Okay, look: the first game in CD Projekt Red’s Witcher series wasn’t exactly a bold step forward in sexual politics in gaming – protagonist Geralt of Rivia ran around literally getting trading cards for every woman he took to bed. And it’s not as if The Witcher 2 wholly sheds that legacy – there are quite a few cheesecake shots of sorceress and sometimes-lover Triss Merigold’s bottom, for instance (she even “posed” for Poland’s Playboy magazine as part of the game’s promotion).
But there’s a scene a bit into the game where Geralt and Triss, after fighting some guards, tumble through some overgrowth and into an ancient vault, where roses are growing and a fountain feeds a clear pool.
Leaning against a column, Triss ponders the duo’s next move, wondering how they might escape from the ruin. As Geralt, you strike up a conversation. There’s a bit of flirting as Triss realizes Geralt has sex on the brain, made clear when he suggests, “You could use a bath.”
“So could you,” she retorts, sauntering toward the pool and disrobing.
The ensuing sex scene isn’t remarkable on its own. It’s passingly well-directed, if a bit late-night cable-ish, but what makes it work is the relationship established between Triss and Geralt in the lead-up to it. They’re both well-drawn characters, and watching this scene, I had bought in to the idea that they cared a lot for each other — although by necessity from afar when they weren’t messing up the sheets. Both characters are powerful in their own overlapping spheres of influence, and in a world that’s almost uniformly grimy and oppressive, a moment stolen together in a beautiful, secret haven makes a lot of sense.