Spoilers for the Missing Brother quest
“They each have a a LITTLE side quest” you said. Emphasis mine. Little. I do not think that word means what you think it means. More on that in a minute.
So first I did “Missing brother,” and, yup, themes. And what’s awesome is that I doubt most people who played this game even noticed.
See, this is the first contract you get (probably) in Velen as you get it outside the Inn at the Crossroads which is the first notice board you visit (probably). It’s also level 33, which means it’s the last contract you’re gonna do (probably) unless you’re buff and stuff and go after that arch griffon after the final battle. I mean, I’m level 30 and ready to end this thing, right?
So anyway, it’s a good little monster hunt. Arachas, etc. You find the brother died trying to save some farmers. But it’s the end….
You tell the dude his brother’s dead, and he says “That fool. I told him not to try to help people. That nothing can come from it except misfortune.” Emphasis added.
So let’s review: You get this quest. It sits on your list for 95% of the game. You go out and do everything you do. And then you get that line at the end of it all.
And unless you remembered when you got that quest, and unless you were paying attention to that one line of dialog, you missed it.
It’s the details that CDPR gets right. That’s amazing themeage, right there.
So that was good.
So then I decided to do TWO OR THREE of the LITTLE quests. Did Yen’s: The great escape. And that’s IT because it took me over an HOUR cuz it is NOT LITTLE.
So question: During that quest, in which you freed the blond sorceress, did you bump into another one named Sile? Tattoo on her chest?
Hey, hey, I believe I specifically said something along the lines of “shortish, but when is anything really short in this game.” One could conceivably do a couple of them in an evening (if one had not done another quest first), which is about as little as quests get here.
Right, right, THAT was the Missing Brother. I did mark the non-missing brother’s (understandable) bitterness. And you could argue he was completely right. The missing brother only actually helped one person (assuming that woman you found made it back safely…I thought she said something like “I’ll just wait here, so I went back to escort her on my way out, but of course she was gone, presumably back home but possibly into the gullet of some other wandering monster), and lost his own life in the process. That breaks even in simple terms, I suppose, but certainly not from his grieving brother’s standpoint.
Helping people is a fool’s game! Only professionals, like witchers, should attempt it, and even then only for pay, not out of the goodness of their heart or some such nonsense. In which case, the motivation is not really ‘to help’ at all, it’s ‘to get paid.’ So back to the opening statement: helping people is a fool’s game.
And yet, we keep trying to do it, and even though it does sometimes (often?) lead to misfortune, I think it’s overbroad to say that NOTHING can come of it except misfortune.
I believe I did meet Sile. She showed up after the escape, back at the inn, right? Or was she dying in the prison?
Ok, ok. Maybe it was wishful thinking. I keep having wild swings between “Hey! I’ll have time for like two little games before FO4!” and “I’m going to be playing this when FO5 comes out.”
YES! I think that bookending things (probably) with this all ties back to the game telling you not to play the game the way we (and, I reckon, most people) play the game, that is, caring. I mean, we talked on the entries in the codex. They all say “For some reason, not caring he wasn’t getting paid, Geralt decided to break the witcher code and give a fuck” (paraphrasing). This game, over and over and over, tells you straight up that caring, being a good guy, is a bad idea. And yet we keep doing it. I think this guy was just an exclamation point on that, a final “Look, dude, I told you so.” Well, an exclamation point and a final warning that things can go bad if we try to help in the end, and, because we inevitably will, a last I told you so.
I wonder how this game would’ve gone if you played it straight up like a witcher. That is, emotionless, cold, not caring unless you’re getting paid. I mean, it wouldn’t have been fun, because Geralt would have been an asshole, and it wouldn’t have made sense as he sorta HAD to care about Ciri SOME, but maybe things would’ve been wine and roses. We’ll never know.
Ok, I don’t know which was true of Sile in your world. See, in my world, Sile died in 2. Indeed, she got trapped in a malfunctioning megascope, asked me to save her and I didn’t cuz she was, you know, evil. So when I was doing the quest last night, when I freed the blond sorceress I was there to free, I got “Jounal updates: Rita” AND “Journal updated: Sile.” Which surprised me, Sile being dead and all. So I opened up the codex to read what it said, and got a sad, in prison picture of her and an entry that explained who she was, and that Geralt met her in the Oxenfurt prison, and granted her a humane death or somesuch when he knew she couldn’t go on or somesuch. Which is a bug, cuz I didn’t do any of that and she was dead in 2. So I was wondering if, for those who didn’t let her die in 2, what that was about.
Oh, yeah, right…THAT was Sile. She didn’t come to the inn later, I found her horribly wounded in the prison cell with the woman I went to rescue, and she was too injured to move and asked me to just kill her, so I did. I mean, my first inclination was to say, “you know, I could CARRY you out of here if the issue is just that you can’t walk,” but that wasn’t a dialogue option, so…merciful death it was.
Not having known many of these people from 2, it’s hard to keep some of them straight. Especially when they show up for two minutes and then die.
As for not helping people…yeah, you’re not wrong in that it would maybe make sense to play it as not caring about anything, but noting that “it wouldn’t have been fun” is kind of a big deal. Because indeed, it wouldn’t have been much fun to spend 600 hours playing a character you don’t like who doesn’t care about anything. I could maybe play a short game as an unlikeable character, and appreciate the experience from an artistic standpoint, but this is a long term commitment we’re making when we get into TW3, and I am NOT spending all that time with/as someone I dislike.
Because why the hell am I playing if it’s not fun?
Which means that, in a very meta sort of way, the game could be saying that in fact you NEED to break the rules if you’re going to get enjoyment and meaning from things in life. Sure, if you just follow the rules and do what you’re supposed to and never get involved, you could avoid some pain, but you’ll hate yourself the whole time. (Or not, depending on how comfortable you are with the “I don’t care about anyone” attitude to life.)
Also, I’m pretty sure that everything would not actually have turned out great if we’d taken this ‘correct’ witcherly approach: certainly there are some things that might have turned out better, but others probably would have been worse. This game is way too complicated to have a simple answer like “just obey the ancient customs, and the world will be set to rights!”
Certainly we might in some ways be more comfortable with our own role in how things turned out, if we’d done what we were ‘supposed to’ do. We could reassure ourselves that even though such-and-such turned out terribly, we’d acted in accordance with the ancient traditions governing our profession, or whatever.
And if that helps you sleep at night, great. But I don’t see, in the end, that “hey, at least I followed the rules” is objectively a better moral defense than “hey, at least I meant well.”
Either one can obviously turn out very badly (and almost certainly does at various points). The rules can be wrong, and we can also make the wrong call trying to figure out what’s best. But one approach puts the responsibility for that wrong on something else, and one approach has to accept the responsibility personally, and I think there’s a fair argument to make in favor of the later being more honest. Plus, at least this way I don’t completely hate Geralt, and I can stand to actually play this game for 6 months or whatever.
And in theory there could be some perfect combination of following the rules/ignoring the rules depending on the situation that would have achieved the optimal outcome, but I don’t think even that is true in this game, because…sometimes neither approach is great. Sometimes the outcome just sucks no matter what you do. (Ancient leshan?)
Which is another thing this game says that we’ve talked about before: you may be a badass, but you are not some all-powerful being holding the happiness and security of all the peoples of the world in your hands. You have, in fact, very limited influence in real terms.
So maybe it’s more just saying “do what you do, whatever way helps you feel OK about yourself, and know that some things are going to be a little better because you were there, and some things are going to be worse, and in the grand scheme of things the world is going to be what it’s going to be and you are not one of the people who’s going to decide what that is.” (Although you might help or hinder some of those people from time to time.)
Yeah, Sile was HUGE in 2. Indeed, she is at your side for the major reaper moment in 2, which still gives me heartburn just thinking about it. And really, it was a wrenching choice to let her die, cuz, for some reason it’s worse just watching as someone is begging you for help than it is just killing them. But that’s what happened.
Playing if not fun…Yup. Interesting is great, but still….. I mean, in other genres, you aren’t actually BEING the character. I don’t want to be someone I don’t like. I did that in LA Noire. Yuck.
In some ways, this worries me in the long run as it could be something that shackles the genre artistically. I mean, this is about telling stories, right? Well, it limits what stories you can tell if your main character always has to be cool, smart and likable. There’s many, many important literary characters in many, many genres who are not likable. We wouldn’t have everything from Macbeth to Taxi Driver if we had those limitations. Going forward, I hope we don’t lose the Macbeth and Taxi Driver of games because of our need to like protagonists.
Hmm. Perhaps it’s saying you have to break the rules. But then, I didn’t get the threesome of shame. I followed society’s rules in that regard. I was loyal (ish, hookers and Keira don’t count, apparently). You weren’t, and got punished.
But good point that it probably wouldn’t have been all smiles and sunshine either way. Not black and white this game.
Indeed, I don’t think following the rules is a moral defense. The Witch Hunters are following the rules. As were the Nazis (remember, again, Polish game. That sort of Nazi rule following genocide imagery has more oomph when you remember that).
Has it only been six months? Feels like longer. Have I played a game before this?
This is a nice transition to something else I meant to bring up before but forgot about until now:
We’ve talked some about those weird little animated cut bits. We thought that they represented some binary choice, or, at least, punctuated some outcome that now could not be changed. Well, when you get back to Novigrad with Ciri after the crone/Imerth bit, you see all the burned non humans and you get one such scene about how we inevitably turn hate on our neighbors etc. Now, it seems that that was gonna happen no matter what, so I ask were we wrong about the cutscenes having any point or was there some way to avoid all this we missed? Cuz I sure felt powerless to stop any genocide.
Adding to that “maybe we could” idea, I had the option of asking Zoltan for help with getting guards drunk in The Great Escape. I asked, and he pretty much said “can’t cuz of witch hunters going after non humans.” So was there a way to stop that and get his help?
I really wondered about that animated bit after you get back to Novigrad, too. Because they really seem to have put those in when they’re telling us “this is what happened because of that choice you made,” and I sincerely don’t know what choice I could have made that would have resulted in the witch hunters not turning on non-humans.
My only thoughts are, 1) maybe somehow, by setting it up so Corinne and Sara stayed in that ‘haunted’ house, we made it so Corinne wasn’t burned as a witch, and the lack of that one witch made them flip out and attack non-humans instead?
Or 2) maybe if we hadn’t saved as many mages when we escaped through the sewers with Triss–because there was a choice to go after that one couple, or to leave them, right, and I went after them…maybe if we’d left them, the witch hunters would somehow have been satisfied with that?
It feels like SURELY, whatever we did, it wouldn’t have stayed the witch hunters’ bloodlust for long (what’s one or two burnt witches, really? a couple of hours entertainment at best!), so even if they hadn’t turned on non-humans by the time we got back to Novigrad, they’d probably do it a week later, and I kind of question the extent to which I can be held truly responsible for their actions, but…the cutscene did imply that we could have done something differently and gotten a different result.
And yeah, Zoltan wouldn’t help me either, and maybe he would have if we’d done…whatever it was we could have done differently.
Regarding unlikable characters, a notable thing about Taxi Driver and Macbeth is that they’re relatively short. You can spend a few hours with these characters. You don’t want to spend an hour+ at a time several days a week for 6 months with them (although really it’s only been 5, since TW3 came out on May 19th: I exaggerated).
There’s also the matter of distance: movies and plays don’t ask you to make choices for the character, so however much they might ask you to empathize with and then to some extent share the culpability/shame of the character, you’re not really responsible for their decisions, or the consequences of their decisions.
And even though every choice in a video game is artificially constructed and limited by the narrative, meaning that you’re not TRULY in control, the illusion of the choice being yours is intentionally much stronger, and the way a game can (often with interesting results) ask you to accept responsibility for the consequences of a decision means that spending a lot of time with/as a horrible character would–I think–become very unpleasant.
I don’t know, though, there was a lot of talk about how unappealing the characters were in GTA5 (Mr. O’ commented that he disliked all of them, and never finished it partly for that reason), and that was still a huge hit, so clearly not everyone shares our delicate sensibilities. We could speculate on whether or not the fact that there were three different characters made the experience more bearable since at least you weren’t stuck with the SAME horrible person the whole time, but honestly, I don’t know enough about the GTA franchise to really say anything about it, given I’ve never played one.
I don’t know…I think about maybe comparing a game to a long-running TV show with an unlikable character–say, Breaking Bad. Breaking Bad was a great show, and I hated Walter White most of the time. I could stand to watch the show, even hating him, because it was so well done, but I don’t know if I could stand to PLAY him. Maybe it’s that I can WATCH someone be horrible for an extended period of time, but I don’t want to PRETEND TO BE someone horrible for an extended period of time. (You know, assuming I’m not an actor whose job it is to play a role. Because that’s a great role! But acting is a whole other thing because you do it with a kind of outward focus on showing something to other people, where in games the focus is on you playing the game…even with the current trend toward sharing your games with others, you’re not usually playing it FOR them. Perhaps an interesting debate in the future on whether more performative players are more tolerant/attracted to ‘difficult’ and unlikeable characters?)
But I could see, maybe, playing a short, intense game where I had to be a horrible person, and maybe it would have interesting themes and I would come out of it saying “well, I hated the character/myself, but there were a lot of interesting things there and it was totally worth playing.” I really can’t see playing a game like that over a long period of time, though. Even if it were really well done. I just wouldn’t enjoy it, even if I respected its artistry, and I think it would wear me down.
Basically, I’ll watch Walter White’s awful choices, and feel that I learn something about human nature or whatever: I won’t MAKE Walter White’s awful choices, even if I might learn something (perhaps even more pointed!) about human nature. And if the game says I have to make those choices, then I don’t particularly want to play it.
And, see GTA5 again, not everyone feels the same way, and somehow we don’t have millions of axe murderers stalking the streets because GTA5 broke their brains, so I’m not saying this is a universal thing, but it’s a personal preference.
And considering how many more main characters are presented as being at least loosely heroic, than are presented as unlikable jerks, it’s probably reasonably widespread. As a general rule, we want to feel that we’re the good guy in the story, even if by any logical definition we’re mass murdering looters who shouldn’t be allowed in human society.
Which goes back to your question about whether we’ll lose an aspect of story-telling because of this tendency to want to be a hero, and I would say that ideally, we can keep the unlikable characters and all the interesting points they bring up, just in smaller doses. Not all games have to be 600 hours long.
There were times when I didn’t like Joel that much, but I was very willing to play TLOU. Which was partly because it wasn’t 600 hours long. There’s a place for the dubious and unpleasant main character in games! Just…shorter games.
Seems a stretch on Corrine, but maybe. I didn’t go after that couple, and still got it, so it ain’t that. But also, the scene where you’re walking up and Ciri says that was an isolated scene, at least the way it was shot, the kind that is one of those “Hey, maybe this was something else in another person’s game.” Or not. Maybe that’s just how they shot it.
Was very, very strange. I still don’t a) understand those cutscenes and b) understand why CDPR felt like they needed those cutscenes. Do not like.
Good point about unlikeable people in movies. But then, there are TV shows with legs that lack any likable characters. I don’t tend to stick with such shows, but Game of Thrones and Rescue Me come to mind. Indeed, the unlikability of the characters is a bit of a plot point. There’s no one in GoT that anyone would WANT to BE. But people like it. (Given, I don’t, so put an asterisk next to this.)
And true about distance. When Travis Bickle shoots everyone up, not our “fault.” And I have lost sleep over things I’ve “done” in games. Not with movies.
And I couldn’t get into Breaking Bad cuz everything was so dark and unpleasant. Maybe I’m just sensitive.
I didn’t play GTA5 either, but I got the sense that some of the characters were sort of like Dexter: evil people, but off beat enough that they weren’t realistically evil. I mean, Dexter is an evil person. He’s a serial killer. But that show is not intended to be a realistic portrayal of serial killers, and he’s portrayed in a way that makes him sympathetic, or funny, or someone we can want to be (he kills the kind of people that we would want to kill in video games, after all). Some people thought Trevor in GTA was like that: so over the top as to be fun rather than hateable. But then, some people agreed with Mr. O’.
We did come sorta close to that with TLOU. Joel is not a pleasant guy. We were able to sympathize with him, as we are parents, but he isn’t heroic. But that game was, what, 20 hours? That’s like one side quest in TW3. 200 hours with Joel? I don’t know if I’d like that.
And true, Geralt is, really, by societal standards, a complete lunatic. But suspension of disbelief and all that.
And really, I hope not all games are 600 hours long. One of the great things about games is that they haven’t yet established set rules, like, say, movies which are all about two hours. We can get 600 hours stories, we can get 4 hour stories. Which is so great.
I agree, Corinne is a stretch, if only because they already gave us a cutscene related to her so it would seem weird if that decision ALSO applied in a cutscene later…you’d think they could have combined it with “you do something nice and these two live happily together, but this means that nonhumans will burn” or something. But I can’t think of anything else! Especially if you didn’t go look for that couple before escaping with Triss, and we both still got the same result.
OK, I just consulted the internet: apparently, you had to choose not to help Triss get the mages out of the city at all. It didn’t even occur to me not to say yes when she asked, so I wasn’t even remembering that as a choice, but I guess that does make sense. If you leave a bunch of mages in Novigrad, the witch hunters will be occupied with chasing them down, and will leave nonhumans alone.
Well all right then. They could have made that clearer.
But yes, I think we’re agreed: let’s continue to have shorter games as well as longer games, and maybe the longer ones will need to allow us to pretend to be heroic even if we objectively are awful, but there’s all kinds of room to experiment and do interesting things with character in shorter games.
And double yes, NOT all games need to be 600 hours long. I mean, I liked this one. I did. Even at 600 hours. But I like to play things that aren’t going to require a commitment of several months, as well.
Really? Well, I guess we did touch on the fact you could refuse that quest. Remember we noted it interesting that the one you couldn’t refuse was Dandelion? There ya go. So we had to pick between mages and non humans to allow to die. I wonder how many people saw that other cutscene. Like, 12? Speedrunners, maybe, who refuse every side quest.
The more different games, the merrier. I hope I have time to do Unfinished Swan and Broken Age in between AAA games and Super Meat Boy, which really is addictive.
Yeah, I hear that. These games can get rather time consuming. They can’t all be like that.
It’s true, I can’t imagine that many people were like “help a bunch of mages escape the city? No way in hell!” It just seems like an obvious choice. But as they tell us, you can’t foresee the results of your choices, and sometimes they can have unexpected consequences. I guess maybe if you turned down Triss, you’d walk by a bunch of burned mages, but see some elves walking around (and have Zoltan help you with that ale), or something.
I think the bottom line is, I hate the witch hunters.
Indeed, they cannot all be like that! I enjoy having something to really sink my teeth into and keep myself busy with for months on end, I do. Sometimes it’s nice not to have to wonder what you’re going to play next, because you know you’re just going to load up the same thing you’ve been playing for 10 weeks.
But that has to be interspersed with less time consuming things, just for the change of pace. Good thing there are so many different games out there.
And good thing FO4’s only going to be about 12 hours long, right?
Uh…. I think if you do all the side quests, FO4 is like 14, 15 hours.
Or maybe 14, 15 days. One or the other.
That sounds about right. Hours, days, somewhere in that general neighborhood. The point is, we’ll surely whip right through it and be playing AC Whatever by Christmas.
Without question. I’d rather be doing nothing but collecting shards anyway.
I’m hoping for extensive crafting and brewing features, myself. I plan to spend most of my time collecting components of every description that I can turn into other things and sell for tiny amounts of money.
I’ll be especially delighted if I can build a house and adopt some mutant children.
Dude, I’m going to find my current house. I’m so setting up shop right here.
All I have to do is find the water tower and discount liquor store in Lincoln and turn right.