I like games... and tattoos. Yes, those.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The World of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Monstrum, or a Portrayal of Witchers
"Indeed, there is nothing more repulsive than these monsters that defy nature and are known by the name of witcher, as they are the offspring of foul sorcery and witchcraft. They are unscrupulous scoundrels without conscience and virtue, veritable creatures from hell capable only of taking lives. They have no place amongst decent and honest folk.
And this Kaer Morhen where these villains nest and practice foul rituals must be wiped off the face of the earth, and all evil traces of it need be treated with salt and saltpeter to complete the deed."

Have you watched the video? Yes? Good. Because The Witcher series is probably one of my favourite fantasy RPG's. And this is a beautiful intro sequence.

A friend once said to me, "Once you've finished the game then you can read the books."
To which my response was, "What do you mean WHEN I've finished the game? I read the books before I played the game in preparation."
He replied, "Really? You've read some obscure, Polish author?"
There's no real response here that didn't make me sound incredibly geeky, so I said, "Well, not in Polish. I read the translations..."
It doesn't really make it better does it?

Either way, I will admit that I read the (English translations) of Andrzej Sapkowski's books before I played the first game by CD Projekt RED. One of the best things about the correlation between the books and the games is that whilst they are set in the same universe and share some of the elements and most obviously, characters, the games do not specifically follow the narrative of any book in the series. They certainly draw from major events within however, and so reading the books beforehand gives you a real sense of the characters. Returning to many of them in the games thus becomes like greeting old friends, and hearing about their adventures since you saw them last.

The Witcher as a series is filled with violence, sex, racism, bigotry, war - all the things that immediately flag it as "mature" content.

It investigates many of these issues subtly, and in the games you are forced to make a choice - side with the rebels who kill innocents because they are being oppressed, or side with the oppressors whose hatred of the rebels is based purely on the fact that they form a part of the non-human races.

In the first game you are also given the option of collecting "cards" for each woman in the series that you seduce. Unsurprisingly this met with a bit of controversy, not only because of the overly sexualised objectification of the women in the cards, but also the collector factor implies that these are trophies in the same way that monsters can be collected as trophies. The parallels drawn between the "monsters" and the women, become glaringly obvious.

And interestingly, even though on a fundamental level I recognised that this was wrong, I still wanted to collect the cards. I even had a long involved discussion with another female gamer friend of mine (complete with sideways glances from passersby overhearing our conversation) about which cards we'd collected. Or more accurately, which girls we'd "shagged".

I'm not going to speculate here as to what that means - it requires a great deal more thought than I'm willing to give it at the moment, however it certainly deserves time and contemplation and this is likely something for a later post when I've had a chance to get my thoughts in order.

Is it true and fitting to Geralt's character in The Witcher series? I would say yes. Geralt is, to put it bluntly, somewhat of a slut. He experiences love, but he also appears to have no problem giving in to temptation when it presents itself to him on a silver platter.

What is also rather telling is that this promiscuity on Geralt's part, and the collection of the trophies was cut from The Witcher 2. Whether this was public pressure, or just as a part of Geralt exploring his closer relationship with Triss I'm not sure, but they no longer make their appearance in the second game.

Either way, I'm looking forward to immersing myself in the next English translation of Sapkowski's series. In the meantime I'll amuse myself by further pondering this question of book to game translation, and whether the objectification of the women is on the part of the author or the game developers.

Find out more about the (English) books: The Last Wish and Blood of Elves unless you can read Polish, but you can also find out the outlines etc over here

You can also catch my review of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition for XBox in the May edition of Gamecca Magazine


  1. Hi Pippa
    I’m also a huge fan of the Witcher series. The second game is one of the best rpg’s of the decade, and should go down as a classic of the genre.

    Unfortunately I think the publishers have handled the English series quite badly. The Last Wish was one of the most refreshing fantasy titles I have read in a long time. The fascinating lead character, the fully realized world, and the slightly quirky translation all added up to a phenomenal set of stories.
    I can’t however say the same for what has come after that. The decision to skip the next book (which is another short story collection) and move straight into the novels is one I can understand but disagree with. The short stories introduce characters and events which the novels mention, and without them you are left in the dark on a number of topics.

    My biggest gripe with the ‘Blood of Elves’ was the translation though. The language is generally awkward and cumbersome throughout the book, but some sections are almost unreadable (specifically referring to caravan attack with the dwarfs). This seems to have had a negative effect on the success of the series, as there is still no third, four years after the second was released.

    Anyway, thanks for the article

    1. Actually Drew I agree with you regarding Blood of Elves. The translation is awkward, but I read it because I loved The Last Wish. Blood of Elves didn't have nearly the same flow to it. I also agree with you regarding the short stories, mainly because I'm a bit of a stickler for continuity, so whilst I don't read or speak Polish, I would have preferred more flow in that regard as well.

      That said, I'll still probably buy the next book, and gripe about it if it isn't up to scratch! Money in the publishers pockets yes, but I can't leave things unfinished - I'm one of THOSE people.

  2. Likewise. And Geralt is such a fantastic character that its worth it to read more about him