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Spoilery discussion of DLC quest Fool’s Gold

Butch:

I found a cat school thing and I’m trudging through Phillipa’s hideout. That’s all I got right now. But getting to Phillipa was fun. I won a horserace! I got a saddle! Whoo hoo! And I killed some ghouls! And….stuff.

Feminina:

I did the side quest with the pigs! Which was funny but wound up kind of depressing me with its message about the inherent horribleness of human nature, when the villagers all turned on Yontek after he basically saved them by convincing Geralt to help. I got them to leave him alone, but told him he should leave town and ‘find another place for yourself’ (because a war-torn land is just FULL of good jobs and homes for a displaced village fool), which is not much of a reward for him. So, practically speaking, we saved a village full of vengeful jerks and doomed a kind, mentally challenged man to a short life of wandering the roads until he’s killed by bandits or nekkers.

Best case, he’ll go back home to Lurtch because he realizes he doesn’t have anywhere else to go, and the people will have gotten over their urge to take out their anger on him, and things will go on as before.

Man, people suck!

Butch:

Oh–I also got Rocket League for free off PS+. It’s a very simple game in which cars play soccer. It is altogether too much fun, and it’s a blast to play with Butch Jr.

But as to the pigs: also let’s not forget the implied cannibalism bit. I mean, it starts with Yontek saying to what you THINK is a pig: “Oh lord, Gertrude! They slaughtered you! They roasted you!” And you THINK he’s just this mentally ill man with a rather large fondness for pigs. Until the end. And then you think back hoping, like HOPING that when you said “Sure, I’ll have some pork,” that you got interrupted before you actually did.

Jesus, game.

Feminina:

Oh, see, I said “no thanks” to the pork. I’m suspicious of random people offering me food in the middle of the night in deserted towns. Plus, there was just something unwholesome looking about that pig. But yeah, it seems like probably Yontek’s wailing broke things up before you actually ate any…go with that.

Failing that, just go with “your honor, the deceased was clearly a pig when I ate her.”

Oh ugh, now I’ve got a horrible image of what the villagers got home to, assuming she changed back with the rest of them. I’m going to go with “once you’re dead, you stay a pig.” Otherwise…vomit.

Butch:

Oh dear GOD I didn’t even think of that! Um…..well……let’s see…..you had to get them to the temple to change them back. If they didn’t go to the temple they stayed pigs. There. Ok. Good. Phew.

And I’ll go with ‘Yontek’s wailing prevented me from eating’. Cuz I think I did say “Sure, why not?” I mean, I’ll take vodka from obviously thieving con men, why not some tasty pig?

I mean……how could I…..jesus, game. Mean enough they give you that as a choice.

You know who gets it? Trollolololo gets it. He’s cool. He doesn’t overthink. You overthink, you miss out on perfectly good stew. Just sing, paint, eat, and life’s good.

Feminina:

Yes! You did have to take them to the temple to change back! So no temple, no change. Whew, thank you. That’s a weight off my mind.

Yeah, Trollololo’s got it made. Art, music, food, that glow you get from defending boats and making sure things don’t go to waste…I’ve killed a couple of trolls, and they’ve both been ‘rabid.’ I just feel bad there’s not a cure for rabies in that world (not that there is one in this one). Because trolls aren’t for killing! They’re for having long, confusing conversations with! I would work really hard to cure trolls of rabies rather than killing them, if that were an option.

Although…do we only feel so kindly towards them because they’re less complicated and therefore less creatively mean and obnoxious than humans? Is there a touch of condescension in our fondness for trolls?

And while we’re on this, let’s take Yontek. I liked Yontek! He was well-meaning and cared about his fellow villagers, and didn’t mind that they were pigs. He didn’t take any of the gold, because he couldn’t think of anything to spend it on: his life was already great! (And is now ruined by his fellow villagers’ need for a scapegoat.) He was a good guy. And he was definitely of below-average intelligence. Like a troll, perhaps. Are we indulging in a bit of patronizing, “oh, the simple-minded among us, they are the pure souls, how wise is their ignorance, although I certainly wouldn’t trade my own superior understanding of reality for it” kind of stuff in our approach to him?

How much of the full range of the humanity (or trollishness) of these characters do we miss by seeing only the good-hearted fool in them?

Butch:

Is it a weight off your mind? Is it really? Cuz what if they went back and said “Man, all that pigging made me hungry. Oh, look, hey, some roast pig!” Omnomnomom. “Hey, where’s Gertrude?”

Oh, have you killed trolls? Shit. I don’t want to hurt trolls.

On condescension, nah, I think that, unlike anyone else, they mean well and WANT to help. “It would make this dude happy if I guard these boats, and that’s good enough for me!” Who else says that? Witchers want gold. Humans want power and influence. No one lifts a finger in this world out of pure empathy but our friends the trolls.

So does that make them simple, too? Is the game saying empathy is stupid? Cuz trolls have it. And every time WE have it, things go horribly wrong.

I’m not sure. Is the game encouraging ignorance? Or saying that trying to care is ignorant?

Feminina:

Dude. None of those people is ever going to want to even look at a pig again. Plus, just because they’re petty and vengeful doesn’t mean they’re stupid. I think “we were all just pigs, and Gertrude is missing, and here’s a dead pig” is enough information that they could put the puzzle together.

Although, if we’re so admiring of trolls, perhaps we should salute them if they DO just say “well, no point letting her go to waste” and dig in. These are hard times. Think about what Gertrude would have wanted. Would she want her neighbors to go hungry, or would she prefer they be nourished by her sacrifice?

Yeah, the game does seem to be saying that trying to help anyone with anything just to be nice is a losing strategy. Trolls might get away with it, because they’re big and tough, but look at what happened to Yontek. Not only did it go wrong (all the people he was presumably trying to help by letting them take the gold they wanted, turned into pigs), but when he tried to fix it, THAT went wrong too (all the people he tried to help become human again blamed him for their fate–unable to believe that anyone wouldn’t want gold as much as they did).

You’re better off just wallowing in the pathetic, vicious, money-grubbing pit that is your true nature. Everyone else does!

This game has a jaundiced view of human nature, all right. But I sort of feel that it shares our fondness for trolls and other simple-minded creatures, even while it writes off their attempts to do good as either completely useless, or actively harmful. A sort of “aww, nice try, and aren’t you sweet to think of it”–FAIL.

It’s like, everyone fails to accomplish much of anything, but at least these ones tried to be nice.

Butch:

Ok, we gotta move on right now from the Gertrude discussion. Now. Please.

One wonders what would happen if a troll successfully helped someone. I mean, trolls TRY, but Trollololo kinda….didn’t…and Bart…well….didn’t. Yontek did. Maybe the trolls have it right: TRY to help and FAIL miserably. Cuz then you have a good heart, and you really aren’t stopping people from their nefarious ways, so they’ll leave you alone. Or at least own you as property.

The game keeps TRYING to get you to do just that: wallow in your pathetic, money-grubbing nature. Read the codex. Every time you do something altruistic, Dandelion writes “And…once again going against his code…” or something.

Watch: The way to get the best ending (or at least the least bad one) is to be a complete jerk. Our ending is going to be utterly tragic.

Feminina:

Siiiiigh…what has this blog come to, that we can’t handle a little cannibalism?

But yeah, no doubt with our blundering around trying to help people, we’ve utterly doomed ourselves and the world around us. With great power comes great ability to wreck things by trying to help.

We like trolls because Geralt basically is one, in terms of intentions/effectiveness.

Butch:

Let’s save the cannibalism for Fallout 4, shall we?

This game punishes you in many ways for not following directions. Don’t read the beastiary and learn the weakness of foes? Prepare to die. Often. Don’t pay attention to the little details like the Baron’s wife’s favorite flower? Prepare to blow a choice. And here’s the game telling you over and over and over and over “Witchers DON’T WORK FOR FREE and DON’T GET INVOLVED!” So why should we be surprised if we get punished for ignoring that? It’s punished us for not listening to everything else.

Feminina:

Well, true, but…sometimes even if you do follow directions things turn out badly. NOT killing Junior might have been less getting involved, but it would have meant a bunch more women probably got tortured to death.

So in some ways the game is telling us we’re screwed no matter what, and if that’s the case, maybe the only choice that really means anything is whether the road to hell is paved with good intentions, or with indifference.

People suck. The world is awful. Given. So are you going to just let that be what it is, or are you going to try to do some tiny ineffective thing about it? It’s not much of a choice, but if that’s the choice you have…

Butch:

Yes…. but watch. If Junior had lived, somehow 679 orphans that are now going to die horribly wouldn’t have. Or something.

Not in good moods today, are we?

What IS odd is the whole Corinne/Sara bit. I mean, that earned itself a weird little animated cutscene, so the devs thought it important, and….it seemed to be ok. Ok without us having to do something truly awful. I mean, they wound up ok, and we didn’t have to kill a kitten or something. Weird.

Feminina:

I’m in a fine mood! That was me trying to be upbeat in the face of dire odds and stuff! Are you dissing my pep talks? Was that not inspirational enough? DAMN IT WHY MUST I FAIL AT EVERY ATTEMPT AT MASONRY AND PEP TALKS?

Yeah, Corinne and Sara is the odd story in this collection. I mean, we had a contract: to properly follow our code, we SHOULD have done whatever it took to drive Sara out of that house so we could earn that money. And yet we didn’t, we lied to the guy who hired us, didn’t get paid but, as you point out, also didn’t have to kill any other innocents in Sara’s place or anything, and it turned out fine. As far as we know at the moment, anyway. Next time we go back there could be a pile of dead orphans in the basement because it turns out Sara and Corinne were crones in disguise, but at the moment everything seems nice.

Butch:

I dunno. I sorta got from the Baron bit that that little animated bit means “Story over. Go elsewhere.” It’s really the only purpose I can see for that cutscene. So much of this game involves returning to places. That seemed to say “Ok, yeah, Crow’s Perch was important, and now it isn’t. Go away.” Much like Corinne. She was important enough that she got her own little “Triss could not help the witcher…but directed her” blah blah loading screen, and now the game seems to be saying “yeah yeah, she WAS important, move on.” I even went back there to check on them, and, sure enough, they’re standing there giving you the “Yes?” treatment when you try to talk to them.

Feminina:

Hmm…yeah, I suppose that’s true, the animation does kind of say “moving on.” Although it’s interesting that at least with Crow’s Perch, some later changes were heavily implied (the guy sharpening his sword muttering about changes was the giveaway for me), but then the game never actually shows us any, and if your interpretation is correct, is never going to.

“There’s going to be some big changes around here…” sharpen sharpen, THE END.

I guess it means that you can only follow a given story so far: you can never really get to the very end of the consequences, but you also can’t monitor Crow’s Perch for the next 50 years to see how things shake out, so the game is saying “look, we’ve got other stuff to get to, so whatever happens from here on out is not your concern.” Which is a slightly weird message, coupled as it is with “what happened up to this point is totally your fault,” but there you have it.

“Yeah, you made some bad choices. That was then. You have to move on with your life. No dwelling in the past with all those orphans you probably didn’t save! Hup hup, move along now!”

Butch:

There is that, with Crow’s Perch. It still seemed rather final. I have a feeling that this game isn’t going to “end” everything. I mean, I have a feeling there’ll be a sense of “And, while this story is over, the world goes on….in bad ways.”

And is it totally your fault? I mean, the baron’s course was pretty much set before you got there. Anna was doing her deal with the crones, Tamara was gone, and you couldn’t convince her to come back no matter how hard you tried…. I’m not sure all this was my fault. I didn’t tell Tamara to leave (just the opposite) I didn’t tell Anna to find the crones. We joined the program late, when things were already well on their way to where they got.

So, not sure I’m with you there.

Feminina:

Well, that’s true, it’s not TOTALLY your fault. Only the part with the tree-spirit was really your decision…so in the end (if there is an end), the only thing that’s really on your head is Anna’s and the Baron’s deaths: all we know for sure about what would be different is that they’d be alive if we’d killed the tree thing, and instead they’re dead. (We don’t even know for SURE that Downwarren was our fault…I stumbled across a completely unrelated village where I’d never been which was also overrun with wraiths and bodies in a very similar fashion, so that might even be coincidental.)

And their deaths are a significant difference, but you’re right, if you put it in context it’s a drop in the bucket. I’ve caused thousands of deaths! One or two more unintentional ones is too bad and all, but I’m not sure how much I should beat myself up about it.

And yeah, I could totally see an ending with a feeling of “and so you did all that, and maybe made some sort of difference, and then new bad things kept happening in spite of everything you did, because that’s how things go.”

Butch:

I’ll be stunned if that’s NOT the ending.

Another theme is the player’s LACK of control.

I don’t beat myself up about the baron and Anna. I mean, I didn’t tell him to do any of that. He was gonna do it anyway. You play the hand you’re dealt. We didn’t know our actions would cause that. We were shocked.

You know, another tip of the cap to the writing. We got a pretty good day of bloggage out of a side quest that was a free DLC. Not bad.

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