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The Witcher 3: Vizima

By Bob Case
on Thursday Mar 22, 2018
Filed under:
Random, Video Games

 
 

Enough futzing around trying to find Yennewhatshername. It’s time to start the main quest.

The Witcher’s 3’s main quest is called “Collect ’em all” (to complete it, you must collect one of every Gwent card in the game) and your first opportunity to start it is by talking to traveling Oxenfurt Professor Aldert Geert at the tavern in White Orchard. He’ll give you your first Gwent deck (of the Northern Realms faction) and play you in a pretty easy match.

This probably won’t surprise you much given the playthrough’s ground rules, but I’m a Gwent man. I got less satisfaction defeating the game’s various villains than I do when I scorch the everloving bejeezus out of an overpowered monster deck. It’s the only card game to successfully make me cackle.

Now I understand that not all of you reading this are into Gwent as much as I am, so I will also spend considerable time covering the game’s various side quests, like the one where you help Ciri save the world from a magical-entropic apocalypse. And from here on in I’ll warn you when there’s a “Gwent part” coming up, so you can skip it if you’re so inclined.

Now that's a round of Gwent.

Now that's a round of Gwent.

Today’s Gwent part is gonna be pretty short, because there’s not much to say yet. Gwent is a game where you deploy cards in three rows (melee, ranged, and siege) with the aim of outscoring your opponent in two out of three rounds. The twist is that you keep the same set of cards for all three rounds, so it can be advantageous to strategically throw a round if it leaves you better cards to win the following ones. The professor gives you a barebones deck and plays you in a match that mostly serves as a tutorial.

Part of my fascination with the game comes from its audacity. CD Projekt was already in the middle of making an absurdly ambitious game, and they decided – fairly late in its development if my understanding is correct – to include a dense, elaborate, and entirely optional card game on the side just for kicks. It’s definitely a step up from dice poker. The only thing I can think of to compare it to is Final Fantasy VIII’s triple triad.

That’ll do it for today’s Gwent part, but there’ll be more to come once we can find some more worthy opponents. When I last played the game, the Gwent difficulty level option wasn’t yet in, so there may be some surprises for me in store. Not to mention I’ve barely used the new Skellige deck at all.

Back in the world where fights are won with fists instead of cards, Geralt delivers the griffin head to the Nilfgaardian captain, who reveals that Yennefer is in the nearby city of Vizima. Geralt heads back to the tavern to reunite with Vesemir and blow this popsicle stand, but then everything goes wrong. A woman, angry over the loss of a family member to the Nilfgaardians, picks a fight over the Temerian lily shield that was taken down in the last cutscene here. A bunch of drunken rowdies join in, Vesemir can’t manage to talk them down, and next thing you know there are human heads all over the floor.

I survived this fight using what has become my default White Orchard method – by running away and letting Vesemir do all the work. I do discover something encouraging: certain armed human opponents (which I haven’t fought many of yet) can be interrupted by punches. The Nilfgaardian soldiers with the big halberds no, but a drunken goon with a blackjack yes. I retreat into a chokepoint and pop the guy trying to get through with a good stiff jab every time he tries to whack me. Since I don’t have to dodge, I don’t interrupt stamina regen, and a couple Ignis later the fight is won, mostly thanks to Vesemir. By now I imagine he’s considering just cutting me out of his life. I’m sure he feels loyalty to his fellow Witchers, but at some point you have to take care of yourself.

The tavern fight scene is a good example of CD Projekt’s strengths, but also one of their weaknesses. The strength is the ability to weave the various threads of White Orchard together in a natural way, and to show how the Nilfgaardian invasion can turn everything around it into a tinderbox. The weakness, in my opinion, is that they occasionally mistake nastiness for profundity.

Yes, war is awful, and at times, so are people. But there’s a few too many scenes in this game where almost everyone involved except Geralt and his friends is just an awful lunk of a jerkface meanyhead. It’s a pattern that worries me going forward, since their next slated game is Cyberpunk 2077. Cyberpunk is not exactly the cheeriest of genres, and Mike Pondsmith’s version is no exception.

Maybe I shouldn’t worry. After all, I had a similar criticism of Game of Thrones (the show), so maybe the issue is on my end and not theirs. We’ll be returning to this observation at a couple points later in the story, so maybe just let it marinate until then. In any case, it’s time to finally meet Yennefer, and to part ways with Vesemir.

Vesemir claimed he was returning to Kaer Morhen to hide trails from the Nilfgaardians, but I think he's really doing it as an act of self-care. He must have noticed that even now, Geralt is so blasted he impaled his own foot on a stirrup.

Vesemir claimed he was returning to Kaer Morhen to hide trails from the Nilfgaardians, but I think he's really doing it as an act of self-care. He must have noticed that even now, Geralt is so blasted he impaled his own foot on a stirrup.

On their way to Vizima, Yen and Geralt barely escape the Wild Hunt – the first time we see them outside of the dream sequence in the beginning – and then, once in the city, meet Nilfgaard’s Emperor. I imagine that someone new to the series might feel a bit confused at this point, with another main character and the main villain being introduced with relatively little in the way of introduction. I knew what was going on, because I’d read the books and followed the game’s promotion closely, but I can see how someone who hadn’t could be overwhelmed.

I personally think Geralt is too built in this game. The guy in this bathtub would play strong safety in the NFL, possibly even weakside linebacker. I preferred the leaner build in the second installment.

I personally think Geralt is too built in this game. The guy in this bathtub would play strong safety in the NFL, possibly even weakside linebacker. I preferred the leaner build in the second installment.

My other thought about this section is that I can’t remember a time when I thought a big-name voice actor really added to a game. Emperor Emhyr var Emreis is voiced by Charles Dance, the guy who plays Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones. It was weird hearing Tywin Lannister’s voice come of out someone who is not Tywin Lannister, just as it was weird hearing Sir Patrick Stewart’s voice come out of a Bethesda-vintage potato face in Oblivion.

It’s not that I think he gives a bad performance. But all of my favorite voice acting performances in games have been by relative unknowns. And I can’t shake the suspicion (which I have no evidence to support) that whatever money was used to secure the big-name talent could have been better spent elsewhere.

Geralt has actually been to the palace in Vizima before, in the first game in the series, and the layout and art of the place will be recognizable to anyone who’s played it – a nice touch of continuity. And we have our next goal: find Ciri, with the help of one of the Emperor’s spies in Velen.

I couldn't not include this painting of Ciri. It's one of my favorite things in the entire game.

I couldn't not include this painting of Ciri. It's one of my favorite things in the entire game.

So now we’re off to Velen, for the start of the game proper. Until now, we’ve been at least partly on rails, and now is the time when the game finally opens up for real. Let me know in the comments if you have any preferences about what order I do things in.


 
 
Comments (59)

  1. Alan says:

    I went into Witcher 3 cold, and I found it perfectly hit the sweet spot of tellingly me enough that I understood what was going on, but not boring me with details. The result felt like a rich world that existed before I joined it. Which, I guess it is.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I must admit,Im interested to learn if they ever fixed gwent in the game.Mainly,how broken the spies were.

    • Kand says:

      Spoiler.
      They did not. Spies are still the way to go and the later NPC decks will consist of tons of spies to keep up with your card draw. But hey, in the last DLC they at least forced you to play a faction that couldn’t stack spies quite as much to complete the quest.
      All the fixing only happened when they changed the rules for the standalone CCG.

    • camycamera says:

      Well, the Gwent Plus Plus mod exists that adds more cards, changes a lot of other cards to make them more balanced and more varied (and there are other similar overhaul/balance mods for vanilla Gwent in W3 as well), so maybe give that a try? I haven’t tried it myself, but I am planning to on my second playthrough, because spy spam as Temaria was obviously the best tactic to go with every single time. It was fun at first, but it got a little boring at the end.

      The Blood and Wine DLC forced us to use the Skellige deck for a reason, I suppose!

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    But there’s a few too many scenes in this game where almost everyone involved except Geralt and his friends is just an awful lunk of a jerkface meanyhead.

    What do you mean EXCEPT geralt?He is the biggest jerkface meanyhead in the whole game.All the time.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I imagine that someone new to the series might feel a bit confused at this point, with another main character and the main villain being introduced with relatively little in the way of introduction. I knew what was going on, because I’d read the books and followed the game’s promotion closely, but I can see how someone who hadn’t could be overwhelmed.

    Never read any of the books,barely played the other two witchers before I bounced off of them,and I was completely fine with this opening.

    Let me know in the comments if you have any preferences about what order I do things in.

    Rush towards skellige and do that one as soon as possible.

  5. Droid says:

    The real payoff of hiring Charles Dance was that people who played Witcher 3 before starting Game of Thrones are going to think “oh, it’s Emhyr” whenever Tywin opens his mouth in the show, reminding players of a much better story that they have already experienced, and that the train-wreck that’s about to come can be overcome by playing Witcher 3 again.

    What!?

  6. Ravens Cry says:

    I don’t know about you, but I am totally OK with all the beefcake thrown around. Noooo complaints here at all! If there’s some cheesecake too, I wouldn’t complain there either!

  7. Thomas says:

    I had no problems with the voice actor this time, but normally I think voice acting is a whole skill by itself and actors aren’t necessarily good at it.

    You have to over emote to a very precise degree .

    • Mr. Wolf says:

      You have to over emote to a very precise degree .

      Like the Legacy of Kain games, which some consider to have the best voice acting of all time, despite (or because of?) everybody sounding like they’re in a stage play.

      • Viktor says:

        That’s actually a really good comparison. It’s a stage play. The audience can’t see much emotion on faces and body movements are going to be somewhat exaggerated, so OF COURSE the best way to do the voice is to overdo it. Damn, I want to email every voice acting director in the games industry with that, because that’s such a clear way of easily making the voices work properly.

  8. Volvagia says:

    When you say “relative unknowns”, who are you talking about? Big names for VOICE actors or actresses like Nolan North or Grey DeLisle or even more obscure than that?

    • GloatingSwine says:

      Witcher 3’s voice cast is mostly British TV and stage actors.

    • Big-name VOICE actors are usually so proficient at creating a unique character voice that you have to check the credits to even find out it was them.

      It’s when they pay for a recognizable SCREEN actor that it’s usually wasted money, although I actually like how they do it in DDO–they get someone who is a celebrity only in the D&D community to be the DM Voiceover for a pack. There are packs narrated by Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, Ed Greenwood, and Will Wheaton.

      • slipshod says:

        True! Unless it’s not. I could pick out Yennefer’s voice actor every time I heard her reading the lines of a peasant, or Vesemir’s old flame in HoS.

        Conversely, at least to my ear, Natalie Dormer was just Natalie Dormer in Mass Effect: Andromeda. Emhyr used most of Tywin’s inflections. Though I get they’re screen actors, not voice actors.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        One upside of having rolled low perception (like seriously, pretty much all my senses are very poor or somehow busted) is that I do not recognize voice actors at all.

  9. Does Geralt have some sort of spinal injury that prevents him from actually standing up straight? That hunch looks painful.

    • slipshod says:

      In a way, Geralt is Atlas; he’s carrying the world on his shoulders. Always slightly hunched over, built like a swimmer who can hold his breath under water for minutes at a time. Could see how that physical language might have been an artistic choice by CDPR.

  10. Fade2Gray says:

    Ah Gwent. The card game that taught me that if I can’t cheese it it ain’t worth my time. I don’t usually like card games, but I had a ton of fun with Gwent. Then I tried the grown up “real” Gwent and found it incredibly dense and unsatisfying.

    • Mako says:

      Stupid-dense, or Rick McCallum-“it’s so dense“-dense? Just curious.

      • Oliver says:

        The online CCG version of Gwent adds a lot more variation in the types of abilities and interactions between cards, and generally has a ton more cards for all the factions. Definitely not as clean a game as the W3 version, but then if it was going to have any staying power in a competitive online setting then more depth would likely be a necessity. That said, I would have argued that simplicity was one of the real draws of W3 Gwent as it placed a lot more emphasis on the bluffing aspect (before you go all in on the spy build at least). The online version definitely favours building a deck solely around an archetype and hoping to hit a powerful combination of cards rather than outplaying/bluffing your opponent.

        The online CCG is also looking to be a profitable endeavour, so you can fully expect a lot of the usual “cards have rarities and rarer cards = stronger”. That said, CDPR have made an admirable attempt at reducing the usual CCG random booster aggravation. This is particularly seen by the presentation of 3 rare cards in each “card keg” booster, allowing the player to pick 1 of them to keep while discarding the other 2; new players are MUCH more able to build towards a deck of their choosing/design this way and can get competitive a lot faster than in other modern digital CCGs.

        My overall impressions are that CCG-Gwent offers a very good online CCG experience, and being “free” allows previous players of W3-Gwent a relatively low investment way to quickly decide whether it works for them or is too much of a divergence from the original formula.

  11. Agammamon says:

    . . .the guy who plays Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones. It was weird hearing Tywin Lannister’s voice come of out someone who is not Tywin Lannister,

    Wha . . . ah . . . urgh! Damn kids these days.

  12. Eric says:

    Bob, are you planning on doing Novigrad or Skellige first? I always did Novigrad since that’s what the game seems to suggest, but I’d be interested to see it from the other way around. No idea if the level-scaling will change, though.

    • Henson says:

      The game requires you to complete both Novigrad and Velen main quests before progressing very far in Skellige.

      • Eric says:

        I can’t find anything about this online (again, I never tried it myself). Does the story not progress or do you mean some sort of gameplay soft-block? Because apparently you can go at least as far as meeting Uma before you need to meet the Baron.

        • Henson says:

          Okay, so apparently I’m completely wrong here. I just tested it, and you can complete Skellige first in its entirety. Somehow, I remembered Yennefer not having a dialogue option open until you had finished both Velen and Novigrad, but that’s not the case. Perhaps something was changed in an early patch? Or maybe I’m just a putz.

      • Darth Tiffany says:

        This is not correct. The quest levels suggest a Velen-Novigrad-Skellige progression (and I imagine that’s the order most first time players take), but there’s nothing standing in the way of you doing the sections in whatever order you want, or you can bounce between them. On my New Game+ playthrough I went to Skellige first with no issues.

  13. Pax says:

    I was looking at the screenshots and… what is up with the neck tattoo? I don’t remember there being a neck tattoo before.

    • Henson says:

      The neck tattoo is a carryover from Witcher 2. There’s a place in Act 1 where Geralt can get shitfaced drunk with Vernon Roche’s Blue Stripes commandos, and wakes up the next morning on the beach in nothing but his smallclothes and the bare-breasted woman tattooed on his neck.

      It’s one of the few places I think import data actually works well. (in almost any game)

  14. slipshod says:

    Glad to hear from someone as obsessed with Gwent as I. You’re in for a treat: the Skellige deck is fabulously entertaining. Though it did not deter me from continuing to out-spy every opponent to the point of no return and total annihilation.

    Also, I loved that picture of Ciri. It’s so appropriate for her character. Part of the reason why the ruler-Ciri ending never made sense to me. Tywin may be her lineage, but Geralt is her father, all the way to the core of her soul.

    • Droid says:

      To be fair to Emhyr, he’s not quite as bad a father as Tywin Lannister is.

    • parkenf says:

      Gaaah! Spoilers?? OK I know it’s a N year old game – I’ve had it on PS4 for over a year, and that doesn’t make that much different to my enjoyment, just I’ve been inspired by this walkthrough to actually start playing the game, and I’m finally really enjoying it and, you know, I just didn’t need to know that.

  15. RJT says:

    So, I’ve decided to play along and finally play The Witcher 3. I did all the quests in White Orchard and investigated the entire map, and it seems I’m still under-leveled for Velen. I’m not sure if I’m missing some XP multipliers or something. I played Gwent, but I don’t really understand the appeal yet. It is slightly more strategic than dice poker, at least!

    Next, it was off to Velen. I started with finding the witch, and after I found her, I was struck with an intense desire. And that desire was to fix her collar. Magical pocket dimension centered around a bathtub, utterly dark cave with mysterious elves, hounds of the hunt, whatever. All I could think about was fixing her collar. Fix your collar, ma’am!

    Everyone in this game is so mean and insular! So, the devs had to remove the option to seduce the peasantry from Witcher 1. None of the peasants seem to view Geralt as even human now, so it makes sense. At first, I tried to talk to all the peasants. Most of them have a single line of dialogue they will reply, and one of the most common is to spit on Geralt! I don’t really understand the setting, yet. The witches seem to have scientific knowledge at around the early 1900s level, and the peasants refuse all attempts at education and live in squalor. It’s an…interesting view of humanity the devs have.

    I’m not sure what is going on with Ciri yet. Is she a Witcher or not? If so, I don’t understand why she doesn’t have a silver sword. Was she forced to sell it? If she isn’t a Witcher, why can she teleport? Why would her hair be white if she wasn’t “mutated?” Is she similar to that boy you had to chase all over the map in Witcher 1? From her promotional images, I was irritated at her implausibly heavy makeup, but from reading scattered documents, it appears she was raised at least partially in the company of witches, who have recipes for and wear modern-style makeup. It’s nice that someone on the team thought this through.

    I don’t really expect anyone to answer these rhetorical questions, by the way. I just like to yak along.

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