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    dillon.young's The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC)

    [January 25, 2017 05:59:44 PM]
    Today I started by resolving the "fencing lessons" quest arc. Geralt returns to give rosa var attre another lesson to find she has taken a walk to the countryside. He joins them and they bout for a while, until she tricks him into allowing her to slip away unattended. Immediately she's cornered by threatening peasants, whom geralt can charm, persuade, or bribe to leave her alone. After doing this, Rosa professes a Hammurabi-esque morality towards the locals. I chose to have Geralt disagree with her, at which she states that this is Nilfgaardian justice, and is disappointed in Geralt for not understanding it. In this instance, the game seems to be trying to persuade the player against nilfgaard.

    Later, Geralt is required to participate in an illegal fighting arena in order to get close to a crime lord of Novigrad. In this, Geralt is expected to kill men without mercy. This seems like an odd distinction to make for a game in which chopping men in half is a regular occurrence. However, the first man Geralt defeats falls to the ground and begs for mercy with the cliche family argument. I hesitated in killing him for a handful of seconds, while the crowd cheered "kill" among other things. It didn't seem as though there was a contingency for me refusing to kill him. I thought about this for a while after it happened: what a strange afterthought to artificially add moral depth to the game. While it did feel cheap, I do think it added to the standout depravity of the crime boss in an already dark and amoral world.

    At the end of this session Geralt reunites with a character from the previous game: Vernon Roche. Roche used to be a spymaster for the now dissolved country Temeria. We learn that he sided for a time with the last remaining northern king before realizing his madness. At this stage the world looks bleak. A bloody war is now being fought by two tyrants: one mad and one with a Machiavellian outlook on the world. As is the course with the witcher series, the player often is required to choose between sides between world powers, and so I forecast will be the same in this entry. Of course this doesn't seem like much of choice.

    This leads me to ask why isn't neutrality an option? Many, if not all, of the moral quandaries in this game leave no option for neutrality. It also seems as though Geralt is a kind of minor deity: he is able to influence others with magic and his physical ability is matched by none. In this case, a kind of anthropological distance from most moral conflicts would make the most sense to me, but that isn't an option.
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    [January 19, 2017 11:09:05 PM]
    Continuing from last session, my new quest was to find dandelion. Upon reaching his tavern, I learn that he is missing, and it is my task to find him. Geralt and Zoltan search around the tavern and come across his planner, filled with his sexual exploits in the form of poetry. They decide the best way to learn of his location is to ask his former lovers.

    In the past, the witcher series has had some negative attention on its portrayal of women. So I was skeptical going in to this quest, with the focus on a womanizer. The first few women were nothing out of the ordinary. After them I came across a male. I was surprised at their choice to represent a not totally offensive trans woman. Although at the end of the dialogue they kind of buried the lead. When asked why the ex-lover dressed as a woman, he stated that he just likes to dress up as other people, and assured geralt that he still is attracted to women. Of course sexual orientation is separate from how an individual views their own gender and project themselves. This is a difficult subject to criticize in a fictitious period piece, however. I felt as though the devs wanted to break from heteronormativity, but pulled back at the last second. Maybe to appeal to a larger audience, or to who they perceived to be their target demographic. It was disappointing to me, however.

    Another ex of dandelion I encountered (whom I also sword fought with) seemed interested in pursuing Geralt. I was given the option of refusing her outright, or meeting her later for another "lesson". Having played the previous two games, and having read the source novels, I know geralt to be somewhat lascivious. The issue here is thus: do I play to the character, or to my own morals? Some parts of romance are also left quite vague. Geralt, having lost his memory in the first two games, starts up a relationship with a mutual friend of his and his (for lack of a better term) girlfriend, Yennifer. Yenn shows clear derision for this choice, and their relationship status is left vague. On top of that, in the books both Yennifer and Geralt have cheated on each other and little harm came from it. What a moral grey area!

    This game doesn't require any prerequisite knowledge to play, and yet is enhanced considerably with it. What a player brings with them into a game (be it knowledge of gameplay, strategy, lore, skill, or analytical ability) contributes heavily to their ultimate experience. This is even more complicated with an adaptation of a preexisting franchise like the Witcher. I feel like if many of the choices you are forced to make were uninformed, the whole experience would feel more like a roller coaster ride than a game. I'm a stickler for experiencing media in its most complete and polished form, though.

    I also really like writing logs, especially for a long-form game like the witcher! Helps me organize my thoughts and remember all of the characters better.
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    [January 12, 2017 08:56:20 PM]
    Today I ended the "return to crookback bog" questline. This is the culmination of the Bloody baron's story, in which we see Geralt help reunite him with his lost wife and daughter. This quest also shows the result of a major moral decision in the game- whether or not to kill the evil nature spirit hidden beneath the old tree on the hill. I had previously decided to release the spirit, as it promised to save the group of kids being held by the crones of crookback bog. On my way back to the bog, I find a town covered in blood and dead bodies. It is revealed through dialogue that the massacre was caused by none other than the dark spirit of the forest- exacting retribution on those it believed had wronged it.

    Of course this made me question if I had done the right thing. Sure, the spirit seemed at best dubious in regards to its morals on killing. It stated those who had died by a werewolf in its command was "nature running its course". At the time, though, I dismissed it. Though intrinsically it might've made more sense for me to kill the spirit, I distrusted the crones. I mean, they lured children to their abode with a "trail of treats"! If that's not classic evil, I don't know what is. I felt as though the unchecked power of the crones might be the greater evil, and the spirit might serve as a solution.

    Another influence to my decision was a lore book I had read previous to the questline, vaguely hinting that the "lady of the woods" was the mother of the crones, as well as the spirit under the tree. The book talked about her daughter's trapping her in a wooden prison due to her losing her mind.

    A big reason I chose to free the spirit was fear of missing out. Participating in a black magic ritual to reincarnate an imprisoned ancient forest deity? Morality aside, I wanted to see this happen.

    I really liked the writing in this questline, partially because of the cognitive dissonance it gave me. I felt like I didn't have enough information, and like the choice wasn't really mine either way I went. I suppose that's a merit to the writing. In real life, decisions are often uninformed, rushed, or the lesser of two evils. I'd like to say I chose the right path because I saved a bunch of kids, but it's more selfish than that. I don't really know if the kids are safe, and even if they were, does that outweigh the death of an entire village? Maybe I feel good about it because I had more of an emotional connection with the children. One, because I spent more time with them, and two because of their innocence.

    The questline (and my play session) ends with the death of the baron's wife and his subsequent suicide. I didn't agree with the baron, he felt a little too self apologizing for a domestic abuser. Though I didn't voice this to him every time I got the option. It felt cruel. I wondered in the end if I had missed some opportunity to save him or his wife. I feel though that this ending is for the best. Although the daughter seems caught up in a cult. That's unfortunate, but reminiscent of my experience of people in real life analogues of her life.

    Can't wait to go to novigrad next time!
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    dillon.young's The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC)

    Current Status: Playing

    GameLog started on: Wednesday 11 January, 2017

    dillon.young's opinion and rating for this game

    The best writing in an open world rpg to date. Deep characters, affecting decisions, wonderful worldbuilding, and challenging, engaging combat.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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