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Serious spoilers for the ending of the Baron/Anna storyline

Butch:

Well. That. Happened. Didn’t it?

Well.

So I finished up with return to Crookback Bog. Guess we have nothing to talk about. Ha.

So to sum: Because I freed a spirit to rescue orphans, that spirit is now killing people and driving them mad, Anna died (did you pick the right doll? I did.), Tamara had to watch, the baron hung himself, the crones are pissed, Johnny had to move and it looks like worse dudes than the baron are taking over crow’s perch. That about sum it up?

Goodness.

So specifics:

The baron’s death legitimately stunned me. I did NOT see it coming. What game does that? Suicides a major character? They say something, give you something, and then sit in the same place for the rest of the game saying “I don’t want to talk anymore” if you try to talk to them. It’s how games do. So I didn’t see that coming. Like, at all. And here’s the thing: it upset me. I didn’t want him to do that. I stood there feeling helpless. Now that’s something, because, let’s face it, between us we’ve slaughtered hundreds of video game characters for sins similar to his. If ANY game gave us a side quest called “kill the wife beater” we’d lock and load, blow him to bits and feel good about ourselves, because bad guy. But there I was, looking at the dead body of a dude who in any other game I would have killed with my own sword/gun/plasma rifle, and I was upset. I still don’t know why there’s a difference there.

Anna’s death was a surprise. I AGONIZED over those dolls, and when I got it right and she still died? Not common in games. (By the way, if Phillipa is under the sway of the crones? That’s BAAAAAD. Phillipa is not to be fucked with WITHOUT the crones.)

What did you make of that strange little cartoony cutscene narrated by Geralt? I thought….odd. It was a bit of a throwback to 2. In that, whenever there was a big moment, you got this little cartoon bit, like that, animated in the same quasi 2D style that the narrated load screens are in. They were weird there, too.

Now, advice time. I’m pretty much at a point where I’ve done all the doable things in Velen except this one side bit in Oxenfurt. I feel, storywise, that I’m ready to ride to Novigrad. However, I have a doable treasure hunt (griffin, I think), and I’m still using the bitchin’ silver sword, which isn’t quite a bitchin’ on level 12 as it was at level 3. Worth going to go treasure huntin’ before Novigrad or not?

Feminina:

I did pick the right doll–and yeah, then she dies anyway, which is disheartening. And I totally agree, I was genuinely shocked when I found out the baron had killed himself. (Also, kind of disgruntled, because he said “your pay will be waiting at Crow’s Perch,” but NO ONE PAID ME. Because he was dead and apparently I was too polite to bring it up with his default successor. Yes, I am a heartless mercenary, but also very sensitive about intruding on peoples’ grief.) I was not expecting that. You just go sauntering back to the castle as you’ve done many times by now, looking to collect some coin, and then…

I second your bad feeling about the future leadership of Crow’s Perch. The baron was an awful husband, but apparently not a bad leader/ruler, if you’ve got to have a warlord in charge. I didn’t like the way that other guy, sharpening his sword, muttered “there’s going to be some changes around here.” I mean, maybe the changes will be good!–but no, they’re not going to be good.

So. Yeah. Try to do something positive, and…this happens. I was trying to help children! I DID help the children, I think. Didn’t I? Sort of? Because the spirit did in fact get them away from the crones, thus angering the crones and causing them to curse Anna, and so forth.

Although I don’t think we know what it did with them, so probably it ate them itself, and the whole thing was in vain. Sigh.

And I feel bad about Johnny having to move, and probably someday we’ll find out the crones killed him too.

I think we feel bad about the baron, even though he was a horrible person in many ways, because we’ve gotten to know him. The game did a good job setting up our relationship with him and developing it over a long period of time and several quests. We talked to him often, learned a lot about him. Hated him, felt bad for him, worked with and for him. We knew the guy, and when a guy we know abruptly ends his own life…we feel shock, and some sadness, even if he wasn’t our favorite guy in the world. I think it just goes to show what a good job they did of developing that character, and of tying his fate together with Geralt’s decisions.

The “these are the consequences” bit narrated by Geralt was a little weird. I mean, I appreciate knowing that, I guess–it adds to my appreciation of the depth of the game, anyway–and I can’t really think of a better way of getting that information across than by having a stylized interlude like that, but I agree, it seemed odd and out of place. But it would have felt awkward and stilted if instead we’d had Geralt just standing there and thinking out loud, “oh, I realize now that when I did this, it resulted in that!” or to have some random sage show up just at that moment and tell him, so maybe they decided that since it was going to seem artificial no matter what, they might as well just go all-out and make it obviously artificial.

Regarding your next moves, I’m still in Novigrad, puttering around on Novigrad business. I don’t think you need a better sword to do stuff in Novigrad, so you could totally do that next, and we’ll be back in the Velen countryside at some point anyway (still lots of high-level quests there), so there’s always time to wrap those things up later. On the other hand, I did try to clear up pretty much all the low-level stuff I could before Novigrad, just for tidiness, so that’s also a valid option.

Butch:

Although, despite the fact that no one said they were paying me, it did say “received: 100 crowns” when it was all over. So maybe someone did, on the way out or something. Or he left a little bit there. Did you notice that he was holding the Triss doll he made for Tamara? When he hung himself?

This game has shocked me more times than every game I’ve ever played combined. How does that keep happening? Good writing.

Remember when we were all asking “Would people really LIKE 150 hours of deep story?” I’m not at 150, but these first 33 aren’t getting old yet.

And when a guy who is SHARPENING A SWORD GRUMBLES about changes, that a red flag, it is. But then…have we been right about anything yet? So maybe it will be ok.

Or at least a different version of awful than we expect.

And I KNEW when I did that with the tree, it was a mistake. The whole time I was doing it, I knew it wasn’t a good idea. And I did it anyway, cuz, saving kids, right? (So what happened with Mr. O’? Go ahead. Spill. I’m not redoing it.) Generally, when something wants a black horse, that, too, is a bad sign.

Stop it, though. I’ll be very, very upset if Johnny dies. VERY. I like that little dude. And he didn’t do anything to anyone.

A great job developing the baron’s character. And can we point out, AGAIN, how optional most of this was? So very many chunks of that whole storyline could’ve been skipped. The whole last bit was a side quest! Jesus.

Goes to the whole player choice thing, though. You COULD whip through this only doing bandit camps and contracts and main quest and avoid all the themey bits. Good for those people. But listen up, DAI, FO, everyone: putting good stuff on the side? Some people want that. It’s how you DO themes.

As far as the summary: did we need either kind? I mean, books don’t have little two page summaries after every seven chapters. I mean, he said “I tried to save the children and all this bad shit happened,” and, well, yeah, Geralt, I knew that because I was, like, playing the game you see. And just out of nowhere, when there’s a really emotional moment, I felt it was unnecessary and intrusive.

Well, are there at least some options in Novigrad (shops, quests, whatever) to get better stuff?

Did YOU do the treasure hunt bits?

I might do one bit. If I get the pants, then enhanced pants!

Feminina:

Oh, did someone pay me on the way out? I missed that it added 100 crowns. OK, I retract my disgruntlement.

Mr. O’ said that he killed the tree thing, and Anna is alive in his game, and the baron is alive. I didn’t get details on what happened to the children, which is kind of a key point, because I was sort of in the middle of playing at the time, but I keep meaning to ask. If it turns out the children are somehow fine in his game, then I’ll KNOW it was all a horrible mistake.

If we managed to save the children, we could argue that it was at least kind of a trade…that SOMETHING good came of it. But yeah, we never should have trusted that tree thing. Me trying to see the best in people/spirits/beings again, and not judge them by their horrifying appearances, and all that.

I know, I like Johnny too. I was like “can I just have Johnny roam around with me as my sidekick? He doesn’t have to do anything, I just like him.” I hope he does OK.

It’s a good question as to whether we actually needed that summary of “here are the consequences of your choices,” and I think probably we don’t NEED need it, but honestly, I play in bits and pieces, and do a lot of things in between the things that are related to a specific quest, I read a lot of books between playing sessions, which breaks up my focus on that specific story…so I kind of do need that reminder to tie it together, or else I might not, in fact, make that connection.

It would be more like “oh, she died, sad–oh, the baron killed himself, too bad,” but I wouldn’t necessarily assume that it meant I was responsible for the thing that caused events to work out that way. Not that I would have forgotten the pieces that came before (I have not), but they’re not going to immediately spring to mind, because there’s all this other, more recent stuff that’s also in my mind, so I don’t promptly sit down and work out the chain leading back to the tree, if that makes sense.

So for me, and probably other, equally distractable players, if the game didn’t specifically say “hey, you did this,” I wouldn’t necessarily realize what I did until later, by which point it would have lost its immediacy. “Oh, I realize that back in Velen I did something significant, but now I’m in Skellige at 20th level, so…moving on…”

There are PLENTY of places to buy and craft things in Novigrad. No worries. It’s a big place.

Butch:

Really? Baron and Anna both alive? Interesting. That’s a pretty goddam big divergence. (Once again, on SIDE QUESTS).

I’m starting to think horrible mistake. I KNEW it. Although…

Well, well, wait. Yes, it was icky, and we should have known better. On the other hand, the crones are not nice, and it was anti-crone. I was ok with anti-crone. I still may be. I mean, they were going to EAT Ciri, so that’s not very cool. At the time, I was of the opinion that any enemy of the crones is ok. We still may be right.

Though I have to watch it. All that had my gaming dander up. Part of me really, really wants to kill me some crone, but then, as nice as that may be to do, as I am mad at them, power vacuums, man. Would I be turning the forest over to horse dude? Do I want to do that? It’s gonna be tough to leave them alone, cuz man they have a whupping coming to them, but gotta think.

Summary for the easily distracted… Yeah, makes sense. I suppose they can’t expect people to piece it together like a book or TV show cuz of the nonlinearity of it. It was more jarring in TW2 cuz that was a non linear game (pretty much). There was some eye rolling “we get it.”

Though it is interesting that you’d “forget you were responsible.” That’s not a common video game thing, either. I mean, Evelyn, she was responsible for everything (except that divine bit). Usually, it’s assumed that the player IS responsible in some way for everything. This game? If it doesn’t affirmatively remind you that you matter, you forget. Interesting.

Novigrad does look big. And Triss. Triss is there. KNEW I was saving the clothes for a reason. Can’t meet Triss smelling like grave hag.

Feminina:

It’s true, I was pretty much going with the anti-crone platform: crone enemies should be allowed to do their thing and bother the crones! Though as you say, and as the (probable) example of the baron’s successor shows, if the crones WERE removed from the swamp, something worse would likely take their place. Red-eyed demon horse rules, kills everyone who comes through, destroys peasant villages for fun, or something. The crones at least have a system worked out with the neighboring villages, where they are somewhat useful, for a price.

Interesting to compare the crones to the Allgod, actually…the Allgod is pretending to be something the crones actually are: a powerful force (for good and ill) in peoples’ lives. And we both let the Allgod continue with his fiction. Is that because fiction-based influence is OK, but real influence is not? Obviously it’s partly about the nature of the demands made: the Allgod wants food and booze, while the crones want ears and lure children. But maybe that’s just part of the nature of power: if you don’t pay much, you get comforting (or disturbing!) lies, while if you’re willing to make real sacrifices, you get genuine action (good and bad). If the crones provide a real service that people semi-willingly pay, maybe we should let them be, the same as we let the Allgod maintain his fraud with the people who semi-willingly serve him. Is this another case where we should try not to take sides?

Butch:

Esp. as the horse seems to talk for the forest, not the people therein. Sorta an environmental terrorist.

But then, remember the other day with us and the elves? The elves WERE here first, and now they’re all terrorist to get back theirs, much like horsey, and they DO seem to have a bit of a point.

Hmm. I suppose we DID allow the Allgod to continue. But then, he was, in a way, harmless. Give him some scraps, he’ll tell a nice tale to make you feel better, done. The crones were pretty nasty, and, if you read the message boards, getting nastier. Of course, the horse may be the nastiest yet….

Maybe they’re trying to reflect religion thus: religions that don’t really ask much of you, or promise you much, like, say, Unitarianism, are easier to stomach than religions that require a great deal of sacrifice and devotion, and all are better than the scorched earth ideals of fundamentalism. How’s that?

Maybe the Allgod will rise up.

Feminina:

Hmm…yes, there is an interesting set of ideas about religion here.

Although I’m not so sure the takeaway is that it’s a sliding scale and the Allgod is at the ‘harmless’ end. We’ve talked about how he offers comforting lies, but let’s not forget how easily these can become exploitative lies, since we had to intervene to stop him from demanding so much tribute (in exchange for absolutely nothing) that the townspeople didn’t have food for themselves, which is in fact harmful. And comforting lies in exchange for a small donation is one thing, but what about when the lies become threatening and you wind up giving more than you can afford, harming yourself and your family in the process, to appease someone who actually can neither hurt nor help you? Ouch, TV evangelists.

In a sort of middle ground, there are rather threatening truths, in exchange for somewhat more daunting payments: the crones seem to deliver what they promise, to some extent (people were having trouble with the tree, they found someone to go deal with the tree), which the Allgod cannot. And yet, they’re undeniably nasty. In some ways, they’re not so much a religion, as a mafia. Work with us, give us what we want, and we’ll take care of you, sort of. At least we’ll keep other people from hassling you too much. When we get around to it.

And then there are the witch hunters and the eternal fire, who do seem to represent fundamentalism trying to wipe out all competing ideas, regardless of their truth or utility. They don’t seem to offer much in the way of practical services to country folk, not in the personal way that the Allgod and the crones do, although they are opposed to monsters, so they probably kill some ghouls and what-not, in between witch burnings. Which is not nothing, in a monster-infested landscape. If you’re just trying to get your crops in, and someone destroys the monster nest that’s keeping you from the harvest, that’s worth a lot.

Honestly, though, at this point I think I’d take the crones over the witch hunters. I really hate those guys. They burn people, point one, and also they’re so infuriatingly SMUG and certain and dismissive of every other perspective, just trying to make the whole world act the way they do whether it wants to or not–and not in a bargaining sort of way, like the crones, but by pure force. Fundamentalism, all right.

Maybe I should actually be trying to empower the crones, since their type of old magic is going to go up against the eternal fire at some point, and I want them to be able to put up a good fight.

Butch:

There is that. Allgod wasn’t exactly benevolent. That he wasn’t.

HA! A Mafia. I see that. But people KNOW the mafia is what it is. The crones? Remember, the baron doesn’t even believe in the crones when you’re going out to the bog. He isn’t all “I can’t believe she made a deal with basket face.” He’s arguing with you about their very existence.

I’m curious to see if we get to meet the “students” who seem to think all religion is bunk again. The guys I pointedly didn’t kill, failing a quest in the process. I’d like them to chime in.

I don’t like the eternal fire either, but they DID whack on that fiend while I ran around waiting for the eggs and onions and swallow to work, so I owe them that. That was certainly a whackwhack “ok, dudes, take over while I go eat” fight.

But anyone against sorceresses…..(Though I did let Sile die….)

Nasty choice, crones or fire. I will bide my time. Don’t give away anything about what you’ve found about folks in Novigrad. You’ve been so good about not spoiling. Don’t blow it now.

Feminina:

Ah, people know the mafia is what it is now, but apparently there was a period in the early 20th century where the official government line was that the very idea of organized crime was a bizarre conspiracy theory, and that the mafia absolutely, definitely, did not in fact exist. Boogie men! Outrageous! (I read this in a book on drug policy. Interesting stuff.)

So perfectly sane, capable, smart people not actually living in affected areas could have believed that there was no such thing as a mafia: meanwhile, people in mafia territory knew better, just like the peasants near the swamp know better than the baron in this case.

That is true, about the witch hunters distracting the fiend while I ran around and gulped swallow and stuffed myself with food. I wouldn’t have been able to handle that fiend without them, so I appreciate that one thing they did. And the one dude did give me thoughts on which doll to pick, without being super obnoxious about it.

Still, as a group, I find them and their policies and philosophy abhorrent. That’s just based on what we saw in Velen. I’m not into theocracy.

I would also be interested to run into the ‘opiate of the masses’ guys again. Could happen!

Butch:

Historical accuracy! Unknown mafia!

Yup. That fiend would have killed me dead without the witch hunters’ help, level 9 (!) or no. (Seriously, that was a level 9 monster? Nope.)

One thing I can thank the mourntart for was teaching me the art of using X to dodge. That’s key on all these things with wings and horns. I got good at it with that hag.

But yeah, they’re assholes. As is that eternal fire guy from the “burn the body pit” quest way back when that you didn’t do. He was even worse. Don’t dig those guys.

Should happen, that we meet those students again! Best reason not to kill dudes. More themes later!

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