka, but unfortunately doesn’t come back.
Geralt and Lambert head off to find Eskel but are severely visually impaired by all of the alcohol. Players need to use Geralt’s Witcher Senses to find the way, but the whole thing is a blurry mess. At one point, Lambert makes fun of Geralt for having to kneel to see something (wine that Eskel had spilled at some point), and our rugged, sometimes stiff Witcher replies with, “if I’d a bent over, I’d ‘ave puked…” There was a point in this section where I was genuinely worried I’d have to drunkenly fight a Wyvern just to save Eskel, too, and while that would’ve been horrendous given the poor visibility in this section, I think the pang of concern I felt for Eskel is more telling.
Thankfully, you find him drunkenly passed out next to a goat. One thing leads to another, and Lambert suggests the three of you find “a woman.” Yennefer’s the only one at Kaer Morhen, and Geralt knows better than to wake her up, so an even dumber idea emerges: Lambert wants to summon a sorceress through the keep’s Megascope, which is a magical device used for teleportation and communication. That ridiculous suggestion, which is made all the more laughable thanks to Eskel’s drunken hiccuping in the background, leads to one of the most memorable exchanges in the game. Geralt replies with, “Lambert… you’re a genius!” and a stumbling Eskel says, “Fuck yeah! Summon the bitches!”
This all happens between some dramatic, tense moments for these characters, and while the exchanges are light-hearted and charming on their own, the humanity of them makes the stakes feel higher. The next time they head into battle, you won’t want to lose the two men you’ve just spent a drunken night bonding with, vomiting and spilling alcohol over the ages-old keep. The quest breaks up the dread, and I think it played a significant part in keeping me hopeful and optimistic at this point in the game.
In order to avoid seeming foreign or hostile to the sorceresses the three Witchers intend to summon, they decide to wear Yennefer’s clothes. They figure that will make them look more like sorceresses themselves. They get changed, but then ultimately end up drunk dialling the wrong number, getting busted by Yennefer and very sternly told to go to bed. And that’s it. You can cut it short by choosing to go to bed earlier, and make a few different decisions, but no matter what, it’s a consequence-free quest.
The dialogue alone is worth sticking around for, especially since it’s one of the only times we get to see the ever-composed Geralt slurring like an idiot. But the real power of this quest is in its ability to quickly develop relationships with characters who actually matter. The timing of the quest is a true calm before the storm. When the battle at Kaer Morhen finally goes down, you care about almost everyone around you. I knew them, and in this case particularly, I knew their senses of humour. As a result, I felt a huge duty to fight for them. The fight that follows the next day isn’t waged by a big, grand army that you can’t relate to. It’s a fight waged by Lambert, Eskel, Yennefer, and Vesemir, and you don’t want to lose any one of them during that battle.
‘No Place Like Home’ stands out among many other excellent Witcher 3 quests, as it does from other games’ adventures. Arthur Morgan’s drunken nights around the campfire in Red Dead Redemption 2 are the most comparable. The power of this Witcher quest comes from the character bonds created through the writing, the performances, and knowing that there’s almost no way that band of characters can make it through the journey that awaits them. Its relatable silliness carries more weight than simple drunken stupidity might imply. Even if you don’t place the emotions I have into it, it is, at the very least, a good, unexpected laugh tucked into a dramatic, epic fantasy adventure.
Alanah Pearce has been writing and making videos about video games for almost a decade, which is very financially at odds with her life goal; to go to space. Please tweet her words of encouragement here.