The Witcher 3: Kaer Morhen Part Two and Bald Mountain

By Bob Case Posted Thursday Aug 2, 2018

Filed under: Video Games 66 comments

Last post I covered most of the Kaer Morhen sequence, and called it “Part One” even though “Part Two” is really its own sequence. (Hence this entry’s awkward title.) This is where the game makes an important transition from being one about Geralt to being one about Geralt and Ciri.

Geralt remains the player character 90% of the time, as he did in the first part of the game, but the narrative (of the main questline at least) makes a passenger of him much of the time – it’s Ciri, as often as not, who’s making the decisions and moving the plot forward. While this is happening, the game does something very clever. I’m going to be coy and not tell you what it is yet, though I expect many of you have already guessed.

But I’ll give you a clue and say the first part of the clever thing involves a snowball fight between Geralt and Ciri. The Elven Sage, Avallac’h, is one of the few people who understands how Ciri’s powers work, and, in a bit of a disorienting time skip, we learn she’s been training with him long enough to become frustrated at her own lack of progress. She vents to Geralt, and hidden behind an innocent-looking dialogue option is the option of having a snowball fight with her.

(Ciri, incidentally, is a terrible snowball fighter. She takes way too long to put a snowball together, doesn’t know how to lead a dodging opponent, stands in one place for too long, and doesn’t make any decent attempt at evasive maneuvers, despite her teleportation ability! I personally was disappointed with her on Geralt’s behalf.)

It’s the first of several choices Geralt can make on how to interact with Ciri, which will become important later. It’s also a good tonal antidote to the darkness of Vesemir’s death. CDPR has demonstrated several times that it has a better grasp of tone than most developers. In lesser hands the entire Witcher franchise might have ended up mired in an endless swamp of grimdarkness. Instead, it makes good use of variety and contrast.

Yen can't fool me. I know an incoming group of quests when I see one.
Yen can't fool me. I know an incoming group of quests when I see one.

Some dialogue during this section sets up the next few quests: recruiting members of the Lodge of Sorceresses and finding ways to undermine the Wild Hunt. But first the game takes an unexpected left turn – a long, mostly on-rails run of encounters that I personally found rushed and disorienting. First, Ciri wakes Geralt up and tells him that she knows where Imlerith is. Imlerith is the member of the Wild Hunt who killed Vesemir, and a character I was barely familiar with at all up until this time during my first playthrough.

Imlerith is partying with the Crones of Crookback Bog on Bald Mountain during an annual celebration they hold there called the “Witches’ Sabbath.” Geralt and Ciri head there, but first they have the option of taking a detour to Vizima to see the Emperor. I initially skipped this option, reasoning from an RP perspective that Emperor had both means and motive to simply take Ciri captive once she was within his power. However, he doesn’t do that, and Geralt has the option of either taking a hefty payout for his services, or if, he turns it down, he gets a swanky new horse.

This section of the game also hits you with a lot of rapid-fire lore dumps, and rather inexpertly by CDPR standards.
This section of the game also hits you with a lot of rapid-fire lore dumps, and rather inexpertly by CDPR standards.

Then it’s on to Bald Mountain to confront both Imlerith and the Crones. Much like the Novigrad sequence, this whole series of events gave me the impression that the developers were trying to tie up as many stray plot threads as quickly as possible. My guess is that the Bald Mountain section was put in to polish off the crones and give the player an opportunity to avenge Vesemir’s death. The problem is that I was only vaguely aware of who Imlerith even was – before now, I had thought the guy who killed Vesemir was just another nameless Wild Hunt soldier. Unless I’m mistaken, you don’t even see his face until you fight him.

Keep in mind that it was only maybe an hour of gameplay ago that Vesemir died, this revenge seems a bit hurried and half-baked. The sequence is redeemed – a bit – by insight into how the worship of the Crones in Velen is set up, and what the locals believe. This is the sort of thing the Witcher series’ writers are good at – a convincing, imaginative, and creepy folk religion. What’s more, those who believe in it are not just fanatical cultist types, but poor rural people who live a hard life and take what small bits of hope and meaning are available to them.

I think CDPR’s writers, at least in the context of the Witcher universe, are better at telling small stories like this one than big ones. Or it may be the universe itself. I always preferred Sapkowski’s short stories to his novels. It seems that in a fantasy setting like this one, the greater the stakes get, the closer the style runs to familiar cliches.

We get to see Johnny again at the Sabbath. I always like meeting characters from earlier in games again - it gives the game a sense of solidity and reality.
We get to see Johnny again at the Sabbath. I always like meeting characters from earlier in games again - it gives the game a sense of solidity and reality.

Geralt and Ciri need a way to be invited to the top of the mountain, resulting in a short jaunt where Geralt retrieves a coin from the bottom of a lake, then fights a Fiend on his way back up the slope. Then, halfway through looking for Imlerith, Geralt and Ciri split off, with Ciri heading off to track down and kill the Crones. It’s not bad as boss fights go, but I can’t help but think that it diminishes the formerly demigoddess-like Ladies of the Wood to reduce them to an enemy you can defeat by hitting them with a sword enough times. But hit them enough times Ciri does, killing Whispess and Brewess before Weaves steals Vesemir’s Witcher medallion off of Ciri’s neck before escaping. With luck, you’ll never see it again, for reasons I’ll have to explain much later.

Meanwhile, Geralt finds Imlerith at the top of the mountain. I like Imlerith’s design. Instead of some slender, graceful finesse fighter, like the standard-issue elf, Imlerith fights with a big shield and a huge club-thing. I had to get behind him for Igni to do any damage, so this fight tended towards the tedious, but with normal equipment it’s rather fun, with a second stage where he starts teleporting all over the place. (Does this break the lore? I thought the Wild Hunt needed one of their “navigators” do to that.)

Imlerith. I'm 85% sure there are no visible nipples in this screenshot, which is more down to blind luck than anything else.
Imlerith. I'm 85% sure there are no visible nipples in this screenshot, which is more down to blind luck than anything else.

Like I said, the whole Bald Mountain sequence felt disjointed to me, like they had more extensive plans for each of these plot points but had to scramble at the last minute to tie them all up before release. That said, it’s notable how even the weaker parts of the Witcher 3 are still fun and memorable.

After this uncharacteristically-long on-rails sequence the player is finally – after several hours – returned to the open world again. There, Geralt has four different quests to wrap up before the endgame proper – but, just as notably, this is the most convenient time for a typical playthrough to handle the expansion (Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine) content. However, that’s not what the next entry is going to do. Instead, we’re going to finally learn that Avallac’h’s deal is, and get a sense of what the Wild Hunt is all about as well. See you then.


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66 thoughts on “The Witcher 3: Kaer Morhen Part Two and Bald Mountain

  1. You sure post these late at night.

  2. Mr. Wolf says:

    While I fully agree that this is the best part of the game for Hearts of Stone, I feel that after the end of the game was the correct time for Blood and Wine. If for no other reason than HoS requiring a slight detour and B&W requiring a massive one.

    It always bothers me when you’re in the middle of a major quest, to save the world or a loved one or something, when you hit a sidequest or expansion content that sends you to the far side of the world.

    The example I always use is Baldur’s Gate Tales of the Sword Coast. It has some great content, but by the time you’re high enough level to do it there’s no space in the plot to fit it. You’re supposed to be going to Candlekeep to attend a meeting, or going to the Gate to stop the evil plot, do you really have a month and a half to visit a mysterious island, or two weeks to travel to and clear out Durlag’s Tower? Conversely I didn’t mind the trip to Ice Island, because while you travelled a long way (to any map makers, that island is supposed to be in the south, get it right next time) it didn’t take that much time. I don’t mind most of the other side quests in BG either, because they were generally something you could do on the way, or early enough in the game when your main quest was important but not urgent.

    1. Redrock says:

      Yeah, Blood and Wine seems to be intended as post-game content, very much so. Your final exchange with Regis, complete with fourth-wall breaking glance from Geralt, pretty much cements this idea. Blood and Wine is Geralt’s happy ending, in contrast to Beaclaire’s place in the narrative of the novels.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Also, I was massively underlevelled for both DLCs at this part in the story – while still being 5+ levels above the recommended for the story quests. Trying to do either DLC at this point seems like it’d be really hard.

        (Even at the recommended level for Hearts of Stone, fighting the Fallen Knights dotted around the map was like felling damned trees, the number of blows they could take. Ghah.)

        1. Henson says:

          I started Hearts of Stone before doing the whole Kaer Morhen sequence. Trying to beat that damn Ofieri mage ten levels under recommendation, with no equipment, was a challenge, to say the least.

          (I mean, I COULD have opened my inventory mid-battle and put on some pants and a gambeson, but that’s stretching the bounds of realism, right?)

        2. Tizzy says:

          I really resented how much impact level scaling had on combat in the game. This is the only real criticism I have to “level” at it.

          I played through most of both DLCs before finding Ciri, to avoid breaking the flow of the main quest. That made the rest of the main game a ridiculous cakewalk.

  3. kikito says:

    I’m just going to say that Avallac’h quest was my personal favorite in the whole game.

  4. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Strongly agree with the boss fights with the witches, they were utterly disappointing. I really hoped we’d learn that their death was smoke and mirrors, but that Geralt and Ciri earned enough respect from them to lie low for a few decades.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Agreed. Though it is Ciri who kills them, while Geralt takes on Imlerith – if anyone is capable of actually killing the ancient, mysterious witch-monsters, it’s going to be the girl with the magic McGuffin power that everyones wants, right?

      …not that the game agrees with me. Geralt comes across as very much the Protective Dad, taking the harder task when he tells Ciri to deal with the Crones, which seemed off to me.
      You’ve got two hard fights: One is against three barely-understood witch-creatures who are worshipped as gods, and the other’s against one arrogant space elf – and the lone elf is the harder fight?

      1. It could very well be the “Translation Convention,” trope (Player hears German people speaking English because the main character understands fluent German).

        In this case though it might be because Ciri is extremely powerful, so the Crones seem really easy when we fight them, because they are actually easy for Ciri, while Imlerith seems more difficult because we are fighting as Geralt.

      2. Stuart Hacking says:

        I didn’t really experience this. I thought the crone fight was harder, but I wasn’t particularly fond of any of the Ciri sections, mechanically. I hated having to switch to her more frantic, zippy-around, stabby-stab fighting style.

        I general in TW3, I thought any fight against a single foe was pretty simple: identify their weakness, then avoid attacks until they’re vulnerable. On the other hand, any fight involving a handful of human soldiers was laborious for me.

        1. Zekiel says:

          I thought both fights were frustratingly hard! And I was appropriately-levelled. Ciri simply doesn’t have much she can do to make a fight easier – you just have to learn to parry or dodge at the right time.

          Whereas Geralt has tons of things he can do to even the odds (signs, potions etc) but Imelrith gives you next to no time to do any of them. Once he starts teleporting like a crazy man it gets totally exhausting!

          1. Stuart Hacking says:

            I think I was using a very overpowered Alchemy-Tank build. My fights started generally by chugging White Raffard (HP = 12000), Leshen and Ekimmara decoction (I *think* – whichever ones gave health regen on hit and mirror damage effects); keeping superior swallow on the hotbar; and applying relevant oil.

            The fact that Ciri had no such Witcher benefits is probably why I didn’t like her combat sections.

            It was a death march play through, so I feel absolutely no guilt. :-)

            1. Stuart Hacking says:

              (Ekhidna, not Ekimarra; and IIRC you need to take the White Raffard last as its increased effects are toxicity based.)

      3. Vinsomer says:

        I actually think it’s a really effective way of building Imlerith (and by extension, the Wild Hunt) up, especially as they’ve taken a knock as villains after Kaer Morhen. Kinda like a reverse Worf-effect.

  5. Redrock says:

    I always preferred Sapkowski’s short stories to his novels.

    You may be on to something here. While I like Sapkowski’s Witcher novel’s just fine, I think that their best parts are the little vignettes he does when he switches to the point of view of random characters. Like some tavern patrons witnessing Geralt’s run-in with some assassins. Or the absolutely brilliant field hospital scene with Shani during a massive battle, done solely through the head surgeon’s rapid-fire remarks. Or the court scenes with one of the mercs who had been hunting Ciri. Smaller, more intimate scenes and human stories is certainly where Sapkowski shines. The Witcher is very much an anti-epic epic fantasy, if it makes sense. Almost certainly has to do with the cultural and mythologica specifics of Eastern Europe.

    1. camycamera says:

      Hm, kinda disagree there. Every time the novels switched to a PoV that wasn’t Ciri or Geralt, or at least, had a PoV that showed them from their perspective, I was getting bored. Like, the novels waste so much time talking about how there was the King of Kovir and he had some meeting with Dijkstra about funding the war effort or something, and then there’s something about how he gets assassinated by…??? But then apparently that happens later, because he appears later on somewhere else or something… I don’t know, for some of those PoVs, I was totally lost and didn’t care what was going on, I was just waiting for the next chapter and hoping it was a Geralt/Ciri one.

      The Novels were at its best when they were character focused, specifically on Geralt/Ciri, for me. Honestly, I could give less of a damn about whatever political trick that this random king who isn’t that important to the story at all. I felt like Witcher 2’s story suffered from a similar problem by bogging itself down too much in political stuff that I didn’t find all that interesting. So as much as I really enjoyed the Novels for the most part, I have to agree with MBT that the Short Stories were better.

      It’s also why Witcher 3 is by far the best game IMO. There’s all the contracts/side quests that are exactly like the short stories, and then there’s the main quest which is like the Novels, but focused entirely on Geralt’s search and Ciri, and not having time wasted with some other irrelevant stuff about the King of Kovir or the Kings of the North talking about war stuff.

      1. Redrock says:

        To be honest, I was talking more about the “little” people POV segments. I think Sapkowski does “little” people very well. Especially when it comes to portrayal of the horrors of a Medieval war. But not just that. I think it really works when he shows Geralt through other people’s eyes.

        Perhaps it’s different for everyone. For me, the most problematic segments of the novels were some of Ciri’s chapters, like her time with the Rats. It just never worked for me, and I can’t pinpoint why. I greatly enjoyed the character of Vin in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, so it’s not like I have a problem with that type of character. I might have to re-read some of the Witcher novels and try to determine the problem now.

  6. CliveHowlitzer says:

    It always bugged me that you ever fought and killed the crones. I liked the idea of them being untouchable and just too otherworldly to ever fight with a weapon and expect to succeed. Ciri is a bit on another level than Geralt of course, but still. It was just hitting things with swords, as you said.

    I think I’d have preferred if they just hadn’t turned up again. They were perfectly creepy as they were without being a boss fight.

  7. Shamus says:

    This was exactly my reaction to all of this. I didn’t realize I was supposed to be angry at any PARTICULAR elf for Vesimir’s death, so killing this guy felt like it came out of nowhere.

    Also, I thought it felt tonally wrong to kill the Crones. They were more interesting as something beyond the reach of the players abilities. I liked the idea that this world had problems you couldn’t solve with a sword.

    1. Redrock says:

      Yeah, this runs pretty much contrary to the spirit of both the books and the games in that regard. My guess is that killing the Crows is supposed to be an indication of Ciri’s power more than anything. Geralt can’t kill them, but Ciri can. The fact that Ciri’s cosmic power is still manifested as being very good with a sword undermines that, however.

    2. JakeyKakey says:

      I’m not sure I agree with that.

      I understand the appeal of going for a more Lovecraftian angle with the Crones (a bit of Lovecraft makes everything better) as their general design, characterization, and lore all lend themselves to that approach, but I think the game’s actual handling of the Crones is far more true to the actual themes of the series.

      The setting of the Witcher has always been relatively grounded and approximately one case of magic fading away, two species-wide genocides, and a few centuries of progress away from becoming our present day society. The general monster population is rapidly dwindling due to human expansion and industrialization, while the remaining stragglers can be far more efficiently handled with technological advancements and military tactics that are gradually rendering witchers obsolete.

      With one extremely notable exception of Gaunter O’Dimm (and maybe the high vampires), Witcher’s monsters don’t carry a particular air of mystique or veneration and are mostly treated as a fact-of-life nuisance with Geralt ostensibly acting as a glorified pest control and gaining little respect in the process.

      If you factually look at what the Crones actually are, as opposed to how they present themselves, they’re just three long-lived witch-like supernatural beings capable of some degree of magic, who hang around a piss-poor middle-of-nowhere swamp intimidating fearful local peasants into worshiping them. This doesn’t exactly showcase a great deal of power or influence on their behalf, they’re just working a run-of-the-mill racket that could just easily be done by three sufficiently cunning sorceresses or vampires.

      They’re well above Geralt’s general paygrade and well below his concern at the time, but at the end of the day they’re fundamentally still individual monsters and a singular problem that can be solved by hitting it with a sword – which Geralt is legendarily good at. It’s the greater overarching systemic socioeconomic and political problems of the world that he isn’t in any way equipped to fix.

      1. Ebass says:

        While I don’t think that this conception of the crone is “wrong” per se, that is to say there’s nothing that directly indicates they are more than regular “monsters” that can be sorted out with a sword…. To me the game very much felt like it was presenting these beings as ones with powers beyond our comprehension or control. I felt very much like the author did when first meeting these guys “I feel actively threatened by these things because I am not sure what they are or what they can do…..” I think the reactions of others re this demonstrates that this is a relatively normal opinion towards the crones. The idea that I could have just bashed them with a sword anytime
        …… Kind of cheapens them

        1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          Perhaps this is head canon -but I had the idea that you couldn’t kill the Crones anytime, but only at the sabbath, because this is the one time they can’t run away. Even the last one only escapes by feigning injury and then transforming into a bird.

          I also felt this part was underwhelming, but didn’t think it was too wildly out of character for the plot.

          Additionally, until now I didn’t know Imlereth was the one that killed Vesimir. I thought it was Eredin. I thought we were whacking Imlereth to weaken Eredin.

          1. Luhrsen says:

            “The witches can be killed because they can’t run away on the sabbath.”

            “The last witch runs away to avoid being killed.”

            …..I’m confused.

            1. Droid says:

              I think the idea here is not that they are physically or magically blocked from leaving the Sabbath, but that this is THE yearly show of power and influence for them, and getting that blown up in their faces by two idiots swinging swords at their special guest while the Crones had gone into hiding would reflect very poorly on them.

              Like if the steward of Gondor were to command everyone to abandon their posts and run in the middle of the biggest, most important siege in the whole Third Age, which totally never happened, right?

        2. JakeyKakey says:

          To be fair, I too got those “I feel actively threatened by these things because I am not sure what they are or what they can do…..” vibes out of them and that’s clearly what the game is going for as Geralt doesn’t fully understand what they or the ‘rules’ of Velen are at that point, but I think CDPR just went and accidentally gave them too good of an introduction.

          I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this same area has a side quest featuring a fat Sylvan scamming peasants for food by pretending to be a god.

          Fear of the unknown is a hell of a drug as far as the horror genre goes, but Witcher just really doesn’t dabble in these kinds of Lovecraftian themes (except that one weird mission in Witcher 1, now that I think about it). The crones come off as straight up creepier and more terrifying than the one de facto Lovecraftian entity we do get, even though there’s little doubt that Gaunter O’Dimm would absolutely wipe the floor with them.

      2. BlueHorus says:

        I like it. They’re not that special; they’re just good at PR and have found the right audience.
        The people of Velen/Crookback Bog are just so desperate that they’ll offer human sacrifices in exchange for a few ‘magic acorns’ – and be grateful that someone, anyone, pretends to care about them.

        I think this is kind of indicitive of a bigger conflict, though: Witcher 3: the game vs Witcher 3: the story. The needs of the former conflict with what the latter tells us.
        In the game I can’t go twenty metres in this game without stumbling into another group of Nekkers or Drowners – often in people’s fields or within walking distance of their homes. Why do people hate Witchers again?
        Why doesn’t every guardsmen and their dog have a silver sword? They’re demonstrably better at killing some really commonly-encountered creatures and almost every blacksmith seems to sell some.

        But of course, the monsters are common because it’s a game. As are silver swords. The conventions of the game trump the story – including the idea that there are monsters that even Geralt & Ciri can’t kill.
        In the books it might be true – and appropriate – but that would deprive the player of power in a fundamental way, that game’s usually don’t do.

        1. Zekiel says:

          Something that would improved if you fixed the economy by making it so you can’t buy silver swords :-) The amount of looting and shopping you have to do in this game really annoys me.

          On the other hand, witchers have supernaturally enchanced reflexes etc, so even with a silver sword most guards wouldn’t stand a chance against even low-level monsters. Of course then there are those stupidly high-level guards you occasionally run into… urgh.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            I didnt mind that you could buy various gear.What I did mind is that all of it was useless.While finishing the first major dungeon in velen,I acquired equipment that was far superior than anything I could get in the next 15 or so levels.Yes,better even than the witcher gear.So everything else I acquired turned into vendor trash,and anything I could buy was useless.The only thing I had to constantly put money into was repairing stuff,which is also rather annoying.

            1. BlueHorus says:

              Agh, the levelled equipment! That was terrible.

              ‘Ooh, that sword looks goo – oh, it’s 5 levels lower than I am. Welp, add it to the trash pile. Shame.’
              ‘Hey, a schematic! Let’s see now…WTF required level 40!? I’m level 9, game, the hell are you giving me THIS for?’

              One of the best things I did with TW3 was install a mod that ensured all equipment and schematics were the same level as you at all times, and their stats increased with you.
              So choosing equipment became a matter of picking the best special properties to suit you, rather than having to chuck out good items because the levelling system left them behind.

              1. Stu Hacking says:

                And by the time you can craft that lvl 40 sword you already have something far better.

    3. Agreed. It might have been better to have the plot be “Stop the Crones,” instead of “Kill the Crones.”

      IE: They are going to do a ritual that lets them summon a demon or whatever that eats people, so we need to foil their plans by trying to stop the ritual (and plot twist, you are too late so you need to fight the demon before it escapes and eats everyone at the sabbath).

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I did not approach this as a revenge for vesimir,but rather as an opportunity to finally deal with the crones.And I enjoyed killing them.

    As for fighting them,geralt and ciri are witchers.Fighting monsters is what they do.Regardless of it being a low level swamp thing or a top tier goddess.Though having to do some weird thing,like making a concoction out of baby goats milk under a lunar eclipse might have been better than just fighting them head on.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Or just have her sword glow green for the fight. Doesn’t have to be complex.

      Also, it’s a but weird that one (and only one) of the Crones gets up after her beating. Why her and only her? I hit those Crones pretty equally. Better if they all died or – even better, and suggeted above – they flee, saying something like ‘Ouch, that hurt! Fine, we’ll leave you alone.’

    2. Stuart Hacking says:

      As for fighting them,geralt and ciri are witchers.Fighting monsters is what they do.Regardless of it being a low level swamp thing or a top tier goddess.

      The game makes a very clear distinction though, between monsters that are bestial, and sentient monsters. Geralt is hired by humans to kill the monsters that terrorize them, however, he will often attempt to negotiate with sentient creatures if a peaceful solution can be reached.

      And there’s a third category: Malevolent beings that are ancient and powerful (Relicts, Higher Vampires); things as old as nature itself). And the crones clearly fall in this category. They are a primordial force of nature. I believe Geralt carries an implicit respect for the abstract things that predate the civilisations that hire him to kill monsters. Some things are beyond reasoning or understanding, or simply too powerful a force to match.

      However, in the crone’s case, they have also committed very real harm to Gran, the children and Ciri, and that is the reason Geralt would be willing to take them on at considerable risk to himself. Not simply because he’s a monster hunter in this case but because of something far more personal, and that’s what really humanises him, in my opinion.

  9. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    The pacing around Bald Mountain does get a bit weird, but I never thought that it was criminally so.

    For me, the sequence was never directly about revenge for Vesemir, but more about connecting to Ciri. No matter what I thought about Vesemir’s death, it was clear that it deeply impacted Ciri and while I may have been only vaguely aware that it was more than just some rando Wild Hunt-er who had killed him, it was clear to me that Ciri knew who the target was and it was important to her that they kill him. When I had Geralt agree to run off to do this with her, I wasn’t thinking “Vesemir’s killer will pay,” but rather “I’ll do whatever it takes to give my de facto daughter even the smallest measure of peace.”

    Though it didn’t seem particularly necessary to have to fight the crones too. They would’ve been more effective had they been the sort to have that power to be always just out of reach. But I guess CDPR wanted Ciri and Geralt to both have their epic boss fights? I think it would’ve been more epic and more fitting with their actual goals if it had been just one tag team boss fight with Imlerith. It could’ve made for a harder fight that would better establish how dangerous their enemy really is. And Ciri was the one more out for revenge: I think it would’ve worked better for her to be a part of that fight.

  10. Gautsu says:

    Hey guys, first comment. I’m pretty sure that Imlerith gets added to your Character Glossary page when you finish the Ciri perspective werewolf quest and flee the Crone’s back in Velen. Considering how OCD I am about leaving something flashing saying new in any HUD screen, the fact that this was the only Wild Hunt member named, other than Eredin clued me in early he would be important. Also, I really dug the soundtrack I got with the game, and he has his own title track, so there were some spoilers ahead that he would be important. On the other hand, the stuff you were kind of sliding around in this post, that would be brought up in the future, all of that comes to pass from this point on, with none of it being televised at all. This is great from a certain perspective, but kind of ingenious as well. I was able to get the ‘best’ ending on my first play through, but a couple of friends kept getting the worst precisely because none of the decisions that matter are televised until that final cutscene.

    1. Droid says:

      I knew Imlerith already when entering Kaer Morhen, and I think it’s because I got his Gwent card earlier already.

      While we’re at it, can we just acknowledge for a moment how silly it is that people in-universe supposedly play a game with people like Geralt (who gets almost no respect) or Ciri (who only a few living people in the North know about at all) as HEROES, the Wild Hunt (who almost nobody believed in until this game) as a FACTION with lots of details about their units, and official Nilfgaardian ambassadors labelled as SPIES? No matter how de-facto true that is (just think TW2 for a moment), the No-Fun-ian Empire would never allow its own officers, diplomats and courtiers to play a game where Nilfgaard is the faction backstabbing everyone with seemingly 50%+ of their deck being spies and some of the most influential ones within the narrative of the game being literally the worst spies in all of Gwent.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        You are, at this moment, converging on what everyone who played Final Fantasy VIII twenty years ago thought about Triple Triad.

        Jake the Galbadian: “Why are the strongest cards in this time-killing card game some guy with a scar, a really pale chick, and a guy with a horrible face tattoo? Every other card is some kind of weird monster, and a few of our country’s robots for some reason.”

        Dan the Galbadian: “No one knows, Jake. It’s just the way Triple Triad is.”

        *Squall, Rinoa, and Zell run down the sidewalk across the street*

        *cigarette falls from Dan’s mouth*

        Dan the Galbadian: “Jake, I think we need to skip town. Now.”

        1. Redrock says:

          Oh, man. That’s goddamn brilliant. Thank you for this. I really did chuckle. Which on the internet is basically laughing my head off.

      2. Gwydden says:

        I think that’s what they were going for with the faction design, but the NR faction has just as many spies, and they’re actually better because they’re worth less points. TW3’s Gwent is kind of an unbalanced mess, and there’s not much of a reason to play any other faction than NR unless you want to make it harder on purpose.

        And yeah, it makes no sense, but that doesn’t bother me at all. It’s clear that it’s supposed to be a cheeky self-referential mini-game and we’re not meant to take it literally.

    2. AzzyGaiden says:

      To be fair, The Witcher 3 is pretty random about which folks get Character Glossary entires. Sure, Yennefer and Dandelion get a page, but so does the dopey ex-boyfriend from Tower of Mice, and the quartermaster in the Nilfgaardian camp, as well as a dozen or so other one-quest wonders. I actually don’t mind this since it serves to flesh out the world beyond its main characters, but it did somewhat obscure the significance of Imlerith at first.

  11. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    So, I’ll try to talk around the spoiler.

    It really annoyed me, even though I got the “best” ending. Except insofar as it has been mentioned in every previous game -and was a motivating factor for the villain in the first game -it was not even remotely hinted that it mattered to this game, or that Ciri had the ability to do what she did.

    We have this whole game, and then the ending is determined by Ciri doing something completely unrelated afterwards, based on some things you did earlier.

    I mean, this is like a serious take on the ending of DM of the Rings.

    “It all comes down to this one die roll with modifiers!”

    1. Yeah, usually I don’t look up walkthroughs on how to get the best ending, but I’m glad I did in this case. There’s no way in a million years I would have guessed the correct path, even if I would have known the ending already.

      I guess it’s more “realistic,” in that you as the player aren’t gaming the system. I find that in some RPGs I find myself going “What dialogue choice will get this guy to sell me things at a reduced price,” and not “What would my character say in this situation.” If the choices aren’t telegraphed, then your actions are truly yours; it just sucks that it’s easy to get a bad ending by making a few not so bad choices.

      I could see if there was a bunch of dialogue options where you discouraged Ciri and told her things like she was worthless, or that she was a monster who needed to be locked away from the world and got the bad ending, but in the real game the choices that lead to a bad ending are relatively minor :/

      1. Droid says:

        When I found out how close I got to getting the bad ending, I also thought those game-deciding moments were kind of arbitrarily coded good/bad when some of them should have had way more weight than others, and some may have been better, had they been good/neutral or bad/neutral.

        But thinking about it some more, I realized that this actually is typical behaviour for most people: They can take even a very reasonable compromise (maybe even under bad circumstances) and frame it in their mind as getting completely overruled, or they witness an honest attempt to help them out, and frame it as not having the freedom to do it on their own or that nobody trusts them to succeed without help.

        I think the biggest problem is the pretty “traditional” format of those dialogues: in making the dialogue choices in those moments (typical for the genre) completely binary (you either accrue 1
        GOODNESS point or -1 GOODNESS point), completely non-optional/100% your sole choice (“Hey, Ciri, would you like me to accompany you or would you rather go on your own?”), CDPR created multiple situations of Geralt, the decision-averse/neutral-party type of guy, having to overrule other people he cares about and respects without a good motivation for just letting them decide on their own.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          I also thought those game-deciding moments were kind of arbitrarily coded good/bad when some of them should have had way more weight than others

          Agreed. My problem was that I didn’t always know what Geralt was going to do with some of the dialogue choices that later turned out to be really important.
          Let’s get into detail on the first big choice that Bob’s covered here:

          Bad choice: ‘Relax, you don’t have to be good at everything’ vs
          Good choice: ‘I know what will cheer you up’

          To me, the first choice meant ‘Stop fussing about your cliched McGuffin powers and take it easy – never mind what that stuffy elf says. Your grandpa just died, after all. It’s far more important to sort out this Wild Hunt business first, then you can go back to magic school.*
          But Geralt meant ‘You want to get drunk? Absolutely!’

          Meanwhile, ‘I know what will cheer you up.’? Good on you, Geralt, ‘cos I certainly don’t. Oh, it’s a snowball fight? Yeah, that is a good idea. And you set it up well.
          …Just wish I knew that’s what you were planning before the timer beside the dialogue box pressured me to make a choice.

          *I also call flagrant BS on the timing of the apocalypse Ciri’s supposed to save everyone from. Hey, ‘Lady of Time & Space’, do you think you might have put off saving the world long enough for me to get my goddamn breath back!? Eredin’s body isn’t even cold.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            Since we’re breaching the subject early. It’s really hard for me to judge because I got myself spoiled on this, though I think the sorceress Yen calls on the megascope is actually meant to be dropping hints that you need to let Ciri step spread her wings and not be overprotective of her. I will fully admit that the choice you specifically mention is somewhat vague up-front and easier to interpret in retrospect: cheering her up helps ease her tension but does not undermine the importance of mastering her powers.

            To be fair to the game iirc you only need three out of the five choices for the good ending, four for the special ending, so it’s not like you can’t make mistakes. And yes, the game is imperfect in that you could, for example, take the gold thinking that your group is going to need all the resources it can get, but that is the limitation of computer RPGs.

      2. AzzyGaiden says:

        I was surprised that people found the Ciri relationship stuff to be so vague. It basically boils down to “be a good father”: Treat Ciri with respect, and support her without being smothering. It’s more subtle than the Mr. Rogers/Genghis Khan dichotomy you see in most video game “moral choice” systems, but I never felt like I needed a guide on the “right” way to behave, and I don’t consider myself to be a particularly emotionally intelligent person.

        I love how in Hearts of Stone, one of the options for the final reward is for Gaunter O’Dimm to tell you exactly what choices will trigger the best ending. That is to say, Geralt is asking for parenting advice from the actual Devil.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          Oh, so it’s not anything vague or uncertain; it’s just being a good father and raising a daughter. I keep my notecards for that between my stereo instructions and my oil change receipts.

          1. AzzyGaiden says:

            Your tone indicates you’re being sarcastic but…yeah? In the context of a handful of dialogue choices, this isn’t exactly rocket science.

            1. BlueHorus says:

              In a way you’re right – it’s not rocket science. ‘Science’ is often famous for being universally agreed upon and and everyone starting from the same premises. Meanwhile, like a lot of things, there are different views on how to parent, what ‘supporting a child’ means, what a parent should and shouldn’t do in guiding said child*…CDProjecktRed picked a particular stance on ‘what will help Ciri save the world’ which isn’t necessarily all that obvious.

              And that’s before you get into whether or not you know Geralt’s going to do when you pick a dialogue option, or other such considerations…

              *So I’ll happily argue about each of the choices that matter in TW3. But I think it’s better if we a) do it at the appropriate time (i.e when Bob covers them in the series) and b) we all bear in mind that arguments about parenting technique can be controversial and divisive and have been so in the past.
              This is the internet, after all.

        2. Vinsomer says:

          I think it’s pretty consistent. If you always hold Ciri back by pushing your ideals onto her and not giving her the respect she deserves, then when the time comes she won’t have the fortitude to survive. Treat her like a child and she’ll act like one, treat her like a capable adult and she’ll be capable.

          What baffles me is the idea that Ciri becoming a witcher, which is a brutal and lonely life, is somehow preferable to her becoming Empress of Nilfgaard.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            It is a life she wants though,and one she enjoys.

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              On a less personal note the setting has a strong theme of Geralt, the witcher role model, being able to do the morally right thing, often as opposed to those in positions of power, who even when well meaning often have to compromise to achieve their goals. In fact the story touches on how, to some extent, naive this outlook is both with how Geralt’s actions can have consequences, there can be no right choice that saves everyone and with the concept of “humans are the real monsters”. Still, at the end of the day it ultimately presents a witcher’s life as an honest one of helping people (well, if the witcher intends it to be and sticks to their moral code). I would say that it is in fact quite interesting how getting the empress ending requires Geralt to so blatantly get involved in a political intrigue that to me it felt a bit character breaking (which I know is a point of contention in the fandom) and the CDPR writers have earned enough of my trust that I’m willing to lean towards this being on purpose.

              I’d also add that being on the imperial throne is anything but safe, as Emhyr is want to find out in the “Nilfgaard looses the war” ending variant.

            2. Vinsomer says:

              Nobody forces her to take the throne. Nobody can. If she chooses to, it’s her choice, one she comes to after deliberation and weighing up all her options.

              I’d actually argue that she wants it more than becoming a witcher, even if she’s less enthusiastic about it.

  12. I actually did recognize Imlerith from a couple of previous encounters – his armor and stature were distinctive enough that I picked him out of the lineup as a recurring antagonist, like Eredin and Caranthir. Somehow I was even familiar enough to think of him as the thoughtless brute of the group, so his losing his temper and killing Vesemir against Eredins wishes made sense to me at the time.

    What do people think would have helped to distinguish him further? Maybe a specific confrontation between him and Ciri in an earlier section? That’s tricky, because part of the intended tone for the run-up to Kaer Morhen relies on the notion that the Wild Hunt are faceless, legendary, unstoppable monsters, and projecting them as characters seems like it would make them less scary too early. Like, their armor design makes them look less like people and more like architecture.

    1. AzzyGaiden says:

      I hadn’t recognized Imlerith as a specific character, partly because I didn’t find him visually distinct (they all look like Dark Souls mooks to me), but also because I hadn’t picked up that the Wild Hunt were actual people (well, elves) rather than a sort of generic supernatural apocalyptic phenomenon.

      1. Stuart Hacking says:

        I went into The Witcher 3 with no knowledge of the setting either from books or previous games, and up until Kaer Morhen I thought the Wild Hunt were just kind of generic skull-faced villains with no particular ideals other than to do something really bad for the good guys to prevent.

        When Eredin removes his face-plate for the first time, it was like a mini-reveal for me that they were just (high) Elves and they came to life after that because I was suddenly interested in their motivation.

    2. Syal says:

      Having no experience with either this game or the Witcher series in general, I find myself exceptionally qualified to answer this.

      I’d say, once you have the big fight with the faceless version of the Wild Hunt, you should get some lore somewhere about the hunters, like various previous hunts where different hunters get credited for landing the killing blow, obviously with Imlerith being one of them. Wait to turn them into characters until after Vesemir is killed, and maybe the player will start wondering which one killed him. Then have the reveal that Imlerith killed him, and the player can go “oh Imlerith, that’s the one who killed the Lesser Sphinx during the Hunt of the Lesser Sphinx, he sounds like a tricky fight.”

  13. AzzyGaiden says:

    More than anything else, I found the implication that all the supernaturally powerful nonhumans are acquainted and invite each other to parties to be extremely amusing. Prior to Geralt showing up at the end of the night, had Imlerith and the Crones hung out at all? What did they talk about? Is Johnny allowed to drink?

    It’d be like finding out that Cthulhu, Q, and the sentient galaxy from Futurama went out for beers together on the weekends.

    Perhaps I’m focusing on the wrong thing.

    1. Zekiel says:

      Yeah, I did find this decidedly out-of-left-field. Prior to this I don’t think we’ve had any evidence that the Wild Hunt ever visit this world apart from to kidnap people occasionally. But apparently they also come here to hang out and party? OK.

      I guess it doesn’t help that for 2.5 games we’ve thought they were some sort of supernatural ghostly beings. But it turns out they’re just elves from another dimension.

      Bonus question – in the opening cinematic thingie for the Witcher 3, and one of the flashback sequences in Witcher 2, the Wild Hunt are depicted as riding flying horses. Is that a thing they actually do, or just a depiction of what common people believe about them?

      1. Gautsu says:

        Although the Crones do contact Imlerith directly earlier in the game to come pick up Ciri. Implying that they know enough of the Hunt’s business to know that they are interested in Ciri/ children of the elder blood. Implying that they have enough contact to share this knowledge. If you read the books,is the fact that Eredin et al are basically Dark Elves, common knowledge, or something that takes place off stage. I mean if you read the books did the Spectral King of the Wild Hunt in the first game take you by surprise?

        1. Zekiel says:

          I haven’t read the books, just the short stories. I’d forgotten about the Crones contacting Imilreth earlier, probably because it took place about 50 hours of play and 5 months earlier!! :-)

  14. Brazil says:

    Far out. Where are those new videos I was promised, Case?

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