Last week we advanced the Novigrad storyline, and I had a specific reason for doing so that’s turned out to be a bust.
You see, this part of the Novigrad storyline involves trying to track down the vanished bard Dandelion through a list of his now-abandoned romantic dalliances. One of these was with a Nilfgaardian noblewoman named Rosa var Attre. Rosa is a swordfighting nut, and Geralt at one point gives her fencing lessons with a wooden sword. In previous playthroughs, I could’ve sworn you got to keep the wooden sword afterwards, because I remembered keeping it as a comedy item to use occasionally. However, they either changed this for some reason or my addled memory got the Rosa var Attre wooden sword mixed up with the “prop sword” you use in a much later quest.
This is a great tragedy because I was hoping to use the wooden sword. Swords have instant-kill animations when used on foes knocked down by Aard or stunned by Axii, and certain monster trophies give Geralt a certain percentage change to “dismember” (ie, use one of the instant-kill animations). The thought of one day chopping the heads off the terrifying warriors of the Aen Elle with a wooden sword was very tempting, but alas it is not to be. I may just give myself the weapon with the console, once I figure out to my own satisfaction whether that counts as cheating or not.
Fortunately, with the support of friends and family, I eventually overcame my disappointment. Seeing Zoltan again helped. For those that haven’t played the series, Zoltan is one of Geralt’s dwarf friends who’s shown up in all three games. Zoltan is also an avenue into understanding my own answer to what you could call the “Geralt question.” The “Geralt question” is basically this: does Geralt suck?
The reason I ask is that many people have trouble enjoying the Witcher games because of him. On the one hand, I can understand the objection. Geralt stands at the intersection of several extremely well-worn cliches. Badass loner-type: check, growly voice: check, makes his living through violence: check, frequently cynical outlook on life: check, multiple attractive women try to get in his pants: check. I admit that doesn’t look promising on paper.
I also admit that I sometimes find Geralt’s dialogue frustrating. Too often he’s nasty to people he’s just met without any good reason. His cynicism – expressed in these cases as a dogged determination to interpret everyone’s motives in the worst possible way, often absent any evidence – can wear thin. If this were the only incarnation of Geralt, I might not like him either. But you see a different, less guarded, more likeable, Geralt when he’s around his friends. He shows appreciation and real affection instead of passive-aggressive digs.
Geralt’s friends speak well of him, in my opinion. Zoltan, Dandelion, and Triss, all of whom show up in all three games, are good people. Not without flaws, but good people. They show particular concern for the disadvantaged and downtrodden, commodities that are in ample supply in the Witcher universe. They’re also all thoughtful people (even Dandelion, who’s used as comic relief more than the others, is presented as a thoughtful person in his own way), with a healthy suspicion of too-pat explanations for how the world works. The Witcher is very much on the darker end of the fantasy spectrum, and dark fantasy can get oppressive when there aren’t any likeable people to balance out the tone. Having them as recurring characters also creates a sense of real comraderie.
With all of the above in mind, I personally have decided to like Geralt, and since I’m the person in charge of this sort of thing, that means everyone else is legally obligated to do so as well.It’s in the Constitution. I don’t even mind his growly voice, a trope that at this point is overused to the point of comedy. They’ve been using the same English voice actor (Doug Cockle) since the first game back in 2007, so to me the voice is grandfathered in.
And when the chips are down, Geralt shows more than cynicism. The games have trafficked in the idea that Witchers are supposed to stay neutral in disputes they encounter, but they haven’t let it become suffocating, and have often drawn insight from the realization that aloof neutrality works better in theory than it does in practice. When gentleness and understanding is called for, Geralt does in fact have it in reserve, which to me makes his occasional obnoxiousness seem like the out-of-place thing instead of the core of the character.
To top it all off, there’s Geralt’s relationships with Yennefer and Ciri, which in my opinion are very well done. But we’ll get to those when we meet those characters. Apologies for the short entry this week, I’ve been busy with other projects. Next week we cover the Novigrad storyline, and speculate about what could’ve been.
 It’s in the Constitution.
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