By Travis Trombley
To this end, the game wades into politics and religion, revealing the worst of institutions and those behind them, highlighting their flaws. But with some endurance on the player’s part, the game eventually outgrows its postmodern cynicism and provides the player something a bit more encouraging.
Let’s start with the the game’s foray into postmodernism, herein very loosely defined.
Warning : this post contains spoilers for events later in the game.
Early on, players encounter a rather odd quest called “Defender of Faith.” An old woman stands in the road next to a fallen idol - and not the colloquialism of a person once held in high esteem, either, it’s literally a wooden idol. She claims some youngsters have intentionally defiled the idols of Verna the Merciful, which - unless rectified - will result in Verna’s retribution on the town: cows will die, children will get warts, and dogs will get the mange, she says.
It’s worth noting that the idol’s depiction of Verna bears a striking resemblance to a water hag, a more powerful monster type one can run across in Velen, casting the woman’s religion in even more negative light.
If the player chooses to fix the other shrines, Geralt eventually catches up the vandals, a crew of students from Oxenfurt trying to enforce their ‘enlightened’ worldview. “The gods are dead, we but dispose of their rotting remains, the dying embers of superstition,” their leader states. “Religion is the opiate of the masses. The gods are dead, thus speaks Master Frederick of Oxenfurt. Common folk fear their religion and the priest, not the gods, and this fear enslaves us in fetters of ignorance. We must forge a new morality, or rid ourselves of morality altogether.”
Sound familiar? It should - Master Frederick of Oxenfurt bears a striking resemblance to Friedrich Nietzsche, the famous 19th Century philosopher who declared “God is dead,” and radically suggested that everything built on the concept of God - objective morality and a meaning of life, included - ought to be discarded. This bleak worldview would eventually come to be known as as nihilism.