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The Witcher 3: Dad Games

By Bob Case
on Wednesday Apr 4, 2018
Filed under:
Random, Video Games

 
 

Before we continue with the main quest, I’d like to take some steps to advance the game’s biggest and most elaborate side questI’ve decided to run this whole ‘Gwent is the main quest’ gag deep into the ground, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.: the search for Geralt’s adoptive daughter Ciri.

I'm normally not a fan of Improbable Fantasy Eye Colors(TM), but I have to admit Ciri's eyes look pretty cool.

I'm normally not a fan of Improbable Fantasy Eye Colors(TM), but I have to admit Ciri's eyes look pretty cool.

Now for an aside that concerns games and their presumed audience.

Without going into exhaustive detail, at some point in the eighties the game industry collectively decided that they were going to consider young boys to be their core audience. I’m quite familiar with this, since I was on the receiving end of it, and am pretty close to the bulls-eye consumer for this model. I played Super Mario Bros. and Zelda when I was in elementary school, Wolfenstein and Doom when I was in middle school, and Final Fantasy when I was in high school. At some point I played Fallout, which detoured me slightly (though permanently) off the beaten path, but broadly speaking their whole “market to young boys” thing definitely worked in my case.

This strategy was the product of an industry trying to find its legs again after a painful crash. But what started as a temporary tactical move calcified into habit, and the (AAA at least) games industry has kept making and marketing games mostly towards me and people like me ever since. Of course, now my generation is well into its thirties, so I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that starting around five years ago a new kind-of-genre has emerged that I’ve come to call the “Dad Game.”

The Dad Game is very much like any other game, except the male protagonist is more likely to have a beard and probably has an adorable little tyke to take care of in between shooting zombies or whatever. The Last of Us was probably the first major example, but there’s also Telltale’s The Walking Dead, and now even the upcoming God of War is getting in on the dad action. There are multiple other games that aren’t explicit Dad Games but nonetheless foreground some kind of protector/vulnerable one relationship. Sometimes it’s with a relative (this was the case with the first Watch Dogs), and sometimes it’s the player who’s the presumptive “dad,” and the (often female) protagonist is the offspring to be protected (I personally suspect this is the dynamic – conscious or not – that led Lara Croft to take so much physical punishment in the 2013 Tomb Raider).

Now what exactly the emergence of the Dad Game says about the games industry or even society as a whole isn’t a question I’m going to tackle at the moment, but I think it’s safe to say that The Witcher 3 has a fair bit of the Dad Game in its DNA. It’s also, in my opinion, the best of the Dad Games, and in some ways a deconstruction of the concept (with apologies for using the overused d-word). We’ll come back to this later – for now, that’s enough theory. It’s time to get down to business. Geralt has grown a beard, the adorable little tyke we met in the prologue is in danger, and we have to find her.

The Emperor only gave us one lead – one of his spies in Velen, a man named Hendrik, has been gathering clues as to Ciri’s possible whereabouts. Upon arriving, a local inkeep directs us towards a town called Heatherton, which is deserted and mysteriously (unlike the surrounding countryside) covered in snow. There is one survivor, though we have to fight off some wild dogs to get to him. Having to fight more than one enemy at a time in our current state is always tricky, but kiting the dogs around the well in the middle of town works after a couple of tries, and the town’s sole survivor recounts the unsettling story of a Wild Hunt attack.

Our first glimpse of our foe: the King of the Wild Hunt. If this playthrough goes right, I will eventually punch him to death.

Our first glimpse of our foe: the King of the Wild Hunt. If this playthrough goes right, I will eventually punch him to death.

(As an aside, I’m currently out of town, and don’t have access to my own screenshots. The ones used in this post I pulled off Google.)

If there’s one type of scene CD Projekt has mastered, it’s the “terrified peasant recounts supernatural calamity” scene. I personally very much got a sense of the menace of the Wild Hunt from the villager’s tale – I especially liked the detail about how the frogs went silent before the attack. So the Wild Hunt shows up out of nowhere, and is accompanied by a mysterious sudden frost, and they seem to be after Ciri for some reason. After talking to the villager, we search Hendrik’s house. The man himself has been tortured to death, but the Wild Hunt’s tradecraft seems to be lacking – they never checked for the old key-hidden-in-the-boot trick. Geralt finds the key and uses to open a hidden basement containing Henrik’s notes, including his leads on Ciri.

The notes open up three quests directing us to three different places: Velen (the war-ravaged countryside we’re currently in), Novigrad (the as-yet-untouched wealthy city to the north), and Skellige (the Scandanavian-flavored islands to the west). In theory, you can do these quests in any order. In practice, the game’s leveling curve clearly encourages you to do Velen first, Novigrad second, and Skellige third. Since I want this playthrough to be weird, I resolve to do Skellige first, leveling mechanics be damned.

First I have to get past the Pontar river to the north. All the crossings are controlled by the Redanians, and you need a pass to get past their blockades. Fortunately I’ve leveled up my Axii and can use it to hoodwink a local black marketeer into giving me a discount on a counterfeit one, and I’m on my way to Novigrad.

Novigrad is one of this game's many triumphs. I've personally never seen a more visually convincing fantasy city.

Novigrad is one of this game's many triumphs. I've personally never seen a more visually convincing fantasy city.

In Novigrad, you can buy passage to Skellige for a thousand crowns. The only hiccup is that I’m broke. I personally forgot about the cost of the journey, and since I haven’t been looting gear to sell but have been spending what few coins I’ve scrounged on Gwent cards, passage to Skellige is not going to happen until Geralt makes a little scratch. So, I decide to futz around in Novigrad for a bit.

Novigrad is a piece of work. It’s the city I’ve been waiting for my whole RPG career, I think. So many cities in games are billed as a metropoli but populated like ghost towns, or their placement makes no sense, or they look nice but are ultimately shallow, or something. Not Novigrad – instead, CD Projekt is the first to give a city like this the same sense of life and reality that Ubisoft has in the Assassin’s Creed series.

What’s more, there’s something to be found in almost every nook and cranny. I’ve already played through this game two times, but within twenty minutes of entering the city I stumble across a quest I’ve never done before – a quick but interesting search through a library to find a book left for me by Jacques de Aldersberg, the villain from the first game. I’m continually impressed that the developers found time to put touches like that in while also making a great honking big AAA RPG.

You “start” Novigrad’s questline by wandering into Heierarch Square in the center of the city. This triggers a cutscene where Caleb Menge, chief legbreaker for the Church of the Eternal Fire, is burning undesirables at the stake. By the time you get to this part of the game, you’ve almost certainly come across the Church of the Eternal fire before. I didn’t cover it earlier, but after arriving at Hanged Man’s Tree in Velen I knocked out a quick quest where Geralt is manipulated into destroying evidence for a Priest of the Eternal Fire who has a side business peddling Skooma (a fictional addictive drug that I guess is something like Opium). EDIT: Oh posh and bother, it’s fisstech, not skooma. I got my pretend fantasy drugs mixed up. Skooma is from the Elder Scrolls series.

They’re an unpleasant bunch who dislike Witchers and other nonhumans and rarely have any redeeming characteristics. I also think they’re a setting hook that never quite lives up to its potential. For now, they’ve run afoul of my Geralt, who is not only a Witcher but also a volunteer fire code inspector.

Any pyres of this size are supposed to have at least fifty feet of setback from any wooden buildings or market stalls!

Any pyres of this size are supposed to have at least fifty feet of setback from any wooden buildings or market stalls!

This was a point at which my “naked punchman” build started to run into cold hard reality. I did advance Novigrad’s main questline a few steps, but at one point I had to fight a level 10 drowner and I just plain could not kill it. Punches do negligible damage to monsters, and I knew that. But I was counting on Igni to get me through. Igni sometimes makes monsters catch fire, which does ticking damage based (I believe) on a percentage of their health, perfect for stuff that’s higher level than I am. But something about the way sign intensity and sign resistance works seems to reduce the chances that I’ll set a higher-level mob on fire. I must have hit that slimy little brat with twenty or thirty Ignis and I never once got the ticking damage effect.

I don’t mind a weird playthrough in terms of the order I do things in, but I also don’t want to be janking around from quest to quest in a way that makes the playthrough disorienting, so I reload an earlier save before the drowner fight. I’m still only level 3, and I think I have to knock out at least one or two more levels before I can win those sewer fights. I do want to advance the Novigrad questline a bit early, for reasons I’ll reveal later. For now, though, we’re going to at least temporarily play the game as it was meant to be played and head back to Velen. We’ll pick up there next week.

Footnotes:

[1] I’ve decided to run this whole ‘Gwent is the main quest’ gag deep into the ground, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.


 
 
Comments (90)

  1. Opagla says:

    Actually, the Priest of Eternal Fire in Velen that you mentioned is actually selling fisstech, not skooma (see, the late one is the opium of the elders scrolls universe).

  2. Version 2.Joe says:

    It’s Fisstech, Skooma is Skyrim‘s surprisingly monopolous drug.

  3. Darth Tiffany says:

    Skooma, Bob? Unless the Conjunction of the Spheres included a portal to Tamriel, I think the fake drug you’re thinking of is fisstech.

    • trevalyan says:

      Hell, the first three comments are about the proper names for fantasy narcotics.

      A further snapshot of gaming culture. I’m sure I would be part of the problem, if I had noticed this post earlier.

      • Version 2.Joe says:

        What problem?

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          The problem that there arent enough drugs in fantasy games to satisfy everyone.

          • trevalyan says:

            Hmm yes, that’s the problem exactly.

          • Paul Spooner says:

            There’s probably a lot of truth to that. Aside from killing people, drug use has to be one of the more costly and dangerous pastimes around. Seems like games would explore it more.
            Then again… Mario.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              The problem is that drugs in video games don’t give you any real satisfaction. Unlike sex and murder, there’s no visual appeal, and you don’t have to work for it. So only a few games can get around this, like fallout with it’s various drug related bonuses and perks.

              • Pax says:

                Also some countries object strenuously to any favorable depiction of drug use. Like child killing, it’s just something you don’t do if you want to sell your games in all the markets.

                • Nimas says:

                  Every time this comes up, I get depressed by Saint’s Row 4 in Australia. The game that I have bought on Steam, I went and illegally downloaded a version just so I didn’t have to deal with Australia’s bullshit nanny response to the game (they removed one of the missions because apparently getting superpowers in a *simulation* by smoking *alien* drugs with 2 versions of the same character is ‘promoting drug use’ by showing people gaining things from drug use…and that’s bad)

                  I swear that no one in the Classification department in Australia actually understands that freaking ADULTS can play video games.

            • BlueBlazeSpear says:

              Are you suggesting that Super Mario Brothers is actually one big mushroom trip? That would actually explain a lot.

              • Paul Spooner says:

                If anything, it’s not nearly trippy enough. For a more genunine experience, play Super Mario Brothers while wearing kaleidoscope goggles.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Or while tripping on shrooms yourself.

                  • Paul Spooner says:

                    Not that either of us would know anything about that.

                  • Distec says:

                    Personal tale:
                    I and two friends – after partaking – played amazing Master Class “S-Ranked” sessions of New Super Mario Bros on the Wii. I consider that a hell of a feat since all my coop experiences with that game consisted of everybody accidentally fucking each other up every 5 seconds. And I don’t think any of us were trying too hard or even paying much attention to the game itself.

                    We also played Smash Bros with a sitter, and I remember him getting visibly and audibly frustrated since he couldn’t understand how we were playing so well against him. To be fair to him, I could kinda get it. I am a terrible SSB player who always ends in last place, and the most I know how to is a spam cheap moves.

                    How would YOU feel if you were suddenly being dominated by this aforementioned person? Especially when – worst of all – he’s clearly not even following the match and exclaiming “WHOAH GUYS, were those shapes and colors in the background ALWAYS THERE?!?!!?!”

  4. Tohron says:

    Yeah, fighting opponents in Witcher 3 while significantly underleveled is just painful. I know you want to do the questlines out-of-order, but unless you do some serious grinding on sidequests I’m not really seeing how. Look forward to seeing what you pick though.

  5. Mr. Wolf says:

    Geralt being Ciri’s father probably caused the biggest player/character disconnect I’ve ever encountered. Namely, Ciri’s breasts are very noticeable, but Geralt just can’t appreciate that like the rest of us. Trying to be Geralt was interrupted by constant reminders of “don’t look down” during every conversation.

    And that is what happens when “dad” and “young boy” designs come into conflict.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Geralt being so unlikable solved the problem easy for me.I never had any desire to be geralt,so I could not only enjoy all the sights,I was also able to enjoy whenever someone put geralt in his place.

    • Eric says:

      Well, they aren’t blood related, so it’s probably fair game…
      Funnily enough, this situation was kind of acknowledged in a conversation with the Crones.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I’ve decided to run this whole ‘Gwent is the main quest’ gag deep into the ground, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.

    What if someone challenges you to a game of gwent with the stakes being you dropping the gag?

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Since I want this playthrough to be weird, I resolve to do Skellige first, leveling mechanics be damned.

    Yes.

    but at one point I had to fight a level 10 drowner and I just plain could not kill it.

    I’m still only level 3

    Even with swords,such a fight is a pain.Its doable,but it takes a while.Though its much easier when the difference is between level 30 and level 23,when you are able to have signs that have some good side effects.Most notably stun.

  8. Len says:

    If you’re short of cash, go do all the fistfights and horse races, since you won’t have a that much of a disadvantage in those even while naked and underleveled.

    Also before you spend money on the trip of Skellige, spend the 1k on the entry fee for the Gwent tournament to get some spare cash.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again it here: there’s parts of the game that’s impractical to do while using only fists and signs. Not impossible, not even all that difficult, just takes frustratingly long. I’m looking forward to see how you’ll even try to overcome Nithral’s hounds without being stupidly overleveled. Not that I forsee much overleveling happening while using only fists, so good luck with that.

    • TheJungerLudendorff says:

      I have no idea how he actually intends to get anywhere with this build, especially if he wants to sequence break.
      The combat is just too reliant on raw numbers for that. It’s as much Skyrim as Dark Souls.

      • BlueBlazeSpear says:

        I’ve been wondering this myself because I’m thinking about some of the fights that come later in the game where being a nude puncher crosses the line from “inconvenient” to “unreasonable.” I’m all in favor of creating those self-enforced difficulty curves, but this is one that feels like it’s going to hit a wall. If I recall, he did leave himself some wiggle-room for if the playstyle became untenable, but I’ll be curious to see what that translates to.

        A secondary concern I have is about how it might affect the coverage of the game. To me, this playstyle is ridiculous enough that I would say that it’s a fundamental departure from how we’re intended to experience W3. Not only does it make all the fights difficult to the point of silliness, but it’s also a departure from a character who’s supposed to be widely known for his skills with a sword and he doesn’t even carry one, much less the two that Witchers are known for. And the cut scenes: This guy’s chatting with spies, warriors, aristocracy, and emperors in his skivvies? And nobody finds it weird? It’s an interesting sort of player-enforced immersion-break that I don’t think is true to the intended gaming experience. But I guess we’ll just have to see.

      • Eric says:

        To me, the combat experience reminds me most of Dragon’s Dogma, which also had an above-average action game wrapper that was limited more by the leveling system than by the player’s skill.

        It makes me wonder why these games are even open-world to begin with, seeing as the difficulty curve encourages/enforces a certain direction anyways.

        • Droid says:

          1) It’s easier, balancing-wise, to make three areas of increasing difficulty than to make three areas of equal difficulty throughout the game that keeps up with but does not effectively nullify the levelling and player decisions up to that point in time. You can see how this can fail horribly in vanilla Oblivion. Pretty much every major mod for it (as in rebalance mod or total overhaul) changes this back to a more traditional system.
          2) The three difficulty levels make sense as part of the themes of their respective locations:
          Velen is pretty much destroyed by war and the only real challenging fights left stem from encounters with the Wild Hunt and the monsters that were able to take over the war-ravaged land. Remember, though, that there are still a few really challenging monsters here as part of high-level quests.
          Novigrad is still intact, but a thriving trade city, and therefore none too life-threatening in general. So it still has some easy quests that you can do even when underlevelled, and unless you run in at the earliest possible time like Mr. Case here did, you can still best most opponents in the city eventually, if you choose the quests you do and what order to do them in carefully and, admittedly, have a little patience.
          And Skellige is supposed to be unforgiving and harsh. Going there and cutting everything down with ease would imho severely undercut the narrative of the game in this location.
          3) Almost every other open-world game does this, too. Big exception here is Bethesda, but otherwise: Kingdoms of Amalur has pretty much the same system, but with “distance from the starting point” as the defining metric, Baldur’s Gate has some really nasty things waiting for you if you’re just bumbling around in its open-world part (and I assume this is true for all Infinity Engine games to a degree), and older games like the Gothic games did this, too.

          So a difficulty curve within the open-world part of a game is not necessarily clashing with its openness. It provides variety, narrative support, challenge, and basically lets you have your own difficulty slider, unless you hate both hard fights AND investing more time.

      • Kestrellius says:

        Hey, you can sequence-break with an underleveled terrible build in Skyrim just fine. I mean, it takes forever, but it’s possible.

        Never underestimate the power of cheese and persistence.

    • Pax says:

      But surely the Gwent tournament is the final battle in the main quest?! You CAN do it, fail, and still walk away with a pile of cash, but the main quest!

  9. I hadn’t considered it before, but the “Dad Game” theory makes a lot of sense.

    As a middle-aged (i.e. over 50) woman who has been playing video games since Pong, I find driving Gerry around as an avatar to be incredibly frustrating. I keep asking my husband, “Is this how men really talk to each other?” because I find many of the conversations in the game to be so full of male bravado and egotism that they’re idiotic.

    I would never talk to my friends the way many of the male characters in the game talk to each other!

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Geralt didnt appeal to me either,and I am the supposed demographic.Luckily,there are plenty of things to like in this game,so hating the protagonist is not an insurmountable hurdle.

      • I agree! There’s so many other enjoyable aspects to the game that for the most part I can ignore the obvious “Dad Game” elements.

        My eyeballs just get a lot of extra exercise rolling around whenever I have to endure the he-man dialogue.

    • Joe says:

      I find the dialogue to be somewhat realistic, but exaggerated. What does your husband say?

    • poiumty says:

      To be sure, Geralt is a cynical bastard who trusts very few people as is the way to go in this middle-ages fantasy world full of monsters and assholes.

      It’s also part of the medieval Ubermensch theme that he’s got going for him, which was the subject of one of MrBTongue’s videos. Can’t remember if he mentions Geralt, but he does fit the bill.

      Personally, as someone who’s played too many video games full of starry-eyed-but-otherwise-bumbling main characters who have little to no personality of their own and just take everything everyone says for granted, I find Geralt a breath of fresh air.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        There are other cynical bastards in this game however,and they arent as douchy as geralt.And some of those even betray you,and still end up more likable.

        • Henson says:

          I’m curious: what makes you say that Geralt is a douche? Is it the voice acting?

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Partially.Combined with his body language when responding to others with the “better than though” attitude,his short temper and womanizing,he is just such a douche.Though I do like some of his scenes,usually with ciri.And the punversation he has with yen.

            • Trevor says:

              Geralt’s body language is really weird and the thing that would take me out of the game from time to time. The guy does not know what to do with his hands when having a conversation. It’s really awkward.

            • slipshod says:

              Did we play the same game?

              “Douchy” we’re calling a guy who go helps a random lady get her frying pan back. A guy who rescues a kid from a village mowed down by another witcher. A guy who is a total goofball with his mates over drinks. A guy who speaks so kindly and gently to the ugliest man alive, and asks him complicated questions just to be silly. A guy who stands up for nonhumans, who constantly bails out his crazy bard friend and his gambler dwarf buddy, who stars in plays, who reunites estranged couples so that their ghosts could rest in peace together, who chooses to spare sentient monsters that are of no harm to people instead of killing them…

              I could go on all day.

              Yes, you can play Geralt as a stuck-up masochistic arsehole. But that’s a reflection on how you play the character, not who the character is at heart.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Geralt is douchy to almost everyone he talks to,regardless of what response you pick.And I have picked almost all of them.Sure,there is a difference between you helping a wounded monster or slaying them.But you can do both in various ways.You can slay them quickly,as in a mercy kill.Or you can help them while constantly moaning “well if I really have to”.And geralt almost always picks the douchy way to do anything,whether its helping someone or fighting them.Not to mention that the game starts proper with geralt and vesimir cold bloodedly beheading half a village.Yes,those guys were assholes too,but you dont get to be not an asshole for slaughtering assholes.

                • slipshod says:

                  I’m sorry, but you repeating the word “douchy” over and over again doesn’t forcefully make what you’re describing real.

                  In none of the situations I noted above did I find Geralt’s dialogue choices to be lacking. In fact, the reason why adore this game so much is because, through Geralt, I expressed the widest range of emotions I have ever had the opportunity to express in a role-playing game. He jokes, he sympathizes, he teases, he cries, he reasons; he shows admiration and respect, love and loyalty, he’s snarky when he disagrees with the injustice in front of him.

                  In some 600-odd hours I’ve put into this game, I haven’t seen Geralt “moan” about having to slay monsters because that is, literally, his trade. Same stands for when he decides to help them. I’m not sure how much of the game you’ve played or whether particular situations just really left an impression on you, but what you’re saying is just too horribly generic to fit the kind of character Geralt is.

                  As for the introductory bar scene, your memory appears to be selective. Prior to the fight, Vesemir specifically says he wants to go to avoid a fight. He advises Geralt to stay away from the inebriated, rowdy group. Vesemir then steps in to save the barkeep, who is having her face smashed violently into the table. He warns the drunkards to back off and points to his medallion, instead of attacking. Then, the peasants attack Geralt and Vesemir because of a myth about “witchers stealing young’uns.”

                  The witchers do not attack until they are attacked, at which point they defend their lives because they must. From people whose village they just rescued from a giant griffin. So please don’t use phrases like, “cold bloodedly beheading half a village,” when they are clearly gross exaggerations.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Self defense does not work as an excuse when its a bunch of pissed off farmers in their shirts with rusty weapons* against heavily armored literal supermen designed and equipped to fight otherworldly monsters.But instead of stuff like breaking bones,maiming or such,they literally do cold bloodedly behead half a village.Heres the scene where geralt does exactly that to an already disarmed and incapacitated villager.

                    If you want specifics,Ive written them down back when I was first playing the game.Most specifically,this comment:

                    However,on further thought,its interesting that geralt pisses me off like that when keira does basically the same thing,yet I like her.My boss in saints row and shepard in mass effects were much bigger dicks,yet I didnt mind.My hero in hordes of the underdark was an outright villain that mind raped aribeth and mind wiped other companions,yet I didnt mind.My child of bhaal and nameless one were just as vile,yet I didnt mind.I think its because all of them are owning up to what they did,while geralt tries to appear like he did nothing wrong.I like villains and anti heroes,but I dislike weasels.

                    *Looking back at the scene,its even worse.They seem to all be wielding wooden cudgels.

                    • slipshod says:

                      And wooden cudgels for some reason are not legitimate weapons? If someone charged at me with one, I would assume they have ill intent and intend to maim or otherwise incapacitate me. Witchers are not “supermen”; they bleed like the rest, despite the fact that they might hear or see better, or heal faster. Both Geralt and Vesimir have seen their fair share of bloodthirsty, drunken mobs that have attempted to lynch them to avoid paying for the completed contract. In fact, it just so happens that Geralt was killed by a “pissed off farmer” who ran a pitchfork through him. I daresay both witchers are entitled to a sense of self-preservation.

                      I also don’t understand why you’re trying to make it seem like this one scene defines the entire game or the characters, when there are so many other instances, entire plotlines, where witchers are shown to be loyal and caring people, despite the emotional disadvantages imposed by their mutations. Even Lambert, the most openly hostile witcher of the bunch, shows that he always cared about Vesimir, etc. This fixation with the introductory bar brawl serves no purpose. Honestly, I don’t even disagree with you about the scene; while playing it, I thought it would have been nice to default to fists only, implying a non-lethal resolution, like the game does numerous times afterwards… or to have an Axii option.

                      But I also understood the purpose of the scene. It introduces the player to the war-torn and despondent, desperate world. It shows how confused, ignorant, and scared the villagers are; how they need the witchers’ assistance, but they’re almost equally afraid of them as they are of the monsters that plague their lives, because they can comprehend neither. It reveals the constant state of flux in which witchers are forced to exist, unsure whether a random crowd at the bar will thank them for slaying the local griffin, or spit in their faces, cheat them out of their compensation (and sole livelihood), and then try to stab them in the back while they do it.

                      This scene is many things, but it most definitely is not proof that Geralt is a “douche” or that he acts “douchy” throughout the rest of the game.

                      Lastly… “My hero in hordes of the underdark was an outright villain that mind raped aribeth and mind wiped other companions,yet I didnt mind” – I rest my case. Your palate for “douche” and “weasel” appears on the opposite spectrum from mine. “Mind raping” is not a quality I would ever enjoy in my main character, whereas you, apparently, are not bothered by it.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Even Lambert, the most openly hostile witcher of the bunch, shows that he always cared about Vesimir, etc.

                      I like lambert.And I found him to be openly hostile only to geralt(incidentally,this is one of the reasons I like him).Its just geralt specifically who irks me,not the other witchers(well,maybe that evil one you get to fight in a side mission).

                      “Mind raping” is not a quality I would ever enjoy in my main character, whereas you, apparently, are not bothered by it.

                      My whole point there was that I am not bothered that geralt does bad things from time to time.His actions dont bother me,because those are actions I chose for him to do.Its his attitude that bothers me.It grates on me because when he does bad things,he doesnt own up to them,and when he does heroic things he acts like he did it only because he was forced to,like it was a hassle.

                    • slipshod says:

                      Again, not sure how much of the game you have played, but Lambert is most hostile towards Vesemir and the rest of the world. Eskel and Geralt are like brothers to him. In fact, he asks for Geralt’s assistance when he is on a mission to avenge a friend…

                      As for your attitude comment, I’m afraid that’s the entire premise of the witcher caste. They are stripped of emotions through torturous trials and mutations. They are raised in solitude, at Kaer Morhen. They stay away from politics and opinions. They work for money, and they do not pass judgment, merely observe. The fact that Geralt does not continuously bemoan his fate or the shite he has had to slog through is in line with his character.

                      Likewise, Geralt is interesting because he is a unique specimen as a witcher. He still has retained some of his emotions, which is what allows players to shape his responses and choices. In the books, he struggles plenty with what he has done, does every day, and will have to continue doing, to survive. The same is true in the game. I was just playing the Blood and Wine DLC, and there’s a conversation where one of the villains attempts to justify the murders he has committed by drawing attention to the blood of “innocents” spilled by Geralt.

                      The game gives you a choice. You can either own up to it and admit fault or feign ignorance and superiority. Thus, my point stands; Geralt is as multifaceted as one could hope. It is what you put into to him as the player that makes your experience.

            • Kestrellius says:

              You know, interestingly — I haven’t played all that much of TW3, for reasons that aren’t especially clear (though I did play the first two all the way through) — but interestingly, I actually found Geralt pretty likeable in 3, mostly because of his facial expressions. Certainly more so than in the first two games. He does that little smile thing, I guess. And the beard probably helps.

    • H.M. says:

      I never found Geralt to be that Bombastic or Egotistic then again I usually chose the most polite dialogue options possible, when it comes to other characters though it depended on their personality.

      Generally I found the dialogue to be mostly realistic and simply just covered a wide range of personalities and you just happen to meet allot of personalities that are in the asshole shaded zone of personality maps during your journeys(Probably allot more so then you would usually encounter in real life.), and a fair few of your friends are kind of jerks(Except Lambert he’s not just kind of a jerk he is just a right prick most of the time.).

  10. Joe says:

    Would Fallout 4 be a dad or mum game? Sure, you don’t have your son around the whole time. But he is in theory the main motivator of the story.

  11. poiumty says:

    >at some point in the eighties the game industry collectively decided that they were going to consider young boys to be their core audience

    You say this as if it’s unnatural. Remember who had the biggest social stigma at the time for being way too into escapism? I’m pretty sure it was the audience that came first, not the decision to cater to it.

    Middle Earth, The Last of Us, Witcher 3 in a sense… yeah, lots of games play up this 40something-main-character-with-someone-to-protect role. But also notice how this is primarily a western euroamerican thing? Japan doesn’t do it. They’re still at the little sister phase. The original Nier is an interesting case study, where the American version had the main character be a grizzled old man with a daughter, while the Japanese version had a teen and his little sister. Sets the divide up quite clearly.

    • Matt says:

      In particular, though I am too young to remember myself, I bet early video game RPGs drew from the D&D crowd, which is heavily populated with young boys (and certainly was in the 80s).

      • Adeon says:

        The other explanation I’ve heard (which makes sense to me) is that it was partly driven by toy stores. Since most stores (like Toys’R’Us, RIP) split Boys Toys and Girls Toys into separate sections video game consoles were heavily marketed towards Boys since that was where they were in the stores and the games followed.

  12. Henson says:

    Novigrad truly is a great RPG city. One of my favorite things to do is to toggle off running and simply walk through the streets, taking in the sights. There are so many little things you notice, it’s wonderful. “Oh hey, those guys are repairing that roof over there.”, etc.

    • Pax says:

      I liked the city so much, I used it as the setting of a tabletop game I ran. I previously had done this with GTAs and the like for modern games (so everyone would know the map, more or less, and I could easily reference locations), but this was the first time I had a fantasy city to work with.

  13. Daemian Lucifer says:

    CD Projekt is the first to give a city like this the same sense of life and reality that Ubisoft has in the Assassin’s Creed series.

    Only if you dont count 2d games.Because baldurs gate 2 also gave us a huge,lived in fantasy city.

    Dont know if sigil counts as well.Because while big and vibrant,it was also rather nonsensical.However,seeing what the setting for that was,the nonsense made sense.

    • Pax says:

      I don’t know, I feel like the scale of Novigrad dwarfs all previous RPG cities, which typically are just smaller representations of a much larger place. The only other city I can think of with a real feeling of city scale is Denerim in Dragon Age: Origins, and you can only walk around pieces of that. I was also impressed by Meridian (I think it was?) in Horizon: Zero Dawn, as a big, well realized primitive city. Well, and there are GTAs and stuff like that, but that’s the whole point of those games.

  14. Christopher says:

    The dadification is a bit out of hand. Off the top of my head there’s Witcher 3, The Walking Dead, Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, the God of War reboot and Dishonored. Dudes like the guy in Shadow of Mordor and Assassin’s Creed Origins used to be dads until their kid was killed, and I guess Kratos originally was the ur-example of that. And even outside of real and surrogate dads you get a lot of beardy middle aged dudes as protags now. Like, Rico Rodriguez just evolved into that mold in Just Cause 3, and similarly Max Payne takes on that look in Max Payne 3. Snake in Metal Gear Solid V just runs with the big beard too. Even Horizon Zero Dawn, a game about a girl searching for her mother, also has a lot of screentime for her rugged beardy dad.

    I’d appreciate it if the game industry could tone down the dads a little. I’m not a dad, I don’t recognize this specific type of mad dad in my own dads, and don’t think these dads look attractive or fill any daddy issue I’m brewing. You’re kinda losing me at all possible appeal points here.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      What,you dont like toned dads?You dont have a fantasy about a dream daddy?Nor do you want to simulate showering with your dad?You are weird.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      I am a dad, and I don’t play any of these games either. I think we’re both probably outside the target zone of people trying to work through a pathological ideal of fatherhood, which is probably a very large target zone now that I come to think of it.

      • Trevor says:

        I don’t know that it’s a pathological ideal of fatherhood that they’re trying to work through. I think it’s a combination of the programmers and players getting into the Dad age bracket, like Mr. BTongue says, and increasing social awareness.

        In the past, video games would have you (almost always a male character) go off to save the princess, who was captured or some such thing. You’d defeat a whole bunch of bad guys along the way and when you finally rescued the princess would be rewarded by a kiss or marriage. People realized this was problematic and the dad game is part of the course correction. Why can’t the captured person save themselves? Oh, they’re a kid (Ciri bucks this trend by being super-capable, but still). Why are you trying to save them? You have a previously established familial bond. That seems better than murder-hoboing your way through a world to find a girl and be rewarded with sex for doing so.

        You can make the argument that too many people have relied on the Dad-Game trope and now it’s a cliché, but it’s better than the cliché it replaced.

    • Philadelphus says:

      You forgot Octodad: Dadliest Catch! Which I really enjoyed despite not being a dad myself either. “Rescuing” Stacy from the darkened deep sea exhibition hall was particularly touching, but it was nice in general to play a dad with a loving family just trying to deal with (mostly) mundane issues.

  15. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    I like the dad games thing because it got many games to put away the “REVENGEEEE” motivator. In the last generation, your character might be a dad or a husband, but the family would immediately be chopped into pizza toppings in the opening act so that you could spend the rest of the game getting lusty vengeance. In this gen, it’s more common for you to have a kid or a buddy of some kind to… you know talk to and have human interactions with. It’s nice.

    • Christopher says:

      In the case of a lot of these games I mentioned above though, your family still gets offed either before the game started or early on, and your kid is either a surrogate who lost her own family or the one remaining member of your family. Corvo’s wife gets offed, Kratos and the dude from AC Origins kills their own kids, Lee’s family is dead and Clementine is just some kid he picked up, Elizabeth to Booker manages to be both somehow etc. They’re not all out for revenge, but a lot of them are sure mad and violent.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        It’s kinda dependent on the tone. Lee’s family is dead, but we never met them, there’s no impact. We meet Clementine right away and there’s a HUGE impact there. Likewise, it’s kind of a missed opportunity that God of War didn’t have the PLAYER kill Kratos’ family. They did that to preserve the twist (that “the Gods” didn’t kill Kratos’ family as you might have guessed, but he did the deed himself, without a ton of provocation really), but still, missed opportunity for a brutal moment of horror. The player never feels the rage or regret of Kratos because that stuff is all backstory. AC Origins lost me a bit because they added a level up system to where perfect play in that section did no damage to the enemies. I find it strange that essentially the sheriff of this decently sized area can’t lay a hand on a couple of pumped up rich guys. Their guards, fine, because they could afford the best guards out there.

        • Christopher says:

          There’s totally a difference in tone, sorry for nitpicking. I think God of War might become a good comparison point for this evolution once the new one is out. The first had your family die and you out for vengeance before the game even started. This new one? I’m pret-ty sure that this kid is gonna live and the whole point is Kratos raising him, though possibly giving up his own live for his son’s future, which is also the case in some of these other dad games.

  16. acronix says:

    I have to ask: is this Church of the Eternal Fire one of those evil fantasy churches whose whole existence is based on being little more than a big, fat strawman against Catholicism and/or Religion? Because that’s something I always find annoying, being religious myself.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Could be, and it annoys me too, but I don’t see how we can answer this question without getting into a religion discussion. In case you’re unaware, discussing politics and religion is out of bounds on this site.
      Not saying don’t go there… just, be careful how you answer.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Seeing how the church is fighting against actual witches,using anti magic artifacts,its not.

    • Agammamon says:

      I don’t think its supposed to be specifically about real-life churches. Its more ‘we want an old-school fire and brimstone religious institution and the Catholic model is the one church that we’re both familiar with and has the ritual/paraphernalia to look interesting’.

      Protestantism, for example, strips away the iconography and breaks the church up into little independent organizations – not the monolithic bureaucracy that the Catholic church has had.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Sort of, maybe a little? Having not been able to get through the books, I don’t know if the source material is more detailed. There appear to be 2 or 3 major religions -the Gods, The Eternal Fire, and The Lebioda Cult (which may be part of one of the other two). Eternal Fire structurally looks a bit like the Catholic Church of the 1500s, complete with corrupt priests and indulgences -but no Hussites or Lutherans yet.

      The witch-hunting in the game is clearly driven by Radovid’s madness, which the Eternal Fire may be fine with, but it still isn’t being driven by Eternal Fire itself.

      Lebioda is a bit of a parody on Jesus, according to Blood and Wine -there’s a cave where he fasted and prayed, after which he promulgated rules (so, 40 days in the wilderness, then Sermon on the Mount) -the one I remember went “don’t to to other people things you wouldn’t want done to you -unless they really deserve it.” Beyond that, though, the theology of the cult/Eternal Fire is pretty vague.

      The look a lot like the Protestant propaganda against the Catholic Church from the 1500s or 1600s.

      I will say, the Eternal Fire bothered me considerably less than the Chantry’s treatment in Inquisition -which seemed to just role with the major revelation that the Old Gods were real, and so were the Elven Gods.

  17. MadTinkerer says:

    Skooma? I think you’re thinking of Serpentwyne. Or undiluted Silver Serpent Venom if you’re hardcore.

  18. Ronixis says:

    The stuff you mention about 2013 Tomb Raider is definitely conscious at least in part, as I recall the developers talking about it in interviews (ex. https://kotaku.com/5917400/youll-want-to-protect-the-new-less-curvy-lara-croft).

  19. Adeon says:

    You know how Extra Credits does those little anthropomorphic game boxes in their videos? When you say Dad Games I imagine one of those but wearing socks and sandals.

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