Pub­lisher Bandai Namco De­vel­oper CD Pro­jekt Red For­mat PC, PS4, Xbox One Re­lease Fe­bru­ary 24

The Witcher se­ries has al­ways had woman trou­ble. In the first game, Ger­alt col­lected a card for each of his sex­ual con­quests. The Witcher

2’ s Triss was a CG cen­tre­fold in Pol­ish Play­boy, and teams at CD Pro­jekt’s War­saw HQ work un­der gi­ant wall-hung prints of that is­sue’s cover. The Witcher III:

Wild Hunt was E3’s game of the show for many, but the same old prob­lems re­main. When Ger­alt Of Rivia rides on horse­back into the bustling city of Novi­grad, the first fe­male voice we hear is that of a passerby. “You look sweaty. Fancy sweat­ing on me?”

The ul­ti­mate ob­jec­tive of the lengthy quest that forms CD Pro­jekt’s be­hind-closed-doors demo is an ashen-haired girl who, we will find out in close-up later on, has a nice bot­tom. Along the way, we meet three mys­ti­cal women whose faces are cov­ered by burlap sacks and are called Crones. This is the most beau­ti­ful and am­bi­tious game CD Pro­jekt has made yet, but the stu­dio is lucky that Ubisoft’s showfloor gaffes hoovered up all the ac­cu­sa­tions of misog­yny.

The game’s prob­lems ex­tend be­yond the the­matic. This 40-minute demo con­tains what is pre­sented as a sin­gle ex­am­ple of CD Pro­jekt’s new quest sys­tem but is in fact three tra­di­tional ones stitched end to end. Af­ter meet­ing an in­for­mant, we set out into swamp­land in search of a Godling – an en­dan­gered, boy­ish hu­manoid crea­ture – who we’re told may be able to help. Af­ter clear­ing out a set­tle­ment of ban­dits (its sole in­hab­i­tant a woman who co­quet­tishly in­vites us back for some tea later on) we find that he can, but he’s lost his voice, so we get it back by killing some harpies who are keep­ing it in a jar. He di­rects us to the Crones, who won’t speak to us un­til we’ve col­lected a debt from the al­der­man of a nearby vil­lage. He, in turn, needs help: some lo­cal evil force has been pick­ing off vil­lagers. We as­sist – first killing a were­wolf, then an evil spirit that has pos­sessed a tree – then col­lect the debt, re­turn to the Crones, marvel at their dread­ful Welsh ac­cents and, at last, find the girl. Life in the Witcher III is an end­less pro­ces­sion of trade and barter in which all we have to of­fer is death and a will­ing­ness to travel.

Sword­play has, at least, been much im­proved. It’s slow­paced, de­lib­er­ate and flu­idly an­i­mated, but Ger­alt’s ar­se­nal of spells are clearly more pow­er­ful than ei­ther his steel or sil­ver blades. It’s a fine-look­ing game, too, but nowhere near as fine as the new trailer shown at the demo’s end sug­gests. A de­lay to Fe­bru­ary means there’s still time to sort that out, but we sus­pect it’s al­ready too late for the women.

More sex and stab­bing than spells ’n’ elves, The

Witcher is a hard­boiled take on high fan­tasy in the style of Co­nan The Bar­bar­ian, set­ting it apart from DragonAge, de­spite their sim­i­lar­i­ties when viewed from afar

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