It is a well-established fact within the gaming community that the quests in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are among the finest quests ever. The game sees Geralt of Rivia come across a large number of quests (both main and side) that are fun, interesting, and memorable. The secondary quests in The Witcher 3 are not mere fillers. Instead, they offer some of the best events and outstanding narrative depth in the game. Moreover, the ‘Return to Crookback Bog’ side quest is one of the most memorable side quests in gaming history.
Geralt frequently finds himself in situations where he has to choose between a set of difficult options. And when it comes to such dilemma-filled choices, ‘Return to Crookback Bog’ is pretty much a textbook example. Because of that, many players find it difficult to complete this side quest.
To ease things up, I will explain how to go through ‘Return to Crookback Bog’, and get the lesser one out of its two unpleasant endings. Read on to find out more.
How to Start the ‘Return to Crookback Bog’ Side Quest?
After forcing Phillip Strenger, better known as the Bloody Baron, to speak out every detail he has about Ciri and her location, the Witcher needs no other help from him. You, as Geralt, can now visit Novigrad or Skellige if you wish. But the Baron still needs your help.
With your help in the previous quest, the Baron has come to know about the whereabouts of his wife and daughter. While the Baron’s daughter Tamara is well and good, his wife Anna is still in danger. By helping him out in his quest to save his wife, you can bring the Baron’s saga to a conclusion.
‘Return to Crookback Bog’ will start only if you have finished ‘Family Matters’ and reported back to the Baron. Also, I suggest you finish this quest before starting ‘The Isle of Mists’, or else it will inevitably fail.
Where to Meet the Bloody Baron?
In order to meet the Bloody Baron, you first need to visit Downwarren. But there is a catch: the village will either be in ruins or unchanged, based on your decisions during ‘The Whispering Hillock’ quest.
No matter what state you find the village in, the Ealdorman will still be alive. He will inform you and Phillip about a Witch Hunter group led by a girl that passed through not long ago and headed towards the swamp, known as the Crookback Bog.
After you notify the Baron that you are ready to start the rescue mission, he will call together his men and start heading towards the ‘The Orphans of Crookback Bog’.
When I played the mission, I made a little mistake and wandered a bit too far away from Phillip, causing the quest to fail. So, when you play this quest, try to stay close to Phillip (within 150 meters) as you move towards the orphanage to avoid any mishap.
You remember the first time you visited the Crookback Bog, right? Well, I hate to break it to you, but nothing has really changed since then. The bog is still a dangerous place, maybe a bit more than before, infested with monstrous creatures.
When you, the Baron, and his men arrive at the place, two waves of monsters will attack you. Although Phillip and his men are skilled warriors on their own, you are a way better threat to the monsters than them. Hence, be prepared to kill the majority of the monsters while in the bog.
Phillip’s men indeed play no significant role in the events of the game. I recommend you take the initiative and run ahead to kill the monsters before they get to them. Why? Because they can come in handy as effective diversions later.
Also, note that the lion’s share of monsters in the swamp are necrophages. So, the smartest move for you will be to apply some Necrophage Oil on your blade and utilize Igni to get rid of them fast. In addition, consuming the Black Blood potion can make your blood toxic to necrophages, damaging them every time they land a successful hit on you.
Once you kill off both waves of enemies, head towards the orphanage. There you will find Tamara and the Witch Hunters belonging to the Church of the Eternal Fire fighting with drowners. Their reaction to your arrival is dependent on your previous communications with Tamara.
For your info, you have to defeat the monsters flooding the orphanage as well before you can proceed further. After you have had a conversation with Tamara, Graden, and, of course, Phillip – they will start searching around the orphanage to locate Anna.
Two Endings of the Quest – Which One is Better?
Now, it is time to focus on Anna. Note that the state Anna is currently in depends on your past decisions. No matter what you did, the Baron’s story is bound to end on a bad note. Hence, there is no happy ending. But keeping in mind Baron’s entire life, I think ‘The Blue Mountains’ ending is the best.
If you killed the spirit residing in the tree in ‘The Whispering Hillock’, you will get this ending. While killing the spirit is a hard decision, it contributes to one of the better conclusions to the Baron’s story.
When you and Phillip rescue Anna from the wicked Crones, you find her in a deranged state. Yet, Phillip thinks that he can save his wife by taking her to a hermit residing in the Blue Mountains. While Tamara is unwilling to let them go, she still agrees, and Baron takes Anna to the mountains.
Although this way the Baron’s henchmen will become crueler in his absence in the Crow’s Perch, both Anna and Phillip live. Thus, this is undoubtedly the less fiendish ending.
The other ending, however, is a not-so-satisfying conclusion to Phillip’s chronicle that triggers if you have freed the spirit. In this ending, the foul ladies ruling the bog have transformed Anna into a full-fledged water hag.
Even though Anna is not hostile towards you in this form, her tragic fate is still pain-inducing, and you need to lift the curse. And guess what? It kills Anna. But before the group can plan something, you will sense that something is not right. That is when you face the last wave of monsters and a gigantic enemy – a fiend.
How to Defeat the Fiend?
As I just mentioned, while you are on the rescue operation, you have one last big fight to take care of. After slaying the final wave of monsters, the Crones will send your last adversary – a fiend. It is colossal and has deadly attacks.
The fiend’s attacks are primarily of three types – charge, melee, and hypnotic gaze.
Charge attacks see it charging straight, sending every being in its path flying. As its huge antlers can reach a great distance, rolling out of its way instead of side-stepping is the best way to avoid the offensive.
The fiend’s melee attacks comprise forelimb jabs and antler lunges on its opponents in front of it. Beware! These attacks are lethal and may kill you instantly if you are on a low level. However, they are slow. So, your best bet will be to circumvent out of its way and keep circling the fiend while landing quick strikes.
And finally, the fiend can hypnotize you using its third eye. When under this effect, your screen will become dim, with only the glowing orange eye perceptible. This makes it easier for the fiend to attack you. Nonetheless, you can stop it from using its hypnotic gaze by hurling a Samum bomb. Also, hitting it with an offensive sign cancels the gaze.
Besides, do not forget to apply Relict oil to your blade to deal greater damage with a strike and slaughter your foe faster.
How to Lift the Curse off Anna?
After slaying the fiend, Tamara will ask for your assistance to lift the curse off his mother. This will make you take Johnny the Godling’s help once again. Yes, Johnny, the same Johnny who helped you in ‘Ladies of the Wood’ in finding out about Ciri’s fate in the bog.
Finding Johnny should not be of much trouble. Simply follow the markers to his home. There, you have to guard him against a monster attack.
Once saved from his impending doom, Johnny will provide you with useful information regarding a cellar inside the home of the Ladies of the Wood.
Armed with this info, you can finally do what is necessary to lift Anna’s curse. By utilizing your Witcher senses, you will be able to find the exact hut and the cellar door inside it.
Once you enter the cellar, Graden will accompany you. For the unaware, Graden is Tamara’s chaperone in the Crookback Bog.
Inside the cellar, you and Graden will see a table on which there are four distinct dolls with unique distinguishing items implanted within. After that, Graden will explain to you the importance of the dolls.
He will also inform you that it is vital that you choose the exact doll that is representative of Anna.
The four dolls on the table are a Red-Beaded Doll, a Human Ear Doll, a Bird Feather Doll, and a Violet Hollyhock Bloom. Let us analyze the dolls a little to find out the correct pick.
➡️ The first doll is a Red-Beaded Doll. Now, while you have seen Anna wearing red beads, it is not something exclusive. Many other women wear red beads as well. Hence, a quite common necklet like that cannot specifically represent Anna.
➡️ The second doll is a Human Ear Doll. As we all know, the Ladies of the Wood are known for taking human ears as payment. Thus, this doll to represent Anna is highly unlikely.
➡️ The third is a Bird Feather Doll. Ask yourself; have you witnessed anything that can string birds and Anna together? You have not. So, this doll cannot be Anna’s representative either.
➡️ The final doll is a Violet Hollyhock Bloom. If you remember, Phillip revealed that it was Anna’s favorite flower. So, keeping in mind all the details and available alternatives, the Violet Hollyhock Bloom doll is the accurate choice.
Picking the correct doll will free Anna of her curse. However, in a tragic turn of events, the Crones tied the curse to Anna’s life. Therefore, Anna dies shortly after having a final reunion with her family. The quest ends with you finding out that the Baron has killed himself in his courtyard, unable to cope with his catastrophic life.
To conclude, ‘Return to Crookback Bog’ is one of those The Witcher 3 quests that is bound to have a fiendish ending regardless of what you do.
In this guide, I explained how you can complete this quest without much hassle and achieve the less heart-rending alternative out of its two endings.
Instead of putting an end to both the Baron and his wife Anna, it lets them live, albeit with a mentally unstable Anna. But it all depends on what you did in ‘The Whispering Hillock’. If you have already freed the spirit, the game bars you from this ending.
If you love interesting side quests, you should check out the High Stakes side quest in The Witcher 3. It’s filled with intrigue, excellent characters, and an exciting Gwent tournament!