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Some spoilers for the Novigrad ball sequence

Butch:

So I’ve reached the conclusion, and we should tell Buttons, that every game should have a ball. Or a party. Or something. They’re awesome.

So I was going to talk to Triss about Phillipa’s crystal, but when I got there she was already in that FABULOUS dress (screenshot!) and she wasn’t having any talk that wasn’t “Do you have the masks?” She was raring to go. So I went to the ball. It took me a bit longer than you, cuz I had to beat three dudes at gwent, because. I just kissed Triss, there were fireworks (what a GREAT touch), and saved.

Did you kiss Triss?

And the NPC stuff! (Did you hear the one about them thinking Geralt is a male stripper?) Just great. I would’ve liked more intrigue, like they had in DAI, but I’ll take this.

What IS great is the relationship between Triss and Geralt. It’s really, really well done. And not, this isn’t a “hot sorceress is hot” thing. You get that they’re awkward, that they like each other, that they’re a little afraid of liking each other so much…. I thought the scenes they’ve had in this bit really capture the awkwardness and complexities of an on again, off again relationship.

It’s funny, cuz bioware is usually better at character relationships (both romantic and platonic) than CDPR, but the Geralt/Triss one is one of the best I’ve ever seen.

And having them relax was great. The ball bit in DAI was great for many reasons, but one was letting you, the player, see characters in a different way. Leliana was the best example, but Sera and even Varric showed us another dimension. Here, seeing Geralt and Triss just chilling, getting a little drunk, and letting the kiss happen THEN, when their guard was down, was really, really effective.

Balls. Games need ’em.

But I’m still at it so no spoilers.

Feminina:

The party was pretty sweet. Did you wear your nice clothes? You MUST wear your nice clothes! Triss was very pleased with me for putting on mine. Some sort of “you clean up nice” compliment.

I had fun wandering around eavesdropping on conversations and stealing food from all the tables: it’s not every day I get this nice of fare! Although speaking of food and parties, I did think Geralt’s earlier line to Triss about how “this is going to be dangerous–80 desserts and you’re still trying to fit into that size dress” or whatever, was kind of a jerk thing to say. Where the hell did that come from, man? You gotta rag on a woman about watching her weight, even though she looks like freaking Triss? It’s not even as if there’s some longstanding joke about how much she loves sweets and/or how much trouble she has with her weight: as far as I recall, it’s never come up before (at least not in this game: perhaps it was an ongoing theme in 2?). It was just sort of out of nowhere because, well, obviously every woman ever in every possible fantastic world, even one in which it’s already been established that she maintains her looks BY MAGIC, is going to be worried about the possibility of being overcome by desserts and suddenly gaining 3 ounces. Eyeroll.

That aside (and that was actually earlier than the party itself), I had fun at the party. And I did kiss Triss. The moment was too perfect.

Butch:

I BOUGHT new clothes. She was impressed. AND a shave. I looked correct.

Well SOMEONE’S being sensitive. Yeesh. And it was to “Keep your 22 inch waist.” Yeesh.

I read that as “Why do you try so hard? You have magic, and you’re hot.” Maybe that’s a woman/man thing. And anyway, fitting into that dress? Not exactly her waist that’s the issue. Ahem.

While we’re on eavesdropping, it’s interesting the differences in the way this game and DAI portrayed the wealthy. We’ve compared and contrasted a lot, so here we go:

In DAI, I had the pleasure of attending the ball with Sera, cuz she was my lady. Sera spent the whole time feeling uncomfortable cuz everyone had poles up their asses. She wanted to, well, get drunk and pretend to be the kraken in the fountain. Leliana was happy cuz people WERE so elegant and well mannered. THIS game, every rich person is a drunken asshole, chasing skirts and eating and generally being materialistic while people starve and die outside the walls. Sera would have had a very different reaction. I mean, she would have wanted to kill them.

What’s interesting is that, in both games, I don’t think we were supposed to like all these other ball attendees, but for different reasons. In this game, it’s because they are too aloof, too willing to IGNORE the common man. In DAI, it was more they were too meddlesome, too willing to USE the common man.

Certainly, both games used the balls as a way to show, not just other sides of the characters in the game, but to contrast what you usually see (peasants) with the way the 1% lives.

The moment WAS too perfect, wasn’t it? Well done scene. For writing reasons. And dress reasons.

That and, admit it, you think Geralt is pretty dreamy.

Feminina:

You bought clothes? After carrying the emperor’s suit around for three months, you BOUGHT clothes? No wonder you don’t have any money. Sigh…I try and try to pass on my hard-earned money-making wisdom, and for what? So you can go buy new clothes when you have a perfectly good set of stolen Nilfgaardian finery in your saddle bags. Vanity, thy name is Geralt of Rivia.

And yeah, I suppose I am super-sensitive about my weight, what with a lifetime of being subtly told I’m too fat by every aspect of popular media and all. On second thought, that doesn’t actually describe me that well, but does probably describe half the women you’re likely to meet on any given day, so maybe I’m just irritated on their behalf.

Whatever. It just seemed like a weirdly “gotta watch your figure!” kind of comment to me, but if your Geralt meant it as a compliment, that’s cool.

I definitely agree that this was an interesting look at the nobles in a state of cutting loose. Maybe that’s another difference from the DAI ball: that one was not a place to relax, it was a place where the attendees were WORKING (on their schemes, public presentation, etc.). This ball is a place for the attendees to kick back, drink, leer at semi-naked dancers, and generally have a good old time. We still don’t know what Orlesian nobles are like when they’re relaxing, if they ever do, but we’ve got a pretty good sense of what they’re like in Novigrad. And they aren’t particularly admirable, this is true.

I don’t know if they’re morally worse than the peasants, except to the (potentially great) extent that they can afford to do more damage, but they’re certainly no better. Human nature reduces to this urge to eat and get drunk and have sex in the hedge maze, perhaps is the message, and the nobles stripped of their polish are no different than the peasants in this respect. The game certainly doesn’t hold with any sort of ‘divine right of kings,’ ‘the ruling class just has inherently better blood’ sort of messaging.

If only it were as simple as eating, drinking and having sex in the hedge maze, actually: that sounds pretty harmless, but in fact, as we know given the whole reason we’re there, human nature also reduces to the urge to exert power over other people, and that’s easy to do by turning them against each other (mages suck!).

Again, we’ve seen enough bad behavior among the peasants that I’m not going to say the nobles are worse, since the game also doesn’t hold with any ‘saintly poor people,’ ‘purifying qualities of poverty’ messaging…so overall, here as elsewhere, we learn that people in general kind of suck, and witchers should try not to get too involved with them.

Still, it was a good party.

And Geralt is OK. Neither angsty nor exoskeletal enough for me, really, but he’ll do for the moment.

Butch:

Ok, look. The hot sorceress told me to buy clothes. You know how I am with hot sorceresses. How could I disappoint her?

I was going to say, you are a) thin and b) not one to give a shit. But then, I am a privileged white dude, so can I really say?

I’m going with “meant it as a compliment”. She certainly drank at the party, so there ya go.

And really, in this world, we can all eat seven grilled chicken sandwiches and a honeycomb and not gain an ounce. It’s all good.

Hmm. Good point about a ball being for work vs. fun. The DAI ball did have a purpose (or several). The Game and all. This one seems not to. Which, in and of itself, is an interesting narrative choice. I mean, like Evelyn, Geralt does rub elbows with monarchy. We have met an honest to God king, after all.

Which, again, is an interesting comparison. We met an empress at a ball in DAI (with masks. What’s the deal with masks?). We met a king in a weird, run down chess club, by himself, lit by candles. So we’re certainly seeing different portrayals of the same thing.

The game doesn’t hold with ‘superior noble blood, that it doesn’t. Was true in 2 as well. Kings were bastards, all.

Speaking of kings/nobility and all, did you talk to Louisa La Violette? Cuz I did, and immediately regretted it. Haven’t seen the outcome of that. Should’ve let her die in 2. She’s going to be a problem.

Thought eating, drinking and having sex in the hedge maze sounds better than harmless!

As for ‘people in general suck,’ well….wait. Certainly we haven’t seen saintly poor people, and we’ve met the randits, but then, a lot of these poor people, the dirty thugs and all, are people who are under the sway of some noble or other, be it a witch hunter, a soldier, or even a henchman. Junior was a noble in a weird way. I mean, look at the underworld of Novigrad. The KING of beggars. COUNT Reuven. Junior INHERITING his title. Hell, even a lot of the randits are “deserters,” people who came to this lot because they were, at some point, following somebody. So really, even though we’ve seen a lot of shitty poor people, we’re left with the idea that nobles (or quasi nobles) made them shitty.

Speaking of angsty, from a technical perspective, one reason the scene with him and Triss worked so well was the faces. The smiles looked so genuine, and were able to convey more than “I’m smiling, ok?” That scene needed subtlety, and the tech behind it made it happen.

The kettle isn’t enough exoskeleton for you?

Feminina:

She wasn’t disappointed with my stolen finery, though! She was just psyched I made the effort, I think. Showing up in anything that wasn’t a kettle was a step up, really.

Perhaps I try harder than need be to care about things I don’t have to care about. Because yeah, I remember being younger and less empathetic and thinking “why are all these women I know so obsessed with their weight? They should be like me, and not give a crap!” and then realizing “duh–it’s easy for me to not give a crap, because hello, I am thin. I don’t have everyone from media to doctors to well-meaning family members telling me all the time that I should probably lose some weight, for my own good. Who the hell I am to tell other women they should just not care about something that doesn’t affect me, but does affect them?”

I also obviously shouldn’t assume I know how other women who’ve struggled more with weight issues than I have would take Geralt’s remark about dangerous desserts, so all I can say is that it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. However, we can move on.

Ooh, until you get to the next remarks he has that rubbed me the wrong way! In Skellige, in a different context. But we’ll talk later.

It’s true, we may have seen more peasants than nobles acting like decent folk, but I was thinking of our recent encounter with the pig-villagers. They all turned on Yontek without apparently being led to it by anyone, just because they wanted a scapegoat to blame rather than their own greed. Which suggests that people are just plain not nice a lot of the time.

Ooh, quick throwback to the pig quest: did you try to take any of the cursed gold after the villagers left? I did, because I figured “when am I going to get the chance to turn into a pig again?” but it turned out it wasn’t even an option to loot the big chalice. Oh well. At least I tried, man. For science! Or whatever.

Butch:

I do what the hot sorceresses tell me to do, ok? I aim to please.

You try to care? Don’t try to care. Not caring is good.

But if we’re going to talk on that, the portrayal of the cross dressing elf continues to rub wrong.

I’m never going to get to Skellige, though. Ever. I blame gwent. Even when I was playing last night, I was thinking “If I don’t win fast and get something else done, Feminina’s going to mock me.” But I did it anyway. And won. So I can move on.

Not only could you not loot the pig chalice, it was glowing red on witcher senses, and nothing. That’s happened a couple of times AFTER a quest is over. One was rather gruesome: the woman hanging in Junior’s little death room. I witcher sensed to loot, and she was red, so I thought “Clue? Something?” but no, can’t interact. Weird. Maybe that’s only until a quest is over? Who knows.

It would have been awesome if you COULD take it, and you turned into a pig.

Feminina:

No, no, I don’t try to care about my weight–I just meant I try to be conscious of the fact that weight is something people do care about…basically, so I’m not going around like “whatever everybody, I’M fine so you should all just shut up and be fine like me!” Because that would be rude. I try to be sensitive, in other words.

And yeah, I’m with you on the cross-dressing elf. Who, interestingly, is not cross dressed when you go back to buy clothes, is he? I went back to buy the mask Triss wanted, and I seem to recall he was wearing men’s clothing. So it was just a sort of one-time joke, like “haha, you’re supposed to talk to five women, but one of them is actually a man, and isn’t it funny to imagine that Dandelion might not have realized that, even though we’ll quickly make clear that he did realize it and this totally wasn’t romantic at all, no way.” I dunno. Just felt off.

I mean…if they just said “hey, sometimes people like to cross-dress,” that would have been fine. Or even “hey, Dandelion is sexually adventurous and he WAS romancing this cross-dressing dude, what of it?” It was the combination of “talk to five women,” and “hee hee, this isn’t really a woman!” and “oh, by the way, I’m totally not gay and Dandelion wasn’t here for that” that made it weird. Not that all men who cross-dress are gay, obviously, and not that Dandelion HAD to be romancing him even if he was, but the way they hastened to assure you that that definitely wasn’t what was going on…I dunno. Can’t even really pin it down, but I’m with you, it rubbed wrong. Which is funny given the elf’s line about how “if anything chafes I’ll have it fixed for you before you leave” or whatever.

You can’t fix this chafing on my very SOUL, elf! Ha.

I don’t mock you for not being in Skellige, dude. I mock you for spending money on clothes, but not for not being in Skellige. It took me about 6 months in-game to get there, and now I’m back in Velen and have been for another two months (I’m just making up these times, I don’t really know since I haven’t been counting days and nights, but it’s been a while), because once again I can’t tear myself away from all the OTHER stuff there is to do! SO MUCH STUFF! (Some of which you’ve already done, so don’t despair, it’s not all added to your to-do list.)

One feature I wish they had is the option to intentionally fail side quests to get them off your list. Like, I’m not going to do the gwent-related quests. I’m just not. Couldn’t I check a box that says “OK, I give up” and make them go away? I’ll take a ‘failed’ mark on it, I don’t even care! They clutter my quest list to no good purpose, and I’m tired of scrolling past them. Or at least a filter, like they have for crafting and alchemy with the upgrade (which, incidentally, I do appreciate: thanks game! Good update!). You can filter out all the stuff you can’t make yet: you should be able to filter out all the card game/boxing match/horse race quests too!

And I really kind of wanted to turn into a pig! Just for a minute, before I put the gold back. But no such luck.

Butch:

Ah, yes. Sensitivity. Got it.

He is wearing men’s clothes, but he is rather effeminate, and flirty: “If you need them adjusted, I’ll do it free of charge. By the time I’m done, you’ll feel like you’re wearing nothing at all.” Leer leer. You missed the sexual innuendo.

There’s gotta be some Polish stuff. Not everyone thinks about these issues the same.

I wonder if, in the Polish version, he was just gay, and they thought that American sensibilities wouldn’t be ok with such a portrayal.

There’s contracts to do in Velen, for sure. I’ll get back to them.

I SHOULD be counting days, because I was supposed to go get my money from that foglet contract in a week, and I still haven’t done that. I mean, I’m sitting here smooching sorceresses. The bog guy can wait. It’s win win.

HA! A surrender button. They DO need that. I’ll use it on the fist fighting. Screw that. Though I am proud that I won at least one horse race. Hooray, me.

I also vote to put the red quests to the side. It takes a long time to scroll through all those witcher contracts I can’t do.

How could you have put the gold back, though? Hmmmmmmmmmm? Cuz you’d’ve been a pig…..

Feminina:

I was assuming pigs could pick up gold pieces in their mouths. Failing that, I would have just reloaded a previous save. Either way, I would have been a pig for a few minutes! Witchers are always looking for new experiences.

Man, I didn’t so much miss the leering sexual innuendo of “you’ll feel like you’re wearing nothing at all,” as intentionally ignore it because I felt like the case for the weirdness of that elf’s presentation was strong enough already. Believe me, I’ve noticed it. Several times, since I’ve stopped in there to sell him things on a few occasions, and he always says it. And it is an interesting question as to how this all came across in the original Polish, but in the end, we can’t evaluate that, so perhaps the best we can do is snark mightily about what made its way to us.

Is what we read in it exactly what the developers meant to write? Who knows. We can’t read minds. All we can do is look at what we see.

Butch:

There’s always a bit of strange farm animal stuff in these games. Pigs, goat love…. in the last game, there was this bit where you ate some weird hallucinogenic mushrooms and had this weird dream/trip where all the trees in the forest became giant chickens or some shit. I forget the details, but there were giant chickens. Lots of giant chickens. And there was like a giant chicken statue/idol, rather similar to the pig.

That was odd.

This is so: we can only look at what we can see. And we can critique accordingly. As good as the writing is, it does strike a slightly flat chord sometimes.

As I have already beaten the elf in gwent and taken his card, hopefully I don’t have to go there again.

Feminina:

Farm animals are an important part of life in a pre-industrial society! We should salute this game for recognizing that.

That elf had some money for a while, so I went and sold him stuff a couple of times. I’ll talk to anyone with money, innuendo or no. This is why I have 45,000 crowns right now.

Butch:

“I find you offensive and slightly ooky. Here, have a rusty sword.”

See, this is why Triss dug my clothes. She knew that I was sacrificing, coming up with that money. You? You’re like “Yeah, whatever.”

Gotta show the hot sorceresses you care. Learned that giving Morrigan the mirror, man. They dig that sort of thing.

Feminina:

Or maybe Triss appreciates that I didn’t try to outshine her by getting a whole new fancy outfit.

“You look splendid enough for both of us: I’ll just wear this old thing I’ve been keeping in my saddle bags next to the rotting trophies for the past 3 months. Say, got any perfume?”

If I’m honest, though, it was mainly the principle of the thing for me. I stole those damn nice clothes from an emperor and carried them all over creation just on the chance that I’d someday get to wear them to a party, and by all the gods, I was going to wear them to a party. That sweet, sweet vindication was more precious than the money I didn’t spend on a new outfit, and even more precious than Triss’ approval (which I also got: she was quite happy with the outfit).

We all have our priorities.

Butch:

HA!

“Dammit, Triss, I’ve been carrying this, wedged between a griffin head and a cockatrice skull, for MONTHS and I am GOING to wear it! It’ll be…….great.”

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