The Witcher 3: The White Frost

By Bob Case Posted Saturday Oct 13, 2018

Filed under: Video Games 44 comments

*This post arrived a bit late, sorry about that. I’m traveling and had some hotel wifi issues*

And so we come to the end of the main questline. It’s a big, cinematic set piece, with a pair of bosses who are pretty good by this game’s standards, and ends with a scene that caps off the theme of Ciri having her own story independent of Geralt’s. For all that, I’ve never managed much emotional investment in it. Both in my first time through the game, and in subsequent ones, by the time I get this far in my primary emotional state seems to be impatience.

This may say more about me than it does the game, because it’s not an uncommon thing for me. Generally, by the time a playthrough hits the 50-60 hour mark in one of these long RPGs I’m starting to get antsy, and my reaction to seeing the finish line is to rush towards it rather than enjoy the journey.

Ciri, by this point in the game, is basically one-shotting all enemies. My attempts to get a good screenshot were foiled by motion blur somehow getting turned back on.
Ciri, by this point in the game, is basically one-shotting all enemies. My attempts to get a good screenshot were foiled by motion blur somehow getting turned back on.

It might also say something about RPGs in general. If there’s a tick that I don’t like about AAA RPG writing, it’s the insistence on the big, epic, world-saving conclusion. So often the final act divorces itself from the tone that gave the rest of the game its charm. This is compounded by the palpable sense that the writers and developers are getting as impatient as I am, though maybe that’s just a projection on my part. In either case, here are a list of issues I have with the final set piece, in no particular order:

  • We’ve done this before. The overall dramatic setup is “Gather allies and lure the Wild Hunt into a trap,” which is the same thing the game has already done (and done better) at Kaer Morhen.
  • The Wild Hunt were never well established as villains. If Eredin weren’t a Gwent card (and if I didn’t know him from the books) I’m not sure I would even know his name. They were introduced well – searching the remains of the first village they hit in Velen was a good setup – but barely developed after that. It feels like a waste, because with a bit more backstory (the Aen Elle are a slaveowning society, and the Wild Hunt’s job is to kidnap slaves to take back to Tir na Lia) they could be very hateworthy.
  • The whole “Ciri has decided to end the White Frost” thing is introduced in an abrupt and slapdash-seeming way. To this day I’m not sure what exactly Ciri did after she went through that portal. I know that the “this is her story, not Geralt’s” thing is a theme, but to have her defeat an entropic apocalypse offscreen via an unknown method is not particularly satisfying.
  • For that matter, the White Frost was even less well developed than the Wild Hunt. If I remember right, the only explicit explanation we get of it is a couple lines in Avallac’h’s “Through Time and Space,” quest, which establishes it as a sort of magical equivalent of the heat death of the universe. I know of at least one friend who admitted he simply didn’t understand what happened at the end. It’s a bit less disorienting if you’ve played the original 2007 game, which gives it more explanation than this one.

Eredin Breacc Glass, King of the Wild Hunt, Commander of the Dearg Ruadhri, and Leader of the Aen Elle, seen here about to lose to a half-naked drunken hobo. I always knew elves were overrated.
Eredin Breacc Glass, King of the Wild Hunt, Commander of the Dearg Ruadhri, and Leader of the Aen Elle, seen here about to lose to a half-naked drunken hobo. I always knew elves were overrated.

It all adds up to an experience whose facade is stronger than its foundation. In the case of the friend I mentioned above, he barely remembered what happened at the end of main quest. This is a guy who remembered many other quests, and Witcher contracts too, in detail. Anecdotal evidence, I know, but I think it’s telling in this case. I personally found the events in Skellige (with Hjalmar/Cerys and the succession) and Velen (with the Bloody Baron and the Crones) to be more memorable than anything having to do with the Wild Hunt.

I’m not sure exactly sure how to fix this, and I always hesitate to monday-morning quarterback a game’s writers. Oh wait – no I don’t. I do it all the time. Basically, I think this game’s main quest could benefit from some streamlining. One possibility is to cut Avallac’h out. Replace the time spent characterizing him with time spent more thoroughly demonstrating to the player who the Wild Hunt are, what they do, and why they’re a bunch of jerks to whom we should give a jolly good thrashing.

This would obviously result in the main quest looking very different, since so much of it is spent assembling the paraphernalia – phylactery, incantation, weird deformed baby thing – required to un-curse him. So it’s a bit hard to picture in any detail exactly what this hypothetical simpler main quest would look like other than the broad strokes of “find Ciri, defeat Wild Hunt.” Given all that, I’m far from certain it’s a perfect solution, but it’s the best I can come up with.

Those of you who have read my Game of Thrones posts may be familiar with my talent for taking screenshots just as characters are blinking. I'm happy to report my skills are as sharp as ever.
Those of you who have read my Game of Thrones posts may be familiar with my talent for taking screenshots just as characters are blinking. I'm happy to report my skills are as sharp as ever.

Overall, the game’s writing resembles that of Mass Effect 2 in some ways: the characters and side content are very strong, but the main quest doesn’t bear scrutiny too well. It’s not a perfect comparison – Mass Effect 2’s main quest suffered from a web of illogic, which isn’t quite the case here. Rather, I think CDPR’s writers let their affection for the lore get the better of their storyteller’s instincts, resulting in a lot of largely unexplained plot elements getting introduced too quickly.

While I was lukewarm on the final quest, I have a much higher opinion of the ending(s) that follow it. I personally am a sucker for playable endings – I liked Andromeda’s ending for that reason. It gives you a chance to check in with the characters, which are generally your most intimate connection with the world, and to say goodbye in a sense. The “good” ending sort of head-fakes towards the possibility that the white frost has arrived, and it’s the overall good humor of everyone that gives that the lie, a neat trick.

Of course, depending on circumstances, even the good ending is bittersweet. Ciri may decide to take up Emhyr’s offer to be his heir. And her reasoning is sound – she can probably do more good as the future Empress of Nilfgaard than she can fighting water hags. But the performance really sells how hard this is for her.

The way she delivers this line makes you think part of her wants the answer to be yes.
The way she delivers this line makes you think part of her wants the answer to be yes.

The bad ending, of course, is eight different kinds of depressing. I could see it being a real gut punch for someone who had made the “wrong” choices without realizing it. I can’t imagine that’s any fun.

So that brings us to the end of the base game. Bit of a short entry this week due to travel, but I’m not done. I want to cover the expansions as well, as (in my opinion) in many ways they’re better than the base game. See you then.

 


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44 thoughts on “The Witcher 3: The White Frost

  1. Paul Spooner says:

    Having not played the games or read the lore, I’m quite enjoying catching up with the story that so many people have been talking about, if only vicariously. Keep it up Bob! Looking forward to the expansion analysis!

  2. Sleeping Dragon says:

    A major issue with selling the ending of the main questline, in my opinion, is that despite the game wanting (and literally telling us, as pictured in one of the screenshots) this to be Ciri’s story it is not Ciri’s game. Velen’s Baron arc, Skellige’s succession arc and Novigrad’s Dandelion arc reward us with pieces of Ciri’s story but are essentially self-contained episodes with Geralt as the main character. The Baron could provide any other kind of reward, Geralt could be just trying to help Dandelion as a friend (wouldn’t be the first time) and get roped into resolving the succession crisis for similar reasons as he is friends with many of the people involved (it is also optional and doesn’t actually need to be resolved to complete the main quest), all of this would change nothing in the stories themselves.

    As a result of this while we can be invested in Ciri’s story we do so through Geralt’s perspective, our driving motivation is finding and protecting her (and thus the very fact that the Wild Hunt want to harm her kinda works, though painting a bigger picture would certainly help), and while on paper the device of “you did what you could but at the end of the day you were just an accessory to Ciri’s tale and her choice” is very interesting they kinda failed to establish Ciri’s side of the story and, as a result, our connection with the emotional struggles that Ciri is facing regarding her, presumed, responsibility to the world and possible sacrifice in facing the White Frost. Especially since, in what I think the writers were planning as a clever switch, they largely kept us in the dark about this angle and focused almost exclusively on Ciri trying to flee the Wild Hunt.

    If they wanted to go in this direction other than making Ciri the protagonist of the game (which I think is an option worth considering) I think they should have hinted at the White Frost earlier and to a larger extent, establish it as a threat greater than the Wild Hunt somehow, have sorceresses mention it now and then as an incoming apocalypse (I think this might have happened? but I definitely did not get the “this is looming over all of us” vibe throughout the game), maybe do the opposite of what you suggest and introduce Avallach earlier building up a conflict between his desire to convince Ciri to use her power to, effectively, save all the worlds even at the risk of her own life and Geralt’s desire to protect her.

    1. Henson says:

      I’m wondering if perhaps the idea is that Witcher 3 is Geralt’s story up until the end of the Kaer Morhen battle, and then everything after becomes Ciri’s story. This would emphasize the ‘passing of the torch’ from parent to child that all families go through.

      If so, I’d agree that there needs to be more of an indication that this is indeed Ciri’s story, just seen from Geralt’s eyes. There is some hint of that with Ciri meeting up with all the people that helped her in Novigrad when you weren’t around, but there should probably be more to that effect, maybe some of it without Geralt tagging along. They try with the conversations with Phillippa, but I think that’s mostly effective on an intellectual level, not a narrative one. Perhaps they could indicate that Ciri is busying herself with important matters while you are running around gathering sorceresses?

  3. BlueHorus says:

    Wow, here already? Okay. So I’ll say what I’ve been saving up: The ending of the game suffers from one glaring case of Egregious Bullshit. The timing of Ciri combating the White Frost is arbitrarily slapped onto the end of a not-quite-connected story line for seeming little/no reason.

    While I have my quibbles about the various choices Geralt makes and how they effect Ciri, my biggest problem is the way the ending pans out. When you hear ‘Entropic Apocalypse’, you think ‘slow descent into snowstorms and starvation’ – or I do at least. But no, Eredin’s probably not even fully dead before – suddenly – the apocalypse is upon us and everything starts going to shit and it’s time for Ciri to save the world right now.
    Hey, ‘Lady Of Time And Space’, do you think you might have picked a better time to run into a poorly-explained mystical portal? Like long enough to let me get a breather after killing the bad guy?

    The game built up so well into a story about protecting Ciri from the Wild Hunt. If it had just been about saving her from being enslaved/raped/whatever by asshole elves, it would have worked much better.
    You could even have the player’s parenting choices decide Ciri’s fate by having her fight a Wild Hunt character at the same time as Geralt fights Eredin – she lives or dies based on her self-confidence.
    Much better than ‘Oh, BTW, time for me to run into a magic portal now, bye!’

  4. ccesarano says:

    This may say more about me than it does the game, because it’s not an uncommon thing for me. Generally, by the time a playthrough hits the 50-60 hour mark in one of these long RPGs I’m starting to get antsy, and my reaction to seeing the finish line is to rush towards it rather than enjoy the journey.

    I get this a lot as well, though typically around the 40 hour mark. Sometimes I can kind of push through it, but what I’ve noticed lately is I could effectively use a break. Even then, it depends on what more the game is doing after that.

    I was able to play Final Fantasy XV for 75+ hours without getting bored, and part of that is because the story hits a point that completely shifts your interaction with the game’s world (namely, it gets completely linear, and then forces you through a notorious segment that’s been drastically patched since I last played). Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild I think I needed a week long break from, but when I came back it maintained an incredible sense of discovery still. I played that for around 90 hours.

    I just took a month long break from Octopath Traveler after hitting 40-some hours because the game was beginning to feel formulaic and I had at least another 40 hours ahead of me. I’ve since gone back, but the delight I had in those first forty hours is failing to return. I’m enjoying myself, but there’s a lack of investment. I feel like there’s not much left for the game to show me, simply to keep upping the challenge with each phase of chapters. Given the length of each phase… well, it’s possible I won’t beat this game.

    Oddly enough, with The Witcher 3 it kind of sounds like the final act would have been longer had the developer more resources. I can’t help but wonder if creating the story-based narrative first would benefit these games before dropping in side content. I get the feeling both are worked on simultaneously, and while the side missions end up being incredible, the story feels awfully condensed despite 50+ hours to complete. Consider Dragon Age: Origins, even. How much story is in that game? Not a lot, really. The bulk of time is spent in really, really long dungeons and completing world-building tasks. If you stripped the narrative of so much content and simply made a movie, the story itself would be no worse. Sure, the setting and characters would suffer, but the story is, as you noted, a big epic “KILL THE DARKSPAWN” narrative that is far less down to Earth.

    Or maybe I’m talking out of my butt.

    Regardless, you’re not the only one that checks out at about the 40 hour mark. I recently replayed Darksiders, and being able to finish a game in less than a week was such a refreshing blessing.

    1. Syal says:

      …well, this is as good an excuse as any to plug Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass. Highly charming SNES-style JRPG that can be 100% completed in 40-50 hours with very little padding. Been playing it kind of obsessively over the last couple weeks.

      …and that’s all I have to say about The Witcher.

  5. Benjamin Hilton says:

    So the portrayal of the Wild hunt strikes a particular pet peeve with me. One that may be entirely invalid if this lore comes from the books (I’m only 3 in). This pet peeve is where an incredible foe is introduced, one that beggars the normal methods of defeat, where weapons wont help you….only for the enemy to be completely neutered story wise and is totally defeatable with weapons. Pirates of the Caribbean had Davey Jones: “wow, Davey Jones. A primal force of the sea. How could our heroes possibly defea – oh he was actually a human once and has a huge glaring weakness.” Or the sleepy hollow tv show: “how can normal people defeat an immortal headless horseman? They’ll have to use their brains and really – oh he was once human and has a huge glaring weakness” the Wild Hunt as introduced in the first game were ghost like and ephemeral. They claimed they were after Geralt because of how he flaunts death, and that as long as he lived he would always be stalked by death and those around him would suffer. ” how could Geralt fight that? He’ll have to use his wits and find some cosmic logic loophole, or maybe accept fate and sacrifice himself to them to protect all that he loves, or – oh they’re actually just magic elves from another world, strong but totally killable if you just stab them hard enough.” Sure it may seem silly to have your hero punch out Cthulhu, but finding out Cthulhu was once human and has a macguffin weakness is way worse. Not to mention hacky.
    I understand the desire to end everything with a big awesome fight. Especially in movies or tv, but what kills me is that the way Geralt deals with Gaunter o Dim shows that the writers are fully capable of having Geralt use intelligence to get one over on an un-swordable enemy. Like I said, I realize this may be following the lore of the books, but for me the introduction of the Wild Hunt in the first game wrote a check the last game didn’t cash.

    1. Nessus says:

      My personal “favorite” version of this is “kill the queen and the rest immediately die” endings. The writers spend the whole story building up the monsters/aliens/whatever as an overwhelming and intractable force so they can have fun wallowing in an extreme “all is lost” scenario. Then their “solution” is for the heroes to suddenly discover there’s a queen monster*, and if they take just that one out, it’ll magically reset button the entire invasion or whatever.

      It always feels like an ass pull and a deus ex machina. Not simply because of the way it makes the resulting boss fight climax transparently manufactured, but because it’s always SUPER obviously the product of a writer painting themselves into a corner.

      Funny thing is this tends to be mostly a movie/TV/game thing that doesn’t show up as much in literary sci-fi/fantasy. Novel writers, even the mediocre ones, don’t seem to have nearly as much of a problem avoiding it. It’s really glaring when a novel that avoids it in a way that’s clever and satisfying gets adapted into a movie, and the movie writers deliberately change the ending into a “kill the queen” one (see Heinlein’s “The Puppet Masters”, for example. Or rather don’t: it’s been largely forgotten for a reason).

      Yes, I know there are reasons and theoretical story benefits for doing this. The problem is that for any/all of those reasons, this particular solution is so low grade as to be unfit for purpose. It breaks more than it fixes.

      *When I say “queen monster”, the mind immediately snaps to “Aliens”, but “Aliens” is an aversion, as the queen is an incidental obstacle that escalates the previously established difficulty, rather than a Hail Mary opening that relieves the previously established difficulty.

      1. Joe Informatico says:

        Literary genre fiction has the time and space to do proper denouements for epic-length stories, especially when they are multiple volumes of a couple hundred thousand words each. So you can have things like the Scouring of the Shire in Lord of the Rings, or the 4th volume of Raymond E. Feist’s Serpentwar Saga, or the Thrawn Trilogy of the old Star Wars EU. I.e., chapters or books or whole series that take place after the Big Bad of the main story is gone, but there’s still a lot of mess to clean up afterwards–if things can even be rebuilt or made whole again.

        Films tend to be under major time constraints–few fantasy or SF films can assume they’ll get 9-12 hours to tell their story like the Lord of the Rings trilogy did. Most will get two hours, where they need to do all the usual storytelling of a film narrative, plus all the world-building exposition needed to ensure the non-genre fans in the audience understand what’s going on.

        Television series have more time, but they’re usually trying to contain major story arcs within a single season in case they’re cancelled prematurely (or because they can’t predict what kind of shakeups might happen with the showrunners or writers room or cast or budget between seasons as a result of real-world decisions or executive mandates). From their perspective it’s probably better to wrap things up as neatly as possible at the end of a season and return to some sort of baseline status quo before planning the next season.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          I actually kind of like the new Disney EU explanation for the ending of the original Empire. The Emperor didn’t have his “millions of cloned bodies for my evil spirit” plans because that’s horribly broken. It’s much better to establish that death actually means death and if you want characters to come back, they have to at least have escaped death in some way. Instead, the Emperor actually instituted the “queen monster of the hive” trope by FORCE on his own team. Basically, he’s such a selfish and self-centered narcissist, he thinks that everyone but a chosen few from his own side that allowed him to be defeated should all be killed off. And also, the entire enemy team should also die, which will be his revenge for them killing him.

          1. Jeff says:

            Interestingly, the Emperor’s thing isn’t even fictional.

            There’s political analysis of strongman regimes like in Turkey, Russia, or Best Korea and how they’re unsustainable in the long run due to a lack of any real mechanisms in place for the orderly transfer of power, and the strongman’s active efforts to remove any elements that can potentially replace them (because obviously they’re a threat).

            Contrast this with systems like in the UK, US, or Canada, where an orderly transfer of power occurs every 4-8 years.

        2. Nessus says:

          This isn’t a length issue. Novellas (pretty nearly the same “length” as a movie in terms of story beats) and shorts don’t suffer more than novels, and many enough actual movies avoid the trope as well.

          It’s about competency and care, not constraints.

    2. Redrock says:

      Well, to be fair, the Aen Elle aren’t supossed to be that powerful. They’re elves, not spectres or ghosts or whatever. Stick em with a sword – they die. Cthulhu they’re not, even if they like to put on airs.

      1. Benjamin Hilton says:

        Oh I know. My point is that in the first game they were pretty explicitly introduced as these all powerful specters, then the writers pulled a switcheroo in the third game. This wouldn’t bother me if they had never been shown as such in the first place.

        1. Redrock says:

          On that we agree. Once again I’m led to believe that CDPR didn’t do a lot of long-term planning for the story. The King of the Wild Hunt in the first game is most certainly NOT Eredin and no amount of retconning will convince me otherwise.

          1. Droid says:

            Maybe he’s just really into cosplay?

            1. Redrock says:

              That would actually explain a lot. Guy was only after Ciri so she could take him to Comic-Con. If he can turn into a goddamn spectral transdimensional being for a cosplay, he’ll be the star of every convention ever.

  6. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    I concur with Sleeping Dragon and Benjamin Hilton. The game writes checks it ultimately doesn’t cash, and as the conclusion of a trilogy, episodes 1 and 2 wrote checks the series didn’t cash. It’s not as bad as ME3 -probably because the garbage is much shorter and the playable epilogue takes some of the sour taste out of my mouth.

    I knew the White Frost existed, but there has never -in all 3 games -been any indication that it could be stopped. I knew Ragnarok was going to happen, but there’s no indication in Witcher 3 that this is connected to the White Frost. And The Wild Hunt are not associated with the White Frost either. So that ending comes pretty much out of nowhere. I like the idea of Geralt as Ishmael, but that isn’t what they pulled off at the end.

    1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

      Wait, are the Wild Hunt and the White Frost seperate issues?
      I always thought the White Frost just referred to some kind of weaponized environmental magic from the Wild Hunt, seeing as they seemed to spread it wherever they went and seemed to use ice magic against people.

      Although I only got halfway through the game, so maybe I missed some major revelations later on.

      1. KillerAngel says:

        They are kind of related. IIRC The White Frost is like a cosmological time bomb that eventually eats every world. The Elves don’t want that to happen to them so their plan is to hop from world to world. For that they need an incredible cosmic navigator: Ciri.

        I think there is a symbolic link between the frost of the hunt, the white frost, and stuff like fimbulwinter/ragnarok in Norse mythology, but no more than a symbolic link.

      2. Synapse says:

        They do have a connection in a way, it will come up in the story later on.

  7. BlueHorus says:

    So I said this during Bob’s coverage of the Kaer Morhen battle, but for me the main plot has much less emotional impact for me personally because of a shift in tone. The game stops being a ‘thoughtful, story-driven roleplaying game’ and becomes ‘generic action fantasy story’.

    It’s all sorts of things: The fact that there are boss fights, traditional ‘gamey’ ones.
    The skeleton armor the Wild Hunt wear. The way Eredin mentions wanting to – I think – try matching blades against Geralt’s fighting style before you fight him (said style has never been mentioned before; the line just screams ‘generic bad-guy banter’ to me). The fact that they’re snooty, evil elves.
    The way Ciri disobeys instructions to save the day. The way Geralt is frozen in ice at one point but breaks out via the power of manly shouting (well, technically not, but as action-fantasy cliches go, that’s a pretty good one).
    And the way each of the boss fights do the classic computer game thing where you batter down the enemy’s health bar not to win the fight, but to unlock a cutscene of your character winning the fight in a much more awesome, cinematic way.

    It’s not bad per se, but compared to the depth and nuance of the other stories: the Bloody Baron, the succession of Skellige…hell, even hunting down Dandelion* had believable, relatable characters it.
    The main plot feels…generic, like a different writer did it.

    *hate that guy

  8. DavidJCobb says:

    To this day I’m not sure what exactly Ciri did after she went through that portal. I know that the “this is her story, not Geralt’s” thing is a theme, but to have her defeat an entropic apocalypse offscreen via an unknown method is not particularly satisfying.

    This reminds me of the Dawnguard DLC in Skyrim.

    I’ve always understood that DLC as the player being a support character, and NPC Serana being the protagonist. The plot is ostensibly about stopping vampires from ending the world, but much of the emotional core centers on Serana picking up the pieces after horrific abuse… and the architect of that abuse is also the guy trying to end the world, and a major part of his plan involves her. Dovetails very nicely.

    It’s interesting to see another game, TW3, that isn’t the player’s story. It’s not something games do often, and seeing issues in its execution is interesting.

    1. Gautsu says:

      I don’t get why people think this is Ciri’s story. It isn’t, it is very much Geralt’s all the way through. He was never going to be the one ending the White Frost. Indeed if my memory from Witcher 1 is correct it wasn’t supposed to occur for thousands of years, long enough for humanity to devolve to the boneheads you fight on the way to the adult Alvin and King of the Wild Hunt boss fights. I can almost see the writers trying to suggest the Eredin and Caranthir’s manipulations chasing Ciri have caused it to happen now. And I agree, I don’t understand why we have a Spectral Wraith King of the Wild Hunt armed with a scythe in Witcher 1 and Eredin, emo dark elf Warhammer Armor King of the Wild Hunt in Witcher 3, especially if Eredin was a character introduced in the books.

      1. guy says:

        I would assume they think it’s Ciri’s story because it ends with her averting a multiverse-wide apocolypse, and usually that sort of thing is the most important story around.

        1. Gautsu says:

          You don’t see it. You don’t participate in it. Whether she lives or dies occurs according to choices Geralt makes, not anything that she does herself. She has no agency in this game. She is a great character and they do a good job making me care for her, through Geralt’s and the other character’s eyes (indeed her devotion to Ciri is what saves Yenn from being a total bitch). They make me want to play a game with her as the protagonist. But in no way is this her story. If anything it’s about Gerald learning to let her go. I mean remember she was much younger when he lost his memory, and so he probably still saw her as in yhe dream sequence at the start. It’s about letting go and passing the torch IMO.

          1. Jeff says:

            I agree. I think they give more importance to the White Frost then is really warranted. It’s just a background Thing that Ciri has to deal with, much like how Triss deals with evacuating the mages. Sure we get involved to help them succeed, but it’s not really Geralt’s Thing.

            I feel the primary motivator for defeating the Wild Hunt is vengence.

  9. Javier says:

    I got the bad ending. I thought I was teaching Ciri to be like Geralt; you know, stoic, reserved, cynical, grounded, etc. But then that meant she had the dreaded Low Self Esteem which meant she couldn’t summon enough Girl Power and Moxie to survive a cutscene. What a waste.

    I think Geralt is a great character and I hated that he had to play second fiddle to a dumb Mary Sue who could do anything as long as she receives uncritical praise from everyone. Yech. Ruined the whole game for me.

    1. Redrock says:

      Yikes. Certainly hope you don’t have a daughter.

    2. nirutha says:

      Pretty much my reaction. You really don’t want to touch the game ever again after that gut punch. Which is a shame, because you’d miss out on the excellent Blood & Wine expansion.

  10. guy says:

    Uh, so if this is supposed to be Ciri’s story rather than Geralt’s, why don’t you just play as Ciri as the main character?

    And then, you know, not resolve Ciri’s story offscreen.

  11. Paul Spooner says:

    I have a question about the titular catastrophe, but first some background.
    I was born and raised in southern California, where it almost never goes below freezing. But I spent a winter in Minnesota, and a few in Washington, and have seen a fair share of ice and snow. So, while it’s not something I grew up with, I thought I knew something about it.
    When invoking a common meteorological phenomena as some sort of specter of doom, some effort to differentiate it from the mundane species with which people are familiar is in order. Rain isn’t particularly foreboding… unless it’s a rain of swords! Hail is destructive, but a hail of fire? Cataclysmic. So that brings me to my question.
    Frost… isn’t frost… normally white?

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Well, what else you gonna call it? The Cold Frost? The Icy Frost?
      I know, the Frozen Frost!

      But yeah, I get your point. At a guess it sounds better – and less redundant – in Polish and something was lost in translation?

      1. Redrock says:

        So, the Polish version is Biale Zimno. In Russian it was Belyi Hlad. Both translate into “The White Cold”. So it’s not “frost” as in the drawings on the glass that Jack Frost does. It’s just a fancy phrase that would mean a really bad winter, a new Ice Age. It’s often mentioned in the novels as “The hour of the White Cold and the Wolf’s Blizzard” or somesuch.

  12. Joe says:

    I’m going to disagree about both expansions. They’re terrible. One has both cringe comedy and taking control away from the player. The other, Anna absolutely refuses to listen to logic. While I managed to finish HOS once, I never finished B&W.

    They remind me of the Skyrim DLCs, faintly. One takes place in the already established area, the other takes you to new territory. One is vampirecentric.

    1. Gautsu says:

      I agree that Hos takes away a lot of agency from the player. But it has some of the best boss fights, characters, side quests (the vault heist), and a villain a witcher can’t pummel to death. B+W has an annoying amount of that as well, but also 2 awesome mutually exclusive 3rd acts, and 36 potential end states.

      1. Droid says:

        I hated HoS because of their railroading, but I guess it made thematic sense …? Anyway, B+W does basically everything right that I want out of a Witcher game, so the railroading wasn’t at all visible to me (except maybe at one or two instances where it was slightly annoying).

  13. Redrock says:

    As a big Witcher fan I must admit that the White Frost is some bullshit. And yes, one of the reasons it’s so bad is because it’s sometging that’s severely changed from the books. See, in the books Itlina’s prophecy and the White Frost are discussed several times, but the White Frost is described byvone of the characters as a purely natural phenomenon, a new Ice Age that would come in several thousand years because of the qualities of the planet’s orbit, axis, etc. It’s often mentioned that the climate is getting colder century after century. Much like The Conjunction of the Spheres that gave birth to most monsters, it has a pseudo-scientific explanation. No mystical entropic (malicious?) entity to be fought in a battle of wits. To be fair, it is mentioned, that the chosen one, i.e. Ciri, could save the world, not by “fighting” the White Frost, but by doing what she does best – opening a way for the peoples of the planet to move to another world.

    The thing is… when it comes to endings, tge game goes very much against the spirit of the books. See, a major theme in the books is that, well, something is ending. Specifically the era of magic and monsters and witchers and elves. Think Sam Neill’s Merlin. In the novels it’s often hard for Geralt to find work because monsters are dying out. And when he “dies” – it’s the world pushing him out. Same with Yennefer, whose magic kills her. And finally, Ciri leaves that world for another one too. Specifically, the age of myths on our Earth. CDPR did a fantastic job translating the books’ ideas into a videogame and Witcher 3 is essentially a great unofficial sequel. But it screws up the central conflicts because, well, it does this fanfiction thing when you try to restore a comfortable status quo that you liked. And White Frost is very, very fanfiction-y, to me.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      It’s good to know that the books have the same view of ‘Wintery Apocalypse’ that I do: a slow and inevitable descent, not a sudden apocalypse that’s halted by a Magical Mary Sue. It’s a competent metaphor -if in the books Witchers are dying out, magic is dying out, etc.

      Thing is, one aspect of the game was that I couldn’t go 10 metres in the game world without stumbling on a band of Nekkers, or Drowners, or some manner of horrible monster. Monsters were most certainly NOT dying out in that world. If anything, people needed MORE Witchers!

      1. Redrock says:

        That’s pretty much what I mean – the world of the game is a bit simpler than it is in the books. The books are all about how the witchers are increasingly obsolete – their discussions at Kaer Morhen are particularly depressing in that regard. The games, obviously, couldn’t go that way. So they essentially give you a world that resembles an earlier time, when the witchers were in their prime. There’s a bit of justification for that – war and suffering literally breed monsters – but it’s a far cry from the books that very much show that the world is pushing Geralt out. In the later novels there’re small hints that centuries later witchers and wizards are seen as myths. So, like I said, while the games are very faithful to the novels when it comes to characters, some of the grander ideas about the world had to change.

  14. Xander77 says:

    The Wild Hunt are constantly screwed over by cut content. Major sections (or at least several major questlines) of TW2 and 3 were supposed to follow Geralt during his time in the hunt / infiltrating them for info. Unfortunate.

  15. Jordan says:

    The White Frost (and the end game Wild Hunt) were both really disappointing. Thankfully the either bittersweet or completely crushing epilogue makes up for it somewhat. The part where you visit a world hit by the frost is haunting, and it’s stated you can see it travelling between worlds and implied to possibly be some cosmic dust obscuring the suns. But then it’s just this glowing orb on a mountain top you just need to walk into? Disappointing. Same for the Wild Hunt being rendered corporeal without something special happening beforehand.

    Ciri could have done something to delay it, maybe found the source of the frost and thrown it a million years into the future (she is the lady of time and space)… anything but ‘oh its a supernatural entity that she needs to touch’.

    Maybe the whole ‘conjunction’ happening at the end of the game could be the threat, the world is being conjoined with one that has the frost?

    There was a clear lack of vision at the end, and it harms the experience. The second game’s smaller-scale political plot ended much stronger. Plus ending on such a clear note kind of hurts the tone of the universe.

  16. Joe Informatico says:

    So this problem is why even though epic fantasy is one of my favourite genres, there are very few conclusions to epic fantasy stories that I like. Too often they’re just the evil god-like being/apocalyptic force is stopped by the Magic MacGuffin, which is either some Chosen One hero, some magic thingamabob, or both. And this is usually after several books of detailed world-building and interesting characters, i.e. the stuff I like.

    This is why I tapped out of The Wheel of Time a third of the way through (Now you’re introducing new major players? I’m out.) and I’m probably not going to be satisfied with how A Song of Ice and Fire or the Game of Thrones TV series ends–it’s either going to be an obvious resolution, an obvious subversion of that resolution, or a complete ass-pull and none of them sound good. And the obvious ending can be fine, if the epic saga as a whole isn’t too long. But if you set up an imminent apocalypse and then proceed to make it less imminent by adding more volumes/seasons of story that amount to running in place, you’re going to lose me. If you want to write episodic fantasy in your detailed setting, write sword-and-sorcery a la Conan or Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser instead.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Ah, the Wheel of Time books! Thing I most remember was that they started well, then fell into a ‘now the main character has to go to country X and convince THEM he’s really the Chosen One’ section – which lasted like 5 books. Guy spent more time Proving His Worth than every incarnation of Link from the Zelda games combined.
      I’m not at all surprised Robert Jordan died before finishing the story. He just couldn’t stop adding characters and plot threads.

      Regarding Game of Thrones: my money’s on the Obvious Subversion route. And they’ll act like they were soooo smart for tricking the audience.

      Shit, when’s the next series of that show? You’re covering it here, right Bob?

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