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.

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