The Witcher 3: Siri, find Ciri

Title The Witcher 3: Siri, find Ciri
Author Tom Chick
Posted in Game diaries
When June 22, 2016

I'll get around to finding my lost baby in Fallout 4 when I get around to it. Right now, I'm helping Cate kick her drug habit..

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Yeah I saw some people drawing paralels between Fallout 4 and TW3 in how both games have stupid main quest based on urgent finding of a kid and so it makes no sense to do any sidequests. But while it does make no sense in Fallout 4, Witcher handles this dissonance much better. Geralt knows how capable Ciri is and saving some people on his search from monsters, making some coin on the side, makes good sense. And player sees her survival ability first hand. Yay for good design/writing.

My chief criticism of The Witcher 3 is that the main quest is rather poorly paced. You have to complete the Bloody Baron plotline, the Dandelion plotline, and the Skellige plotline, but you only get kernals of information about Ciri. Say what you will about Bethesda's main plots--and there's always a lot to say--but when I decide to progress the main quest I actually feel like I'm progressing the main quest.

The Witcher 3 buries fleeting moments of character development beneath hours and hours of great-but-unrelated questing that eventually starts to frustrate. I want to learn about Ciri! I want to see Ciri and Geralt's backstory! Why am I chasing down Dandelion's lovers for five hours? I know that guy from the earlier games and he has the worst voice actor in the whole series, why is he blocking my path to the narrative I want and which the game has built up?

I dunno, I found many of the side quests were just as well-written and complex as the main quest could be.

Especially after you get a side quest, read the description and it sounds like a quest you've done a hundred times in other RPGs you've played in the past - until you actually embark upon it and then it becomes something bigger.

"Why am I chasing down Dandelion's lovers for five hours? I know that guy
from the earlier games and he has the worst voice actor in the whole
series, why is he blocking my path to the narrative I want and which the
game has built up?"

Because you're in what's structurally a noir, and gumshoes always run into obstacles and tangents that seemingly take you away from the central plot but usually come back into play later or are thematically significant?

I like the Novigrad sections for the camaraderie at play in the stories, but then again I'm a Witcher hipster who plays with the polish voices, so I don't hate Dandelion.

I like the Dandelion character on paper, but he should never have had an American voice actor for the English translation. It quite simply doesn't work.

As for the plot, yes, noir throws up obstacles, but the typical noir story is over in a few hundred pages or a few hours, depending on the medium. The Witcher 3 is a hundred hours long; the obstacles are enormous time sinks.

That's true of most videogames though. The fact that you actually have to participate and act out everything exponentionally prolongs the experiance. The average 20 hour shoter barely has a movie's worth of tradintional story. Fast travel aside, the fact that you have to ride or walk from point A to point B instead of instead of just dealing with it in an edit prolongs the experience exponentially.

I dunno if you've played Dragon Age: Inquisition, but in terms of time sinks, they're pretty much the same. (Witcher 3 arguably is bigger, but the main quest pays off so much more than the side stuff experience wise, you could plough through it without paying much attention to side quests.) Structurally though, they're entirely different: Inquisition is all A then B then C transitonal storytelling gated by a bunch of Ubistuff because we need you to not go through it too fast. Witcher 3 just feels longer because a) the sections are investigations that sprawl out into a bunch of tangents with fully realised characters with their own wants and needs, and b) the emotional stakes are higher, so you care more when your goals are frustrated.

The difference between something like Dragon Age and The Witcher though is that the Witcher has far more context. You're right, all games stretch out their narratives, but the Witcher--especially the Witcher 3--has far more conversation than is typical. By the end of the game, Geralt can tear through most enemies pretty quickly; the bulk of any given quest is actually in the story. And the main quest's issue becomes that the amount of information you are given about Ciri is a fraction of what you get about characters who ultimately don't matter. Ciri becomes like Godzilla in the 2014 film: theoretically the most important person in the story, yet has a fraction of the screentime of any other character.

This is really only a problem with the main game. Blood and Wine gradually spins out its story so that you are always making progress, and Hearts of Stone divvies its tasks up very nicely with a Main Quest --> Subquest --> Main Quest --> Subquest flow that doesn't go on so long you forget the long-term goal.

I liked that there were a bunch of quests associated with Dandelion and Zevran that were available after I rescued Dandelion. I did pretty much all of them because they were fun and because it was nice to see Geralt hang out with his friends. If the main quest had been tighter and some of those hours of questing shifted into sidequests, I would've still done those quests but not felt like they were padding things out.

Or to put it another way: the Witcher 2 was just a 30 hour game, but I thought it had a better main story than the Witcher 3 while also having an even stronger noir influence.

The Witcher 2 is probably the tighter narrative, yeah, but it also feels more abstract. (Sidebar: The Witcher 2 and Dragon Age 2 are also interesting comparisons about being caught up in machinations beyond your control. Spoiler: one keeps it grounded in character, the other is all magic doodads of doom, and ultimately turns into garbage.)

The Witcher 2 is probably more intellectually interesting, (Then again, I have a real hard time charting the right course for the Northern realms/Temeria, so it's not like stuff is uncomplicated, just...bigger. ) but ultimately one is so much more resonant than the other. After getting the Bad Dad ending I was genuinely in a funk for days afterwards.

You got the Bad Dad ending!? You monster!

Well, I don't feel anything anymore, so...yeah.

Before you get started on Gwent, note that it's like 70-80% ripped off of Condottiere ( ) and the designer had the gall to not only skip giving credit, but also claim he "invented the game in a bath" ( ).

It's not even better than Condottiere, lacking the bluff aspects.

Hi Urist, thanks for the heads-up. However, I'm not seeing the similarity to Condottiere based on reading that game's rules. Can you elaborate a bit?


In Condottiere's deck (which is available to everyone and is always the same) you have regular mercenaries with strength 1 to 6 and 10, heroines (strength 10, unmodifiable), bishops (which remove the strongest mercs on the board), winter/summer (one cuts everyone's strength to 1, another increases every strongest merc's strength by 3, they cancel each other out), drummer (doubles mercs' strength on your side), scarecrow (replaces a card you've laid down and puts it back into your hand) and two others that didn't make it into Gwent.

As for rules themselves, players don't just duel to two victories, instead they battle over a map of Italy (the two other cards have effects related to that), trying to get either a lot of territories or a smaller number of contigious territories. They draw 10 cards at the start of the game and that's only replenished when only one player has remaining cards - which can mean one or two meaty battles where everyone puts everything they have on the table or a few battles involving just a few cards per player. In each battle, players in clockwise order take turns - either put a card down or pass. If you pass, you can't put cards down in this battle anymore. Once everyone has passed, the total battle strength of every player is tallied and the one who has the most wins.

The similarities lie primarily in the cards (some are copied verbatim like the scarecrow, some with differences, like winter which was split into three due to the lane system), but also in the mechanics of only having a starting hand of cards without replenishing (in Condottiere they do replenish but not every battle, so that forces you to think about leaving resources for later), the "no acting after you pass, and you MUST play a card or pass" thing.

What Gwent loses over Condottiere is the bluffing aspect, because once everyone has their own deck which they can customise you lose the limited knowledge you had ("oh, I have a winter card so that means they're less likely to have a winter card") and just play whatever suits the situation. The multiplayer's important too - players often band against one that seems to be winning through getting unified territories, and things like that add a layer of politics to the strategy of the game.

There's a VASSAL module - but I haven't tested it so I can't say if it's any good. It can be useful for figuring out the mechanics in play, though.

It makes more sense if you read the novels - Geralt isn't after Ciri because he thinks he needs to damsel her (he is well aware she has the 'elder blood' and is more than capable), instead - he is after her because he doesn't want her to make the wrong decisions - the ones he has to make every day. He knows she is too powerful for her own good and just feels protective as a parent (I shan't say what these wrong decisions are as it will be a spoiler on the novels).