Monday, October 28, 2013

The Morality of The Witcher

[caption id="attachment_1516" align="aligncenter" width="520"]geraltdandy The outcome of one of my many decisions in The Witcher.[/caption]

Before I begin, a note. The Witcher games do have a whole host of problems that get under my skin, things that I've ranted about before in other spaces. Just because I enjoy something doesn't mean that I'm going to just ignore the problematic parts of it, but this post isn't meant to point out the issues I have with other parts of the games. So, I'll try not to spiral out of control into problematic land.

Reading PC Gamer's article The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Preview made me think about one of the main reasons that I ended up enjoying the series as much as I did, which was how morality was handled.

The Witcher really came at a time when I was still very disgruntled with Mass Effect, which is probably one of my all time favorite gaming series. Also, I was coming off my playthrough of Dragon Age 2, which was highly disappointing to me for a multitude of reasons that I won't even get into right now. So, I was going emotional places with Bioware that I needed to escape.


A few of my friends had played The Witcher games, and a Mass Effect 3 review that I watched on Youtube recommended The Witcher 2 if you wanted a game sequel that was done right. I'm not the type of gamer that starts a series at its sequel(s) if I can help it (see: Mass Effect), so I did start with the first game. It took me a little while to get my bearings with the game. Aside from the hilarious way that Geralt held his sword sometime, the combat and I fought each other until I finally managed to find some comfortable groove with it. The second game was much more polished, but it still threw some difficult decisions my way.




I mentioned in one of my ramblings on the first game that I thought the expressions and voice acting was a little flat at times. However, this seemed to be par for course in Geralt's case who was often seriously sarcastic. Despite that, I did enjoy the game and found myself becoming invested in the story of the humans versus non-humans (elves and dwarves, mainly) which seemed to eat up a bigger chunk of the story than Geralt's actual mission to find Salamandra. I tried my best to keep Geralt neutral in my playthrough since, as a witcher, he's between human and non-human, and politicking is for suckers. But I did have a tendency to err on the side of what I felt was best for the safety of all people both humans and non-humans in face of the monster threat.

One of the great things about this story is that not many decisions were the "right" or "wrong" thing to do. You have your villains, but so many of the choices that Geralt is forced to make are "gray." One of the major struggles in both games is the non-humans trying to find agency in a world that hates them. Being that Geralt straddles a fine line between human and non-human, he's often caught up in this drama.

While I couldn't get on board with the non-human hate, I couldn't fully get on board with the non-human movement, even though I did sympathize with them more. Doing this thing, even in good intentions for either side, could cause another part of the story to end in undesirable ways. Many times there is no clear right or wrong choice. And I appreciate they put a spin on the story that didn't reduce it to just "right" and "wrong," but tried to present the other ambiguous areas of such a struggle as well.

That hazy area extended to the characters as well. . Much of the time you weren't sure whether to trust them or not or if they'd truly be helpful to what you're trying to accomplish or if they'd put you in an even more precarious situation. Using the templars and non-human example from the first game, I didn't agree much with the templars. Their purpose was to protect to the people, but they just seemed a really hateful, prejudiced bunch of asses who were given some power over people.

However, I liked Siegfried. Even though he's a templar, he genuinely seems to care about helping and protecting people. Unlike his templar brothers, he doesn't seem to feel any hatred toward nonhumans. His distrust for the Scoia'tael (the name given to the non-humans fighting for equality) stems from the fact that many of their acts involve murder and terrorism rather than from the fact that they're not human.  Siegfried was a very earnest character and even starts to question how his order handles things.

On the other hand, the leader of the Scoia'tael, Yaevinn, left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I sympathized with his cause more because it's absolutely dreadful what the non-humans go through, but Yaevinn spun pretty words that felt deceitful. I just couldn't ever really like the guy much of the time. I didn't agree with most of his methods, even though I did feel for his struggle.

So, I had this dilemma where I liked Siegfried and wanted to do things to help, which most of his missions were of the helpful variety such as eliminating monsters. With Yaevinn, I did things begrudgingly and felt like I was being manipulated even if it seemed helpful. It would've been easy to make Yaevinn some tragic hero and some probably view him as such, but it can't be denied that Siegfried is not just another jerk serving the Order. In the second game, I found that I was a bit more receptive to Iorveth than Yaevinn and appreciated his earnest thoughts about his dislike of humans more than I ever did Yaevinn's pretty words. So, these games make nothing simple for the player in terms of decisions, even if you're trying to be a neutral party.

These decisions caused my playthrough to go on into infinity because I mulled over them forever before making one, even when I knew what I was going to do. I just had to think about it still. I did appreciate that there weren't any situations where I could pull a Commander Shepard, even though I complained about it. It just made these decisions feel more authentic to me instead of there always being some third “better” option for everyone to mostly get their way. No decision ever felt completely right. It was definitely a case of going with the perceived lesser evil for me while I was playing. And I loved every minute of it.

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This blog is a mishmash of thoughts, pictures, and rantings among other things about games I've played, games I will play, and games I am currently playing. From time to time, I may post book reviews that I've written that are about different games and/or game worlds. Feel free to recommend games or add me on the platforms I've listed. I don't do competitive multiplayer much anymore, but I'm always down for some co-op these days. I'm usually DigitalTempest everywhere unless otherwise specified.

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2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Tiara has read 6 books toward her goal of 52 books.
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Tiara's bookshelf: currently-reading

The Elfstones Of Shannara
tagged: upcoming-reads, currently-reading, 2016-audiobook-challenge, classi...
Gardens of the Moon
tagged: currently-reading, fantasy, z-narrator-ralph-lister, 2016-audiobook...

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Tiara's bookshelf: read

Deceived
really liked it
Review to come.
tagged: 2016-star-wars-reading-challenge and 2016-audiobook-challenge
The Girl from the Well
liked it
More reviews @ The Bibliosanctum TL;DR Review 2.5 to 3 stars. Not badly written… I’m just disappointed by the squandered potential. I’m going to reread Anna Dressed in Blood to make myself feel better about this Longer Review: T...
tagged: 2016-women-of-genre-fiction-reading, horror, and young-adult
Thirteen Reasons Why
I don't think this quite captures the complexity of bullying and suicide, and some of the issues that Hannah started facing toward the end of the novel really seemed to detract even more from the feelings she was going through by having ...
tagged: young-adult, popsugar-2016-reading-challenge, 2016-audiobook-challe...
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
liked it
Spoiler free review to come.
tagged: 2016-star-wars-reading-challenge
The Phantom of the Opera
really liked it
tagged: classic-horror, classics, audiobook, 2016-audiobook-challenge, horr...

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