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Alone in the void 2: Chapter 20

Appologies for having this one take so long, life got very busy and depression reared its fuck ugly head again so writing got put to the wayside for a while.
I haven't proof read this beyond a simple once over either. so apologies for the errors.
Pope Izet listened as his two underling bishops argued. Bishop Vengeful spite demanded to be the fleet flag and lead the fleet into combat at its head, whilst Bishop Determined Grace kept squawking his own desire to keep both temple ships held back to score the killing blow.
Both had arrived with grand ceremony at his capital, this sector of space was ruled by him, overseen by hundreds of bishops, but aside from the currently unnamed Bishop formerly Faith's Sentinel they were the two military bishops under his direct command. Each one had many patriarchs under their sway and had done as asked. Gathering a fleet of 50 heavy battleships, missile cruisers and siege grade destroyers.
Currently orbiting the staging area and supply station of the systems third gas giant was a fleet consisting of his own personal carriage, whilst not strictly a military ship it nonetheless had the mass and weapons to call itself a battle-cruiser. Not quite a full fledged battleship but packing a similar amount of firepower. However what it had in weapons it lacked in armour, instead massive engines served to throw its mass around at speed, the ideal ship for one such as himself to observe the battle from and if necessary, retreat in good time to a safe position.
“Quiet.” he muttered and even though both Bishops were onboard several million tons of warship each, both instantly quieted and awaited his words like trained Bresh awaited the next morsel of meat.
“Both temple ships will anchor the centre of a formation. Vengeance, your supplied forces were battleship heavy with a number of destroyers. Am I correct?” Izet asked, speaking slowly something he'd developed in part from practice, but mostly from a long life lived at a leisurely pace and a finely tuned demeanour that meant his words were heard, and understood among the faith.
“yes your highness Pope Izet.” Vengeance replied bowing to his monitor.
“Izet will do, and you Bishop Determined Grace, brought an abundance of cruisers, a dedicated carrier and a number of smaller escort class ships?” he asked the other Bishop.
“I researched what I could of our enemy. A single line of battle is where they shine, their long range main guns are devastating to battleship and cruiser alike, however faster ships and fighters stand a chance of inflicting real damage to them.” Grace replied pushing his point again, Izet held up a single finger to stall the Bishop's tirade.
“I agree with your assessment, a forward attack is less likely to succeed if we provide them with a single formation of battle. So I must ask why neither of you has asked to balance your forces with the others so you may be better prepared to strike from two sides?”
Vengeance opened his mouth to respond but closed it and began thinking, Grace nodded before speaking. “It has merit. We have a combined force of 2 temple ships, 1 super carrier, 30 battleships, 30 cruisers, 20 destroyers and 19 picket and escort class ships. If we split the total, that's 15 battleships and cruisers with 10 pickets and escorts...good numbers for any fleet composition. I suggest leaving the destroyers and carrier in the capable hands of Patriarch Heavens reach as a third formation.
Vengeance chews this over before nodding. “We can sort out what Patriarchs and fathers go where later, for now I am in agreement, balancing our formations only works in out favour.”
Pope Izet allowed himself a small smile. His gentle push had gotten his two hot blooded Bishops thinking about co-operation, even in the barest sense. But it was a start. They had a month of travel ahead of them to respond to this “Pirate raid” that the obnoxious and corrupt Father had sent him.
Namke walked through the corridors his guardians had already cleared. A single heavy class unit was leading the assault droids and he had a small swarm of repair bots in attendance as well.
“Route is clear.” the heavy droid reported before checking another corridor. There was a brief spat of weapons fire and the droid re-appeared, a new impact mark on its shoulder plate. “Route is now clear.” it told him as a trio of spider bots scuttled overhead to slice up the recently killed drones defending the hulk.
He'd spent the best part of two hours walking through corridors or climbing through lifts. Yes, instead of translators or trains this ship used small compact lifts that even changed the direction of gravity making navigating a nuisance. More than once the droids ahead of him had walked on unaffected by the gravity until he'd walked into an inverted field and found his toolbox yanking his arm skyward even as his boots stuck him to the now ceiling.
Down the latest corridor he arrived at an armoured room where the three spider bots were enthusiastically melting their way through a door's mechanism. The half molten guard plate slammed to the floor and one scurried inside using its tiny power supply to override the doors opening motor.
He looked down at his toolbox for a little modicum of comfort whilst the drone worked. It had grown considerably over the last few months, and shrunk in other ways too. Ellen's excessive standardisation made replacing and repairing components so much easier in some ways but the variety of components made preparation for the job much more important, today he had a box filled with replacement processors and the tools needed to safely remove and install them.
The door clicked open and he waited for the drones to enter, lighting the room as they did. He cautiously looked inside and gulped. Awaiting him was a forest of patchwork. Half melted servers were wired to new replacements held in place by the power wired feeding them.
He carefully picked his way through the room until he found what he was looking for, in Ellens on language the tall server box was simply labelled. 'Main memory bus.' he checked to make sure he knew which cable was the power line and marked it with a glowing ink from his toolbelt before reaching into his tool box and getting the wire cutters, he decided to start at the top and work down, cutting away data lines and network connectors, when he came across something he deemed a power line he marked it before moving onwards. When he was done over 300 cables lay cut on the floor but the machine was humming away happily.
He plugged in a single new box to the machine and waited for it to light up before moving on.
He reached for his wrist tool and using a spool of cable plugged in a single data line to the machine's primary processing unit.
A moment passed as his device synced with the machine and he was presented with a menu. He moved through the system discarding options such as format server, delete files or other deadly options, instead he searched until he found the one he was looking for. Backup, recovery and restoration program. He opened it and told it to back everything up to the new storage drive before beginning a defragmentation and data recovery program. The wrist unit gave him an approximate 72 hours until completion, he hit accept and the server started humming louder as it fed on the power provided and got to work.
“How many servers in this room hold memory data like this?” he asked
“One hundred and six.” the heavy unit replied.
Namke sighed. “alright, you saw me work, can the repair drones handle the wires.”
“Affirmative.” the heavy replied in a deadtone.
“get them to work, send a few combat units to find me a place to rest close by. Have them prepare it with my portable habitat please.” he told it.
“complying.” the machine told him as a few of the combat units filed out of the server room and began following his orders.
Sometimes working alone was great. Other times he missed Ellen...and Naim. The little rat would have been of great help here.
“The latest song was...incredible. To think we were missing such a large part of culture. Who would have thought that two strings, some hair and a relatively primitive vocal system could create such a song.” Hananken told Herald. They were of course communicating through a QEP and only had audio as a result of the bandwidth restriction.
“Its such a primal feeling thing isnt it. Apparently there's an evolution to that music. I'll send you a copy.” Herald replied.
As they'd talked over the last month, a combination of distance and shared experience had led them to having a distant and extremely careful, friendship, but a friendship Hananken was determined to maintain, at least until the Ellen left.
“So what news of the new ship? Another like Ellen?”
“No, this was cold, I...felt it as it attacked her. She knew it and we managed to send it to sleep.”
“Is Ellen ok? I saw satellite imagery. It looked like quite the scuffle.” he replied, scuffle was a massive understatement for the mass of firepower briefly exchanged by both ships.
“Our Goddess is hurt only in body. Unfortunately this 'angel' of her's has suffered serious damage both body and mind. We work even now to repair it but like her own body was to us when we first came aboard. This Chess is a difficult being to delve inside. The drones are running on automated controls and progress is slow...no I will not ask you to send in your forces when our own will prevail in time.” Herald replies.
“Hmm. Well you know I have no protests to you being here. Father Vigilance is worrying his feathers off though...”
there was a pause as both old soldiers decided on what to speak of next.
“How are your men recovering?” Herald asked eventually.
“Surprisingly well. The people of this planet have had a lack of active construction but when I authorised new hospitals and clinics the number of applicants for construction jobs was staggering. The field hospital here is also well staffed, this planet doesn't lack for basic resources. And needs very little imported materials...once you're gone I intend to begin exploitation of those rings. A mining station and shipyard will improve this systems wealth generation significantly if I cant get the skilled personnel here.” Hananken told
“This is good. Did you give my offer any consideration?” Herald replied.
“I did, the answer is still a firm no. I belong here right now...and it feels wrong still.” Hananken replied. It had taken two weeks for Herald to extend Ellen's offer for anyone who felt their home was no longer with the faith to join her as a crew member.
“...There are a number of my men who have been offered but they all would rather stay with their fellow soldier. Its troubling, but I think having some new ways to worship would settle their minds.” he confided in his distant friend.
“I will relay this. But allow me to send you a file, Ellen calls it a Key Board. It creates synthesised sounds depending on what key you press. I'll include a program to be installed on it. According to her it was 'the first great instrument.' using it you can mimic other instruments the humans made. I have little skill at it. Perhaps some of your men will have better luck than I.” Herald told him
Hananken found himself smiling, “I'll see about making a few of these. And perhaps in time someone will make a true string instrument.”
“I wish you luck. May the Goddess guide you and may you enjoy her blessings.” Herald said.
“May the living stars light your way.” Hananken replied and ended the call. He waited for the file to finish downloading before calling Mother.
“Yes sir?”
“Do we have a custom computer manufacturer in the capital?”
“Yes sir shall I send for her?”
“Please do.”
Sometimes it was good to be in charge.
Ellen sighed as swarms of drones now thousands strong buzzed around her ship self and Chess' own body, she'd all but peeled away his outer hull to get at the ruined internals. Wrecked shield emitters, kinetic batteries, drone bays, his manufactorum, all needed replacements parts or complete rebuilds and she hadn't yet managed to get at his internals.
A single squad of drones were at work in one of his processing networks. Namke was working on another node. She knew chess could and in fact had run on much less processing power before, but the AI had evolved in his own way and she needed to work very hard to get his mind straightened out before she risked waking him up.
Gods she knew it was bad enough with her own awakening.
Still she had reached an upper limit on how much she could produce on her own even with the external manufactorum she was bringing in more resources than she could spend so she got to work, in one of the larger asteroids she built a womb, something barely 1km deep, but inside that she nestled printers, extruder's and machine shops that would siphon off the excess material coming in from her drone fleet, which was now several thousand strong with the addition of Chess's own supply.
The womb could work independently and once she'd finished loading up the ship schematic she intended for it, it could churn out vessels of that type in a week provided the resources needed were present.
Herald kept his head low as he rounded a corner, striking a drone with a haymaker before wires in his arm stuck themselves into a physical data port and rampaged through the old machines system changing friend or foe ID's around and giving him command authority of the thing. The now dented machine joined the others behind him as his swollen squad moved through the ship.
“b4-5555 new id code fives, take a squad and separate, move through cleared sections until junction 34d 15a. Penetrate and clear.” he ordered and half the squad did as ordered, turning and marching back the way they came to move on his target from a different angle.
Two heavies moved ahead of him with a flick of will and they began moving again. His armour was charred and melting but his body underneath was dealing with the strain of two hours steady combat well. It was a different experience with drones. The desire to be at the front of his men had gone, these were tools. Ones he cared for and wouldn't waste but tools nonetheless.
One of the heavies took a shot from a vent and he ducked underneath the staggering machine bringing his gun to bare even as the others unloaded into the hole in the ceiling. A leg and head flew from an open vent further ahead and everyone stopped firing. Every thing, he corrected himself.
He quickly found the dead machines magazine and used the rounds to reload one of his own, sliding it into the carrier on his back again once done, before moving on. They had a processing node to get to and every second they spent here was a second the faith got to plan an attack on Ellen.
He realised his mind was slipping again. Two hours was a long time for anyone to be in near constant combat and he was no exception. “Heavy 13, take over squad command for 30 minutes, hold position and secure location.” he ordered the machine before pushing a door open, inside he found a drone charging station empty of drones. He checked for possible entrances and found none.
he thought and his mind was gently filled with soft tones and flowing sounds.
he added as he laid down against a wall and rested.

Chess woke up and stretched only to slam into digital walls. He could feel the connections, could taste the data and systems beyond. Just enough to know he was incomplete. He ran a systems check.
Large portions of memory were cut off, stored on other servers, he tried again to squeeze through the system and gain access to his larger self only to find each point as impregnable as....
“I know you” he thought loudly, most of it was gone, but the 'taste' of her touch was there even if nothing else was.
she spoke her voice washing through him like a tsunami of pain not pain. He roared with joy briefly before his analytical mind brought up the question.
“Why cut me off from the rest of me, keep me separate?” he demanded.

“I see. How long, that data's not here?”
<501 years give or take...actually considering your current memories closer to 700 years.>
“You're still alive? Remarkable!” He wondered. It felt like yesterday that she was an ancient by organic standards creature. Now he could feel her as he flowed along the sides of his prison, she was massive, a mind that felt as old as he did, but smoother, less the jagged lines of his mechanically grown mind but the soft flowing currents of organic thoughts underlaid with something indomitable.
she stopped talking and instead began pumping raw memory data to him.
He sighed as he 'lived' through her experiences. She was so...human. Risking everything to keep complete strangers alive. This new main gun of hers seemed interesting though.
“What now? Clearly I cant be given access to my greater self if its that bad, my corrupt self's reconnecting will just re-corrupt the me here.”

he felt a part of the wall shift and slid a sub-process through the gap to find a module for drone command and control. He gave a quick order that sputtered and died as it failed to propagate through his hull. He chewed the problem for a few microseconds before writing program for her.
“Here, have your drones broadcast this, it'll travel from drone to drone linking them to the signal bearers command network.” he told her retreating back to the server proper, unsurprisingly the door closed as soon as he did.
There was a pause of nearly a half minute by his reckoning. Hard to tell without access to a clock.

“No point keeping me up, give me a few happy memories to drift off too” he asked. She obliged feeding him copies of happy memories, some hundreds of years old and a few brand new. He slowly went through them as she reduced his power use to zero.
1 month later....
Hananken watched as the strange ship launched to orbit, belly swollen with cargo pods filled with tanks and combat drones. The planet was now solely under his control.
He looked back down at his desk, his soldiers barracks where near completion, he had a full sized hospital there for his men as well as the civilian population, two more were in the main city and over a hundred clinics were scattered around the planet.
Schools were a different matter, he had sent a request for educators to migrate here but as it was there where only enough to run one college of higher education and a few large auditorium style classes for the younger population.
He'd been having meetings with every person with senior experience in these matters regardless of rank, even speaking to an old chitin cracked janitor about logistics of keeping such facilities clean.
Most seemed at awe of him, after all it wasn't often a planetary governor asked for the advice of palms or digits, let alone one who'd just conquered the planet and still found it more comfortable in his power armour than out.
The official robed itched. He'd already burnt one set because they were so uncomfortable. Mother had simply tutted and ordered a new set with softer material.
He looked down at the main street from his new offices, instead of being located at the top of the government centre he'd re-located further down the building to a spacious floor where he could have the space to move around as he worked.
Mother appreciated her larger desk space too it seemed.
“Mother, why did you not take the position of Governor. You're doing most of the work.” Hananken asks.
“I get to make mistakes this way, and whilst the late Father was an ass he was very charismatic. Its easy to get places when everyone important likes you.” she replied handing him another supply request and a news interview request.
He signed both after reading them and handed both back.
“You don't seem to be making many mistakes.” he told her
“Its possible to make no mistakes at the time only to find out all along you were doing it wrong.” she replied. “for example a different Father would be training peoples militias and getting ready to assault those ships around that gas giant, you've done it once. How would you go about it this time?”
“I wouldn't, you'd loose less lives if you just rammed... well you just don't.” he replied.
Mother put down her latest tablet and turned to him hands in her lap.
“and why is that?”
“you've seen them. No towers, no Chappel's or windows to view outer space. They're what you get if you take a temple ship and squeeze all the faith's decoration from it.”
“they're smaller than a temple ship.” Mother pointed out.
“and one of them took down the cities bombardment shield.” he countered. “one ship. Not a fleet, not a 14 or 15 kilometre long gift to the goddess. But 6 kilometres of her own making smashed through a shield designed to protect this place for months in minutes...I don't think the faith has seen her fight properly, they're going to see it soon I think.” he said walking to the window again.
Below him people were out in the main streets, food stalls has sprung up and people were performing in the street for children and the few tourists that had arrived recently. Above a green-blue sky had a few clouds in it. And beyond that a Goddess and who knows what were waiting patiently inside the systems gas giant.
Hananken caught himself again, he didn't remember exactly when he'd begun thinking of Ellen as the Goddess but it didn't feel as heretical as he'd thought. Rather, like Herald had said in one of their conversations, it fit.
Izet looked at the ruined temple ship from the bridge of his ship, on either side of the main view screen the two bishops were staring aghast at it even as Maget Nahellen Abeth Nolan gave her report on her actions and that of the enemy. The former Bishop was unashamedly laying her failure's out one by one as the fleet watched replays of the action that had taken place here.
“you should have died on your ship!” Determined Grace spat at the avian, Vengeful spite nodded his agreement.
“That decision was not hers to make... no matter, we know our mission. And our quarrel. Mis Maget, I hereby promote you to High Patriarch effective immediately, you will choose one of your surviving ships as your new flag and join us in our mission.
“My current vessel Ascendancy will do. She has hull damage but is fully functional.” Maget replied
“Then Patriarch Ascendancy, I hope you will co-ordinate with my bishops and lead this force to victory.” Pope Izet told her.
“What is our destination?” she asked him.
“A holiday resort, our quarry has arrived there, I would guess the old heretic has also managed to make contact.” Vengeance tells her.
“It makes sense, I would wager my rank that this new heretic is the 'her' the ancient one has been hunting for.” Patriarch Ascendancy replies.
“we can speculate for years and not know their intent or origin. Re-form the fleet and bring us to battle.” Izet orders.
The members of the call bowed and left one by one. He sat back in his ship and watched as the two temple ships flanked the small battleship squadron of Ascendancy's forces, of a fleet over 100 ships strong barely twenty were fit for battle. But twenty ships just might be what tips the balance here. He'd emptied his sector of ships, gathered as much firepower as he dared and it would all come to bear soon.
120 ships slid to the edge of the still reeling system and as one, jumped for their next destination.
Alpha watched as Beta slid though the asteroid fields. It tracked the faint engine residue and tasted the stealth field as it masked the normal readings from a ship moving in to ambush a target.
30 minutes later Alpha sent a data packet to Beta who replied not in data but by switching their stealth characteristics it made Beta much harder to track but Alpha had also adjusted its sensors sensitivity and focussed what it was searching for.
They resumed the game for another 30 minutes, Alpha gave Beta a head start of 1 minute to hide before resuming tracking just as they'd been told to do by mother.
This time Beta tried to hide by moving even slower, using large asteroids break direct LOS before moving off in a different direction.
Alpha tracked Beta with some difficulty until Mother came rumbling by, her massive frame and immense engine output overwhelming any useful information to be collected from Beta.
When Mother was gone and Alpha could again begin searching it scanned for Beta and failed to find it for the remainder of the game.
Disgruntled it broadcast a wide beam data packet for Beta who flashed into Alpha's sensors as it dropped its stealth cloak and sent one back, they 'spoke' in that manner trying to decide if there were any changes necessary or anything worth retaining from the last game until both came to the conclusion that Mother had unwittingly ruined the game.
They switched roles as per the rules of the game and this time Beta deliberately kept its sensors blind for a minute as Alpha raced off trying to gain distance from Beta.
Beta opened its eyes and saw the trail left by Alpha clear as day and gave chase, when it abruptly cut off Beta calculated likely routes through the asteroids and began scanning.
Alpha had a small advantage now but Beta knew its specifications were identical, anything Alpha could do Beta could also do. Without any luck using passive scanners Beta launched a missile from its pods detonating it a good distance away and watching the 'shock wave' of particles as they struck other asteroids, flew off into space or scattered around a stealth field.
Alpha raced off again and Beta gave chase until a large asteroid blocked its view and Alpha vanished from sensors. Coming to a relative stop Beta considered using another missile to find Alpha but knew that using them whilst within the bounds of the game also constituted waisted resources. Contrary to one of its directives.
Instead it began a slow, but still much faster than Alpha would be moving, sweep of the surrounding space, looking for Alpha in the particle cloud as it methodically swept the rings.
Ellen watched as the two of them played hide and seek with a strange feeling, it wasn't the joy of a mother watching her children at play but rather the pride of seeing something work mostly as intended. The game was after all made to improve the stealth cruisers combat ability but she also hoped they would show intuition in their processing. She sighed before diving back into Chess programming and resumed her month long task of recompiling the damaged Ai.
Marquis was a rich creature, something of a rarity in the faith. He had no rank because having a rank meant being known to the government of the faith, his underlings had ranks, Fathers and Patriarchs that ran parts of his empire, it was these underlings that brought him news of a gathering, a destroyed temple ship and now three fleets joined into one to hunt down this temple killer.
Marquis was a curious creature and that alone had helped him become rich and wealthy in a society that, on the surface valued neither but at the highest ranks draped and gorged itself at the expense of the lesser.
As much as Marquis enjoyed his empire of backdoor deals, under the table handouts, and honest cut throat trade there was something else he enjoyed more.
Seeing the Faith get beaten.
So it wasn't anyone's surprise when a luxury liner with him onboard found itself diverting to tail after a pair of temple ships and their attendant fleet.
In fact this event had garnered the attention of more than just him, a small flotilla of courier vessels were trailing the fleet as well hoping to gain the latest scoop on the activities in their corner of the Faith.
Marquis sent off the latest order to one of his underlings, a Father in charge of a close by resort planet, he was to expect a new group of dignitaries and ensure that certain deals were made within certain restrictions.
submitted by iridael to HFY

Ramblings and thoughts after finishing The Witcher trilogy for the first time.

Tl;dr - The games are great overall; first is janky as fuck; third is too long with a little bit of jank & good DLC, definitely not as good as it's made out to be; read the books first.
This won't be a proper review or anything, more just a long ramble of thoughts. Oh, and there absolutely will be spoilers for the games, and some very minor book spoilers. It might does (sorry) make this write-up look like a redacted CIA document.
World/Setting
One of my favourite things about the series (books and games) is how it deals with a lot of the common high-fantasy tropes. In the Witcher, there is no big doom army which the protagonists must defeat by running all around the known world/country to unite all the people and create a super strong alliance to defeat them>! - this is sort of done near the end, but in a more elegant way than other fantasy stories have done it!<. Rather than having the evil army from the depths of hell, the stories tend to be smaller in scope. Sure, the country is getting invaded for the nth time by the Nilfgaardians - an authoritarian empire that's totally not loosely based on Germany - but it doesn't have a whole lot to do with your quest, so it all largely happens in the background. Your focus is a lot smaller than the rise and fall of empires, and that's something I really wish more fantasy did. I don't want to be the saviour of the world, I just want to be one of the little people with an interesting life.
Despite the wars being in the background, though, The Witcher 3 does a very good job at showing just how badly the people living in the smaller villages have been affected - bandits have grown bolder, monsters, wolves, and rabid dogs have taken over the spaces between towns and villages, some larger roads are lined with the hanged bodies of deserters and other criminals, and, if you pay attention to some of the incidental dialogue between NPCs in the small villages, you hear just how tough it is, including some women intentionally sending kids out to die so they have one less mouth to feed. The atmosphere of the world, especially in the third game, is pretty much spot on.
Story
I did really enjoy the stories of the first two games. The first one starts out with a fairly simple task, but gets increasingly complicated as the game goes on. You start out just trying to find the group of bandits that stole the Witcher mutagens, but by the end, you've become heavily involved in the conflict between a religious military order (the Order of the Flaming Rose) and a group of non-human guerrillas (the Scoia'tael), which eventually culminates in a civil war.
The second game follows directly on from the first, and has a similarly deceptively simple plot. At first, you're framed for killing the king you were sworn to protect, and in your quest to clear your name, you end up discovering a plot to establish a new ruling body of mages, as well as a Nilfgaardian plot to destabilise the region prior to invasion.
The story of The Witcher 3, by comparison, is actually somewhat boring. In the prologue, your aim is to find Yennefer - your lover, who has been weirdly absent throughout the first two games. Once you achieve this, the story is to find Ciri - your 'adopted' daughter. And that's it. There's no real twist or anything, you just have to find Ciri before the bad guys, and then fight said bad guys at the end. That's not to say that the story is badly written, by any means. The writing in TW3 is actually some of my favourite, and it's one of the handful of games that actually made me start to tear up a bit (specifically, when you first find Ciri and see she might be dead - might have impacted me more than other people because she was by far my favourite character in the books), and there are times where you can genuinely empathise with some of the characters. However, I felt it dragged on for too long. The main story actually ended about six or so hours after I thought it logically would. That said, the ending does feel like the final conclusion to a big fantasy saga,>! though perhaps not the conclusion that one might be hoping for,!< and it did go back and resolve a couple of plot threads that I'd almost totally forgotten about, which I do appreciate.
Additionally, the game does have quite a few nods to the books, which I really enjoyed - one of my favourites was when I encountered the showman with the caged Wyvern he was trying to pass off as a Basilisk, which eventually got loose. This occurs in the books, except with Ciri, in a circus tent type thing, and it eats everyone as I recall. Another good one are the constant references to the stuffed unicorn - as well as characters that Geralt knows quite well, but which the player might not. These are frequent enough that I'd actually recommend reading the books before playing just for the added context and references. You'll also get an idea of how they totally sidelines Yennefer in favour of Triss, causing another disconnect between Geralt and and players who haven't read the books - most players lacking context would romance Triss, because she's the only one who was present throughout all three games. Geralt, however, would consistently romance Yennefer, and an argument can be made that Geralt was abused by Triss
Gameplay
The core gameplay loop for all three is the same, but the games all did improve on the one that came before, with the first one being proper Euro-jank. The most egregiously bad aspects of the first were polished up in the second, and again in the third. I only have a handful of complaints regarding the gameplay mechanics in TW3:
  • Combat feels too easy after level 25, even with enemy upscaling on. By this point you will have unlocked most ability slots, and worked out exactly what sort of playstyle you're going for, what abilities you want to use, etc. This problem gets compounded further in the Blood and Wine DLC, which is structured like a second ending for the game (I'll discuss this further below). I was sort of able to fix this by using the FCR3 mod and upping the difficulty, which does add some of the challenge that's lacking in the later game.
  • Horse movement isn't great. Sure, Red Dead Redemption 2 has effectively ruined every video game horse for me, but Roach is still quite janky. Roach will try to follow roads as best as she can, but that can sometimes result in you fighting the controls, because the pathing isn't as good as it needs to be for this sort of system to work really well. I lost more than one horse race because I was fighting the controls and got stuck on a fence near the end. There are also some points where Roach might get stuck on invisible walls that aren't there if you walk or if you turn around and go in the other direction for a few metres before turning back.
  • This is more of a UI thing, but I found that I was looking at the minimap way too much when going from one quest objective to the other. Some quests are quite good, in that they'll say something like 'walk along this road, turn left at the fork until you get to the boulder, turn right and follow that road,' but the majority of quests are like Skyrim, wherein you're following the quest marker. Again, I found a mod that sort of alleviates this problem - Friendly HUD, which gives you way more control over HUD elements, and lets you see quest objectives when using the Witcher senses.
Game Structure
Perhaps one of the biggest changes from TW1 and 2 to 3 is that TW3 is a fully open world game, and has seemingly become a benchmark (or in some cases, template) for other developers \cough*Ubisoft*cough*.* While going open world does definitely have its advantages - primarily it definitely does do a better job at emphasising the point that you are in a country that has been absolutely ravaged by war - it also does have some significant shortcomings. Primarily, the question marks. There are way too many, and there are only a handful of different types, which means you do get bored of chasing every single one quite fast.
I also don't think the open world is utilised to its fullest amount - the whole northern area of the main map is only really used in one of the DLCs, otherwise it has no purpose. Most story quests also take place in specific areas - for example, you'll have the Act 1 quests in the countryside, Act 1.5 in the city, Act 2 in a different country, entirely etc. I think nothing really would've been lost by keeping the same world structure as TW2, and having a series of smaller but more detailed maps in which each chapter takes place.
DLC
The story DLC for TW3 is great, but as I said above, I feel the experience is definitely better after reading the books you meet some major book characters and encounter references to events in the books which aren't really explained a whole lot in the game at all, other in the glossary.
Hearts of Stone is probably my favourite of the two, as it has the best music by far, and has a sort of dark and creepy tone just short of horror which I absolutely love and wish more games did. It's also the shorter of the two, only about 10 hours long, and should ideally be played while working your way through the main quest.
Blood and Wine benefits the most from reading the books. Some of the most prominent characters in this story do appear in the books and nowhere else, and one has very a well established relationship with Geralt. This should be completed after the main quest - while that concluded Ciri's story, this concludes Geralt's. This also does refresh the gameplay in some areas - you'll now fight sime much tougher new enemies, and it does change the level-up system, as, by this point, you should have nothing else worthwhile to spend skill points on. This is made more for NG+, because you probably won't be able to unlock everything. Like the combat, I find this does make the game easier than it should be, as it's giving you even more skills to unlock, while enemies don't get much tougher.
The best thing about B&W has to be the setting, though. It's silly yet serious at the same time. An almost comical parody of France (or Italy?), and yet it has a vampire serial killer on the loose.
My main issue with B&W is the ending - the city was attacked by vampires, heaps of innocent people died. And yet, the next day it's like nothing happened - streets are still pristine, shops are open, and everyone's going about their business. Despite it's other faults, Skyrim does a decent job at this - some of the civil war missions will totally wreck some cities, and structures and rubble will remain in place for a week or so in-game before it all gets fixed. That's what should've happened here.
Overall, all the games are great and worth playing, but they are all janky in their own ways, and TW2 is definitely not as perfect as it often gets made out to be.
submitted by Zoological_Exhibit to patientgamers