So I just 100%-ed Witcher 2 (played through both paths) on my quest to reading the books in order and playing the games in order. I want to start this off by saying that I really like Iorveth as a character. He's great, interesting and really well designed. But his path just doesn't make any sense and I believe, definitively, that Roche's path is the canon path.
TL;DR: Quests are worse, location is smaller and designed worse, story is worse. Overall a worse and sloppier experience than Roche's path, that feels tacked on
Now the obvious thing to say would be "Roche appears in W3 but not Iorveth, therefore Roche is canon". And I would say that to some extent that's true but I'm going to ignore that point. Same with the fact that your choices in W2 have next to no effect on W3 and W2 was essentially made to set up Nilfgaard crossing the Yaruga and not much else. I'm just going to focus on what happens in W2 itself.
The thing is that Iorveth's whole path feels really tacked on and last minute compared to Roche's. It's almost as though CDPR realised there wasn't enough consequence/choice in the game and had to throw an extra choice in there towards the end of development.
So let's start from the end of Chapter I. You're essentially given a choice of whether to go with Roche to Upper Aedirn or with Iorveth. Realistically, how many people would have gone with Iorveth immediately had they known that you could only do 1 crossroad quest (as opposed to if they made it a single decision in 1 quest not over 2 quests) or if his quest wasn't the one automatically tracked? Iorveth was set up from the start of Chapter I as an antagonist; he's working with the main antagonist/your ultimate goal, he and his units attack you on multiple occasions, he is the sworn enemy of your ally/acquaintance/friend and terrorises and kills innocent people. Even when you do get to work with him/get help from him in Chapter I, it feels more of a necessity or means-to-an-end rather than a blooming friendship.
Logically, it also makes much more sense to side with Roche; Geralt has likely known him the entire time he was working for Foltest and they would at least be acquaintances/colleagues by the time the game begins proper. Roche is Geralt's best chance of clearing his name completely and has the best resources for helping find Letho (which are the 2 main points of the game and the whole reason that it's a game and not a story/cutscene), so why would Geralt throw that away? Plus Iorveth's line about how "women elves are prepared to die for the cause" is kinda sketch.
Then there's Chapter II. While I do think that siding with Iorveth/Vergen in this chapter is the moral high ground/lesser of 2 evils (they're just defending their land), ultimately siding with Roche/Kaedwen ends up being the most neutral choice (both sides hate you equally at the end) and the best to achieve freedom/innocence (wouldn't helping another king essentially prove that he's not a kingslayer?).
Comparing the 2 path's quests (ignoring poker, arm wrestling and the contracts which are essentially the same for both paths), Roche's are SO much better and more satisfying. To disperse the fog for Roche's path (going to use RP and IP from now on) you have to remove Henselt's curse (which in itself involves doing a bunch of other things; medallion), solve a conspiracy (armor) then travel to the other side of the fog and negotiate with the enemy (sword) and search a crypt (flag). Each item has its own mission and so it is incredibly satisfying to finally collect them all and enter the mist. However, in IP you search the crypt (flag), cure Saskia (which involves doing a bunch of other things; sword) and then get given the rest (medallion and armor) and chances are you'll get given the last 3 listed items essentially all at once making it SUPER unsatisfying and feel very rushed. Philippa just magically (pun intended) gets the armor from Vinson and somehow ends up with Henselt's medallion despite it being around his neck when/if you get the Royal Blood from him. If Philippa got the armor and Geralt got the medallion from Henselt (potentially at the same time and as the blood), that would have been fine, but it didn't happen like that and felt sloppy. (Upon further reading, apparently the medallion is Philippa's own one but that doesn't make sense since she didn't participate in the battle and thus her medallion shouldn't help or do anything for the curse as it's not related).
The succubus and wraith side quests are essentially the same quest/"2-sides-same-coin" for each path but the wraith quest is so much more interesting. The succubus one is basically the same "human vs creature; creature is good/lesser evil" story that the Witcher series (books and games) generally have, but I never would have guessed that the wraiths were the bad guys on RP (Little Sisters quest). It's such a little thing that gives it away (3 girl wraiths as opposed to 2 girl and 1 boy graves) and I don't think anyone would have picked up on it without help or serious attention to detail. It's so cleverly written and different to what we'd come to expect. The mine quest in IP is also frustrating. While it's cool to do something with Zoltan, the dwarves just keep getting in the road or cornering you in the small, enclosed spaces and just making the experience annoying. I did however enjoy Baltimore's Nightmare side quest, so there's that I guess, although it was fairly predictable storywise.
Then there's location and design problems. Vergen just feels sloppily designed. It's such a maze and goes up and down and twists and turns for no reason. It's a dwarven mining settlement, it should be really well designed and practical. Henselt's camp is messy too, but that makes sense since it's a camp – a human camp at that – that had to fit around the terrain and not a stationary city. When you enter the inner walls during the siege on RP, the maze-like nature of it makes the siege all the more confusing and makes the sequence so much more intense but on IP when you're living there, it doesn't make much sense. The West side of the map is also much more open and interesting to explore whereas the East (Vergen) side is small and dull. In summary RP is much better.
Then there's the problems with the siege level. When you finish the battle sequence, you're on Henselt's side. In RP you awake after 3 days, in the camp, and the battle is already fully waging on the other side whereas in IP you wake up, I assume, almost immediately and for some reason are in Vergen (less interesting plot-wise and a bit more "deus-ex-machina-y". Then the siege itself is so much more fun on RP: you travel across the land, go into the mines to break into the town, fight Dethmold and Adam Pangratt, fight your way through the town (with the option to help Iorveth), then fight Henselt himself. It's so exciting and each moment is different and flows really nicely. Whereas on IP: you walk up some stairs and pull a switch, you defend a rooftop, you defend the rooftop again, you go a little bit into the mines and fight Dethmold, you go back and follow Zoltan and watch as he closes the gates that were just blasted apart (a huge tactical strategy apparently), then go back to the roof and defend it a 3rd time. It's so boring and repetitive.
I do like that you get to learn about Saskia and Philippa more and spend more time with Zoltan on IP, but even in the closing monologue from Dandelion, he randomly mentions Sile despite her having no significance and barely any mention in IP Chapter II making me feel like that line was made for RP only.
Then Chapter III comes around. For the most part it's the same quests and story etc. The main difference is on RP there's a conspiracy quest which is fun to figure out and on IP there's a puzzle quest which, while fun and unique, is a slightly extended and much inferior version of the From A Bygone Era side quest/the Operator fight which you can do in both paths anyway. The other difference is that while on RP it makes sense that you can't save both Anais and Triss since they are on opposite sides of the map, in IP Philippa and Triss are in the same area (the Nilfgaardian camp) so why couldn't Iorveth just wait for 2 minutes with a completely incapacitated Philippa while Geralt goes and rescues Triss?
I think I covered most of my thoughts. Don't get me wrong, as much as I bagged on Iorveth and his path, I still had a blast. I just had more fun doing RP and it made more sense and felt natural as opposed to the tacked on IP which is why I truly believe it's the canon – at least the most canon – choice. (If you made it this far, cheers for reading. Let me know what you think, and if I got anything wrong).
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