Music Mondays journeys to Vizima to tell tales of The Witcher.
Genres: Action, RPG
Developer: CD Projekt
All Hallow’s Eve is nearly upon us once again, which means yet another unmitigated outpouring of horror game features. I love Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and Fatal Frame as much as anyone, but this year I want to go in a different direction. Instead of focusing on the beasts of Samhain, let’s take a moment to appreciate the sounds that accompany gaming’s greatest monster slayer.
CD Project Red’s The Witcher, based on Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski’s low fantasy novels, was a highly acclaimed PC exclusive which has only become more appreciated as the years have passed. Starring Geralt of Rivia, the titular witcher (or “Hexer,” if you prefer that translation), the hardcore computer-style RPG has you hunt down every ghoul, ghost, vampire, and werewolf a Halloween fan could want. But even with deep gameplay, a mature story, and beautiful visuals, there is one element of The Witcher that still sticks with me: the soundtrack.
As you can see, the opening cinematic sets a dark tone which deftly blends overt violence and dry humor. This scene is still amazing to watch 5 years later, but what really makes it special is the song that plays with it. Called “The Princess Striga,” the tune begins with haunting female vocals before deepening into a battle theme. Along with “Prepare for Battle!” the moments of bloodshed are perfectly paired with tunes that underscore the pulse-pounding feel of battle.
The soundtrack was composed by Adam Skorupa and Paweł Błaszczak, who also went on to score the sequel as “gamesXsound.” Their work isn’t just great for fight scenes, however. From the heart-breaking lows of “The Dike” to the unsettling aura of “An Ominous Place,” The Witcher OST encompasses a broad range of situations and emotions. The score even manages to be upbeat and cheerful at times, as typified by “Evening in the Tavern.”
“Elaine Ettariel” (below) may be the most interesting piece of all though. As the only work on the soundtrack with true lyrics, the song is a challenge in and of itself. Consider also that it is in the fictional language of “Elder Speech” (ancient elven) and it’s truly impressive how Skorupa brought it to life. He even sings the first verse, which is taken directly from Times of Contempt, in which it is explained as a love ballad about the elven heroine Ettariel.
The whole 29-song album was included with many editions of the original release, but is automatically available as a digital download with a purchase of the Enhanced Edition. All 73 minutes of music can be yours if you buy the game from GOG.com (for only $9.99), but that’s not all. An entirely different collection of tracks entitled Inspired by The Witcher is included with that bundle, featuring covers, tributes, and new arrangements of material from the OST. Adam Skorupa even contributes one track to the collection, demonstrating an immense well of inspiration from the world of Sapkowski’s books.
So, while The Witcher may not be the scariest game around, it does have plenty of freakish monsters and one hell of an orchestral backing. If you haven’t added the music of Vizima to your Halloween playlist, you should really reconsider.
Music Mondays is a weekly column by Austin Yorski and Robert Heck dedicated to discussing the most interesting audio experiences in electronic interactive media. Tune in every week for more original game soundtracks that you need to hear. Feel free to disagree with, add to, or question everything. I welcome your feedback.
A student of Literature and Religion at Florida State University, Austin Yorski is a jack-of-all-trades around BT. He goes by Austin or Yorski (but not both), and spends all the time he isn’t reading or playing football on writing, editing, moderating, and gaming. He can also collect all 120 stars in Super Mario 64 blindfolded.