I’m playing through the bonus Adventures included with The Witcher. Read about the earlier Adventures, along with an introduction to the game, here. Also remember that you can click on images to view larger versions.
The next Adventure on the list is The Wedding, which was made by an entire team of modders known as Ifrit. The Wedding sets itself apart from the other adventures by having no combat whatsoever. In fact, it doesn’t have any of the myriad game mechanics showcased in the earlier Adventure Deceits, except for a few fistfights. It’s focused solely on conversations, aiming for a silly comedic tone.
Unfortunately, The Wedding also sets itself apart from the other Adventures by being terrible.
The idea could have worked so well: Geralt wakes up on the floor of an inn only to discover it’s his wedding, and he has no memory of it (a clear jab at the amnesia that has struck Geralt at the beginning of the main game). The wedding is a perfect excuse to gather all the characters from the main game, as well as some from the books, in one place to mock Geralt and otherwise have a good time. All while poking a little fun at the game, of course.
Instead, The Wedding is a parade of obnoxious nonsense. Most conversations are about how Geralt has been emasculated by agreeing to marry Triss — an emasculation conveniently symbolized by the frilly shirt she has made him wear, that is mocked endlessly throughout the Adventure — and how his life will be over the minute he steps down from the altar. The other conversations involve men getting extremely drunk (with a large dose of toilet humor) and generally being assholes, especially to women. Early in the Adventure Geralt tries to back out of the marriage but is cowed when Triss heavily implies that she submitted to kinky threesome sex with Geralt earlier, so now he owes her. Right. Sex is the only subject of conversation when it comes to women in this Adventure, in fact, and it only gets worse from there; at the end two women are literally fighting over Geralt, to see who will get to reward him with sex. None of it is funny. It’s just awful, and I couldn’t find a single redeeming piece of writing in the whole Adventure.
I wish I could say I was surprised that CD Projekt RED chose to highlight The Wedding by including it with the main game, but the truth is that the depiction of women in the main game isn’t any better. I’ve mentioned before how poorly handled the various sexual encounters in the game are, but it really deserves a longer discussion. Fortunately, a better writer than I has already undertaken this, with a series about collecting and critiquing every sex card in the game. The series just finished at the time of writing, and it is accurate. Beyond simple objectification of women — evidenced in The Wedding by all the nearly naked women (and one completely naked woman) standing around in seductive poses everywhere, all of whom are stock models from the main game — The Witcher is full of troublesome tropes. Most women in the game will only have sex with Geralt in exchange for gifts, for example, even when it doesn’t really make sense, implying that women can’t ever have sex simply because they want to. Other times Geralt is rewarded with sex for rescuing women from bad guys, and there are a few particularly gross examples where women offer sex to entice Geralt to spare their lives. There are also a few examples that are handled better, noted in the series linked above, but the majority are poor. I love the game anyway, as should be obvious from all the posts I’ve written, but I love it in spite of its treatment of female characters.
I’ve heard people respond to complaints about the sex in The Witcher by stating that it’s in character for Geralt. That those who know him from the books will know that he’s something of a playboy, and it would have been weird to have a game where he wasn’t having lots of sex with many different women. But the sex itself isn’t the problem; it’s how the sex is presented and characterized. And the bits I’ve read (admittedly, only the first set of short stories) really don’t jive with that depiction. Geralt does have sex a few times, but never in such a transactional way, and certainly never as a reward for rescuing a damsel in distress. In fact, in one story, Geralt recounts rescuing a young woman from a gang of rapists, expecting her to be grateful, but instead she recoils from him in fear and disgust. Which sounds like a much more likely outcome to me. I liked the stories I’ve read and I certainly hope that the novels don’t change the tone so significantly.
You may have noticed that the final post in that series I linked earlier is much more positive than the first post. There are some examples in the game where sex is handled well, and as I’ve mentioned before, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is much improved in this respect, although it still has a few problems. Generally, however, the female characters are given more depth, and the sexual encounters are much better written, making them believable and sometimes even touching. I’ll be writing more about this when I replay the second game in anticipation of the third, and I’d like to spend time praising the writers for how they handled Triss Merigold (Geralt’s bride in The Wedding) in the second game, showing us a believable character who is Geralt’s equal in their relationship. But then the developers decided they should have her pose nude for a virtual Playboy shoot. No, I’m not kidding, and no, I’m not going to link it. Things like that make me wonder if the Witcher series will ever be free of its problems with women. But I am hopeful for the third installment, which will be introducing two major new female characters from the books.
In the back of my mind, I’m worried that I’m suffering from a cultural disconnect. When I wrote about Metro 2033, I discussed how that game really isn’t made for Western audiences, and many players who were used to being catered to bounced right off it. The Witcher is a Polish game, based on a Polish book series, has much better voice acting in the original Polish than in English, and every fan-made Adventure included with the game is by a Polish author (or in this case, a team of Polish authors). Perhaps The Wedding is simply using a particularly Polish brand of humor (and I should in fairness note that the English translation is dodgy, and could very well be missing a lot of the original nuances). Perhaps these kinds of jokes at women’s expense have a different connotation in Poland, and everyone realizes that they’re ridiculous and inaccurate even while laughing at them, and no one would actually treat women that way. But I doubt it. I’m sticking with my gut reaction, which is that it is obnoxious and juvenile.
And to top it all off, it’s not very well designed either. The only Adventure that doesn’t use the game’s quest tracking system, The Wedding never makes it clear what to do to advance the story, and it’s easy to stumble upon broken triggers. I wandered the inn for an hour trying to figure out what to do, occasionally finding a new conversation that let me believe I was making progress, before realizing (while googling for solutions) that the next plot-critical conversation simply wasn’t appearing and I had to start over. At least I could skip through the dialogue the second time as I got back to where I was before. Then it happened again, but this time I kept some saves and was able to reload and get around it. So it’s obnoxious and annoying. A shame, since the Adventure clearly took a lot of work and effort. There’s even some brand new music that fits well with the original game’s excellent score (which reminds me, I forgot to note that The Wraiths of Quiet Hamlet has some original music too), in addition to the extensive scripting work and the large amount of incidental dialogue that’s not critical to the main path through the story.
It’s too bad, but The Wedding should be avoided. Stay tuned to read about the final Adventure, Merry Witchmas, which is also by Ifrit but is much better.