The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a massive game. Every single Witcher installment has been steeped in lore from the source novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, as well as being larger and more ambitious than the last. This final round (for the time being, anyway) presents players with a massive open world with its own problems, opportunities and dangers going far beyond the main quest line of the game itself. Hundreds of hours can be spent just uncovering these secrets for yourself, a staple of other open world games like Fallout, GTA, Far Cry, and the most recent entries, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Horizon Zero Dawn. A lot of the sidequests found in this particular genre can seem like busy work, things shoved into a corner because the writers and designers ran out of ideas to populate the massive place the developers have created. However, there's little to no fat on The Continent, the place the Geralt of Rivia calls home. A treasure trove of secrets and all-around cool stuff lies in wait for any player ambitious enough to attempt to uncover them. Thankfully, we've compiled the coolest ones so you don't have to worry about hunting them down yourself! Awesome!
Now, this list is going to be as spoiler-free as possible, but in those cases we can't make that happen, please do realize you have been warned about SPOILERS. Witcher games are known for their density, attention to detail, and creating an environment where actions the player takes as Geralt have a real impact on the world. They also interconnect with one another so intricately that to play one of the games without starting from the beginning is to leave you scratching your head, wondering "Jeez, I wish I knew why this thing was so important." But if there's one thing that these games are known for, it's that with a little looking, they'll tell you.
15 This Tower with a Black Unicorn
Several secrets in Witcher 3 are discovered this way. A ruined tower in the middle of nowhere, in the midst of a massive abandoned citadel. Just a short distance away, The Witcher's violent, tragic, and beautiful story began, yet tucked away in this ruined watchtower, the plans for one of the game's most powerful weapons, The Black Unicorn, sits undisturbed for who knows how long. All it took for you was to climb a couple of rickety ladders and now you're more powerful than ever. If you can track down the items needed to craft it, you'll be swinging a beautiful blade, black and etched with ice-blue runes. Stats-wise, it does a 360-440 damage and delivers a ton of bleed damage, while being able to be improved further with three empty runestone slots. Not a bad day's work for looking in the right spot.
14 This Vestibule with an Interesting Centerpiece
The Witcher 3's first expansion, Hearts of Stone, concludes with a nerve-wracking chase against the expansion's central antagonist. While the character himself is someone worthy of his own article, being inspired by other legendary villains such as Walter O'Dim from Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, what's important here is to make time in your chase to find this little gem off the beaten path. You can find it here (minor story spoilers).
A sword embedded in a stone? What a novel idea! Claiming it as your own rewards you with the Viper Venomous Silver Sword, a blade just as deadly as its name is clunky. While it obviously can poison your opponent, it doesn't stop there, delivering 75% more damage when you deliver a critical strike, giving you 10% more chance to crit, and makes your Aard sign 25% more powerful. As a final thank you, it also gives you 20% more experience from killing baddies, which in of itself makes this sword worth the side track.
13 These Awesome Rock Formations
Not all treasures in the game are to be equipped on Geralt and nowhere is it more apparent than in these gigantic rock formations found on the Skellige Isles. When you discover them on foot, they'd just look like a small but long rock wall. However, approach these monstrosities from a height or distance, and you'll see that they form pictures on the plains they're built into. It's a direct reference to places in the real world, such as the Hill Figures in Britain or the Nazca Lines in Peru. What's more, there seems to be no quest or plot device attached to them. They're simply there to look cool. And when it comes to creating great moments in video games, things like this are bound to be looked upon fondly by all those who seem them. It's things like this that show the dedication and love that CD Projekt Red has put into their work, and it makes you wish that other, bigger publishers would show that kind of attention to detail to its world-building.
12 The Nilfgaardian War Camp
The Nilfgaardians are a nasty lot. All across The Continent, they've been sowing destruction and mayhem to expand their empire's reach. And in this go-round, they've set up shop in one corner of the map. It's a massive, fully-manned war camp that Geralt cannot get into under normal circumstances, since he's fought against them several times over the course of the games. Just walking close to it sends its guards out to kill you. They just sit there, a threatening reminder that they can attack at any time. But if you can get a set of Nilfgaardian armor, the soldiers at the camp become non-hostile, allowing you to go wherever you want within the camp. Apparently, Nilfgaard doesn't have a problem with what Geralt's done to them, just that he's wearing the wrong outfit while doing it.
However, once you get in, there's nothing to do there. You can walk around the campgrounds and spy the lazing Nilfgaardians at their post, but that's about it. Nevertheless, it's an interesting little secret, the reward of which is figuring it out in the first place.
11 This Very Important Cave (SPOILERS)
The heading said it. I'm saying it again. DO NOT READ ON IF YOU WANT SPOILERS FOR GERALT'S ORIGINS.
To the northwest of Kaer Morhen, you can come across a cave. This cave is the place where Geralt was originally subjected to the Trial of the Grasses, the incredibly painful and often fatal ritual administered to young witcher apprentices. Not young adults or teenagers, mind you, but young children. If they succeed, the trial mutates their bodies to make them full-fledged witchers. However, it's said that only three in ten candidates can survive it. The other children die a slow, painful death. Upon discovering it, Geralt speaks about his experiences with the trial, touching upon his memories with disdain.
Discovering this place doesn't reward you with an item or a power. Instead, you develop a deeper connection with the character you're controlling. Geralt of Rivia may be a hardened Witcher with a moral compass all his own, but believe it or not, he was once a kid, and as could be expected, it wasn't all that pretty.
10 These Random Areas in the Middle of the Ocean
Most of The Witcher 3 takes place on land. It's hard to swing a sword or roll out of the way when you're in a teeny sailboat or dog-paddling across the sea. So that makes it the perfect spot for CD Projekt Red to put a secret in! If you can troll the seas late at night, some say between 1 and 3 am, you might just happen upon this spectral ship in the frigid shores, endlessly sailing with no friendly port of call.
If you're similarly lucky, you can have Geralt swim with some of The Continent's whales. That's not just something to call them, too - these things dwarf Geralt if he's underwater with them, taking several seconds to swim underneath him. They're also really hard to find and, once you do, they fade away just as soon as they appeared, but how cool is it to say you swam with a whale, even for a few seconds?
9 This Little Tent and its Inhabitants
As mentioned previously, Geralt has the chance to find all kinds of things that will make those controlling him giggle and a lot of them can be found in side quests like these. A paranoid old woman pleads Geralt to find the wolf that's been killing her chickens, which leads him on a not-so-wild goose chase to just outside her homestead. What he finds is a small encampment with a cadre of little thieves who've been wearing wolf-paws on their feet to cover their tracks. He scolds them for stealing other people's things, cautioning it's going to get them dead at some point. The kids, however, are having none of it, since their leader, Petey, says they're going to get all the chickens and stuff they need and fly away to a magical land where they can play all day and never grow up.
Now where have we heard something like that before...?
8 This Sad Reminder of Fallen Comrades (SPOILERS)
The heading said it. I'm saying it again. DO NOT READ ON IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILERS FOR GERALT'S BACKSTORY.
The abandoned fortress known as Kaer Morhen is the place where Witchers are trained. They hone their abilities, discover them, and, in some cases, defend their home from invasion, sometimes costing their lives. The latter happened to a young Witcher by the name of Leo in the first installment of the series. He was a hot-headed young trainee who hadn't taken the Trial of the Grasses yet when we first meet him. Geralt's fame precedes him and Leo befriends him instantly, a neophyte looking to learn from a renowned master. Unfortunately, he doesn't make it when Kaer Morhen is assaulted and his death haunts Geralt across the series.
Just south of the quiet citadel, Leo's cenotaph sits on a quiet hill. A marker with no body beneath it, existing only to say that he once lived and that he was loved. When Geralt finds it, his regrets stir once more.
7 This Church with Two Big, Creepy Lawn Ornaments
Around the town of Lindenvale, you'll find a church. It's fairly out of the way and not related to anything in particular, but there's a chest inside with some money and there's some candles you can light, so it's worth a look. When you get there, you'll notice two rather large angel statues standing guard at the door. Not paying attention to the scenery, you don't notice that they blink away the instant you cross the threshold. You grab the money are just on your way out the door when HOLY CRAP THE ANGELS ARE STANDING IN THE YARD FACING YOU NOW.
This rather creepy Easter Egg comes to us from the Doctor Who fans at CD Projekt Red, who are referencing the show's fan favorite and incredibly spooky "Weeping Angels" villains. And while it might have scared you, it doesn't phase Geralt one bit. He's seen far creepier before breakfast.
6 This Three-Sided Prison Cell
If there's a fictional universe that can compete with the darkness, violence, and gritty fantasy of The Witcher, it's George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice And Fire series of novels. To that end, a prison found in the Skellige Isles pays tribute to the series with its design: a prison cell with only three walls, the fourth one open to a dark and forbidding sea that will undoubtedly swallow the prisoner whole. Granted, in Martin's version, they're called sky cells and happen to be embedded into a mountain where the smack of solid earth that will do them in, but Geralt cannot help but marvel at the cruel efficacy of it all.
One of the bodies in the cell also bears a striking resemblance to Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister in HBO's Game of Thrones, the cable series based on Martin's books. Tyrion had at one point been imprisoned at some point, but manages to escape. If only he had been that lucky in the game.
5 This Oddly-Named Village
One of the many little towns Geralt will come across in his travels is the troubled hamlet of Lurtch, whose ghoul problems can only be solved with a witcher's touch. However, the journal entry for this village hides a bunch of fun little Easter eggs. The town's named Lurtch in reference to the frankenstein-like butler on the TV show (and far superior movies) The Addams Family. In game, it was once the site of the Evves' family estate (think Adam and Eve), which was headed by Lord Evves and his wife Mortilanca (Morticia). Fun, right? Also, when you complete a quest that takes place around Lurtch, you'll find a villager in town spouting Fallout's famous line: "War. War never changes." And in a game like The Witcher, it's an extremely apropos statement to make. However, it's odd that the quest that triggers that line really has less to do with war and more with an abandoned village inhabited entirely by pigs, but whatever.
4 This Secret Room
Do you remember when all everyone could talk about was Breaking Bad? CD Projekt Red sure does. Not only is there an in-game achievement for collecting alchemy recipes entitled "Let's Cook," but there's also a secret room offset in an out of the way cave, guarded by a man-made monster gone haywire. Killing it and disenchanting the magic wall brings you to a room with two skeletons in it, laying side by side on their own mattresses. In looting one of them, you find an item called "Alchemist's Notes," and in it, the alchemist bemoans his incompetent assistant. Apparently the monster you slew to gain access to the room was created by said assistant, who then lost control of it and ended up killing its masters. The one solace, he confides, is that the pile of Fisstech they've created together will numb the last moments of their lives.
Fisstech, for those of you unaware with the drugs in The Witcher's universe, is a substance much like cocaine or, shall we say, crystal meth. I guess this time, the alchemist wasn't the one who knocked.
3 This Smelly Cave
It can never be said that the folks over at CD Projekt Red don't have a sense of humor. Tucked away in Ard Skellige, this small cave packs a plan for one of the best armor pieces in the game. But to get to it, you need to be able to defeat three stone trolls whose tempers are nasty. Walking up to them, you'll overhear them talking about how the food they just finished was rotten and, just to drive the point home, they start farting. Once they notice you, all three immediately bum-rush you.
While this might just come off as a normal fight with a couple of funny trolls, it serves as a really clever Easter egg: they're named Jesse, Joe, and Dodger, references to popular YouTubers and Witcher superfans Jesse Cox, Joe Vargas (aka AngryJoe), and Brooke Lawson (aka Dodger), who also voice them. That must have been a good time!
2 This Rabbit That's Dynamite
Outside of a small village called Benek, there's a small hidden cave. What's inside, we dare not find out. For it is what's at the cave's mouth that gives even the most reckless and brave witchers pause. That small white rabbit, sitting amongst his piles of bones and entrails, shall tear any foolish enough to cross its path with its tiny white fangs.
Of course, this is a reference that's second to none, hearkening back to the classic comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which also had a killer rabbit that tore through King Arthur and his crew of coconut-clopping Knights of the Round Table. Thankfully, when Geralt comes across the rabbit, it doesn't seem interested in continuing its rampage, as it just stands there with its trophies. Its dead eyes meet the witcher, begging him to attempt another frontal assault. But he does not give in. Instead, he mounts his horse and rides off.
1 This Touching Goodbye on a Remote Mountaintop
Blood and Wine, the final DLC expansion to The Witcher 3, is the last time players will be able to take control of Geralt of Rivia and explore The Continent through his eyes. All three Witcher games have told a dense, cohesive story that found its climax at the end of Wild Hunt. With the end of this game, CD Projekt Red is closing the book on a saga that millions have fallen in love with around the world and made their company a household name.
Knowing this, the team placed a group photo of itself on a mountain which is only accessible by modding the game to allow teleportation. That in itself is a big embrace to the game's fans, who create mods for the game by the thousands to improve the experience. It's a perfect, understated way to say goodbye from a development team that's taken the triple-A gaming world by storm by letting their work do the talking.