So, to be honest I’m not even sure how to start this article. I’ve finished Blood&Wine for the 3rd time last week. And yet again, it left me shocked but satisfied at the same time. Despite being just a DLC, Blood and Wine will always be my favourite among The Witcher 3 games. So today, I will talk about why this game is a masterpiece in terms of storytelling and why it is better than The Wild Hunt and Hearts Of Stone.
“DETLAFF DOESN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT DOES “LIE” MEAN”
First, let us talk about the real victim of this story: Detlaff Van Der Eretein. He and how his personality has involved during the storyline is the real reason why the story of the DLC is complex. If you have symphatized him throughout the game like me, tı decide the ending of the story can be really though. In one hand, we have fate of the sisters, Syanna and Anna Henrietta. On the other hand though, we have a true friend of Geralt, Regis and an “innocent” vampire: Detlaff.
Why did I call him innocent? Well, he is the one who have been tricked all along for Syanna’s revenge. Should you pay attention how he hated himself after murdering De La Croix, you cannot help but understand that he is not a monster. He cuts down the hand he used for murder due to remorse. The only reason why Detlaff took De La Croix as a friend was the knight helped him in a really little matter. But without asking anything in return. Detlaff took the attitude as a selfless act and simply bonds a friendship with him.
Also, according to Regis, Detlaff doesn’t even understand what “lie” is. You must take in account that vampires are originated from another world and are really ancient beings. Especially Higher Vampires and Unseen Elders. Not to mention their superiority in terms of intelligence, power and such. So we can assume in their culture or nature, to lie isn’t a thing because it is not needed. But Regis also mentions every Higher Vampire have unique personality traits. He puts Detlaff to the naive category. He is naive but also his fury is out of control. Actually pretty much like humans in this sense right?
In his article Grey Characters: No Moral Absolutes, J.S. Morin talks about how to redeem antagonists;
- -Give them someone they are intent on saving or protecting
- Have them follow a set of morals that differ from the protagonist’s, but are perfectly valid and lauded among his or her own people.
- Make the traits that spark their darker deeds trouble them. Soul-searching is good evidence of a soul.
- Find a virtue and have them display it. If you need a list of virtues, you can find one almost anywhere.
For Detlaff, we can take the first two into account. First, he had a “lover” to save and his set of morals aren’t the exact same with Geralt. But of course, Geralt is truly a man of the world so he is really experienced in the topic of “good” and “evil”. As I said, Detlaff didn’t enjoy a bit killing De La Croix but he had to kill them. We will also talk about those knights who are the “embodiments of specific virtues” as well when the time is right.
So, I guess I’ve “convinced” you that Detlaff is not evil or black. Just like how Regis tried to convince me throghout the game. Lets take a look at to a brief example;
You see, Detlaff saved countless people through murdering a beast. Expected nothing in return and even hid his identity and led a legend to be born. And the sole reason why he helped them was an apple. A child offers him an apple in the street but expected nothing in return. And this would be enough to convince Detlaff to help humans, although he didn’t have to help them at all.
So, there are 3 endings for Blood&Wine and 2/3 of them ends up Detlaff dead and Regis is banished from the society of the vampires. Due to I wished to see the 3rd ending which is the “happy” one, I was to kill Detlaff again but at least the sisters were happy.
The truth is, when I have finished the game I wasn’t happy. Because I did not want to kill my boi Detlaff, he was the real victim of the story and a wonderful example of a grey character. We, the player and Geralt tricked him without knowing. Syanna has been saved but we denied Detlaff of his rightful vengaence. His love for Syanna was pure but all Syanna did in return was to use him for her own agenda. And yes, when you ask her, she admit what she had done, straightforward.
THE FEELS, “HAPPY ENDINGS” AND THE USAGE OF COLORS
Before delving into the story of Syanna and Anna, lets take a look at another fragment of storytelling CDPR used throghout the game. The usage of colors. I will try to keep this part brief though I have doubts about it.
The opening sequence of the game is pure green. The green of the wonderful hills of Beauclair, the land of Toussaint is an unrivaled beauty. But her beauty would short -lived. As we delve into the murders with Geralt, the first drops of red inks start to drop. In the form of blood and gore, we deal with vampires and investigate the murders.
The more we progress, the darker the red. The gore continues and another symbol of red colour joins to the story; Wine. And as Anna Henrietta states, wine is sacred in Toussaint. From a fairy-tale like green atmosphere, we quickly delve into a story of investigation, blood and wine. As we progress through the story, the tone of green/peace completely disappears. The tone of red turns darker as the plot thickens.
After blood and wine becomes one in the tone of red, they left the stage to the color; black. Night Of The Long Fangs, as Detlaff sends an army of vampires to raze Beuclair to the ground. But blood and red wasn’t completely absent. In fact, it was a mixture of dark red and black, the peaceful, green land of Toussaint now is in the edge of destruction and slaughter.
So, let us change the subject and talk about the unlucky and sad sisters. Starting with the “antagonist” Syanna and discuss her motivations. Well, long story short: She born in a specific lunar phase, when the sun is dark. So even her own parents believed that she was cursed, touched by The Curse of The Black Sun. And throughout her childhood, they acted accordingly. It is still not clear whether she has been really cursed or not, but Geralt’s approach is a reasonable one. Yes, Syanna had some paintings featuring horrible scenes during her childhood, And she also has manipulated another kid to murder his brother for nothing, knowingly.
Now, just like Detlaff’s case, this is where the things start to get damn complicated. On one hand, you have a girl treated like a leper from birth, almost forced her to act this way. On the other hand though you have an angry, mischievous kid who have manipulated the people around her and have some creepy paintings. So, I’m really not sure if she has been truly cursed or not. But the thing is, her parents did not have the right to act towards her with prejudice. Syanna did not deserve the treatment she got during her childhood.
If you choose to dive into The Land Of a Thousand Fables just like me, you get the opportunity to hear Syanna’s opinions. As she explains what the four specific knights have done to her, you need tu realize Syanna’s personality is grey as well. First she has been rejected by her family, then banished from her home. Moreoverly, the team of knights who were supposed to simply escort her out tormented her. Abused her, denied her food and beated her unconscious. So she gives you a wonderful statement about knights in fairy tales;
So, it is open to debate if murdering those knights was rightful, but I think it is a wonderful way to get revenge. Those knights who have been appointed as embodiments of Tousssaint’s virtues acted against what they were meant to be. What I find as an evil act here is, abusing Detlaff to achieve her goal. There is no excuse for abusing or torturing a defenseless little girl. But the thing is, Syanna abused Detlaff’s love as well. And this is what puts her into the area of greyness.
Let’s talk about Anna Henrietta a bit. One thing is clear: She felt regret for she couldn’t prevent Syanna to be banished. And she even uses her own influence to prevent Syanna to be lynched. As she stated, she could not allow her to be judged as a bandit or something. When she came face to face with her sister, Anna also made clear that she tried to find Syanna.
This was the detail Syanna did not know. The reason why she wished to murder Anna as well, was her assumption that Anna forgot about her. Didn’t even try to find her. But that was wrong, Anna tried to find Syanna. And she had been missing her terribly since her banishment.
Now, if you read the diary of the girls’ governess’, you will understand the relationship between the girls during their childhood. With that in mind, you can convince Syana to soothe her rage and forgive Anna. Or at the least, make her listen to Anna during their conservation. This way, we can witness the side of Anna in this story as well. So many people to listen, right? Syanna and Anna, and the story ties together with Detlaff.
So, let us finish this mega-analysis with how I felt during this entire playthrough. Well, my second run finished with the worst ending. I had to kill Detlaff, I did not try to change Syanna’s mind so she killed Anna and Regis has been banished from the vampire society due to he killed Detlaff. I do not know how can I put in the words what I felt. As a person who love bad endings more than good ones, it was devastating. Especially when I visited the sister’s tomb (buried next to each other) after the disaster. It was one of the best gaming experiences I ever had.
But I have to admit that I like this ending more. Why? Because the previous one was actually straightforward. It was goddamn sad, everybody is dead, game over! It was literally a shout to my face ” You fucked everything up!. Now live with this!” This time though, I simply had mood swings. I’m still not sure how should I feel about the outcomes. On one hand, I’m really sorry for Detlaff had to die and Regis had to be banished. But on the other hand, The final conversation of the sisters’ left me speechless. It literally made me happy to see they forgive each other.
To be honest I’m still commute between happines and sadness. And that is why I called this DLC is the definition of Morally Grey. This is simply a grey ending in my opinion. And the fact that this called as “good ending” pushes the game into the area of greyness even more. Why? Because you cannot classify any of the endings as “Bad”, “Medium” or “Best” in this game. If you have symphatized Detlaff like me, the best ending would be the one where Detlaff kills Syanna and you let him go, instead of killing him. Therefore you find yourself in jail! Otherwise, if you see Detlaff as a monster or a fool to be easily manipulated, my recent ending would be the best one for you. But for me, this ending was a flood of emotions. I’m still not sure how should I feel.
To sum up, Blood and Wine is a masterpiece of greyness. A movie-like experience and in my opinion, the best one among The Witcher 3 games. I’m looking forward till the next time I play this masterpiece, again.
If you have read the article this far, I have to thank you. And please let me know what you think. What do you agree or disagree please let me know in the comments below!