Inasmuch as Fallout 76‘s version of apocalyptic Appalachia has captured my attention, I’m still trickling through The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. My efforts to remain focused on the main story were so strong there for awhile, and yet…the tug of side-questing and monster hunting has simply been too incessantly interesting to pass up. (Needless to say, I’m having a good time.) And though through Geralt I have traveled from the streets of Novigrad to the snowy cliffs of Skellige and back again, I recently went back to one of the first regions Geralt visited – White Orchard. While small compared to the game’s other regions, White Orchard is a joy to explore, thanks in part to its hauntingly sad and beautiful musical theme.
Over the past many months, I’ve been riding on the backs of several different ambient soundtracks from games, and my current favorite among them is The Witcher 3. Of all the wonderful music it contains, there’s something special about White Orchard’s theme. As I mentioned, White Orchard is nearly the first place players visit outside of Geralt’s home, Kaer Morhen. While it is a small place, it’s probably the most important, as the events tell of the history of the region and of the important role Geralt plays within it. As a brand-new player, I knew only that I would encounter a sprawling world The Witcher 3, but I had no idea that this sprawling world would be drowning in misery.
The White Orchard theme drips with melancholy and sorrow, which is clearly reflected in the ruins and ruined lives of the region’s remaining residents. The area is weary despite it being fraught with glorious nature. Even the bright orchards of the region’s namesake village feel overrun with despair. As the story goes, Nilfgaardian and Temeriam forces clashed in battle at White Orchard, resulting in hefty losses on both sides. Nilfgaard claimed victory and established a garrison in the area, leaving the main village mostly intact, much to the relief of the villagers. Even still, they continue to feel the effects of the war under Nilfgaard’s hand. Villagers suffer forward, trying to make the best of a bad situation – this the musical theme makes dreadfully clear.
And yet, there’s a uplifting tenor to the theme, one that suggests better days are ahead, even though a long road must first be traveled. It can be hard to listen past the initial dirge the theme presents, but hope eventually emerges. And maybe that hope comes in the form of a single witcher who’s out to do everything he can to heal his war-torn home, one village at a time.
Lede image (© CD Projekt S.A.) taken by author during PS4 gameplay of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.