Much has been made of CD Projekt’s often questionable treatment of the fairer sex, and results here are mixed. Geralt is surrounded by powerful, independent women with their own motivations, sure, but the odd impractically wide neckline, or bare midriff in a snowstorm, can suggest that the costume designers are scheming against the scriptwriters. Meanwhile, Ciri has a habit of arriving in cutscenes arse-first. One hoary cliché is finely subverted, at least: Ciri may be cast as the damsel, but she’s playable in a handful of chapters and is the most powerful force in the game, putting Geralt’s broad toolset to shame with just a handful of moves. Old habits die hard, then, but CD Projekt has clearly come a long way since the first game’s sexualconquest card collection. or transpire in a heartbeat, and choices are rarely clearcut. There is no Paragon and Rogue here, just Shit and Shitter; you decide not who to save, but simply who comes off the least worst. Little wonder Geralt often gives off the impression he would rather be somewhere else. He knows what’s coming. Open-world games are typically exercises in forgiveness, of excusing some humdrum or outright broken component parts because of the scale and scope of the whole. In a way, The Witcher III is no exception, though the balance here is tipped firmly in favour of the functional, so it demands less forgiveness than most. CD Projekt has already improved performance, and will continue to do so. The narrative’s pace is uneven early on, but once Ciri is finally found, things pick up considerably, with some fine set-pieces and, in between, a series of missions with real meaning and purpose. Elsewhere there’s a decent script driven by a likeable cast, a satisfying, flexible combat system, and a couple of hundred hours of content set across a colossal, often beautiful, believable world that’s packed – but not too packed – with adventure. Appropriately for a game inspired by a series of novels, there’s a little twinge of sadness when The Witcher III’s credits roll, like saying goodbye to a good book. Fortunately, there are dozens more stories still to be told, hidden away in its forests, atop its mountains, deep below its seas. For a witcher, the story never ends. We brew up some potions, sharpen our swords, and head back out into the wilderness, where the hunt begins anew.