While Geralt of Rivia lies wounded after a fight with ghouls in an episode of Netflix’s Witcher, a man he saved offers to repay his debt via the Law of Surprise—that which you have but do not know. "Just get me an ale," Geralt retorts, clearly in no mood for witchery nonsense while covered in ghoul drool.
This scene made an impression on me, an Irishman whose hankering for weekend Guinness generally starts around Monday morning. Like a whole lot of other people, I felt inspired to play The Witcher 3 again after watching new series. So with ale on the brain and Geralt as my wingman, I booted up The Witcher 3, confident that I was about to embark on an Odyssean pub crawl unprecedented in the history of digital debauchery.
A noble quest
Naturally I plan begin my journey the way any alcohol-guzzling virtuoso would: Ingesting the cheapest drink I can find before even thinking about setting foot in an overpriced pub. I also crack a can while sitting at my kitchen table in my boxers, ready to match whatever Geralt drinks IRL. You know you’ve made it in life when you spend a Monday morning drinking with a videogame character while mostly naked.
My plan immediately falls apart and I go one-up on the witcher. The Crow’s Perch trader has no booze, despite maddeningly repeating the same line about whether or not Geralt would like a "spot o' cider." Personally, I would never choose that diesel over a hearty stout, but Geralt lives in harder times, so surely he wouldn't be picky. But the trader only has chemical cordials, which The Witcher 3 insists are solely intended for alchemical use. We have poteen in Ireland, CD Projekt—what harm could a drop of mandrake juice possibly do? Why can’t I have Geralt ingest these demon drinks? He has a toxicity meter and everything!
This town won’t do, so I polish off my IRL can and leave. When I arrive at the Inn at the Crossroads, the bartender is AWOL. I am now on my second drink and can't even find a drop for Geralt. Despite the bartender’s curious absence, I spy a couple of drunken pugilists making cauliflower of each other’s ears. Naturally I investigate—the bookie needs a courageous soul to take on the tavern champ. Geralt is stone cold sober but I'm tipsy: the perfect combination. By the time I win the innkeep is back, scrubbing the floor I just bloodied.
But again, it's a dry bar. Apple juice or water, choose your poison.
This is getting ridiculous, so it's time to hit Novigrad, the Big Apple of Geraltland. When I arrive at the docks I’m greeted by a pair of sailors, unequivocally inebriated beyond belief. It’s time for a royal pissup.
I hand them 25 crowns and follow them into The Golden Sturgeon, where they are no longer able to talk to me, possibly because they’re too pissed, possibly because they are restricted by the game’s code. Thankfully, I've finally found a bar that, at least in my imagination, stinks like month-old kebabs. We’re in the money.
Geralt downs a Viziman Champion—it takes him less than a second, but I don’t actually see him drink it. This lack of animation puts a bit of a damper on my pub crawl quest, so the obvious way to keep things fun is to get in a fight. The ability to become a boxing champion without exercising or taking punches in real life is remarkably refreshing for someone who would much rather shovel popcorn into their mouth and drink beer.
Fronting the maximum stake, I have the witcher knock back a stout and enter the ring with a man unfortunate enough to have been nicknamed "The Piledriver." It's an easy win, because I am actually good at this game after investing hundreds of hours into it. Geralt looks a lot more drunk in this fight than he really is.
On my way to the Kingfisher for another fight, I get mugged by a group of Whoreson Junior’s thugs. Joke’s on them: I’m buzzed enough now to have turned the difficulty down a notch, so I absolutely obliterate them. I loot their alcohol and allow Geralt to have a party for one on his way to the next theatre of dreams. He’s not only caught up with me now, he's lapped me—now I’m the lightweight.
I make my way through the entire Novigrad fight club and Geralt earns a round with Durden the Tailor, or, as the game so gracefully alliterates, Durden the dick. I drink the remnants of my seventh can as Geralt chugs three pints in a millisecond. I let him down at the beginning, being a bit too tipsy to control a drunk witcher, but the third hit to the jaw sobers us both up enough to win the fight. Geralt is crowned champion of Novigrad, but I forget to save the video clip because honestly I'm pretty drunk at this point.
It didn't feel like a satisfying end to my pub crawl journey, so I decide to set out for Skellige to fight everyone on the isles, too.
A heavy night of drinking ensues, and my ship is attacked by pirates that I'm barely coordinated enough to fight. I'd had so much to drink at this point that I called it a night and decided to take on Skellige in the morning. Geralt wakes up on the beach, but even bruised and battered there's no way his hangover matches mine.
I press on, making quick work of the Skelligan fistfighters as I roam from tavern to tavern, much more sober than last night and, by extension, more capable of exploiting the low difficulty setting. Geralt keeps guzzling Kaedweni stout with the hardy folk of this emerald isle, mostly because I think it’s funny to look at the fuzzy screen.
Eventually I get a quest to take on Olaf, Champion of Skellige. By this point it’s a reasonable hour for me to have a can too. I arrive at the venue—an actual venue this time, as opposed to the corner of a pub where rotating the camera is impossible—and knock back some Erveluce. Well, Geralt does. Fancy wine is not my vibe.
I immediately misstep as I try to enter the ring, falling over and banging Geralt up in the process. Is this my fault for being tipsy, or the game’s fault for having particularly unforgiving fall damage?
And then, helpfully, a bear walks out. I'm knocked out in seconds.
When Geralt finally wakes up, I realize Yen is probably going to be pissed at me for my debaucherous gallivanting. I put off meeting with her to go on this little adventure. But when we arrive at Kaer Trolde, Yen gives Geralt a big hug. All I need to worry about is dressing smart for King Bran’s wake, she says.
I don’t know how or why it happened, but by the time we hit the wake I'm naked.
I swear I didn’t do this solely for the hilarious cutscene. Geralt promised he wouldn't drink, but I immediately made him a liar. I've stumbled into a real story quest, which I mostly spend making a true ass out of myself.
It takes a turn when Yen and I end up in a lab full of monsters trying to tear out Geralt's organs. They're not real, says Yen, which is good, because at this point I'm finally drunk enough again to have trouble fighting.
We head to the next room, where I see a delicious mug of mead. Genuinely jealous of Geralt until I realize that it probably just tastes like lines of code. What does code taste like? If it’s Guinness, I would definitely drink it. Just before Geralt polishes it off, Yen says she reckons it’s a puzzle. "Wha?" I manage, before placing it in the hand of a particularly pretentious-looking statue, and Yen and I slip through a portal, back to the festivities. That works.
It's a strange but fitting end to a fantasy pub crawl. I fall asleep, absolutely shitfaced. Even witchers drink one too many sometimes—as do the idiots who decide drinking with videogame characters is a good idea.