The Witcher 3: The Aen Elle, and Potpourri

By Bob Case Posted Friday Sep 7, 2018

Filed under: Video Games 60 comments

In the last post we discussed the Aen Seidhe, the Witcher universe’s name for the population of elves that was gradually overpowered by the arrival of humans. But they aren’t the only elves in the Sapkowski books. There’s also the Aen Elle, sometimes called the Alder Folk, who… weren’t.

Avallac’h, the mysterious elven mage – who, in the course of tracking down Ciri, we learn aided her escape from the Wild Hunt – is one of these Aen Elle. After dispatching Imlerith, one of the main story quests has Geralt accompany Avallac’h to the Aen Elle homeworld, a trip which sees the two of them using portals to travel between different worlds.

One of them is this desert, which Avallac'h says was once the bed of an ocean. The sequence is apparently a reference to a famous Polish science fiction novel called <del>Polaris</del> Solaris.
One of them is this desert, which Avallac'h says was once the bed of an ocean. The sequence is apparently a reference to a famous Polish science fiction novel called Polaris Solaris.

You might notice that things have gotten a little weird. Someone who has only played the games, and not read the books, might not be aware that there even are other worlds in the Witcher universe. It’s a surprising shift in tone from the blue-collar griffin/foglet bagging of a typical sidequest to an almost sci-fi flavored jaunt between worlds. The player isn’t given much warning, either – one minute, the quest log is telling you to talk to Avallac’h at Dandelion’s refurbished inn, the next, you’re hopping through time and space, traveling along something the game refers to as “the spiral,” which is barely explained at all.

At this point we’re going to start getting into things that could be called spoilers. It’s mostly cosmology and history stuff – it’s not as though there’s some big twist. But I’m going to put it below the link just in case.

I assume – without any real evidence, but nonetheless, I suspect, correctly – that the average player of the Witcher 3 has not read the books. Which means that the average player still doesn’t know, even well into the final third of the game, who and what the Wild Hunt even are. And this is not a thing that can be easily and succinctly explained. Even an abridged recounting of the history of the Aen Elle would take an essay unto itself to complete, so here are some bullet points instead:

  • Once, the Aen Elle had the ability to move between worlds. In Sapkowski’s cosmology, there isn’t only one world but many, but the Aen Elle learned how to move between them. They may have learned how from (seriously) Unicorns, with whom they have a long-running feud.
  • Because of this, the Aen Elle were never conquered by humans like (most of) the Aen Seidhe were. Instead, they ended up settling down on a different world.
  • The Aen Elle’s ability to move between worlds, once very powerful, has since become diminished. They can still do it, but in a limited way. This the ability that Eredin (current King of the Aen Elle) uses to invade the “human” world as the Wild Hunt, which captures humans to serve as slaves back in the Aen Elle homeworld.
  • The secret to traveling between worlds lies in genetics. To this end, Avallac’h (who is incredibly old) has been matching up likely elves to have children with each other over the course of many generations. The goal is to produce someone capable of travelling between worlds in the way they once could.
  • Avallac’h was successful – kind of. His breeding program produced an elf called Lara Dorren, who had the so-called “Elder Blood” or “Hen Ichaer.” Then she went and fell in love with a human Sorceror named Cregennon of Lod. All of this happened so long ago that it has faded into competing human and elvish folklore, but long story short, the Lara Dorren gene was lost in the confusion.
  • And then it was found. Ciri, many generations later, is the inheritor of the Lara Dorren gene. She can move between worlds. This makes her valuable, and makes different factions interested in her for different reasons: Avallac’h, the Lodge of Sorceresses, Vilgefortz (a bad guy from the books), and now Eredin, King of the Wild Hunt.

The game never really gives us this information, or at least not in any clear, easily available way. That’s understandable, as learning it all at once would be a head-spinning exposition dump. Instead, it communicates the bare minimum: Ciri is special because of her ability to teleport. The Wild Hunt are a bunch of asshole evil guys who are trying to kidnap her. Furthermore – and this is tonally important – Ciri and the legacy she represents are an object of nostalgia for the elves. (And other long-lived creatures. One of the crones mentions in passing that “her [Ciri’s] blood reminds us of our youth.”)

A familiar challenge in RPG writing is the balance of story vs. backstory/exposition. A common critique of some RPGs is that they throw walls of text at the player, expecting them to be interested in what King Whosits did back during the War of Whatever and how that affected the Treaty of Whatsit. In the balancing act of “shoving gobs of exposition in the player’s face” and “getting on with the story and letting them figure it out on their own time if they want,” CDPR have very much erred on the side of the latter here.

Tir na Lia, capital city of the Aen Elle. Someone put a lot of work into this skybox that the player will only see for a few minutes. Things like this, I think, show much care CDPR put into this whole Witcher thing.
Tir na Lia, capital city of the Aen Elle. Someone put a lot of work into this skybox that the player will only see for a few minutes. Things like this, I think, show much care CDPR put into this whole Witcher thing.

So much so, I think, that it’s surprising. I read the Witcher novels in between playing the second and third games, so I knew a lot of this stuff. But I expect someone who didn’t would be at least a little mystified by the end of this particular quest, which eventually sees Geralt and Avallac’h convince a high-ranking Aen Elle noble to agree to leave Eredin hanging out to dry in the upcoming showdown. But maybe players have a higher tolerance for uncertainty than most developers realize. Maybe, if you focus on the crucial parts of the story, the ones with the most emotional immediacy, communicate a convincing mood, and give the player the tools to further explore the lore themselves, you can get away with a bit of temporary confusion.

I say “maybe,” but the success and critical acclaim of the Witcher 3 seems to suggest that that is, in fact, the case, and I hope other developers learn from its example. This challenge was partly thrust on CDPR whether they liked it or not – they were adapting an existing property, one in which the characters know all sorts of things about the game world and its inhabitants that their players don’t. In a sense, their solution is a matter of trust. Trust that the player can decide for themselves which lore details they want to explore, if any, and which ones they don’t, and to not to become unreasonably put out when something happens they don’t immediately understand.

So that’s the lesson worth learning in this particular bit. I had some additional thoughts about Avallac’h and the Aen Elle, which I may return to before we’re done, but that’ll suffice for now. In the next entry, we start sprinting towards the endgame (of the main quest, at least, I’ll probably have something to say about the expansions as well). But first:

Potpourri

There are a couple things that have happened recently that are peripherally relevant to this series, that I should at least mention. One is that – if you didn’t already know – Netflix is making a Witcher show. This has been known for a while, but it’s still years away from release (the only info I could find is that maybe the first season will arrive in 2020 whooops as of 16 hours ago I guess it’s 2019, lucky us). However, it’s elbowed its way back into the news recently because Geralt has been cast: it’s Henry Cavill.

Yeah, that one. The Superman guy. (To me he’s the Charles Brandon in the Tudors guy, but I expect more people know him as Superman.) I admit I was surprised. Geralt has a good amount of grizzle to him, whereas Cavill (in most of his roles) has a face you could eat off of. But put a beard and some dirt on him and I can see it. Apparently he’s a fan of both the books and the games, and is eager to play the role, which is always nice. What’s nicer is that Sapkowski himself is personally involved.

Of course, this may be a disappointing mess one day. After all, I like the Game of Thrones books but not so much the show anymore. That said, this one won’t have the obstacle of running out of book to adapt – and, what’s more, the Witcher is stylistically suited to episodes much more so than GRRM’s works are. If anyone at Netflix is reading this right now and dying for my unsolicited advice, and I assume they are, here are some short thoughts:

  • Tell Cavill not to try and do a Doug Cockle-type gravelly voice. Just do a normal voice.
  • I don’t personally think the show should try and adapt the novels. The novels started to decline in quality towards the end, in my opinion. Take inspiration from them (and even more from the short stories), but you can tell your own story too.
  • Put some humor in. Sapkowski’s world is a grim one, but he’s underrated as a humorist, and it’s important for balance. Don’t go all Joss Whedon on it either though. Sapkowski’s humor was (usually) of the low-key, dry variety.
  • Don’t blow your whole piggybank on monster CGI. Getting the tone and characters right will be way more important than creating photorealistic alghouls.

The second notable thing is that CDPR released a 48 minute gameplay demo of Cyberpunk 2077. In case you haven’t already seen it, here it is:


Link (YouTube)

Well, it certainly looks pretty, even with the youtube player notching down the resolution. It’s also more or less what I expected: Deus Ex-ish (the new ones, I mean) gameplay with a more colorful palette. Aside from that, I don’t have a strong opinion. If Cyberpunk 2077 ends up a classic, the things that make it a classic won’t really be evident in a pair of mostly on-rails sidequests like the ones they showed here.

I have this itching feeling – not a strong itch, just a mild one – that this game is running the risk of being all flash and no soul. In my experience you can never get two people to agree on what exactly the “punk” part of Cyberpunk means or is supposed to mean, but all are in agreement that it means something besides mohawks, robot arms, and leather jackets. And I couldn’t quite manage to get a sense of that something in this preview. That doesn’t mean it’s not there, or won’t be there in the final product – just that I don’t quite get it yet.

So that’s the potpourri over with. It’s interesting to see these two properties – both of which would have been considered at least somewhat niche even by nerd standards as little as ten years ago – having such a high profile now. It seems that, having exhausted the obvious choices like big-ticket comics and Lord of the Rings, creators are looking for the second-tier (at least in terms of popularity) geeky properties to adapt. I’ll be curious to see how well it works.

Anyhoo, I’ll be getting back to the game next time, see you soon.

 


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60 thoughts on “The Witcher 3: The Aen Elle, and Potpourri

  1. AzzyGaiden says:

    Ten thousand people are gonna correct you on the [P|S]olaris thing, Bob, but here I am doing it as well.

    Regarding Cavill. I don’t find him to be an especially engaging actor, though admittedly I haven’t seen him in a role that required him to do anything besides be absurdly handsome. Much like Roose Bolton, I could see Geralt being a deceptively tough character to portray. It requires the actor to be stoic but witty, cold but sympathetic, a robust badass while also conveying a sense of great age. Plus, the CDPR Geralt is (in my mind) so defined by Doug Cockle’s voice performance that it might be tough for me to switch over. Finally, Netflix doesn’t have the world’s greatest track record with its original series. All that said, I remain cautiously optimistic.

    1. Personally, I think Neal McDonough would be a good choice (not that it matters). He’s a shockingly good actor for all that he usually gets sidekick/bad guy roles. He has a lot of range, and his natural coloration is a bit unusual. Trick him out with yellow eyes and I think he could pull off the slightly-alien Witcher bit really well.

      1. Christopher Wolf says:

        I am just going to concur here. I concur strongly.

    2. camycamera says:

      Have a listen to Peter Kenny’s portrayal of Geralt in the audiobooks. He has such a great Geralt voice, better than the games IMO, and you really get a sense of Geralt’s character that maybe you don’t get from the games.

      Plus Peter Kenny is just an amazing narrator too, and really elevates the books to the next level.

  2. Okay, so they do third-person camera for driving, but not for gameplay? Ugh. Seeing enemies spitting damage numbers in a cover-based shooter just looks super-weird to me.

    1. Simon says:

      The Developers already said that you will be able to customize the UI, the floating numbers among it.

      I personally always feel a bit meh in shooters with scaling HP numbers and I’m generally not a fan of Bullet-Sponge situations.

  3. Synapse says:

    Haha well your not alone, Henry Cavill was also the guy from The Tudors for me (he does make for a good superman though). I myself got into the Witcher short stories between W1 and 2 then later books in between W2 and 3. Regarding Tir Na Lia, i suppose they used the assets leftover from when it was involved in a much larger cut out sequence (Geralt being thrown in jail or some such, i vaguely recall it being mentioned in the Witcher NoClip Vids). Ultimately much better for pacing, atleast the assets were put to good use, my mind was able to fill in the rest.

  4. Thomas says:

    Fantasy and sci-fi writers need to focus on what the world-building _means_ to the readers/players and less on what it _is_. The Witcher gets that right.

    Telling us that the Elves are nostalgic for something Ciri has is meaningful to the story/world. Starting with ‘There was once a race of Pronoun that moved between the Pronouns’ isn’t.

    And the best writers understand that you can make a ladder out of this meaning. Now that I know the Elves are nostalgic for Ciri, suddenly finding out why is also meaningful. ‘Elves used to Teleport’ becomes an interesting unfolding of the story instead of disconnected gibberish.

    Use this ladder and suddenly you backstory feels like an integral part of the world.

    Final Fantasy games almost always get this wrong but FFX got a lot of it right. We know that Sin is a big bad that shows up and destroys stuff long before we learn that’s it’s thousands of years old, that it stops society developing and it’s a summons…

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Yep.
      Because I’d never read the books, I ended up with a completely different headcannon-backstory about the Aen Elle, their relationship to the Aen Seidhe, and their reasons for wanting Ciri.
      Sure, I was wrong/mising loads out, but I got the jist of the story and – crucially – why I should care. Every now and them someone would mentione Elder Blood or Lara Dorren, but I assumed that was true-but-irrelevant backstory.

      The story’s about Ciri being hunted and Geralt protecting her, and that was something CDPR communicated very well.

      1. Droid says:

        Could you elaborate on that very different headcanon? I love hearing about other peoples’ impressions, especially from the PoV of non-book-readers, as I was unable to experience the game that way at all.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          So the Conjunction of the Spheres is when worlds get very close and creatures cross over.

          That’s what happened to some elves one Conjunction, long ago. They probably left their homeworld by choice and ended up on the same world as humans – they became the Aen Seidhe.
          However most of the elves – the Aen Elle – stayed behind on their homeworld, where they gradually lost their ability to travel at will and lost track of Lara Dorren’s bloodline.
          Problem is, now the world of the Aen Elle is dying/ending, thanks to the White Frost. They foresaw this, though, and have tracked down Ciri, who has the power to move their entire population somewhere else.
          So they want/need to invade Geralt’s world, and Ciri is necessary for them to do it. And there’s also a Conjuction coming, making it all easier/possible and imposing a deadline…

          Avallach helps Ciri because he’s fascinated by the bloodline/power she has and thinks she can stop the White Frost for good – which would save ALL the worlds, including the Aen Elle’s. So no transfer/invasion needed.

          However, Eredin doesn’t want to rely on some human girl who can’t even control her power, so is going with the more straightforward ‘move to another world and take it over before ours dies’ plan. Which will probably involve hurting/enslaving/killing Ciri.

          Do I get marks out of 10 for similarity to the cannon? ;)

          1. Droid says:

            I’m not knowledgeable enough about it for that, but I can confirm that you got the gist of it and your guesses weren’t too far off from mine.

            Also 1/10: Can’t even get the e-mail fields to match on different devices.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Also 1/10: Can’t even get the e-mail fields to match on different devices.

              BlueHorus does it on purpose.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Hey Shamus,I noticed a bug.When replying to someone,the text that should be above the field for text:

                Thanks for joining the discussion.
                .
                .
                .

                remains at the bottom of the page instead of jumping up to where you are commenting at.I noticed because I often use it to copy/paste tags from it.This makes the reply now worse than when it remained completely at the bottom of the page.

                1. Shamus says:

                  Sadly, I can’t fix it.

                  To fix it, I’d have to use a customized comment form. If I do that, then WordPress will not, no matter what I do, offer the cookie permission checkbox. Which means no cookies. Which means no saving your name / email form info.

                  This is very annoying.

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    What about the “Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked” text?Could that be replaced with something bigger?

          2. GloatingSwine says:

            5/10 maybe.

            In the books the conjunction is nothing to do with it and there’s no doom coming to the world of the Aen Elle.
            They [i]have[/i] lost the ability to travel between worlds though, even through the portals in the towers which Ciri can use, and when Ciri ends up travelling to their world through a portal (to escape capture by a particularly nasty bounty hunter) they imprison her there. The plan is for her to have a child with the king of the elves, but he can’t get it up so that doesn’t work. She escapes and a unicorn teaches her to use her actual power to travel through time and space at will. (In the books she is in control of her powers by the end).

            For most of the books Geralt bumbles around doing sidequests until Ciri teleports him to the final dungeon.

            1. BlueHorus says:

              So the Wild Hunt/Aen Elle are such raging assholes that they’d just kidnap a human girl from another world and hunt/imprison/rape her – just because they think they deserve the power more than anyone else?
              I assume this attitude is why Lara Dorren ran away in the first place.

              I seem to remember someone saying there was a doom coming for the world of the Aen Elle in the game. But maybe that was me giving them a ‘better’ motivation for some reason.

              (Also, Eredin looked really desperate to me in that cutscene at the end of the Kaer Morhen setpiece, when Ciri’s trashing everything with the Power. If she’s just like a nostalgia piece, why risk so much?)

              1. Droid says:

                I think what GloatingSwine is saying is that the devs of TW3 made up whatever doom is about to come to the Aen Elle. They’re not in the books but I’m almost sure it’s mentioned explicitly in the game that something’s threatening them.

                1. Mr. Wolf says:

                  The game did a terrible job of explaining the motivations of the Aen Elle. The game also did a terrible job of explaining the White Frost. Basically the White Frost is consuming worlds and the Aen Elle’s is next (and then the Witcher’s world, then a whole lot after). The Wild Hunt want Ciri so they can use her power to travel to and conquer a world or ten or million that aren’t in the immediate path of the White Frost.

              2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                So the Wild Hunt/Aen Elle are such raging assholes that they’d just kidnap a human girl from another world and hunt/imprison/rape her – just because they think they deserve the power more than anyone else

                They ARE elves after all

              3. GloatingSwine says:

                Pretty much.

                They do it via manipulative guilt trip rather than force (“your distant ancestor wronged us and you need to do this to make up for it, then we’ll let you go” is their pitch).

                In the books once Ciri leaves their world she’s just rid of them. They can’t travel between worlds at all, even using the portal in the Tower of Lara/Tower of Swallows, so the whole wild hunt thing is a pure invention of the games.

                There’s no doom coming to their world in the books, they’re just stuck there. There is an ice age coming on in the world most of the series is set in, but it’s a quite ordinary ice age happening for normal geological reasons (except like 90% of the known landmass is in the northern hemisphere and so they’re boned).

                None of this particularly matters to the characters though because only Dandelion is left on that world, Geralt and Yennefer are on the isle of Avalon and Ciri has buggered off to join the court of King Arthur

          3. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

            This was also my impression. I liked how the game put the “conjunction of the spheres” in the opening -at first it comes across as “and this is why there are monsters.” But then later you realize “and this is also why the Aen Elle and the Aen Sidhe are different.” And then you feel like you’re engaging the game.

            Except we’re apparently wrong.

            You know, having not read the books, I don’t care. I like my head canon.

            1. BlueHorus says:

              Me too.
              Though I especially like that having not read the books (nor played Witcher 1 or 2), I was able to get invested in and care about what happened in the story of the third game in a series regardless of whether I had the lore just right or not.
              The central point of ‘find and help Ciri, stop the Wild Hunt’ was engaging enough to carry the game.

              I’ve seen a lot of cross-platform adaptations that fail at doing this: often they ‘make more sense if you’ve read the books beforehand’ or, worse, only make sense if you’re seen the original work first.

              CDPR avoided that trap well I think.

    2. Synapse says:

      Very well put, there are times to explain details and times to not. I’m currently replaying FF7 and at least to me the first disc holds up remarkably well, particularly the initial setup of Sephiroth especially his presence or lack there of in the Shinra Building and later flashback sequence with Cloud.

      Got me pretty interested in both their relationship, his sudden turn and what the hell Shinra was doing…shame it didn’t quite hold up when details are revealed in the late game but still.

  5. Redrock says:

    Right, I need to get this out of my system. Cavill is a terrible actor. As is, he genuinely can’t, you know, act. He looks nice, sure, and can pull off roles where that’s the main requirement. But Geralt requires range and depth and Cavill has shown neither over the course of his career. So I went from mildly enthusiastic to deeply, deeply sceptical on the whole netflix Witcher series thing.

    1. Viktor says:

      I’d also say that Geralt needs to be big. Not The Rock, but not thin or “fit” either. He needs to look like someone who can catch a charging griffon on his shield and push it back. Cavill looks like a swimmer when he works out, but this role needs someone more on the lines of Jason Statham.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Very good point.

        Not sure about Jason Statham’s acting ability, but about the build, you’re right. Wiry rather than built – Geralt didn’t get his muscles in a gym; he got them fighting.

        1. Droid says:

          He also got them from magical mutations, so I dunno.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Statham would be a perfect fit.He is on the older but still handsome side,has a great voice for it,and has a sense of humor.Stick a wig on him and call it a day.

        If not him,my pick wouldve been Karl Urban.The guy pulled off dredd,so he definitely can pull off geralt.

        1. lurkey says:

          But Statham has this super-British Chav McCockney mug, I could never buy him as Geralt or anyone really in a period piece. You know how some actors have period faces, like, they look really organic in the film set in Middle Ages/Renaissance/Etc and slightly off in contemporary setting? Statham is the opposite.

          As for Cavill, he was great in “The Man from UNCLE” and it’s totally unfair to blame him for Superman. No human being can pull the miracle of making something non-sucky out of the drab slab of mind-muffling dullness that is Superman.

          1. Redrock says:

            Who said anything about Superman? I’m talking about acting ability. He was good in UNCLE and okay in Mission Impossible. Neither of these roles required much acting, though.

  6. Geebs says:

    Yeah, a lot of the stuff in the Cyberpunk trailer felt very generic second-string mohawks-and-mirrorshades cyberpunk to me. I kind of get the impression that comes from the original RPG though.

    The shooting looks rather “Rage”, which I find a bit conflicting: I actually really enjoyed the FPS bits of Rage, but it’s getting pretty long in the tooth now, and anyway I prefer less shooty, more problem-solvy in anything that isn’t overtly an FPS.

    Also once you notice the “catwalk” walking animation it sticks out like a sore thumb that about 20% of the NPCs are doing it at at any given time.

    Still, More Immersive Sims is never a bad thing given how the genre is perpetually on life support, so still hopeful about this one even if I can’t really see what’s getting the press quite so hyped.

    1. Boobah says:

      Yeah, a lot of the stuff in the Cyberpunk trailer felt very generic second-string mohawks-and-mirrorshades cyberpunk to me. I kind of get the impression that comes from the original RPG though.

      It’s an example of what TV Tropes refers (or given their editorial changes, perhaps referred) to as “Seinfield Is Unfunny.” What was new and fresh (or transgressive) thirty years ago just plain isn’t any longer.

      The original Cyberpunk was a celebration of the genre then so it’s no surprise that using that as the basis it looks as if it’s taking cues from the also-rans of the genre.

      On the other hand, going by the name it takes place sixty-four years after first edition Cyberpunk. You’d expect those fashions to change in the intervening half-century.

      1. Droid says:

        Editorial changes? What changes?

        1. Joe Informatico says:

          I think they’re referring to the push by some of the editors a few years back to rename tropes with cultural reference titles that were too specific, dated, etc. E.g. this discussion about the trope formerly named “Mary Kay Letourneau Teaches Here”. It seems to have mostly affected tropes named for briefly-infamous real-world figures like Letourneau or relatively obscure anime or UK properties (e.g., the trope formerly known as the (Jonathan) Creek Moment). Tropes tied to perenially popular properties like “Dating Catwoman” and “Go-Karting With Bowser” (or even less perenially-popular like “Dawson Casting”?) seem to be unaffected.

  7. Sean Donahue says:

    I think you need to give CDPR more credit for working the backstory into the game. I will admit I was pretty thorough about finding and studying all the books and other lore sources inside the game, but I had learned (or correctly assumed) basically everything in your bullet point summary (except the unicorn thing, that comes as a surprise) by the time Geralt and Ciri do the quest with Avallac’h’s secret lab. I think the fact that the backstory is less directly given to the player can make the world feel bigger; if you have to work harder to find out how the world works, it can feel like there’s always even more history/backstory that you just haven’t found yet.
    On the Cavill thing, I admit his superman is terrible, but I have always chalked that up to Snyder not understanding the point of the character. I think his work in The Man from UNCLE, which I felt he was great in, is a much better indicator of how his Geralt would be: he’s doing the job for (effectively) mercenary reasons instead of “the american way”, he’s very commonly snarky/sarcastic about the situation, has a sort of “likes them, but kinda seems to hate them” relationship with his coworkers, all things I think would fit a portrayal of Geralt (although I must admit, I have only read the first witcher book, so most of my vision of Geralt is from the wild hunt, not sure if that’s exactly what the series will be going for).

    1. Thomas says:

      I liked the Man from Uncle a whole bunch. I feel sorry for Cavill, I think he wants to do a big blockbuster repeat role, and he lands the right parts but the films let him down.

      People adored Man of Steel GIFs when it was released and partly it was because Amy and Cavill did a lot of fun little things amongst a drab and boring film.

      1. Joe Informatico says:

        He’s a victim of the continual Hollywood trend to take these hunky white guy actors and force them into stiff, stoic, super-serious leading-man action roles, when most of them have strengths elsewhere. Like maybe if they were allowed to actually play a character and express themselves in ways other than guns and fists. Heaven forbid we see these super badasses show the slightest human emotion or vulnerability, right? It’s not like Die Hard didn’t revolutionize action movies by doing that. It’s not like Disney isn’t hauling its Marvel Cinematic Universe billions to the bank on that notion, right?

  8. Zaxares says:

    I think for a new player for whom Witcher 3 was their first exposure to the series, yeah, the Aen Elle and multiple worlds thing would have left them rather befuddled. However, a veteran player who’d been there from Witcher 1 would already be familiar with the idea that the Witcher universe had multiple worlds, thanks to references to the Conjunction of the Spheres. It was established way back in Witcher 1 that monsters like drowners, vampires and rotfiends are not native to this world, but were instead trapped here during the Conjunction. Obviously, that must mean that there are many different worlds. I think there were even journal entries in W1 providing to players the theory that humans too, were not native to the world, although it didn’t delve into it in any great detail.

    Regarding the Netflix Witcher series… I’m cautiously optimistic. I don’t regard Henry Caville as an especially good actor when it comes to pathos, but his enthusiasm as a fan and the fact that he conveyed a brooding Superman decently well might hold him in good stead when it comes to portraying Geralt’s cynical brand of heroism to the screen.

    For Cyberpunk 2077… I’m REALLY impressed so far with the worldbuilding and the engine, but I generally like my RPGs to have a solid plot hook that draws me in and keeps me going. It’s why Bioware RPGs were always my thing and I put down the Elder Scrolls and GTA games in disgust after a couple of hours. So far CP2077 seems to be lacking that hook, but perhaps it wasn’t elaborated on too much to avoid plot spoilers and seeing as how this was primarily a gameplay demo video designed to show off what the player will be capable of in the game.

    1. Hector says:

      I think they might have slipped something small about a plot hook. It’s almost certain there’sw going to be a major overarching issue to resolve in Cyberpunk, although we can expect that a lot of the quests are about the main character working his or her way up. However, there was a slight note about the main character’s cybereye. No idea if that will be an automatically-granted implant via the story (but it’s likely, as a way to intro the cyberware system).

      The eye happens to be a somewhat unexplained bit of high-end technology that the doc doesn’t fully understand. That just screams plothook to me.

  9. Dave B. says:

    My impression of the SoulsBorne fandom is that there is a small but vocal group of people who not only accept sparse and vague storytelling, but even love it. It’s fun for some people, including me, to dig around in what’s given to figure out what the real story is. That’s part of what I love about games like this one.

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I never read the books,and I only dabbled briefly in the other two witchers.But almost all that you described was explained at one point or another in the game.On the other hand,I am a completionist to the point that I fished out ALL of the crap around skellige,and I doubt your average player wouldve bothered with finding some of the more obscure pieces of lore,like the papers you get to find in some of those worlds.But still,the major gist of it I think was presented either in the main quest line,or in your diary after you encountered some things.

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    A common critique of some RPGs is that they throw walls of text at the player, expecting them to be interested in what King Whosits did back during the War of Whatever and how that affected the Treaty of Whatsit.

    Also known as Ogg Nayboomer and the Fla’arns of Tra’al.

    1. LCF says:

      Remember when the War of Whatever was covered in Shoot Guy : Arrow Guy?
      It was the Dark Souls of generic examples.

  12. Len says:

    Speaking of casting and the whole Witcher 3 racism thing a few posts back, apparently Ciri will not be white in the Netflix show, judging from (credible sounding) rumors floating around about a leaked casting call. Specifically, the leaked casting call explicitly asked for BAME (Black/Asian/Minority/Ethnic) girls for the role of Ciri.

  13. guy says:

    Honestly it sounds like the key elements of that description can be boiled down to “some wizards can teleport between worlds. Ciri is one. The Wild Hunt is run by others, and they want to kidnap Ciri and make her work for them.”

    I mean, I’d want to know more and actually tend to end up getting pretty obsessive about the mechanics of this sort of thing, mostly because said mechanics would dictate when and where people can use it to attack unexpectedly or escape reliably and thus how tense a particular moment is. But everyone’s motivations sound pretty straightforward and easily summarized. Deep background stories can be interesting (at least I usually like them) but often aren’t immediately relevant to the main story.

    1. Hector says:

      Speaking of which, I was very confused by the “Wild Hunt needs Ciri to escape the White Death” thing. Sure, they’re methods may not be that good, but they apparently have some old, semi-predictable interdimensional pathways, teleporting mages, and the ability to move small armed forces about. Given the amount of time the games take place over, they should have been able to move thousands or even millions or people elsewhere. Geralt’s world has large stretches of mostly-uninhabited land where they could gather, and it would be extremely difficult and risky for anyone to try to stop them.

      1. guy says:

        Well, I’m just going by the description, but the pathways they use for their raiding may not be viable routes for a mass migration for any number of reasons. The most obvious issue is that apparently the White Death will come for Geralt’s world next, and they probably haven’t mapped its routes, so they won’t be able to evacuate from it. And using it for evacuation would likely limit their ability to hunt Ciri. Who they’d want for reasons beyond just the evacuation, so as long as they expect to get her in time to evacuate afterwards they’d prefer hunting her.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        To be perfectly fair to the setting this is mostly the games thing, in the books they are nowhere near free enough to drop by like that.

  14. Pearly says:

    Speaking as someone who (as of this moment) only ever played the third game, and read none of the books, I didn’t find the jaunt into world-hopping too confusing. If you pay attention, the conjunction gets plenty of mention, as does the idea of Ciri being important because of her bloodline being the source of her powers.

    I can’t pretend I got all of the nuances, and it did seem a little strange to me that we could just go cut off Eredin’s political support. As I understood it, he was doing this as something that quite a lot of people back home would intrinsically want: if Ciri and by extension her potential future children are so vital to the idea of teleporting between worlds, why the heck would any of the elves give a shit about Geralt or his wants?

    If anything, I’m shocked that we didn’t have to do half a hundred quests just to convince them to pull the rug out from under him. (Although maybe just getting our smelly human body out of his nice clean house was enough?) It was so short! Like hey check it out, this guy’s not entirely on the up-and-up, and suddenly you’re willing to bite off your own nose to spite his face? Thank you? I guess?

  15. Redrock says:

    In my experience you can never get two people to agree on what exactly the “punk” part of Cyberpunk means or is supposed to mean, but all are in agreement that it means something besides mohawks, robot arms, and leather jackets.

    I always thought the “punk” thing was really simple – it’s that rebellious anti-establishment, anti-capitalist streak that’s supposed to run through any cyberpunk story. A condemnation of laissez-faire capitalism that focuses on growing income inequality made worse by thoughtless technological advancement that only furthers society’s decay. Or something like that. The problem with portraying it in a game, well, is the same problem most crime games have: they usually glorify crime and empower the player. Which is kinda tolerable in GTA but shouldn’t really work in a cyberpunk story. A low-level criminal in a cyberpunk setting shouldn’t feel empowered and the punk segments of a cyberpunk society shouldn’t be romanticized, yet I’m afraid this is exactly what’s going to happen here.

    For all their narrative prowess, even CDPR can’t always reconcile some thematic aspects with gameplay needs. Case in point: the economy in Witcher 3. Geralt is supposed to be poor. In the novels he is always struggling to earn enough to feed himself and maintain his equipment. The peasants are often poor and the magistrates are always stingy and dismissive. The Witcher 3 even includes a mechanic to haggle over bounties, but it’s rendered completely irrelevant by the fact that you can sell cartloads of bloody swords and still-warm boots and empty the pockets of every merchant in the region. So the themes of wartime famine and poverty is undermined by the fact that Geralt is usually filthy rich. Some quests really suffer from this: For example, unless you read the books, it’s hard to sympathise with the Cat Witcher in “Where the Cat and Wolf play”, because you can’t tell the dude to just kill some nameless bandits and sell their stuff for mad profits.

    Anyhow, what I mean to say is, in Cyberpunk 2077 you’ll probably be rich, extremely powerful and influential. Which would undermine any point they might decide to try to make.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I agree that “rebellious anti-establishment, anti-capitalist” strikes at the core of the “punk” aspect. I would add “orphaned, male, teenage, anti-social” to the list of descriptors, as the malaise of disoriented post-puberty desolation seems to be the core of the tone. Part of the difficulty in portraying this is, as you said, the intrinsic dissonance between success in mastering conventional game systems, and success in hitting the tone. This could, in theory, be addressed by making quest rewards non-tangible relational ones, instead of quantitative financial incentives. It doesn’t seem like this is a likely path for CDPR to tread, but it would come closest to ratifying the principles anchoring the genre to the literature.

      But the other part of the difficulty is in portraying the disorientation. It is difficult to even articulate, let alone systematize, the profound transforming effect of puberty on the psyche. In a way, cyberpunk is attempting to express this very thing, writ large. Coming to terms with the technological puberty which we, as a species, have been passing through for the past few centuries. We are dimly aware that we have lost something wonderful in childhood. A fact too painful to even examine for most cyberpunk literature, but achingly present as a void. The discontinuity with history is potent in both cases. And it is this deeper metaphorical ineluctable difficulty which I think will thwart any game exploration of the cyberpunk genre that falls short of a masterpiece. One can not simply encode the idea that all of the systems of thought and behavior which have hitherto been employed have proved ineffective, and even counterproductive, in dealing with the newly emerged phenomena, and that a profoundly altered approach is called for, though none is forthcoming, into a “street cred” system. I can’t exactly say what would properly encode this theme, which is part of the point. It’s the stunning ignorance of the solution, and even a painful ignorance of the problem, which describes both the missing feeling from the game, and the developer’s approach.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        orphaned, male, teenage, anti-social

        Orphaned or runaway and tween fit better.But why male?There were always a bunch of female punks practically from the beginning of punk.In fact,to me I always imagine someone like negasonic teenage warhead before anything else when someone mentions punk.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      A low-level criminal in a cyberpunk setting shouldn’t feel empowered and the punk segments of a cyberpunk society shouldn’t be romanticized

      Not sure about this. Remember that Cyberpunk society is grossly unfair, and crime is an escape. As I understand it that’s part of the appeal of joining a gang or committing crime in the real world: respect, money and power when you can’t get them by other means.
      ShadowRun Dragonfall & Hong Kong come to mind here: your characters have a lot more freedom (and money) as Shadowrunners than almost everyone else around you. But you’re still dancing on the strings of people more powerful than you, and there are some things you can never know or change.

      It’d be entirely possible for CDPR to come up with a story that combines becoming a successful, wealthy criminal with losing power. The classic ‘someone installed a remotely-controlled bomb in your latest piece of cyberwear and is now making demands’ plot comes to mind.

      Also related: What CDPR should have done with ‘When the Cat & Wolf Play’ was make Geralt the witcher that got duped. Do it to the player and see how they react.
      Just imagine all the salty players.

      1. Redrock says:

        My point is that it wouldn’t have worked with Geralt because the game system didn’t allow for the player to feel actual need. You are often so rich, you don’t really care about the bounties. It should have been something like This War of Mine, where the player is always so close to failure, that even small rewards are worth making immoral decisions.

        The thing about the Shadowrun games, they’re very careful about maintaining that sense of vulnerability and disorientation. Even the best runners are usually in a precarious position. Part of it is the turn-based combat that allows to build scenarios where you can’t totally decimate the opposition. Like in Dragonfall, where your first major engagement is all about surviving and barely escaping. But the combat in the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer feels extremely empowering. And I doubt that CDPR will have the restraint to keep the player character from becoming the GREATEST PERSON IN THE WORLD. That’s what the audience expects, after all.

    3. Joe Informatico says:

      It’s like how actual punk rock began as a (mostly) genuine anti-establishment movement, whether actually opposed to political policies or movements of the time, or just a stripped-down, back-to-basics counter to the bloated, corporate, 10-minute-drum-and-keyboard-solos arena-rock that dominated the mid-1970s music scene, but then the outward symbols of rebellion (mohawks, denim jackets, BDSM affects) became a fashion movement detached from or co-opted by any counter-establishment stance.

      Cyberpunk began with anti-establishment manifestos coupled with outward symbols of opposition to 1980s corporate and political elites: leather jackets, mirrorshades, hackers, the rain-slicked neon-lit streets of a decaying urban centre, punk and rocker fashions, but eventually the outward symbols became “cyberpunk”. And staring with steampunk, later uses of the “-punk” suffix was applied to any subgenre of speculative fiction literature defined by an aesthetic instead of themes or philosophies. E.g. steampunk, dieselpunk, biopunk, solarpunk, dungeonpunk, cattlepunk, etc.

  16. Paul Spooner says:

    Typo note, or whatever: “This the ability that Eredin” needs an “is” in there somewhere.

  17. Water Rabbit says:

    I also agree with you on the game working the backstory properly. I got all of the bullet points as well (except for the unicorns which are not mentioned in the game).

    Also, if you have played the first two Witcher games, the story works within those confines. The books and the game while similar are not the same.

    Cavill is likely the worst choice possible for this role — way too shallow of an actor and doesn’t look the part at all. I would have preferred a relatively unknown actor that did not have his baggage.

  18. kikito says:

    The “multi-dimensional stroll” came as a surprise to me (I have read the books, but much before the game came out, I had forgotten some lore) and I enjoyed it quite a lot. If not my favorite mission in the whole game, it was certainly very memorable. I wish they had done more with the concept, but I guess they could not deviate much from the books: Geralt kills monsters. Ciri is the one who visits weird dimensions. Maybe after Cyberpunk.

    Speaking of Cyberpunk: it looked a bit generic, but I didn’t mind because it was a work in progress. I would have prefered a little bit less of “ooh look a female nipple, let’s put it next to the camera, see, we’re mature!”.

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