I’ve been going through my first play through of the game while on quarantine (and loving it, mind you). A lot of quests in this game certainly exceeded my expectations, or subverted them, and the grey morality angles are something rarely seen in RPGs.
But I never expected a quest in the game to hit me as emotionally as this one. Heading into Honorton, I expected a normal contract, probably to kill some Leshen or Wraith. Instead I was appalled by the carnage I saw (and by the fact I’d have to fight a pack of Alghouls on Death March difficulty).
Finding the young girl, confronting Gaetan, and the aftermath of meeting and speaking with the old woman, it illuminated a lot about things within the Witcher universe. Finally I understood why Witcher’s are viewed with such fear and suspicion by normal people. They aren’t all good people out to kill monsters. They aren’t all like my play through of Geralt, tracking down and killing a beast to protect a village of innocent people, and then declining payment because they need it.
Some Witchers are like Gaetan. They’re threats just as much as they are hunters of beasts. They’re singular men who can slaughter entire villages, and shrug off wounds that would kill mortal men. It hit home even harder when I decided to tell the old woman the truth upon bringing Millie to safety. Her biting words about Witchers and her accusations…they were accurate. Sure, maybe Geralt has done a lot of good things (I play a pretty generous and kind Geralt), but that doesn’t mean he’s not a threat. Hell, looking back on the Hym mission in Skellige…during the trick with the child he still did kill three innocent guards who were just defending their Jarl.
Even more interestingly, I saw a side of Geralt that was unexpected. Emotion, even, although as far as I know that shouldn’t be possible. Yet he did seem to feel saddened by having to put Gaetan down, as well as feel pity for the young orphan girl. It was unexpected and very impactful.
The best part about this quest? It’s morally ambiguous. I killed Gaetan because I’d seen what he’d done, the innocent people who’d been slaughtered. But Gaetan was cheated and very nearly murdered at the same time. Those villagers, at least some, did wrong as well. It could have been Geralt, should he have arrived first. What would I have done in his stead? Still, I didn’t think that the circumstances outweighed the risk of leaving a man like Gaetan alive. The best part is, I can almost guarantee someone reading this disagrees wholeheartedly
The writing in Witcher III continues to stun me with each and every hour I get into it. And by the signs of things, I’m nowhere near done with this masterpiece of a game. In the end, I got next to nothing material from the quest. Some cruddy level 1 Witcher silver sword. But I’m keeping that sword as a remembrance, of Gaetan as well as Honorton itself. I also marked off Oreton on the map, to make sure I make good on my promise to Millie to come back and visit some time.
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