During this whole COVID19 madness I decided to do a second playthrough of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. I also chose to play a second time as the first playthrough got me the worst ending possible.
In this playthrough, I put the difficulty up to Blood and Broken Bones, the 2nd highest difficulty. In reality, I could have done it on Deathmarch, and probably should have. I decided to use a pure Alchemy + Bomber build, which means it was tough at first but became increasingly easy as I progressed. I also committed to finishing as many secondary quests and treasure hunts as possible.
In my first playthrough I had rushed through the main storyline, and when I got to the end, I was utterly distraught at the loss of Ciri, and couldn’t continue. I probably should have taken that as a clue, but my regret got the better of me.
I made 1 mistake in the playthrough, although I didn’t really intend it.
Some of my goals while playing were informed by my previous experience.
Save Kiera Metz
In my first play through I hated most of the characters. In fact, right up until the moment I saw Kiera burned as a which by the Redanians. For some reason, that moment hit me like a ton of bricks, and I regretted that I hadn’t saved her. So this playthrough I intended to spend quality time getting to know her, and save her (thus helping me with my larger goal of getting the Full Crew Achievement).
I can’t say that I like Kiera, I still find her annoying, but in a charming kind of way. I’m glad I saved her, and that she ended up with Lambert (who I also set out to help on his assassination quest).
Save Ciri (Witcher Ending)
I decided that the best kind of ending for Ciri would be one where she becomes what she wants to become. I had no intention of helping anyone convince her to become the Emperess, and I couldn’t give two shits what happens to Nilfgaard, or Emyr.
Help the Bloody Baron
I thought this character was amazing, nuanced, and tragic. In my first playthrough, I went to the Isle of Mists before returning to Crookback Bog, and so failed the secondary quest.
I should have visited the Whispering Hillock before, and saved Anna, but that wasn’t to be. If I play through a 3rd time, I just might.
Let’s go on an adventure
So with these goals in mind, I set out on my playthrough. I did all of them, with the one catch of accidentally romancing Triss Merigold (who I dislike, but now don’t hate). I honestly didn’t mean to kiss her, but it happened, and I forgot that if you do that, it means you don’t end up with Yennefer, which kind of spoiled the ending a bit.
The only reason I kissed her was that I wasn’t 100% sure I could get her to Kaer Morhen for the Full Crew achievement. I’m still not, but next time, it will be all business. Personally I can’t stand her moody moral superiority. Triss Merigold is an insufferable bore.
I don’t agree with most of the moral choices that required this ending, or that it should have happened this way, but I can’t control CDPR’s writers.
To say that the alchemy build is pimped is an understatement. You quickly become OPAF. Between Decoctions, Oils and Potions you’re nigh invincible. At higher levels, with the right kinds of addons, your vitality barely moves except with certain baddies and you can treat most fights like a slug-fest, backing them into a corner and watching the critical hits pile up.
I also have the full Grandmaster Ursine Armor (but I don’t use Quen enough). I plan to collect all of the Grandmaster witcher gear, I’m currently working on the wolven set.
My current plan is to build up my power and then murder all Redanian Guards and Witch Hunters. It’s the little things in life you treasure.
The Caretaker is OP
You might notice I haven’t finished Heart of Stone yet, but have finished Blood and Wine. That’s because the Caretaker was an issue for me. I just wasn’t used to that kind of bad guy, and I didn’t enjoy beating him. Eventually, I did, only after I had finished Blood and Wine, and gotten to level 52. Not because he was killing me, just I couldn’t seem to manage to kill him. I just ran around the fountain, sneaking in attacks and using the Northwind bomb to freeze him when he tried to heal.
Some people have said this is similar to Dark Souls boss fights, which means I’ll never play that game because I hate boss fights. I like the story, I like the world-building and detail, I like a lot of things, but boss fights is not one of them. I don’t feel any sense of achievement after having defeated a difficult boss.
There are two things I can’t stand in a game, arbitrary puzzles, and the suspension of game mechanics for narrative. Boss fights tend to employ those two things in spades. Strategies and game mechanics you’ve been using the whole game are suddenly arbitrarily ineffective, and now the Boss and his “pattern” or “weakness” becomes a kind of “real-time” puzzle.
I am sure there are people who like them, I’m just not one of them.
The surprising things I learned
I hope you didn’t expect some Witcher Related lessons because I have none to impart to you. What I learned was more about myself than the game. I take things to heart, and when a long game is over, I am bereft.
Some games you play, and you don’t care when you’re done. But the story of Geralt of Rivia, Witchers, and the world he inhabits is saturated with tragedy, remorse, and incomparable loneliness.
Running around Kaer Morhen, empty, a shadow of what it once was, with the knowledge that whatever came before will never be again is sad in the deepest sense possible. Whatever you think of Witchers, their schools, and their lives, you have this sour sense that something awesome is dying, or even dead.
It’s like seeing the last of an endangered species harassed by poachers. It’s that sense that something larger than life is gasping its last breath. So many things in the Witcher remind me of Nietzsche, clasping his lantern, running into the market place, announcing the murder of God, and as someone who alone can grasp the profundity of the deed, asks how we might become worthy of it.
It’s like being part of a funeral rite to some immensely august personage, and you daren’t ask his name, as your own ignorance seems itself profane.
Something magic is leaving the world for good, and we’ll all be left with our gray work-a-day concerns. It’s not the death of a single hero, but the death of Heros. It’s like Achilles, Odysseus, Herakles, Perseus, Theseus, and Jason are fallen and we’ll never see their like again. And truth be told, we haven’t.
Geralt of Rivia: There goes one of God’s own prototypes, too freakish to live, too proud to die.
I must admit that in Blood and Wine when Ciri showed up to Corvo Bianco I cried like a little girl with a skinned knee.
It seemed all a bit too much, just when I thought the best end for Geralt would be going all Old man and the sea, suddenly you think — wow, how nice would it be for him to retire to a Vineyard, with his daughter. The only thing missing was Yennefer. I guess you can’t have everything.
So yeah, I learned that some stories just hit you way too hard. Or at least, they hit me way too hard. I start to feel responsible for the character, and his fate. As irrational as it might be, I think I will always miss Geralt, and Ciri. After all, I’ve spent over 100 hours with them.
The story has to end. They all have to end. And that is the saddest thing I can think of.
Oh, but then there’s this.