The Witcher 3: The Geralt Question

By Bob Case Posted Thursday Apr 19, 2018

Filed under: Video Games 72 comments

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.

I wanted to mention these at least once. The loading screens have these cool comic-looking images that keep you up to date on the main plot. I always like when a game takes the time to do something interesting with its loading screens.
I wanted to mention these at least once. The loading screens have these cool comic-looking images that keep you up to date on the main plot. I always like when a game takes the time to do something interesting with its loading screens.

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.

If I'm understanding this line correctly, Dwarves in the Witcher universe 'train' by drinking beer, which makes sense given everything else we know about them.
If I'm understanding this line correctly, Dwarves in the Witcher universe 'train' by drinking beer, which makes sense given everything else we know about them.

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.

 

Footnotes:

[1] It’s in the Constitution.



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72 thoughts on “The Witcher 3: The Geralt Question

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    once I figure out to my own satisfaction whether that counts as cheating or not.

    Its not cheating if you do it while blind drunk and dont remember afterwards that you did it.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Or if you’re having fun. Such is the point of games in general…

      I for one would love to see sceenshots of the game’s toughest enemies and bosses chopped apart with a wooden sword.

      1. TheJungerLudendorff says:

        Thirded. If you’re going to take the “Blind Drunk” and “Metallophobia” handicaps during character generation, you’ve earned enough bonus points to get a free sub-white-vendortrash tier weapon.

        1. Droid says:

          sub-white-[…]trash

          As someone only passingly familiar with RPG item color conventions, that phrase had me do a double take.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    It’s in the Constitution.

    Lucky for me,I follow the constitution of a different country,so I can still dislike geralt.

    Apologies for the short entry this week, I’ve been busy with other projects.

    Oh?Does that mean a new video will come out?And so soon after the last one,even.

    1. Geebs says:

      There’s texture to Geralt’s growly scary-man act, though. You can tell between when he’s genuinely pissed off, when he doesn’t have time for whatever shit he just got landed in, and even when he’s taking the piss out of his own reputation. It helps that the animators did a great job matching this with his surprisingly expressive eyebrows- he’s like the Gromit of dark fantasy.

    2. Syal says:

      You’d think liking Geralt would be based on Charisma instead of Constitution.

      1. Droid says:

        It’s due to a feat he got during his mutation. It’s especially effective against sorceresses.

  3. Primogenitor says:

    Geralt is a good example to me (possibly the only example) of a pre-generated and/or voiced protagonist that still gives the player some room to roleplay with e.g “is Geralt grumpy and hung-over and therefore going to be rude to the penniless villagers trying to con him into working for free, or is Geralt going to be kind and generous and allow them to con him while also letting them know that he knows what they are trying to do”.

    This is in contrast to Fallout 4 where the protagonist is nonsensically blank, and to The Last Of Us where there is no shaping of the protagonist at all.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Shepard was supposed to be that,but she too is just an empty brick you pilot around.Frankly,the way geralt works I think is a much better fit for an rpg.And I say that as someone who does not like him as a character.

      1. Zekiel says:

        I’ve never really understood the “Shephard is a brick” criticism. My first Shephard is probably by favourite of any of my CRPG protagonists (she’s basically Grumpy Pragmatic Captain Janeway). Sheperd even gets a (very basic) character arc in games 1 & 3. I felt like he/she has more character than most self-generated CRPG protagonists.

        But I feel like I must be missing something since “Shepard is a brick” seems to be accepted wisdom.

        1. TheJungerLudendorff says:

          I think Shepard just has too much flexiblity with many of the most prominent aspects of her character. The paragade system also draws extra attention to the differences between the ways you can play her, while ignoring the things that tie the different Shepards together.

          It also helps that Geralds choices are often more nuanced, instead of the usual Good-Neutral-Bad(ass) that Shepard often gets.

        2. Joe Informatico says:

          That’s more of a problem with the human characters in Mass Effect in general though. They’re either stock soldier archetypes pulled straight from trite military SF cliches, or they’re civilians, in which case they’re usually written really badly. Few human characters in ME seem to have much of a personal agenda or personality beyond The Mission or Whatever Shepard’s For I’m Against, except Joker and maybe Chakwas, and they both have that whole “I left a promising military career to work for a terrorist organization” ME2 blip in their arcs.

        3. Jennifer Snow says:

          My problem with Shepard wasn’t brickness, but that the character is an IDIOT and CAN’T be anything else.

          Hi, I’m a seasoned commander of Space Marines but I don’t know anything about the world I’ve literally been living in for my entire life! Does not sit well with me.

          Chances are I’d probably like Geralt if I played Witcher 3, unfortunately you have to do a LOT these days to get me to play a game where I CAN’T play a female character.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Consider this then:Even people who hated the first two witchers like the third one,and even people who dont like geralt still enjoyed the game.So its definitely worth a try.

          2. Eric says:

            Well, I suppose you do get to play as Ciri for like, 1/8th of the game.

            Regardless, if there was a game you ought to play regardless of the player character’s gender, and assuming you like RPGs, I think Witcher 3 is the one.

            1. Jennifer Snow says:

              I might get around to it at some point. Right now I’m playing DDO on an actual schedule with a friend, and that eats up most of my available game-playing time. I’ve developed a backlog. Plus Pillars: Deadfire is coming out May 8 and I’m preparing to binge on that.

              1. Gordon says:

                Yeah, Pillars! I was so disappointed in the lukewarm reception the first game got here, I’m super interested to see how (or if) the text game is received.

      2. BlueHorus says:

        I found myself wishing Shepard was more of a brick, honestly. Just, keep your mouth shut if that’s what you’re going to say.
        I’d think about why I was doing something in those games, make my decisions – and then as soon as I picked the option, Shepard would blurt out something dumb, the kind of thing you’d expect from an action-movie knucklehead.

        TIM: Shepard, you need to preserve the collector base for me so we can learn from it!
        ME: DaFUQ? Did you miss the entire mission earlier on where I went to a reaper-tech research facility you’d set up earlier and everyone was dead or indoctrinated? No you can’t have MORE reaper tech to kill your scientists with!
        Pick option: Say no
        SHEPARD: WE CAN’T LET FEAR CHANGE WHO WE ARE!!!!!

        With my character in Dragon Age: Origins or KOTOR, I imagined whole conversation between them and other member of the party, setting out who they were.
        But Shepard? No chance, that guy was obviously someone else’s action-movie protagonist.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          Agreed. If we absolutely must have action-movie dialog, It should be written and delivered in the style of Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun.

        2. Eric says:

          Agreed. People often complain that the dialogue in Life is Strange is cringe-y, but the stuff that regularly comes out of Shepard’s mouth (and usually in the most dramatic scenarios) is some of the most meaningless and/or bone-headed dialogue I’ve ever experienced.

          In retrospect, it’s amazing that Witcher 3 didn’t have this problem.

    2. Matt Downie says:

      In Fallout, Elder Scrolls, KOTOR, etc, the protagonist is supposed to be a blank slate, because it’s your own character. It’s only when the options you’re given don’t match the person you’re trying to play that it becomes nonsensical.

      Geralt is a pre-existing fictional character, which means he’s better defined, at the price of you losing the ability to make your own creation and play it however you want.

      I find myself more drawn to the former approach, but that’s just a personal preference.

      1. Jennifer Snow says:

        I find I prefer blank slate for an unvoiced protagonist and a decent amount of definition for a voiced protagonist. I wrote basically an article-length commentary on the whole issue a while back when Shamus was complaining about the Fallout 4 protagonist being voiced for no damn reason.

    3. Zekiel says:

      I always thought of Geralt as basically being Wolverine from X-men. Badass, grumpy and cynical, feared & hated by the people he strives to protect, popular with the ladies etc etc. I don’t really see that as bad thing since Wolvie’s a pretty fun character (even if he is utterly overused in comics and films).

      I rather like that the Witcher games allow you to choose Geralt’s motivations in various things but (via the ingame journal) they always justify his actions in a way that fits his character. E.g. “Geralt chose not to help the poor washerwoman since his main quest was urgent” (as opposed to “because he couldn’t be bothered and she wasn’t offering enough coin to make it worth his while”); or he sides with the knights against the Sco’itel not because he’s a racist but because he doesn’t like the latter’s methods.

  4. Joe says:

    I’d say he’s a decent person when he can be, just kind of beaten down by life. In the right circumstances, he’s actually quite good, and good to be around. Though he can have his bad days. A lot like most people, really. Essentially, the glass is half full.

  5. Gethsemani says:

    I think the problem with Geralt, and in extension the Witcher-series as games, is that the games took his problems from the books, but doesn’t always do a good job of showcasing them. Witchers are essentially in the same category as executioners and tanners were in real life, nominally accepted because they do important work but shunned because they do disgusting and nasty work.

    Geralt shows this in his character. He’s wary when meeting new people, because you don’t know who’s alright with a witcher and who’s about to pelt you with rocks and call you names. The games brush onto the topics of witchers as pariahs occasionally, it was an important motivation for Letho in W2 and Where the Cat and Wolf plays-quest in W3 brings it up again. But overall, the games also show most NPCs as not caring too much about Geralt being a witcher (for pacing reasons, no doubt), which also makes the player wonder why Geralt is being so moody and snide all the time.

    1. Zekiel says:

      The books (well, the short stories at least, which are the only ones I’ve read) also have the issue that as human civilisation expands, monsters are being eliminated, and Witchers are needed less and less. So Witchers are also dying out because work is harder to find, resulting in Geralt being pushed to the frontiers of civilisation.

      This is an interesting idea, and one that I don’t think the games do a particularly good job of communicating. Because they’re action videogames, there are monsters everywhere.

      1. GloatingSwine says:

        The fact that monsters mostly trouble peasant farmers on the edge of society is also why Geralt mostly resembles a hobo in the short stories. The people who need his services can least afford to pay for it.

        (Ironically, the novel series quite strongly resemble most players’ experience of an open world game. Geralt stumbles around between sidequests whilst the most significant plot events happen elsewhere to Ciri.)

    2. Joe Informatico says:

      I preferred Geralt in the short stories over the novels. The short stories kind of treated him as a beleaguered contractor having to deal with stupid clients who think they know better, like an experienced plumber who has to clean up some client’s nightmarish attempts at DIY. In the novels (where admittedly I didn’t get very far) he comes across too much like that standard brooding anti-hero who doesn’t want to help out with anyone’s struggle, while more passionate (and mostly female) characters who actually give a shit about the world keep trying to sway him to their causes.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        The short stories kind of treated him as a beleaguered contractor having to deal with stupid clients who think they know better, like an experienced plumber who has to clean up some client’s nightmarish attempts at DIY.

        That would be a really interesting take for the game. The peasants you’re helping regularly try to cheat Geralt, belittle his (and the player’s) work, think they know better, badmouth him when he demands full payment, spread spiteful rumours…

        Make the player feel like a pariah, and give them the choice of how to respond. Then you can see how many players turn into the misanthrope that Geralt’s supposed to be, and how many stay fair despite the constant, grinding bad treatment.

        1. Henson says:

          This is a risky approach, though. CD Projekt kinda already tried this with Witcher 2, which was a very dark, oppressive game, to the point that many players were turned off by the misery. If everyone in a Witcher game treats your character like a pariah, how long can your enjoyment in that game last?

          That’s not to say it’s not worth attempting, but I think it’s a fine line to walk between immersive and demotivating.

  6. Alex Morgan says:

    Using the console for a wooden sword wouldn’t be cheating at all, Geralt could half-inch a training sword from pretty much anywhere!

  7. EBass says:

    I’ve always liked Geralt as a character, but yes I’ve heard plenty of people say they really don’t like him.

    I don’t really understand this all that much, sure some characters don’t tickle you as much as others, but this seems to be a thing peculiar to Geralt which I don’t see that much else. Of course…… this could be because it’s not that common a phenomenon to have a “Character” that is also “you” in an RPG. I guess Commander Shepard and……. Hawk from Dragon Age 2? So maybe people more used to the RPGs where you basically play your own creation don’t really like that format and are transfering it onto Geralt?

    But yea to me he’s a really well developed and interesting character. To me at least, he’s clearly got a lot of layers to his person. I think sometimes the “Pissed off loner type” can be an excuse for not having a personality, but I think its really well shown that Geralt has a lot going on under there, which sometimes “breaks out” into humor, or anger, or just disbelief. He also loosens up a lot with his friends and people who are close to him, and they actually do feel like that. Friends.

    I also think the devs do a really good job of letting you interpret and play him in your own way. You haven’t got quite the range you might have in a Baldur’s Gate, where you can be anything from Knightly Saint of the Purest Goodness to Super Evil Dark Blood Magic Overlord, but you can pretty much play him as a slightly jaded “good guy” or just a jerk who really only cares about him and those closest. However with that comes a lot more “color”. Urgh I’m rambling, yea I like Geralt.

    1. Droid says:

      I also couldn’t see why so many people would hate Geralt, but as someone who has played Arvernum 5, where you’re basically a bunch of “surface dweller supremacists” against your will as a player (because all-too-often text boxes would explain to you how grossed out you are about all this underground filth, meaning the people there), I can understand the feeling.

  8. Redingold says:

    I’m curious what you think about Triss. Most people seem to like her well enough, but I’ve known some people to have this burning hatred for her. In one Let’s Play I watched, it got so bad I had to stop watching once it got to Novigrad, as the person playing would just go on these long and tedious rants about how bad a person Triss was and how much she betrayed Geralt’s trust.

    1. Droid says:

      It’s All There In The Backstory!

      No, seriously, Sapkowski’s Triss is way more cut-throat, and while her plan with the Lodge of Sorceresses to kill Yen and Geralt and kidnap Ciri did not bear fruit (and she, apparently, did a 180° since then), her betrayal at that time, for nothing more than political gain, and against three people who considered her close friends, is pretty damning.

      Add to that the fact that she never as much as mentioned Yennefer, until she literally could no longer believably claim ignorance, and instead opted to take advantage of Geralt’s amnesia in TW1 and 2, and there you have why people don’t like her in the third game. Admittedly, it turns out she would have been a pretty good match for Geralt in the end, but that’s more for the sake of player freedom than a logical/probable outcome to the story that happened up until the start of TW3.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying Triss in TW3 just as she is, I’m just saying I can understand the reasons why others might seem too harsh to her.

      1. Gethsemani says:

        Let’s not undersell Triss in TW1: She quite literally rapes Geralt by tricking him into believing they were paramours, due to his amnesia, and has sex with him multiple times during this deception (if you think this isn’t bad, reverse the genders and try the scenario again). She then does her best to gaslight Geralt into thinking that this Yennefer person everyone is mentioning to him is not important and that she was the love of his life prior to his amnesia.

        I sort of like Triss as a character, certainly enough to opt for her over Yennefer in my first TW3 playthrough, but she is incredibly manipulative towards Geralt and I can absolutely see why people hate her for that reason. I can also see why people hate her for taking a role in the games that would be better suited to Yennefer from the books.

        1. Henson says:

          No, I’m going to have to contest your assertion that Triss rapes Geralt.

          Consider the following: you lose your memory. A man comes up to you and says that the two of you are lovers. You have no reason to doubt him. Do you have sex with him? Well, maybe yes, maybe no. Yes, because you find him attractive, you like sex, or you’re trying to re-discover your supposed past. No, because you have no emotional attachment to this stranger, you want to discover who you are before making big choices. Just because you were lovers doesn’t mean you have to be lovers. The point is, there is nothing forcing you to have sex with this person who, from your perspective, you’ve only just met; ergo, not rape.

          No doubt, Triss is awfully deceptive. She lies. She manipulates. And she spends much of the third game with that shadow of guilt over her head. But let’s not go too far.

          1. djw says:

            You can sleep with whatshername in W1 instead. There’s a subplot about which lady you choose to bunk up with in one of the chapters. However, its been years since I played, and I do not recall any more of the details than that.

            1. Droid says:

              It’s Shani, and it’s canon that at the end of Witcher 1 they break up and Geralt is seduced by Triss if you chose Shani in the first game. The whole thing is obviously just there so that the prologue in the second game can happen, but what can you do.

            2. Nimrandir says:

              I played through that part of the first Witcher recently, and it’s . . . awkward, in my opinion. The availability of a romance option for either Triss or Shani requires you to give your intended woman guardianship of a boy who has begun exhibiting magical powers, over which he seems to have no control.

              Regardless of your romantic inclinations, that means you decide to leave this child in the care of either a sorceress (who has demonstrated knowledge of magic) or . . . a field medic.

              1. Henson says:

                There are MANY things about W1 that can be described as ‘awkward’, but yeah, this choice was certainly one of the big head-scratchers.

                But you know, that awkwardness is also kind of refreshing. The team wasn’t following a template or painting-by-numbers; they were throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. Got to give props to their gumption.

                1. Nimrandir says:

                  Oh, I agree on admiration of the effort. I started the game back up to make my way through the series Super Bunnyhop style, and I’ve enjoyed it so far. The goofiness of the Triss/Shani choice is my biggest complaint.

                  Well, other than the crashes to desktop.

          2. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Id classify that as a con job.Only instead of getting money from him,she is conning him for his affection.

          3. To me, it’s rape. It’s a coercive, manipulative kind that society tends to not want to label as rape (kinda like date rape or, for a more extreme version, spousal rape).

            Below is me explaining how I reasoned this out…
            If I’m the amnesia patient and you are telling me we’ve been in a serious relationship for a good bit of time, I’m going to assume we’ve had sex in the past. Since I probably want to regain my memory and one way to do that is doing things that should be familiar, well, sex with you should be familiar and might trigger some memories, plus I want to keep you because I think you’re someone who was important to me and thus will likely continue to be so. Thus there’s quite a bit of emotional pressure to have sex. Could Geralt ignore this? Yup, that is an option, but I doubt most people would.

            Oh, and You is Triss in the explanation. I realized that could be read very wrong…

            1. djw says:

              I get your reasoning here, and to some extent I agree with it, but… the first game sets Geralt up as a sex addict who is willing to rut at the drop of a hat. In this context Triss didn’t need to be manipulative to get sex (regardless of whether she was) she just needed to be both willing and female.

          4. Eric says:

            It’s not ‘force,’ but as Melfina pointed out, it is manipulation. I suppose time will tell if that becomes a widely-accepted criterion for rape.

          5. Vi says:

            Yikes, that’s terrifying! Maybe not to a dude who has sex with any biological female who moves, but to me it’s nightmare material!
            I don’t co-host very much; I pop up randomly from time to time and link up with a more experienced host’s memories to figure out what’s going on in my life. But I can never be assured that a chaperone will be available to fill me in; I could easily wake up twenty years from now with no one around to explain things except some random dude who claims to be the love of our life. I had intended to just roll with it, if that happens, and try to be the lover he presumably deserves if my usual hosts picked him. I wasn’t going to criticize his appearance or background or quirks, no matter how unexpected. I was going to give him my trust, my attention, my life story, and sooner or later my lovemaking virginity if he wanted it. I was going to literally and metaphorically make him sandwiches every day and tell him how happy I was that my hosts found a good man to share our life with.
            But I’ve been assuming no one would try to take advantage of our memory rips that way! Yet, why wouldn’t they? It would totally work! I’ve never deliberately had sex, let alone with someone who doesn’t like me, but it could totally happen that way! It might even feel worse than a direct attack because it’s a form of invasion this alter is not yet desensitized to at all.
            I guess I’ll have to ask the other alters to do some kind of security measure, for all our sakes, so none of us accidentally throw ourselves into some random creep’s bed/car/home/basement playroom. I wonder if any guy would let us check his IDs against a private record? We might just have to treat everyone as a stranger by default until we get a chance to ask whichever inner person knows the truth. We probably should have done this all along, but not angering possible friends and colleagues has been a priority and I didn’t think of how much higher the stakes would be with a lover.
            I guess this is not exactly the same as the case of a psychologically normalish person who gets amnesia for other reasons, but it still seems very similar: Instead of hosts they have to coordinate with, they have an unknown past self whose decisions they need to discover and understand indirectly. Maybe it would be even more difficult, since there is no hope that their past self will show up to talk things over. But wouldn’t they still trust who they were, as much as they trust anything? Their present and past selves may be operating from vastly different information pools, but they are still the same heart in the same body, and presumably would want to fulfill the same needs in the same ways if they had the same information to work with. That’s a very strong reason to maintain the same romantic relationship that made them happy before. Or if it doesn’t make a difference, then relationships must not be very important to them in the first place, and there’s little reason for anyone to bother lying about it.
            Sorry for rambling, I’m not used to this talky stuff. :(

      2. zackoid says:

        The other problem with Triss, well one of the other problems with Triss, is that her voice actor’s American accent is awful. It sounds like an impression of an actress in a 1940’s movie doing John Wayne in drag.

  9. Leviathan902 says:

    I’d really like to hear Shamus chime in on the “is Geralt cool or awful” debate.

    I know that (somewhat) famously he could not abide Witcher 1 & 2 almost entirely because of Geralt but really loved the Witcher 3. I’d be curious to see how his thoughts align here with Bob’s interpretation of Geralt as a character and if the Witcher 3 changed his perception of him.

    As someone who, like Bob, is a Witcher nut (i’ve read through all the books including the ones that haven’t been released in the US, twice) I totally agree with his insights as to the nature Geralt’s character. He’s one of my favorite characters in all of fantasy fiction.

    1. Shamus says:

      I think we have people talking past each other in the “Do you like Geralt?” debate.

      Like, Handsome Jack is a cruel, idiotic, irresponsible, narcissistic bastard. As a person, I hate him. But as a character, I like him. He’s fun to hate.

      Geralt is a bit similar. It’s possible to dislike the guy on a personal level but still enjoy him as a character.And I suppose it’s possible to like the guy on a personal level in the sense that, “I identify with Geralt and I wouldn’t mind knocking back a beer with him.” while at the same time not enjoying an entire 80-hour videogame adventure with him at the center.

      I HATED Geralt in the first Witcher, but here in Witcher 3 he tells puns, has friends, and shows his occasional softer side that lets me connect with him.

      Having said that, I agree with what others have expressed in this thread: Geralt is an interesting guy, but the games are TERRIBLE about giving you the proper context for what it’s like to be a Witcher, why people distrust him so much, and how all of that isolates him. Sure, you can pick up the details in the first dozen hours of gameplay, but it would be nice if the games put a little more of that up front so newcomers can make a connection with him. He falls so easily into the growling loner stereotype that a lot of players are going to assume that’s all there is to him, get bored, and wander off.

      I don’t have any suggestions on HOW to do this, though. These games are already pretty dense as it is. But still, this seems to be an ongoing problem with the character. “He seems like a stock character but once you spend many hours with him you’ll be able to see some depth and nuance” is a tough sell for a newcomer.

      1. Nick Powell says:

        I think there’s a bit of a disconnect between the fact that the game tries to tell you he’s an outcast that no-one trusts, but then you also see that he has a ton of extremely powerful friends.

        It’s a bit hard to feel sorry for him when the game also demonstrates that he can just walk into the office of pretty much any major character at any point and get what he wants out of them

        1. djw says:

          The first game provides some context to this. He saved the life of the daughter of King Foltest of Temeria. Foltest was A) grateful and (more important) B) aware that Geralt was extremely competent.

          So, Foltest looked to Geralt anytime he had a problem of the sort that a Witcher could solve. He also looked to Geralt any time he had a problem that a really good swordsman could solve… As a consequence Geralt was on hand to save Foltests life at the break point between 1 and 2.

          In any case, if you hang out with a King, you are likely to meet important people.

      2. Jabberwok says:

        I felt like I got a pretty good sense of his social isolation from the first half of the first game, but a lot of that was probably through optional interactions that someone who stays on the critical path and isn’t paying much attention would completely miss. As you said, not sure if there’s a good solution. Trying to cram something like that down the player’s throat would just end up being horribly oversold for anyone who plays an RPG as slowly as I do.

        In fact, I’ve heard Gunpoint dev Tom Francis mention numerous times [on the C&C podcast) that he couldn’t get into the Witcher because of Geralt. And I’ve also heard him mention numerous times that he frequently skips over dialogue or cut scenes in games.

      3. Zekiel says:

        Like, Handsome Jack is a cruel, idiotic, irresponsible, narcissistic bastard. As a person, I hate him. But as a character, I like him. He’s fun to hate.

        Yes, that. I *love* Martin Walker (Spec Ops: The Line) as a character. But I’d not want to be in the same room as him in real life.

        I think some of the problems with Geralt is that the first Witcher does such a bad job of making him likeable. He comes across as a creepy sex addict for the entire game. Its really not a good first impression to have.

  10. BlueHorus says:

    Only tangentally related, but I’ve just finished watching season 2 of Jessica Jones, and wow, did they manage to make me dislike every character in that show.

    The first season was fine: Sure, the titular character is a miserable, surly drunk who doesn’t think stuff through properly and is horrible to her friends, but it’s a story about the impact of abuse and bearing guilt and so forth. With a clear antagonist (and metaphor) to contrast her with/explain her, the behavior fit.

    But season 2 takes that framework away, and we’re left with…the surly, superpowered, drunk who is horrible to everyone around her, often for really bad reasons.
    Sure, just threaten to kill that (perfectly innocent) guy’s kid just because it’s easier than actual detective work, Jess, we don’t mind.
    Go ahead, just break every single lock* that gets in your way. If someone complains, you can always threaten them with (super-powered) violence.
    What, the law? No, that doesn’t apply to you, does it. You obviously know better (even though you’ve demonstrated repeatedly that you really, really, don’t).

    And then other, worse characters get their own plotlines, and all her friends start to follow her example. So after a bit the whole show becomes a story of unlikable people doing mean things to other, unlikable people, often for terrible reasons and occasionally with superpowers.

    I mean, say what you want about Geralt in the Witcher games, that dude does actually does some world-saving and (I hear) has people he cares about – or is even nice to! – occasionally.

    *Just, every. Time. JESUS CHRIST WOMAN SOMEONE HAS TO FIX THOSE.

    1. Nick says:

      This seems to be a thing in marvel’s series. Daredevil also became a massive jerk to Foggy and Karen on season two of his show. I did not watch JJ2 yet, but I’m fearing it for what i’ve heard.

      1. Lewis Robertson says:

        You get backstory on her jacket in S2, which is always nice.

  11. Jabberwok says:

    Granted, I’ve only played the first game, but I find Geralt to be likeable partly as a result of his less likeable qualities. They often seem to be the traits that set him apart from the most stereotypical heroes, like Commander Shepard in ME. Despite how attached I was to Shepard, he really was pretty much a non-entity in terms of personality. Always stoic, strong, always capable of doing the right thing or being on the moral high ground. Many of the times when we had the option to undermine that high ground by choosing the less moral option, it just feels antithetical to the character.

    Shepard was a pretty clear audience stand-in, as a lot of video game heroes are, but Geralt feels like he has an actual character. He’s bitter, cynical, and sarcastic, but often has good reasons for being so. The guy is a wandering mercenary who is frequently treated like dirt by his employers and many of the other people he encounters in his journeys. I can’t say that I blame him for being the way he is. Maybe I would like him less if I found him harder to identify with for some reason. But it’s nice to see a video game protagonist have ANY personality, even if it means that he’s sometimes kind of a crappy person. Even the womanizing is part of that. We’re basically roleplaying one of Kurosawa’s grizzled ronin, or a spaghetti western hero, and I can get behind that.

    I’m not a huge fan of the voice acting itself. But I tend to give RPGs a lot of leeway for bad voice acting.

  12. Tonich says:

    Now, it might be just me, but personally I find a huge difference between the Geralts in different voiceovers. I’ve tried three of them: English, Russian (my native tongue) and Polish (The Witcher Universe’s original language), and I think the latter one has a much more likeable Geralt. The English version has him way too gruff for my taste, and the Russian Geralt is a bit on the bland (and somewhat hammy) side. What I like about Jacek Rozenek (Geralt’s Polish VA) is that he delivers nearly every line in a slightly tongue-in-cheek manner, making it feel like all that cynicism is really just for show. At least that’s the impression I got.

    1. Henson says:

      Another follower of the school of Rozenek! Our numbers are growing…

  13. Christopher says:

    He gives a pretty generic first impression, but within a couple of hours of Witcher 2 I also had the option of getting drunk with my mates and waking up the next day to discover I’d gotten a terrible tattoo. As far as this type of character goes, I think he’s pretty nice.

  14. Zaxares says:

    So, let’s get this out of the way first… Team Triss or Team Yennefer? ;) (And yes, I know she’s not REALLY his daughter, but face it, Team Ciri supporters, she’s NOT someone Geralt’s gonna romance. :P)

    1. EBass says:

      Reading through the comments I can see why some people dislike Triss. Apparently she had a plan “with the Lodge of Sorceresses to kill Yen and Geralt and kidnap Ciri, and which I was like WOAaaahh that does not fit with my image of Triss. Also gaslighting geralt into thinking that Yen wasn’t important

      Admitadly I have an absolutely terrible memory for plotlines, and having played the first and the second games through at least twice I can’t really remember the plot particularly well. That said I think one thing they did kind of poorly in the first two games was the situation with Yenn. In the first Witcher there were loads of cutscenes with Geralt mumbling……. Yenniferrrrrrr and it was pretty clear that this woman was important, I could get Geralt not knowing who she (amnesia) was but it always seemed weird to me that he didn’t really ask about her, even to his close friends. “Hey who is this Yennifer person, I keep having dreams about and gets obliquity mentioned” surely someone who knows me would be able to pretty quickly fill me in? As a result I was never sure if she was dead, alive, if she was a real person, if she was some sort of ghost spectre Woman.

      Then Jeniffer almost got dropped for the Witcher 2 and we ran around with Triss most of the time without Jeniffer being mentioned much as far as I remember? I can’t remember all the ins and outs and maybe Triss had a lot of hidden murky stuff which I either didn’t pick up on or have forgotten about, but throughout the Witcher 2 Triss seemed to play the part of a good friend and loyal ally.

      Then we get Witcher 3, and it pretty much opens with “This is the mysterious Jennifer, shes just some woman you have a snarky relationship with. The reason you haven’t seen her or heard from her in the first two games is because……. she didn’t really care about finding you that much and has been doing other stuff, you could probably have just gone and found her anytime”

      I was a bit non-plussed.

      However after that I think the game did a really good job of creating an actual believable adult love triangle between the three. The two are very different people, but they both clearly care about Geralt and love him in their own way………….

      For my part, based on my evidence IN THE GAMES THAT I REMEMBER Triss seemed to be “better” for Geralt and more capable of handling things in a mature way. There were quite a few scenes which were really quite tender between the two.

      Jennifer on the other hand…………. the two were much more like an old married couple. Jennifer always seemed ready at any point to go into a huff or lash out some barbed comment, there was a lot of tension there, which can sometimes be good “fuel” for a relationship, but to me it was just too acidic, it didn’t feel particularly healthy for either of them. Jennifer also never seemed like the sort to give out the sort of warmth I would want from a realtionship, she kinda seemed a lot of the time that if some I dunno “interesting magical thingy” came up in a land to the North or whatever, she could quite happily just disappear from Geralts life without feeling the need to give him any sort of emotional closure or explanation, whereas Triss I felt would have stayed with Geralt, or at least given him a good explanation of why she needed to go and chase this Macuffin.

      Anyway, thats my take. I haven’t played a computer game in years, but I kind really wanna replay the Witcher 3 at this point.

  15. Redrock says:

    Ah, I’ve been going back and forth in a discussion with myself about whether or not I like the voice. The thing is, Doug Cockle’s delivery, while a bit cheesy at times, kinda matches the lore – Geralt is supposed to always be subduing his emotions, to the point of lying to himself and others that his emotions were removed through witcher mutations (not true). On the other hand, I’ve played the game in Russian, where Geralt is voiced by Vsevolod Kuznetsov, who is a pretty celebrated Russian voice actor and also dubbing director, a guy who often oversees dubbing of Hollywood movies, which is generally approached with a lot more care and finesse than video games. His delivery is way more emotional, human and nuanced – but also, at times, too much so. These days, whenever I want to play some Witcher 3, I’m torn between choosing Russian or English audio. In terms of translation, Russian works better because of the linguistic and cultural closeness to Polish. But, except for Geralt, Zoltan and a few other characters, Russian voices are pretty terrible, especially the female characters. Just awful. So, both versions come with trade-offs. You can check out the comparison for yourself, if you’re interested. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuHmf7b5zrM

    1. Henson says:

      If you’re looking for cultural closeness to Poland, why not just go with Polish?

      1. Redrock says:

        On account of not speaking Polish, mostly. And I’ve read the books in Russian, so it made sense. Russian and Polish are more similar than you’d think, and certainly more similar than Polish and English.

  16. The Victorian says:

    I admit that the character of Geralt was a major reason why I could never get into this series – the cynical, world-weary, gravelly-voiced, po-faced anti-hero who stabs and shags his way through a morally ambiguous world isn’t the type of character I’m interested in playing as. Morever, an RPG that restricts you to playing as one single character makes no sense to me. It’s like a racing game where the only car you can drive is a Porsche 911, a baseball game where the only team you can play as are the New York Yankees, or a grand strategy game where the only country you can play as is Sweden.

    But I have a greater issue with the world Geralt inhabits than Geralt himself. I remember making several efforts to get through The Witcher 2, only to become terribly bored after a point because I had yet to meet a single sympathetic NPC. The games sell themselves on having “difficult” choices – choices that don’t fall squarely into the categories of “good” or “evil” – and it usually succeeds in this endeavour, but it did nothing to make me actually care about the outcome of these choices. Quite simply, outside of Geralt’s immediate circle of companions nearly every character is either a backstabbing Machiavellian sociopath or some hapless peasant struggling to survive.

    This isn’t “realism” or “maturity” or whatever words of praise I hear from fans, this is just a world where everyone’s a complete knob. Which leads to something I like to call the “Inflation of Evil.” If everyone’s an amoral bastard, than no one is. If everything is dark and gritty and cynical, then nothing is. To its credit TW3 moves away from this aspect somewhat, but Geralt still spends a lot of time dealing with people who are completely despicable.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      True,a bunch of peasants and soldiers are just terrible.But the npcs you get to interact with are actually likable.Even the ones that screw you over,like dijkstra or keira.And of course,there are the trolls,the most likable piles of rock ever.

    2. pdk1359 says:

      I think the solution to having the protagonist treated as a pariah is that you don’t have is saturate the gameworld; if you had either a faction or a region (or a mixture) that treats you like crap consistently, that you are more or less stuck interacting with, but not necessarily subservient to, then it might work…
      It’d probably be difficult to balance out though.

      I’m kind of thinking about the bards and gypsies in the bardic voices series by Mercedes Lackey; the church and the nobles generally look down on them, the merchants may or may not depending on whether they’re trying to look pious, but the lowest classes are more likely to be happy to see the free bards and gypsies at a fair or festival, because they offer cheap entertainment.

      Perhaps the key to producing a game like that, is that you can’t make it too much of a power fantasy; something where the player can’t thump the rich nobles/church/militants directly, but only get at them indirectly… kind of like the thief series (the trilogy and the dark mod games, because there aren’t any others)

  17. Shen says:

    Think you’ve missed a major discussion point regarding Geralt as off-putting:

    His character design is aggressively lame.

  18. Asbjoern says:

    Bob, if you’re going to talk about Novigrad, make sure to read up on the cut content that was planned for the plot in an earlier point in time, if you haven’t already done so. It definitely is worth looking into.

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