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Spoilers for the conclusion of that quest where you help Triss get…people…somewhere…

Butch:

So yeah, Triss.

I picked “I love you.” I did. Not because of my sorceress thing, but because I think part of this game is about Geralt (and everyone else) really coming to terms with what it means to care about someone, and how complicated it is. Geralt does love her, or thinks he does (probably the latter), and is confused.

So when I picked that option, I was worried that the script would take a turn to the melodramatic, and metaphorical violins woulds swell and it would get cheesy. But MAN it didn’t. I think the voice acting there was perfect. Geralt, looking down like a 14 year old, trying to find the words and stumbling over I love you was just perfect. (I really hope that the success of this game, critically and commercially, gets Doug Cockle some more work in games. I think he’s up there with Troy Baker and Nolan North in terms of talent, but I digress).

I also liked the scene where Triss and Geralt are talking about their relationship, where it’s “going,” “Where do you see us in five years,” etc. Those conversations are, by definition, awkward, and it was gutsy to have this scene not just be sex, but to have all the oddities of a new relationship. But it was, at some level, tragic. Geralt starts out with an impossibility (You’ll be high priestess, we’ll have lots of kids), and, while it’s a joke on his part, it brings home that pretty much everything else they talk about isn’t going to happen either. When Geralt says “We’ll have our happy ending,” you pretty much know they won’t.

Which leads to another potential tangent here, but I’m going to go there anyway: Usually, in games, we praise the ability to eliminate, or at least blur, the line between player and PC. Immersion, we say. We, as players, want to be “in the game,” “be Geralt.” But when Geralt was talking about these happy endings, I wasn’t Geralt. I was watching, and I think that was intentional. See, me, the player, knew that happy ending Geralt was talking about was unlikely, but Geralt, when he said it, seemed to think it WAS possible. HIS ignorance, contrasted with MY knowledge of how stories go, was what made that tragic. That scene needed me NOT to be immersed, which is different in games. It’s cool to see a game that knows when to immerse, when not to.

And I also thought it was cute, if a little eye rolling, to have both phallic lighthouse imagery and humor there in the sex scene, which will lead me to the next paragraph, that you’ll have to bear with me, cuz I’m going to compare this scene to a scene in TW2 that you haven’t played:

So I’ve mentioned the elven bath scene. Sparkles, that? (Where were the sparkles in THIS game?) Well, that scene, sparkles aside, was REALLY serious. Themey, almost depressing. This wasn’t. The humor gave it an aspect of awkwardness that mirrored the relationship between Geralt and Triss….HOWEVER….. In the end, it ended up being the same. There was a serious undercurrent in 2 that Triss was using Geralt, even lying to him. Here, I got exactly the same vibe, cuz, like in 2, as soon as the romance was over, she was all business. Here: “The spark is out,” she says. JUST like in 2, even after the sex and romance, hell, ESPECIALLY after the sex and romance, you immediately get a hit of “she didn’t really mean it. She’s using you. This was a ploy all along.” Just more drawn out than sparkles.

I STILL don’t trust her.

Morrigan either, though, and that doesn’t stop me.

Which leads me to the conclusion of this email: Dykstra. I ended with him giving me the “Kill Radovid” quest. I gotta say, I’m tempted. Dykstra’s kinda grown on me. He seems ok, for a spylord/crimeboss. And I don’t like Radovid.

So what did you do at this point? I REALLY want to go to Skelleggy, but Radovid…and it’s only level 14….what to do?

And as for themes, and how themes can have humor, I forgot to mention:

We’re talking on love being complicated, yes? Well, the “joke” during the sex scene was the people on the boat getting a “code” that they say to each other “makes no sense.” Sure, ha ha, it’s gibberish cuz they’re screwing, but it’s also a metaphor. They’re communicating in a code that’s near impossible to decipher.

They did a similar thing with a joke that kinda wasn’t at the end of the elven bath scene.

Sex jokes with themey metaphors. Gotta tip your hat to that.

Feminina:

Ah, Triss. I also picked “I love you.” Even though I was kind of thinking “man, now’s the time to let her go, you know this relationship is probably doomed in the long run and you’re also still in love with Yennefer, you should pick the ‘go, be safe’ option, it’s really just as caring and less complicated!”

But I didn’t, because I felt like at that moment he/I DID actually love her, and didn’t want us to separate like that (even though, in the end, we still separated…I was kind of thinking she’d hang around and we’d do a quest together or something, but that was obviously the vain hope of a smitten schoolboy). We were overcome by the emotion of the moment, you know? Happens.

And yeah, I enjoyed the touch of humor with the sex scene, and the kind of friendly/awkward conversation after. I told her she should go to Kaer Morhen. She can hang out with Keira, who I also told to go to Kaer Morhen. Vesemir will love it: sorceresses everywhere! Which is going to get complicated, one of these days, considering I’ve professed love for two of them. Keira most likely figures we were just a one-time fling, but the Triss/Yen issue is probably going to bite me eventually. I mean, as far as I’m concerned I’m capable of loving them both (AND Keira, why not?) and if they want to also love other people that’s fine and we can all have a happy polyamorous affair, getting together in between adventures for the next hundred years of our lives, but I don’t know if the game will let it be that easy.

Sigh. I can slay countless monsters, but I can’t control my own heart! (That’s prime steamy-novel cover copy, there.)

As for the “kill Radovid” plot…hm. I would probably just do it before going to Skellige. It’s not actually that long, and it might make sense to just get it out of the way. It’ll only get lower-level compared to you, after all.

Butch:

Yes. Exactly. Overcome by the moment. I’m being serious here. That’s the best thing for the narrative.

As for how the multiple relationships will work out…yeah….it’s not going to be easy. But then, this game is pretty much about the complexities of love. I mean, the main relationship in the game, Geralt and Ciri, is complicated. Still think one of the best scenes in this game that chock full of great scenes was the scene in which Dudu transforms into Ciri so Geralt can see what she looks like, only to have Geralt not WANT to see. That, as a parent myself, was some heavy shit.

Add the Baron’s line to all this… and the werewolf, and all those noonwraith/scorned woman ones…

I’m not sure this game is saying “love is doomed” so much as “Love is really complicated.” We tend to see in art, especially games/movies/visual art, love be rather simple. You pick the dialog option with the heart enough, that’s that. We talked about how it was such a curveball in DAI when you had a heart option with Vivienne and she rebuffed you. “How odd!” we said “The heart option ALWAYS works! How progressive of bioware!” And now we have this game that’s pretty much about how “picking the heart option” is never, EVER how it works.

I think this game isn’t totally pessimistic, though. I mean, it goes out of it’s way to say that love does exist despite the world trying very hard to snuff it out. Here we have this bleak, war torn, poor, monster ridden landscape, where hate and despair are everywhere, yet, at the personal level, love finds a way. Or tries.

I never told Keira I loved her. Did you? That was just a thing. I have this idea she’s paired up with Letho by now. They’d be cute.

Is now when you did the ‘kill Radovid’ bit?

Feminina:

Yeah, I bummed around Novigrad for quite a while after Triss left, and did the kill-Radovid bit and some other random stuff you may have already done, before I finally went on to Skellige. Skellige can wait.

Love IS complicated. And no, I never told Keira I loved her, I meant Triss and Yennefer. I don’t think there was any option to get ‘serious’ with Keira, unless maybe we could have had her stay and rule Fyke Island like Buttons did, and then go talk to her and strengthen our connection?…but that seems unlikely. It seemed like our evening was just a ‘thing’ for both of us.

Sometimes you just want to get dressed up and have a nice dinner with an attractive person! She mentioned repeatedly that she didn’t like being stuck out there in the boondocks, so she probably just wanted to hang out with someone with whom she didn’t have to pretend to be a simple local witch or whatever. And if that happens to turn into sex on the grass, well, that’s nice but doesn’t mean it was anything more than a pleasant evening.

But LOVE, love is different, and love is complicated. And it doesn’t fix everything, or conquer all, but as you say, it does keep struggling on, and it’s no less real for not being all-powerful and able to solve every problem. Love is a thing that people deal with in their lives, like monsters or political upheaval.

Butch:

Good cuz I’ve kept Skellige waiting a long, long time.

Love IS a thing that people deal with, and I do think that this game gets it right. Love is a tricky one in games. Depressing emotions are easy, as violence and death have been staples in games ever since Donkey Kong mashed Mario with barrels. Love’s harder to do.

I think that games had to mature as storytelling vehicles, but also technically. I don’t think you could have done a game like this where love is so prominent on the PS3, or on older PCs. So much of what made these Triss scenes so good was the ability of the game to render faces. Even pretty good DAO type faces wouldn’t have been able to create the subtlety that these scenes needed to work.

Feminina:

Love has to let you get to know people. That takes character development and writing and acting and animation. It’s complicated. More complicated than monsters. I like to see games work on it. Not that it has to be a major theme in every game, or even mentioned in every game (I love straightforward burning and looting as much as the next person), but emotions are interesting subjects for stories, too.

Butch:

Emotions are pretty necessary for stories. When you say it doesn’t have to be mentioned, ok, fine. But then, some games don’t need story. Rocket League, for example. Or Minecraft.

But yes, it’s true, that writing and acting are pretty key. I mean, we like to talk about the acting in TLOU, which was good, but good acting sure is easier when you have good words to say and good, developed characters to say them.

Feminina:

You gotta develop your characters. I liked Keira because we got to hang out and adventure with her. I liked Triss for the same reasons. If you haven’t played the first game, I imagine it’s kind of tough to ACTUALLY care about Yennefer, because we’ve never really spent time with her.

Getting to hang out and adventure with her later is good…until then, we’re going through the game knowing that GERALT is in love with her, but not personally having any basis for caring much one way or the other. Chatting in the emperor’s palace is nice and all, but…Keira gave me this awesome tool to see through illusions! Yennefer…sent me this letter.

They obviously want to give you opportunities to complicate the story, by having you spend time with Keira and Triss before Yennefer. It would have been a whole other romance if you just found Yen at the beginning and hung out together and reinforced that relationship, BEFORE you meet up with Keira and Triss.

Butch:

It is very interesting (and telling) that they made the order Keira, Triss, Yen. Especially after letting you meet her, briefly, before all of that. They certainly urge you to complicate.

It’s also an interesting move in that, as you say, “if you haven’t played the first game.” CDPR is not stupid. They know that a whole lot more people played 2 than 1, and folks in my situation (that is, having played 2, know Triss FAR better than Yennifer, who wasn’t even IN 2) are common. Indeed, more than half of people that played 2 didn’t play 1. Given that even more people played 3, they HAVE to know that the vast majority of players of 3 haven’t met Yen yet.

So I’m with you. Yen is a mystery.

It’ll be interesting once we get there to compare notes on the progression of things given I knew Triss and you didn’t.

Feminina:

Yes…you mentioned feeling the lack of immersion while Geralt and Triss are talking in the lighthouse. Like, no matter what you the player know, Geralt in these moments is just sitting and entertaining these hopes for the future.

His love for Yen through the first half of the game is kind of similarly unimmersive. Geralt clearly has these feelings, and you have to accept it even though you don’t really understand it since you don’t know anything about her. He’s just being who he is, not really trying to explain it, and the player is put in the same position as all the other people in the game who refer to his wild love for this woman without really understanding it: we know he loves her, but we don’t GET it.

They really seem to want to stress at times that Geralt has this inner life that we can only partially see. (Take the way that the dialogue options we’re given sometimes come across quite differently when he actually speaks them.) Maybe it’s because we’re basically narrator-Dandelion here, in the larger picture? We know Geralt as well as anyone, we’ve traveled with him, joked with him, seen him fight everything from wolves to randits to giant bugs, but even we don’t know everything he thinks and feels?

Butch:

Though, the Geralt-loves-Yennefer thing seems to be a tad worse in terms of non-immersion. Cuz I don’t even have the faintest clue what they were all about.

Did you feel the same about Triss? Like “Ok…..he cares….why?” I mean, hot sorceress is hot, but at least I knew what he and Triss had been through in 2, so I had context. I don’t have that with Yen, and you didn’t have it with Triss either.

It’s a strange yet compelling amalgam of traditional RPG where you have all this choice and, say, TLOU where Joel was Joel and tough if you didn’t like it. And I’m ok with that. One of the problems that RPGs have (and I am ready to see this problem to the eyeballs in Fallout 4) is that if you allow for all sorts of freedom in the PC, you lose some grounding in terms of the overall narrative. A main character has to be an anchor for the narrative, and total freedom to make said character unhinges things. It’s why a game like Skyrim has no sense of anything, and a game like TLOU is chock full of story.

I’d like to see more of the grounding. Mass Effect pulled it off. TW is pulling it off. I hope our experiences here don’t make me infuriated at FO4 (though the fact the PC is voiced is a positive omen…)

Feminina:

Hmm…true, I didn’t go through TW2 with Triss, but I felt that I knew her well enough from our adventures together in Novigrad that his caring about her made sense. We worked together on a number of projects, tried to find information on Dandelion together, fought together, hated the witch hunters together…there was a connection there. If the choice to say “I love you” or “go” had come after the first time we met her…I’d probably have just said ‘go.’ But there were enough shared experiences before then, and enough references between them to experiences that I didn’t share, but that they clearly remembered, that their connection felt believable.

And honestly at that point I was ready to say “OK, this Yen person is probably nice and all, but it’s been so long, we’ve grown apart, me and Triss have a THING now. I’ll just gently break if off with Yen once I see her again.”

I did not wind up doing that…but that’s what I was thinking when I was where you are. Because at that point I knew Triss, liked Triss, and Yennefer was just a sort of legendary Great Love that for all I could tell, even Geralt wasn’t sure why he was still hanging on to.

Butch:

I probably will not wind up doing that either, but dude…..Yen is a BHBEBB. In garters! I mean…..I mean…..dude.

It did do a good job of establishing Triss, though. The ball scene alone was very well done.

I’m curious to see how they establish Yen. Though at this rate, I’ve decided that Skellige is not real. It’s a mirage. You get on the boat, the hunt shows up, the game ends. I know it.

Feminina:

Garters! Fashion! Talking about clothes again!

But impractical fashion aside (cold, windy Skellige…garters and bare shoulders…comfy!), they did make Yennefer into an interesting character as well, to the point that I eventually agreed that OK, Geralt loves her. (Spoiler for my game, not necessarily for yours, although…odds are you’re going to do the same things I do. Because we seem to do that.)

They have a lot of history together, some of which I now know more about even though I wasn’t there, and I understand their Great Love a little more. Still don’t know how it’s going to turn out–probably tragically–but at least I have enough of a sense of their shared past that the ongoing, somewhat turbulent attraction between them is plausible.

Butch:

Tragically. For sure.

When Triss said “I don’t want to do this unless I know it’s going to work” the PC in me said “Then get on that boat, babycakes, cuz this game pretty much promises the other way.”

We do seem to do the same things. And look: Yen’s black haired, blue eyed, probably untrustworthy, and a sorceress. Like I’m NOT going after that.

Have you read any fashion blogs? They’re all about impractical fashion!

Feminina:

Fashion is fundamentally impractical, I suppose. I mean, if you want practical you just need something to cover you to the extent required to keep yourself protected from the elements/enemy weapons while allowing movement. An armored bag would do. Once you get into aesthetic details, that’s fashion.

Ha. I was like “what do you mean by ‘work’? Because I bet I can come up with a definition that will allow me to say it will, like ‘we can make out and agree that we’re good makeout friends’ but maybe that’s not what you have in mind.”

But hey, close enough, I figured. “I’m sure it’ll ‘work,’ Triss! Especially when you and Yen and Keira are all at Kaer Morhen hanging out, finding it not in any way awkward!”

Butch:

“An armored bag.” You are a woman, aren’t you?

“What? Practical accessorizing!”

I don’t think that’s what Triss had in mind. She probably had “good sex, and then shameless exploitation for political reasons.”

You wanna know what’s awkward? Letho’s there. You know what happened right after the elven bath scene? Triss was hauled off to be, I suppose, imprisoned in a statue. You know who did the hauling? Letho. That’ll be interesting.

“Oh, great. Geralt sent me to a remote freezing mountain to hang out with his fuck buddy and the evil king killer that kidnapped me.”

Now THAT’S a working relationship.

Feminina:

I was thinking more a shapeless chain mail BODY bag with holes for the arms and legs…but if you want to take the discussion to handbags, then sure, an armored purse (of Holding) would be good for safeguarding my 71,000 gold pieces. And THAT’S fashion.

“Good sex and shameless exploitation”? Well, then, why on earth WOULDN’T it work out? That’s exactly what Geralt does! Have sex and become an unwitting pawn of powers he can’t be bothered to care about! (That and kill monsters, obviously.) It’s a match made in whatever version of heaven they hold with in these parts.

Butch:

It sure is. And she’s a hot sorceress. Wins all around.

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