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Words: Elizabeth Henges
"I often say, speedrunning Witcher 3 is actually lore correct - after all, as soon as Geralt realises that Ciri is in danger, he would try to get to her as quickly as possible, instead of playing Gwent with every person he meets on the way, right?"
Kaadzik, the current world record holder for The Witcher 3's most popular speedrunning category, is a man filled with positivity. The popular RPG's community is small, but if you ever have questions, he's always there, lending a helping hand and resources to get you started. "[The Witcher 3] is one of my favourite [games] and I've spent literally hundreds of hours playing it casually," Kaadzik tells me in a Discord interview. "That's why I decided that I want to combine it with my hobby - speedrunning."
Above: Kaadzik sets his Witcher 3 speedrunning record
Speedrunning The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt seems like a monumental task - completing the often 80-hour storyline in just two or three hours, depending on the category you're running, sounds impossible at first glance. However, Kaadzik and others have managed to do it, using various tricks and glitches to literally speedwalk through the wide world of CD Projekt Red's game.
People on the outside looking in often question the point of speedrunning The Witcher 3, a game with a focus on story and lore. "Perhaps that has to do with the misconception that none of the speedrunners ever played the game normally and wanted nothing more than to make a race out of it," another Witcher 3 speedrunner and creator of The Witcher Speedrun Server, Trig, says. "I am quite certain that every one of us has played and thoroughly enjoyed the game casually several times, and only decided to start speedrunning after that."
It's a common misconception with speedrunning in general. Whenever a potential new runner asks for advice or recommendations on what to play, the response is almost always the same: Play a game you like! For many in the Witcher speedrunning community, that means that game is The Witcher 3. "During a regular [playthrough] you don't think about things like which dialogue option or questline is the fastest one to complete," Kaadzik explains. "This change of perspective added a completely new layer to Witcher 3, making me dig into it for another chunk of hours."
The most popular category of The Witcher 3 speedrun is called Any% Old Patch, with Trig explaining that "simply means that a runner's only objective is to complete the game as fast as possible, the rest is up to them". The real trick, though, is that players will play an older, unpatched version of the RPG - specifically, patch 1.06 version of The Witcher 3 because 1.06 has a specific glitch, called the crossbow glitch, that helps to cut down on playtime significantly. Versions 1.07 and beyond no longer have this glitch, making the Any% Current Patch speedruns longer as well as less popular.
The important crossbow glitch is difficult to pull off, but Kaadzik explains it well in his lengthy Witcher 3 speedrunning tutorial. A certain skill Geralt can learn, called Lightning Reflexes, slows down time when you aim your crossbow. By maxing this skill out and aiming with the crossbow at just the right time an autosave triggers during the Griffin boss (among other factors) you can quickly reload that autosave, aim with the crossbow again, and suddenly, the game's logic breaks and Geralt starts moving at about three times his normal speed.
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It's ridiculous looking, makes the run fun to watch, and makes it really hard for runners to walk through doors. "When I was starting with the game there were little to no guides for speedrunning Witcher 3, so I decided to learn the run piece by piece," Kaadzik says. "I think it took a solid couple of hours before I found a consistent setup that works (almost) every time and that I use to this day." A couple of hours may seem like a short amount of time, but when it comes to speedrunning, that is a fair amount of time learning tricks and trying to optimise a run.
Above: Rocket Sloth's guide on how to beat The Witcher 3 in just over two hours
Trig also explains that there are some other concessions made to make speedrunning the game more comfortable. "[W]e decided as a community to allow the use of an AutoHotKey script which spams the right click button at a very fast rate in order to skip the many dialogue sections the game has." The old method of spacebar and right-click mashing was too tiring and needless to say not great for the hands and wrists. "That is why you'll see runs spamming through the dialogue at nearly inhuman speeds... it's all in the name of health!"
Speedrunners also play The Witcher 3 on the easiest difficulty. Playing as quickly as possible means skipping a lot of fights that would help you level up, and being under-levelled and under-geared provides its own difficulty spikes near the conclusion. "A few people have tried speedrunning a category 'Any% Death March, which would add the rule that the game must be completed on the hardest difficulty, Death March, but it was never successfully pulled off," Trig says. "[B]ecause you gain a lot less experience on the hardest difficulty and become under-levelled rather quickly, [it makes] some of the fights close to impossible."
Oh, and the flying horse? That's just a bug that happens when you travel outside of a zone while riding Roach in the older versions of the game. It's hilarious, but it's just a visual glitch that doesn't really help save frames or anything. After all, after the crossbow glitch is performed, Geralt walks faster than Roach runs.
Despite The Witcher 3's popularity, though, the speedrunning community for the title remains surprisingly small. "I believe Witcher 3 deserves more recognition speedrunning-wise," Kaadzik tells me. He works hard to create resources and tutorials for the speedrun, to "show people that it's actually fun and enjoyable both to watch and to perform".
Concluding our interview, Kaadzik has one final piece of advice to budding speedrunners. "I just want to say that speedrunning is really cool and I'd advise everyone to try it out - just pick one of the games you like and give it a shot!"
Featured Image Credit: Apologies to CD Projekt Red
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