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OPINION: I'm Choosing Yen For the First Time

Poorna Shankar Posted:
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No doubt many of us have watched The Witcher on Netflix by now. I recently completed my second watch and I caught a lot more stuff this second time around. It should also be unsurprising that a ton of people are playing Witcher 3 again, as indicated by Steam. And of course, I have as well. 

I should make this clear upfront – I have played Witcher 3 before. In fact, this is my third or fourth play through of the game. But having seen the absolutely excellent Netflix adaption, it really got me in the mod to dive into the Northern Kingdoms once again.

I picked up my save file from earlier this year in which I had already completed the main story quests in Velen with respect to the Bloody Baron and Crookback Bog. I found myself in Novigrad, easily one of – if  not the – greatest cities I’ve ever experienced in any game (as a brief aside, Toussaint’s Beauclair may be the better city purely because CDPR poured all their learnings from Novigrad into building it out).

Time for a confession – I have never liked Yen. My experience with Witcher 2 and my first play throughs of Witcher 3 naturally steered me towards Triss. I was always put off by Yen’s overly sarcastic tone, and her constant lack of getting to the point, or answering a question directly. It was just so damn tiresome. And so, when it came time for romance in Witcher 3, I always chose Triss.

I just love Triss’ personality all that much more, and there is no question that my view on Triss is shaped by my time with her in Witcher 2. However, and this is where things get interesting, the Netflix show really made me respect Yen much more.

You see, while I was aware of Yen’s background, I was never really all that cognizant of it simply due to my exposure with Triss. It was one of things I was aware of, but didn’t really understand fully. The show really helped me to understand just how awful her life was prior to Aretuza.

And so, as I continued playing through the excellent storylines in Novigrad in Witcher 3, I thought more and more about who I should romance, if I should romance anyone at all. The ball quest with Triss came and went, which did not help matters. It once again showed me why I love Triss’ personality and her drive to help others.

And then came the Now or Never quest, which I just completed on Monday. This quest sees you help Triss escort mages out of Novigrad and away from the clutches of the Church of Eternal Fire. It’s yet another masterful quest in Witcher 3, showcasing the writing, tension, and awesome performances that have seemingly become synonymous with CD Projekt RED.

And yet, even whilst running through the Novigrad sewers with Triss, my inner struggle to choose Triss or Yen continued. I had played this game many times before. I knew what was coming at the end of this quest. I knew there would be a decision point with a point of no return. And my time to make that decision was running out.

I realized in that moment that, perhaps rather pretentiously, my inner turmoil must have mirrored Geralt’s own. We were both racing towards a decision that neither of us wanted to make, but knew must be made.

Triss and I exited the sewers where Dijkstra was waiting for us. And then came the appointed hour. I had to make my decision here, now. And in that instant, at the eleventh hour, I chose to let Triss sail away to Kovir. I decided that, for once, I should see how things play out with Yen because frankly, she deserved my time.

Once again, it a testament to the absolute brilliance of CD Projekt RED that I even felt this much tension, as contrived and ultimately meaningless as it may be. My relationship with Triss from Witcher 2 spilling over to the events that transpire with her in Witcher 3, combined with the amazing writing, superb animation, and outstanding performances created this moment of tension. And, as always, it was worth it.

So here I sit, dear readers. For the first time playing Witcher 3, I have let Triss sail off to Kovir without expressing my love for her, and am pursuing my relationship with Yen. From an RP standpoint, no doubt folks will argue that this makes sense as Yen is “the one” for Geralt.

But from a gameplay standpoint, I’m now genuinely curious as to what other conversation options and gameplay moments this decision now unlocks for me. There are a lot of subtle inflections and hidden conversations built into this game, all stemming from the decisions you make from your interactions with various NPCs.

For all intents and purposes, I’m in uncharted territory for me personally. This fills me with excitement as I’m sure to experience a different Witcher 3 now than I have in the past. Who knows, maybe I’ll warm to Yen.


Poorna Shankar