That is the question.
[Disclaimer: I did not read the books, nor did I play the previous games and have no plan on playing them. I may read the books later on. My opinions are completely based on my playing Witcher III: Wild Hunt.]
I’ve advanced far enough in the gameplay — I’m not done yet — to spend some time with both Triss and Yen. I saw how different they were and how they interacted with Geralt. Here is my analysis on why I chose who I chose for G.
I *like* Triss. I really, really like Triss. She’s funny, smart, nice, sweet, pretty, brave, loving and beautiful. Apart from the witch hunters and King Radovid, everyone seems to think highly of her. She has a deep empathy for her fellow mages and people in general. She even went OOC and became an inspiring leader for persecuted mages while helping them escape from Novigrad because she knew what she needed to do. She is not prideful. When she needed money both for herself and her fellow mages, she did everything no matter how low (i.e. killing rats) for a sorceress of her standing just to earn some coin. She willingly exerted a lot of effort and put herself in danger for the sake of saving one or two individuals.
While trying to look for Dandelion and Ciri, she withstood torture from the witch hunters so Geralt could interrogate Menge. Afterwards, she slaughtered her torturers and burned the building. That’s pretty amazing for someone who’s known to be “really nice.”
She sincerely cares of Geralt, Ciri and their friends and she obviously still carries a torch for our resident witcher. Lastly, she has tons of deep red hair and lovely green eyes, both of which I would love to have in a heartbeat.
She slept and entered into a two year relationship with Geralt while he had amnesia, knowing full well that he and her dear friend Yennefer were in an occasionally on and off but decades long relationship. Yup, that’s a true friend alright.
As a supposedly powerful sorceress, I believe that she has the potential to do so much more. But she relies on Geralt so much for a lot of little things. When it came to proving herself as a leader, she depended on Geralt to make an important decision, which should have been her call (see Now or Never quest). Yes, I know they’re necessary for quest content but it’s the way she asks and what she asks for that I found annoying. There is a distinct lack of independence as the game clearly shows that Geralt showed up in the nick of time before Triss got into deeper trouble.
Her sweetness and likability make her major flaws easy to dismiss.
YENNEFER OF VENGERBERG
Let’s get the looks over it early on. Yen is glaringly gorgeous, the type that would shine in a dark, crowded concert hall and make other women hate her. Her hair is so unbelievably glossy and looking at it makes me want to pour a whole bottle of serum on my head.
She’s independent, intelligent, focused and strong. She’s not afraid to take on difficult quests alone and she is secure and confident in her abilities as a sorceress. In spite of her distant manner, she shows an ability to deeply care for Geralt. However, her love for Ciri dwarfs her affection for Geralt (see The Last Wish quest). She is single-minded and devoted on her search for Ciri. She will roam the earth for her, steal for her, suffer for her, drain a sacred’s garden’s magic power for her, perform necromancy for her, and tolerate kings for her. For Ciri, nothing was too much for Yen as she constantly reminds Geralt that finding her and protecting their “daughter” from the Wild Hunt was their main goal.
Yen seems to think that manners are optional. She has minimal small talk skills and can easily get impatient with people she does not particularly like. When under pressure, she sees politeness as a waste of time and appears brusque to others. Unsurprisingly, this does not endear her to a lot of people. When she was in Kaer Morhen, the first thing she did was order other witchers to gather things she needed to break the curse (see Ugly Baby quest), which made Vesemir, Lambert and Eskel think of her as bossy and rude. She can also be sullen and stubborn. She rarely smiles.
She can have a sarcastic and dry humor. Some may interpret it as her putting Geralt down a lot. Others may see it as playful banter borne out of habit from being together for 20-some years.
She has a temper. She gets annoyed very easily and, upon arrival at Kaer Morhen, lost no time in tossing a heavy oak bed out of the window because that’s where Geralt and Triss stayed during his amnesia years.
I chose Yen.
*waits as violent reactions from male chauvinistic gamer-bros ensue*
The game forums are full of criticisms about how utterly bitchy and arrogant Yen is and how badly she treats Geralt in comparison to how sweet Triss is to him. Aside from stressful situations, I never thought of Yen as bitchy. She was pushy and demanding at times but only when she needed something critical. Otherwise, she acted perfectly civil and polite. Her sarcastic wit is something Geralt is surely familiar with, he even joked about it in Vizima. She is definitely more distant but that is most likely caused by her naturally secretive personality and by her ability to compartmentalize her feelings and set her emotions aside temporarily when needed. Her “arrogance” is a misconception that stems from her confidence in her ability and talent as one of the most powerful sorceresses in the world of Witcher.
She did not feel the need to ask Geralt or any man for permission when it came to making important calls that she had to, especially when it was within the sphere of her expertise. The ones who called her too controlling may have missed the parts where she asked Geralt for assistance or left the decision up to him when the situation called for someone with his skill set.
The malicious criticisms against Yen reminds me of how people in real life see confident, independent, assertive and intelligent women as abrasive and bitchy. I don’t find it disturbing that gamers are quick to judge. What I do find disturbing is why male (and even some female) gamers branded Yen as THE BITCH and completely bashed her, when she just happens to be the only strong female among the lead characters, as they sang Triss’ praises for being a nice, submissive and sweet girl. Misogyny is alive and well, folks.
My husband, who is not intimidated by the type of woman described, thinks Yen is an awesome character. I think she’s a very complex and more interesting one than Triss. Before leaving for Kovir, Triss begged for Geralt to ask her to stay. Yen would have said “f* it, I’ll stay because I want to be with you.”
I chose Yen because she has proven her love and devotion for both Ciri and Geralt. Sure, her relationship with Geralt may not be perfect but let’s be honest here… Geralt isn’t exactly the squeaky clean boy next door type. (Hello!!! Keira Metz and the Cinderella-isque fling!) He deserves the occasional barb. I think he’s damned lucky to have women like Yen and Triss in his life.
In the end, I think Yen is the better choice for Geralt. He’s drawn to her because he knows she’s what he needs. She will certainly keep things interesting for Geralt as they grow old together (awww). I don’t see her expecting Geralt to retire in wedded bliss (as Triss would) as that would bore Yen to tears. I see them traveling, casting spells, slaying monsters, and working together to save this cynical world one quest at a time well into their twilight years.
If you’d like to read an account about Yennefer from someone who has read the books and played all the games, see The Real Dragon Nerd’s post here.