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What would a Witcher be without monsters to slay? It's a question Geralt of Rivia has asked himself on more than a few occasions. While we'd all like to think the world would be a better place without Drowners and Striga and Foglets (oh my), poor hard working Witchers everywhere would find themselves out of work.
And of course, if there's no work for a Witcher, there are no Witcher games for us to play.
Today then, it's time to be thankful for the monsters that lurk throughout the Continent. Some are funny, some are annoying, and some are downright terrifying - but they all have a part to play in the world of the Witcher. Let's rank ten of the best, shall we?
I'm not saying Drowners are particularly scary or bothersome. They're basically what Goombas are to Mario: minor nuisances. With that said, it can be easy to wander into a nest or swamp and get yourself surrounded by the fishy fiends, at which point it's very easy to get torn to shreds before you can fight back.
While Striga aren't prominent in the games, you'll probably be familiar with this particular monster thanks to the best episode of the Netflix series. You know the one. Geralt nearly dies while trying to save a princess who's been transformed into a horrible monster (AKA the Striga) via a curse.
This tale is actually one of the very first from the original novels, and was adapted in CD Projekt RED's first Witcher game long before Netflix got to it. While this version isn't quite as horrifying as it might have been, the concept alone is still deeply disturbing, and a prime example of how twisted magic can be in the world of The Witcher.
Again, Djinns aren't massively terrifying on their own, but the sheer power they possess make them a pretty nasty proposition. We first learn of the destructive power of the Djinn in The Last Wish, the first of The Witcher books.
However, the same Djinn from the books appears to tango once again in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt as part of a quest called - you guessed it - The Last Wish. Not only is this one of the best quests in the game, it also serves as an (unofficial) sequel to one of the best chapters of the first book.
A couple of Basilisk's turn up throughout the course of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and they're all formidable foes. Massive, scaly chicken-like monstrosities with razor sharp beaks and talons, you don't want to screw around with these winged nightmare units. I have one particularly bad memory of running into one on an island in Skellige that wiped me out in an instant.
Anything that pretends to be a crying child in order to lure you into the fog and murder you falls squarely into the Effed Up category in my book. In the games, Foglets are really horrible little things. They're essentially crusty little goblinesque creatures with a penchant for disappearing into the mist and striking at random with their claws. I hate 'em, and you should too.
Bruxa might sound like a brand of French toilet cleaner, but they're actually wicked-powerful vampires. Gamers will likely have first discovered the fearsome, lighting-fast Bruxa in The Witcher 3's excellent Blood And wine DLC, where they accounted for some seriously tough battles.
However, connoisseurs will remember that a Bruxa featured in a wonderful short story from The Last Wish - one that's set to be adapted for the Netflix show's second season. I look forward to seeing how the show handles this particular monster.
By the time you reached the end of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, coming face-to-face with a Fiend was no more scary than clearing a Drowner nest. Still, nothing can take away just how horrifying it was the first time you saw one of the giant hell-beasts bounding towards, ready to murder you in one hit.
For most of the game, Fiends account for the toughest fights by a long way - especially for those curious underleveled players who'd come across the really strong ones hiding throughout the world.
To be clear, I don't think Botchlings themselves are evil or vicious or inherently nasty. They can't help what they are anymore than my cat can help pooping in the bathtub. No, it's the reality of what these poor monsters are that really unsettles me.
For those that might not be aware, a Botchling is basically a tormented shadow of what might have been a child. A creature created from the improper burial of unwanted infants that sets about preying on pregnant women. Yeah, The Witcher goes to some dark places.
No matter how much gear I have on me or how powerful I feel in The Witcher 3, I always tread carefully through the woods for fear of bumping into a Leshen. These woodland nightmares are easily among the creepiest of monsters in the entire series. While a lot of the monsters Geralt encounters have the capacity to be either good or bad - like any human - Leshen are pure, ancient evil.
These creatures can't be reasoned with, nor is there ever any room for witty banter. They're nothing more than walking, malevolent forests with the ability to call on the forces of nature itself to tear enemies to pieces.
Disgusting on multiple levels, the Crones Of Crookbag Bog are by far the most evil monsters Geralt has ever met - at least in the games. An impossibly old trio of witchers with more power than we can comprehend, the crones rule over their own small patch of Velen with a clammy fist.
Also known as The Ladies Of The Wood - although that name is obviously too nice for them - the crones enjoy passing the time by eating children, making necklaces out of human ears, driving innocent women to insanity, and cooking up body parts in large cauldrons full of boiling blood. You know, typical minions of hell-type stuff.
I've played through The Witcher 3 several times now, and I've seen a lot of humans and monsters do a lot of messed-up stuff. But I've never seen any creature quite as consistently reprehensible as these three crones. Getting to kill two of them towards the end of the game remains an incredibly satisfying highlight. I just hope we can face down the third and final crone in a future game someday soon...
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