It’s very hard for games to create genuinely menacing antagonists, barring horror games. While there are definitely some video game antagonists that successfully instil a sense of fear and leave an effect on us, it’s very rarely fully realised. Gaunter O’Dimm or ‘Master Mirror’ from The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone is for me, perhaps the best villain from a video game this generation and one of the greatest of all time.
We first meet him right near the start of the main game without actually knowing it then. While searching for Yennefer, Geralt stops at the tavern in White Orchard, where he sits and talks to a supposed merchant who points him in the right direction. He appears to be just a normal innocent human being, so we think nothing of it at this time. It isn’t until the first expansion Hearts of Stone do we discover his true identity as an extremely powerful and dangerous being.
Throughout the expansion we gradually uncover the extent of his capabilities. He is able to grant various wishes, cause pain to ghosts and manipulate the world around him, including time itself. One scene in particular stands out above the rest in showing just how powerful he is. Whilst a conversation between Geralt and him is playing out, a drunken man interrupts, causing O’Dimm to freeze time. After their conversation ends, he proceeds to embed a wooden spoon deep into the eye and head of the intoxicated man, and resume time for us and Geralt to witness the outcome. This chilling and gruesome event singlehandedly demonstrates what he can do, exemplifying his menacing character. He doesn’t require an extravagant murder-fest to make us see him as a threat. This small, intimate demonstration is all that is needed, and it’s highly effective.
To further cement him as a masterful antagonist, his final encounter, or ‘boss fight’ if you will, is so unique and perfectly designed. I don’t really want to spoil it too much, in case there are still people yet to play the game, but it captures everything about who Gaunter O’Dimm is and displays this in an unsettling sequence of fights, horror, and riddles. It was a thrilling end to such an incredible expansion. Gaunter O’Dimm will stand out in gaming history as one of the most interesting, complex and unlikely menacing villains.
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