The RPG Scrollbars: The Women Of The Witcher 3

One of the best things about The Witcher III is that it shows how far CD Projekt has come in just a few short years. We see it in world and quest design, in writing, in graphical technology and in scale, and all those speak for themselves. One of the biggest surprises though is how far it’s climbed in terms of female representation over the years – from one of the industry’s biggest targets to a high watermark others would be well advised to treat as the new baseline. It’s not perfect, but it tries hard, and a game willing to do that is well worth taking a moment to praise for its success. There will be spoilers.

It’s often surprising how games evolve, and which ones end up being a pleasant surprise. Saints Row IV is a great example. The earlier games are very stock GTA type stuff with an obsession with strippers and hookers, marketing campaigns featuring porn stars, and lots of other eye-rolling stuff – much of it to the developers’ displeasure. By Saints Row IV though, the series had opened out considerably, allowing for much of the cast to be powerful, funny women who weren’t simply welcomed in, but whose presence both in and at the top was simply treated as entirely natural and unworthy of mention. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, just that you’re a Saint.

The Witcher III obviously has a much bigger cast to handle, but shares that sense of having finally achieved an understanding that it often lacked. Not exclusively, in both directions. It’s still very fond of its sexy outfits for starters, and a few knowing comments about them being stupid only highlight that at least a few should probably have been changed. Ves in particular looks ridiculous walking into battle with pretty much little but a ripped shirt on, and while at least the sorceresses’ magic spells can justify having it all hang out, it’s impossible to defend a veteran soldier being so goddamn stupid.

What matters though isn’t really the outfits, but the characters within them. As with many of The Witcher III’s best bits, the real change started back in the second game, and Ves, somewhat depressingly given how she’s portrayed in this one, was a great example. She’s introduced as being desperate to win respect and be seen as more than – and I quote – ‘tits atop an arse’, and gets her chance in a duel with Geralt. The correct response of course isn’t to throw the fight in the hope of helping her impress the men around her, but win, showing her the respect you’d shown those who came before her. It’s a small moment in a game of many, many moments, but certainly a hell of a jump up from shagging someone to collect a porny little card to go on the pile.

The Witcher III regularly shows the same nuanced view of respect – respecting its female characters not simply by making them badass, but by making them interesting. That’s as much a question of flaws as anything else – fleshing everyone out by having, to pick one, Geralt’s former lover Yennefer often losing her careful cool over Geralt’s various trysts with Triss, yet also fully able to both work and scheme with both towards a greater good. It allows for Triss to simultaneously express relief that Geralt’s restored memory won’t let people manipulate him any more, and cheerily confess to having done so herself on many occasions. It allows for the Bloody Baron’s wife and daughter to be important characters with their own stories, both before and after Geralt arrives, rather than simply becoming emotional props to tell his story. His daughter Tamara in particular isn’t simply sitting around and waiting for a hero to show up and sort out her problems – she’s recruited allies, she’s prepared, she’s in the middle of trying to make things right herself. She’s also accepted the price for all this in a way that Geralt as a main character will never have to either consider or pay.

And the list goes on. The Witcher III has been getting a bit of flack recently for its all-white cast, and I’m not planning to get into that one here, but in terms of female representation it’s genuinely refreshing. Women can be elected queens reigning in wisdom over a manly land. They can be spiteful villagers who will call a barmaid a cunt and repeatedly smash her head into the bar. And anything in the middle – villagers, sorceresses, poets, princesses. That’s of course before we even get to Ciri, a princess who only needs protecting because the scale of the foes chasing her is enough to terrify even a coalition of the world’s most badass people, and even so has a destiny involving something on a scale that leaves them so powerless, they’re not even in the loop on it.

Just as importantly, and often overlooked, most of them are genuinely fun characters in their own right – not suffering from the Lola Bunny problem, where the writer is so worried trying to make a ‘perfect’ character that they fail to make them interesting. So many moments stand out, from Yennefer being drawn into a werewolf themed pun war with Geralt to a certain character in Novigrad refusing to be conveniently stuffed into a fridge for the sake of drama – a terrible thing happens that I won’t spoil, save to note that her response is a positive “Very well, if I can no longer X, I’ll Y!”

This all also extends to The Witcher III’s approach to sex, which does a decent job of treating both participants as partners in the act rather than the lady as a prize to be won. The first possibility that most players are likely to encounter, Keira Metz, is a good example, where she’s the one who brings up the idea, handles all of the preparations, and has a wider plan in mind for the one-night stand. Later, the love triangle has a particularly funny outcome if Geralt mistakenly thinks that two ferociously smart, powerful sorceresses are going to let him keep both of them hanging.

An equally interesting element though is how both of them consistently have bigger priorities than his cock, with their primary focus really being on helping Ciri – a daughter/sister with whom they have as much history and emotional connection to. Instead of destructively chasing after Geralt and letting their friendship turn into animosity, they’re also perfectly capable of recognising when he’s gone from reasonably being torn between them and their histories to just plain dicking about.

All of this writing also manages to feel natural. There’s nothing as pointed as, for instance, Dragon Age: Inquisition’s scene about transgender soldier Krem or Dorian finally facing his father about his homosexuality – both very strong scenes, and in the case of the former especially, well worth including. I’m not arguing against their inclusion, simply comparing the styles. The Witcher III offers a far more realistic and grounded take on things that Bioware would normally give a PSA feel to, whether dealing with big picture issues or smaller ones, like not playing a crossdressing tailor for laughs or mocking his personal philosophy, but still letting him have a spark – not least having him be the one to share the alchemist Kalkstein’s death by fire, complete with Agnes Nutter style fireworks display designed to spray out the words “Radovid sucks flaccid cock.”

Throughout, sex, power, conflict, love, destiny and everything else that makes the characters more than just pixels on the screen are treated as part of the characters rather than their defining and only characteristic. It gives them grounded nuance, a life and agency beyond Geralt or the player’s needs, whims or desires, as well as making it seem entirely appropriate when they work against him or leave him in the dark. They’re in your story, but you’re also in theirs, and they’ve not just been sitting around waiting for a map with a mop for his hair to show up and bless them with purpose.

One of Triss’ scenes in particular stood out for me here. She’s willing to volunteer for torture and humiliation at the hands of mage-hating witch hunters if it will help Geralt find Ciri, and duly suffers for it. As Geralt politely talks, we hear her screams as they rip her fingernails out with pliars. What’s interesting about the scene though is the duality of what follows – her lash-back both a display of strength, that she is and always was powerful enough to stop the torture any time she wanted, and weakness in that she knows her inability to endure it could have thrown away any chance of finding her adopted sister. It’s a wonderfully tight bit of writing in a game that makes it look so natural and easy, especially since on the surface it can so easily be mistaken for just a bit of torture porn.

The skill with with The Witcher III does all this is all the more impressive for the fact that it sits comfortably next to so much stuff that might otherwise start feeling icky – the constant hookers and strumpets for instance, or at least a couple of villains whose evil is shown using the Tortured Naked Lady School of Exposition. Occasionally something does go a bit too far, like the Ves thing, but generally every side simply feels like its own thread of an overall coherent tapestry – a world with room for every kind of person, be they good or evil, male or female, badass or victim, chaste and virginal or down to fuck on a stuffed unicorn. That doesn’t simply make it a more realistic world, but an endlessly more interesting one – one to explore, to enjoy, and of course, to save.

And if you do still want pretty ladies on cards, hey, at least there’s always Gwent.

104 Comments

  1. suibhne says:

    And yet, despite the truth of everything written above, they still put Ciri – a combat character – in high heels. With Yen it makes sense, but it’s eye-roll-worthy in Ciri’s case, over and over.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Costumes in general go against it quite a bit. Ciri is also in need of a couple of extra buttons, though Ves is by far the biggest offender in the game.

      • suibhne says:

        Spot on. I suppose Ves’s outfit didn’t irritate me so much because her throwaway treatment in the game already irritated me (especially in my case, as I’m still walking around with the tattoo I got while over-indulging with her in TW2). But in both cases, Ciri and Ves, the get-ups are ridiculously at odds with the characterization.

        Anyway, this overall piece is a great example of why I’m pleased you’re writing here, Richard.

      • K_Sezegedin says:

        I generally love the sexy ren-fair outrageousness of W2/3 costumes…but yeah W3 Ves is out of control.

        This is the first I’ve seen her latest iteration and all I can say is I thought her W2 outfit could’ve used an extra string or two so…

        • blur says:

          Though that said, Roche does give her shit about the way she chooses to dress, implying that what she’s wearing isn’t just due to some misogynist artist at CDPR, but is part of her personality. It’s funny that a male character in the story wants her to cover her navel and put on a breastplate – a bit of reversal from the status quo of “female armour”.

      • aepervius says:

        I simply chose to assume it is a deep summer. A very very hot summer. With sometimes a bout of stormy summer rain. That explain the open outfit from everybody.

        • Hidden_7 says:

          The fact that it’s set in the north and the sun rises at about 3am made me assume it’s the summer as well.

    • Cinek says:

      She did? I didn’t even notice. That said though – Geralt doesn’t have too great outfits either, really. Some of them work only because steel is flexible in the game… somehow… don’t ask me why, but it’s most obvious on some of the heavy armors where in many moves you can see armor stretching.

      Half of the things Geralt does in the game wouldn’t be possible in real life when wearing these armors, no matter how mutated human you are – it’d end up either blocking your moves or you breaking the armor.

      • Rumpelstilskin says:

        Yeah, while I use the griffin set myself currently, I started noticing plate armor stretching on NPCs during cutscenes, and it gets a bit jarring. Not as much as pendant jittering though.

        • Tacroy says:

          In the beginning of the game I thought it was just jittering because he’s always near Yennifer and the pendant jitters in the presence of magic.

      • Cator says:

        You’re wron about that one acutally.

        Most of the armour You see in the game is historically inspired. Most of the sets Geralt wears, are based on true and tested european types of clothing and protection.

        The fact that armour “stretches” in the game, has nothin to do with their design. That’s how armour is in all video games, since there is no way so far, to convincingly sepratate “solid plates”, from the rest of the animated character mesh.

        • Rumpelstilskin says:

          Well, it’s clearly doable, since they got things like hair and cloth working, but it does require some extra effort. One obvious solution is to make sure that the entire plate mesh is skinned to a single bone. There’s probably no existing bone that has a perfect orientation for all motions, but it can be added and animated explicitly. Or it can be computed automatically as some best-fitting average of several bones (but in this case it’ll probably need some extra protection against clipping)

          • Cator says:

            But those are really technical considerations of software, rathern than of conceptual design. In terms of functuality and/or believablity of construction, the armour in Witcher is basically miles above any other video game fantasy franchise.

            In fact, some of the costumes might even seem too alien or awkward, to those people who were mostly brought up on high fantasy and popculture’s imagining of what medieval clothing and armour looked like. In fact, real, historically inspired stuff can look quite alien compared to some of the run-of-the-mill visual archtypes, usually found in fantasy games.

          • luukinflames says:

            Didn’t Ryse:Son of Rome manage to accomplish this in some small part? I remember that I was greatly impressed by the way all the plates of armour on the main character were moving along with him, even though they rarely moved through each other, so there wasn’t any real collision between them. But they had to only animate a few armors in Ryse, i suspect it would be harder to achieve with games of such scope as Witcher 3.

          • Rumpelstilskin says:

            I can ask our tech artists if you like..

        • Archonsod says:

          European armour was designed for men fighting either in line or on horseback, not pirouetting and rolling around like a deranged ballerina.It’s one of those odd little anachronisms most RPG’s fall prey to – they utilise the more flashy post-gunpowder fighting styles in which the skimpy clothing wouldn’t be an issue (these being developed when plate had become obsolete) but then include plate type heavy armour which makes the whole thing look ridiculous (not least because said techniques only tend to work on unarmoured opponents).. To be fair though most RPG worlds tend to fail if you start trying to apply logic to them – any battle involving men capable of wielding electricity on the one side and men wearing an awful lot of metal on the other is going to be over incredibly quickly.

          • dmoe says:

            Because something is inspired by or takes design queues from historic periods doesn’t mean it can’t be used to bend the rules in a fantasy world found in this game. Tons of things are taken from historic sources and are allowed to juggle illogical uses for it. Like you said, applying too much logic takes the wind out of the fantasy part.

            I love what they’ve done with the costumes and armor in The Witcher series. It doesn’t look like anything you’ve seen in Western and Eastern RPG’s. The ultra colorful cloth patterns and various types of material are great. Which is a very creative change from so many RPG’s that love to create such dour fashion choices that boil down to just brown and grey.

          • Cator says:

            First of all, Geralt isn’t using the type historical armour created with the rank and file in mind. Most of the get up he wears in the game, are fantasy iterations of what a relatively light armour could look like, taking into consideration a lot of historically inspired materials, styles and looks, and construction methods.

            Also, Geralt fights the way he fights partly becouse of gameplay considerations, not world design, as it would be incredibly difficult to represent realistic “non edge-on-edge” swordplay techniques in an action RPG. Also, the fact that Geralt is a mutant with superhuman reflexes and physical abilities, make a lot of real-world considerations fly out of the window, when in theory he is able to succesfully perfom movements that in case of a normal human would be useless flash.

    • Michael Anson says:

      The heels are perhaps twice as tall as they need to be, but are pretty standard riding boots in layout, particularly for the time. Given everything else, they could have made worse choices in footwear.

    • yene says:

      And always wearing make up, even during sauna.

    • PopeBob says:

      Eh, they’re less high heels in the traditionally sexy sense and more high heels in the “Spanish Heel” riding sense. I’d be more concerned about the silly opened linen shirt than the heels which make plenty functional sense.

    • dmoe says:

      Those are old school riding boots. Not heels like you see on your Sunset Strip celebrity.

  2. omicron1 says:

    Conversely, the player’s introduction to the church/organized religion in Temeria is pretty much the same tone as having the first woman you meet in a game be an evil vampiress in black leather who’s nonetheless willing to do anything the player desires sexually.
    It’s a tone-deaf “we are villainous stereotypes” approach that The Witcher 1 also suffered from – a disturbing propensity to write off half the potential player base, without any of the critical alarm or improvement game-to-game that the Witcher series’ treatment of women was given.

    In a game as narratively deep and compelling as this, with nuance lavished even upon its most outwardly evil characters, it’s disappointing to see any group reduced to flat, evil stereotypes. It certainly doesn’t make me feel particularly welcome at its table, no matter how open and inclusive the game is of my gender or identity otherwise.

    • omicron1 says:

      Though I should note that at least in Witcher 1 the Order didn’t *start* as a villainous stereotype in every aspect, and was much more evenly treated.

      *SPOILER FOR WITCHER 1*

      They just dumped all over a player’s potential choice to support them – PSYCH! We’re evil racists to a man! Now don’t you feel bad about not having supported the scoi’atel?

      • Ringwraith says:

        Well, siding the order leads to purging the corrupt elements from it.
        Then Siegfried appears in the sequel as the new grand master and lets you in the front gate the Order’s camped outside no problem.

  3. woodsey says:

    Don’t want to get too specific for those who haven’t finished, but the actual mechanics of a certain character’s storyline hinge on whether you treat them like a little girl or actually acknowledge the fact that they’re the most powerful being in the universe.

    • waltC says:

      “…next to so much stuff that might otherwise start feeling icky – the constant hookers and strumpets for instance, or at least a couple of villains whose evil is shown using the Tortured Naked Lady School of Exposition.”

      Yea, gosh, let’s just rewrite history and reality so that it aligns with the “less icky feeling” delusions we develop about how things “ought to be” or “should have been.” And I guess it’s OK to show the “naked lady having sex” but it’s not alright to show the “naked lady being tortured”…? Please…we have so much delusional revisionism today that simply makes people who don’t know their history very well seem a lot dumber than they perhaps are. It’s not a very healthy fad–sometimes it’s far better to tell the truth about certain things than to try and cover it up and pretend otherwise. Does that really fool anyone, or are we just fooling ourselves?

      • Dicehuge says:

        “Yea, gosh, let’s just rewrite history and reality so that it aligns with the “less icky feeling” delusions we develop about how things “ought to be” or “should have been.” … Please…we have so much delusional revisionism today that simply makes people who don’t know their history very well seem a lot dumber than they perhaps are”

        These sorts of arguments are utterly ludicrous to me. What on earth do you mean “rewrite history”? It’s a fantasy game set in a fantasy world from a fantasy novel. The “real history” of this world is whatever they deem it to be.

        • jrodman says:

          When a fantasy games doesn’t align with a fan’s idea of reality, it’s because of artistic license. But when it does, it’s for historical accuracy.

        • ohminus says:

          “These sorts of arguments are utterly ludicrous to me. What on earth do you mean “rewrite history”? It’s a fantasy game set in a fantasy world from a fantasy novel. The “real history” of this world is whatever they deem it to be.”

          That’s a stunningly naïve view that is precisely the problem here – it’s talking history on the basis of Disney cartoons, dime novels, tropes and caricatures, ignoring the complexity of societies. A society is a network of interdependencies, and changing one thing invariably touches on countless others.

          More:There is a reason the characters dress like they do, why they use the weapons they use and their officials have titles known from the real world: It’s telling us that we can use real history to fill in the gaps.

          To believe that history can be “whatever we want it to be” is simply advocating shoddy writing.

          • Dicehuge says:

            “That’s a stunningly naïve view that is precisely the problem here – it’s talking history on the basis of Disney cartoons, dime novels, tropes and caricatures, ignoring the complexity of societies. A society is a network of interdependencies, and changing one thing invariably touches on countless others.”

            I’m not saying that fictional worlds have the right to be internally inconsistent because it’s fantasy. But the suggestion of the other dude seems to be that every conceivably realistic version of history is one where villains torture prostitutes for fun and that to create a world without ” the constant hookers and strumpets for instance, or at least a couple of villains whose evil is shown using the Tortured Naked Lady School of Exposition” is wildly unthinkable.

            It doesn’t logically follow that fictional societies are complex, therefore to omit “Tortured Naked Lady School of Exposition” is to defy all notions of what a complex society is.

  4. Cinek says:

    One of Triss’ scenes in particular stood out for me here. She’s willing to volunteer for torture and humiliation” – I highly recommend re-playing this mission picking different paths. She gets rather pissed off if you don’t follow her plan and it has repercussions later on.

    I really liked this and few other moments like that – where if you’ll try to treat women like a “girls” – they’ll get pissed off or highly disapprove your actions. It’s also really nice in character development and you can see how each character reacts differently and how it affects later dialogs. CDPR really did great work in breaking up with a chains of thropes that bound so many female characters in other RPGs.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I also like that if you try to spare her the torture side of it by mind controlling the witch hunters, they pretty much straight up go “Wait, you’re trying that on US?!” and a huge fight breaks out immediately.

      • MadMinstrel says:

        Yep – but it’s totally winnable. At least on “Blood and Broken Bones”. I sort of wish the mighty witch hunters offered a bit more resistance.

        • brgillespie says:

          It’s doable on Death March, as well. Just keep dodging with those enhanced Witcher reflexes.

          I went along with the charade until right before I spoke with the bad dude. We’re standing before a door, the witcher hunters are all twirling their mustaches and cackling, and Geralt has a “I’m tired of this shit” response. The to-be-tortured lady wasn’t all that mad, either. You went along with the charade, just got tired of the witch hunters. :)

    • gunny1993 says:

      I had a 2 hour argument with my friends on this, their stance was that “she said she could handle it and she can” my stance was “I’ll be fucked if I’m letting them no good bastards torture my friends”

      • hungrycookpot says:

        Right? I don’t give a damn if it’s a cute little lady or a 300 pound bruiser, I’m not sending your into the torture room so I can have a low-key conversation with the bad guy. I’m a freaking witcher, I’ll cut my way in there and ask him the hard way.

  5. Rumpelstilskin says:

    A definite indication of TW3’s temperance and maturity is that they opted to have no boob physics and went for the hair physics instead.

  6. Herbal Space Program says:

    You let them torture Triss, you monster!

  7. Hardlylikely says:

    I’m lycan all these Witcher 3 articles!

    • Premium User Badge

      Skabooga says:

      Even if it isn’t game of the month, RPS clearly isn’t belladonna writing about Witcher III.

  8. Paul says:

    Women have always been great in Witcher games. It’s funny to remember the cards from Witcher 1, western journalists from US/UK were so offended while everyone I knew, being from central europe (czechland) loved it, women included. Completely different sensibilities.

    • Mint says:

      Anita sarkeesian and john mcintosh seem to disagree.

      -Anita
      “”The Witcher 3 does to Ciri [a female character in the game -ed.] what Arkham City did to Catwoman,” Sarkeesian said in one tweet. “Thugs yell ‘bitch’ and ‘whore’ and sexually harass both women as you play them.”

      “Also the ‘it’s realistic for enemies to sexually harass female characters’ excuse is nonsense in fantasy games filled with ghouls & wraiths,” .

      -Jonathan McIntosh
      “Geralt of Rivia is the perfect embodiment of hegemonic masculinity,” said McIntosh.

      “Geralt from Witcher 3 is emotionally deficient in the extreme. Never cries or laughs. Never expresses grief, fear, sadness or vulnerability,” he continued.

      “When the only form of emotional expression available to male characters is looking pensive once in a while we’ve got a masculinity problem.”

      “Anger and rage are the only real emotional expressions male game protagonists are allowed. Needless to say that’s a toxic message for men.”

      • Herbal Space Program says:

        Geralt actualy display happiness and even cry during the game, however not often and it’s more powerfull this way.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          And one particular scene like that is absolutely impossible to miss.

          Well, at least to someone that actually played the game, unlike her.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Well, at least you helped us better understand that it really IS time to stop listening to her.

        • Horg says:

          It’s more of an indication that people should stop using Twitter. There’s something about having to make a point with a restrictive character limit that reduces the thoughts of even the most reasonable people to click bait level drivel : |

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Yeah, i can agree with that, but let’s be honest, it’s not like she never cherry picked stuff for her points either, often in an extremely misguided way aswell.

          • woodsey says:

            That McIntosh fellow is the real problem. He’s either played the game and is flat-out lying about it, or he’s flat-out lying about having played it at all.

      • MrTijger says:

        Meh, they’re entitled to their opinion, I personally see plenty of emotions in Geralt even though he’s an emotionally stunted mutant.

      • Unclepauly says:

        Isn’t he SUPPOSED to be emotionally flat due the process of becoming a witcher?

        • Hidden_7 says:

          It’s actually a pretty nuanced treatment that this John McIntosh person seems to have missed? Or disagreed with. In any case, the mutations are rumoured to emotionally stunt them, and maybe it does a little, but clearly not to the degree that the ignorant populace seems to believe. Just look at Vesemir or Lambert. They express emotion perfectly fine.

          What the mutations seem to actually do is maybe dull their emotions a little, but Geralt plays it up. He knows people expect him to be emotionally stunted, and he would find it easier if he were, but it’s mostly an act. Just one look at some of the tremendously effective and subtle facial animations during a few select and very moving scenes shows that there’s a lot going on there beneath that gravelly, monotone voice and “I don’t give a frick” posturing.

      • brgillespie says:

        Sarkeesian used the word “thug” to describe antagonistic men? Very non-PC of her.

        I’ve written CDPR demanding that male antagonists in their next Witcher game insult Ciri with gender-neutral terms, like “fucking piece of shit”. This will provide a better message to female gamers right before they utilize Ciri’s incredibly powerful abilities to teleport around and hack apart the male antagonists with ease.

      • ohminus says:

        Sarkeesian has been cherrypicking the data on the Witcher since the first game, selectively tearing individual characters out of the context and singling them out for effects that actually happen to pretty much everyone.

        Yes, women get called “bitch”. And Geralt gets called “freak” and sundry other things. Regularly. If Anita prefers a Disney cartoon, she should stick to Disney cartoons. This is a realistic world in which people have superstitions and prejudices, all the more towards people with abilities that are beyond normal.

        Suffice it to say that I don’t see any attempt by Sarkeesian to actually understand the material she’s dealing with when it comes to the Witcher. She’s chopping it up into tiny little bits she can digest and then looks at only those supporting her case seen in isolation, never once asking if her interpretation is valid against the larger entity of the game as such.

        • hungrycookpot says:

          I’m especially triggered when the empowered female strumpets who run their own business and make their own hours make sexual comments towards Geralt like “nice bum” and question the color of his body hair. When will female video game characters realize that Witchers are not just slabs of meat.

  9. Biggus_Dikkus says:

    Ciri is still running like a women…

    • Chalky says:

      Ciri’s running is really irritating. I don’t think any of the other female characters run like that either.

      • Imbecile says:

        Yeah, Ciris heels and running style were pretty annoying, though her Character was decent.

        • GepardenK says:

          The “heels” are riding boots and I think they and her running animation fit with her overall outfitt. Her style seems to be inspired by westerns and the whole “awesome cowgirl” act rather than something medevial. It may be a stark contrast to the rest of the game but IMO it’s cool

        • GepardenK says:

          I am, of course, refering to cowgirls by its original meaning here and not the stripper version found in american bars

        • carewolf says:

          I was more annoyed by her makeup. In one scene they had the makeup running, just emphazing what a stupid idea it is to put on makeup before a fight for your life.

          • Rumpelstilskin says:

            Well, if you are physically attractive, people would be more inclined to help you, so it’s not entirely unreasonable to pimp yourself up (not sure how serious, if at all, I am, but there you go)

  10. Borodin says:

    “It’s still very fond of its sexy outfits for starters, and a few knowing comments about them being stupid only highlight that at least a few should probably have been changed.”

    I wonder who are the commenters that you mean, Richard? My best guess is that you’re referring to CDP themselves, but you could also be referring to media coverage or even NPCs within the game. I don’t remember seeing anything that could be called a knowing comment.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      In game, like Roche complaining about Ves’ outfit, or Keira asking if her neckline is too modest when she changes outfits.

      • Horg says:

        You bring up an interesting point with Keira, in the books she is cast as a nymphomaniac who works her sexuality to her advantage, and is not remotely ashamed of it either, but is also not completely defined by that aspect of her personality. She can turn it off when dealing with the Lodge of Sorceresses for instance. Now for her to cover up in game would be out of character, having modesty imposed on her to meet a broader standard for appearance of the whole game. Is it right to alter her character that drastically, neutering her sexuality to demonstrate a commitment to improving the portrayal of female characters? Is a character so inherently sexualised something writers should avoid at all costs? You can probably guess as i’m posing these questions that I wouldn’t change her, but i’d be interested to hear your take on weather an overtly sexually empowered character can work in games without being exploitative, and weather or not Keira works as a character in that context.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          Sure. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any kind of character. The femme fatale of film noir. The casual playfulness of someone like Kinzie in Saints Row. The cartoon naughtiness of some of the girls in Leisure Suit Larry. Anything can be done and make for a great, entertaining, or memorable encounter. Anything can also be done badly, or mistake excuses for justification – an argument I refer to as “But elves are nymphomaniac nudists in the lore!

          The catch is that as with all character traits and personality types, the result has to be fitting to the world and to the character. This isn’t a checklist of things like ‘don’t have bikini armour’, since, y’know, there are cases where having everyone in beachwear can be justified – Final Fantasy X for instance. But there are some generally good questions worth asking that separate the good from the bad. For female characters, a fairly fundamental one is “Does it feel like she chose her own clothes?” More generally, does the character feel like they could exist outside of a marketing screenshot? Do they have a sense of agency? Are they someone worth spending time with, or are they solely there in the hope that someone will want to see them naked?

          The problem we generally get with games, and the reason that the response is so knee-jerk most of the time, is that historically games have been shamelessly cynical about this stuff, even with characters that initially avoid it. Lara Croft in Tomb Raider for instance isn’t particularly sexualised; that stuff kicked in later on. Jeanette of Vampire Bloodlines is easily one of the best characters, but she should never have been its cover star. And a lot of the time, things are just goddamn stupid, leading to nonsense like bikini armour in a world where the guys are all wearing full plate, or worse. I don’t care how good your writing is, you’re never justifying this outfit. See also the issue with Ves, where the problem isn’t a puritanical one of a lady showing skin, but that particular lady showing skin in that situation being goddamn stupid regardless of any scrap of lore thrown in to try and defend it.

          So, no. I have no problem with sexy or sexual characters. I do have a problem with cynicism and stupidity, and I expect games that play in this pool to treat them with as much respect and care as they would any other character. Fortunately, Witcher III is pretty good at that, minus only a few occasional stumbles.

          • GepardenK says:

            I agree with everything you said there Richard, but I cant see whats wrong or unjustified with Keiras outfitt. She is clearly using her sexuality to get what she wants from Gerald and I think her outfitt plays very well into that. Just like the nude-bath introduction and the obvious flirting, she does that on purpose to make Gerald her errand boy

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            Where did I complain about Keira’s outfit? I just pointed it as one of the bits where CDPR pokes fun at their own designs.

          • GepardenK says:

            Sorry, you responded to Horg’s post about Keira so i though you were rolling off that one. Most likely I was playing into my own biases as I have seen a lot of critisism against Keiras outfitt and the visible nipples, to which I don’t agree

          • hungrycookpot says:

            I don’t have a problem with anything you said, but this argument is damned if you do, damned if you don’t. In real life you tell a woman that the revealing outfit she chose to wear is unpractical and shows more skin than it needs to, you’d be called a slut shamer and told you have no right to tell any woman what she can wear.

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            In real life, people have actual agency rather than the simulated variety.

          • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

            I still can’t believe people are using the “But it’s what character x chooses to wear” argument.

    • Qazi says:

      I mean, its right there in the screenshot Mr Cobbett chose.

  11. jonahcutter says:

    Next paragraph has a bit more spoilers about the Triss torture scene:

    Another great things about the Triss torture scene is she basically commands Geralt to play along no matter what he hears. At any time the player can break the conversation off and start swinging. With the witch hunter Geralt is talking to taunting him throughout the entire scene, it’s difficult not to do this. But it works best if Geralt puts his absolute trust in Triss and *not* try to be the hero and rescue her.

    End spoiler

    The reaction against the cards from the first game has always struck me as funny. People have long exchanged naked pictures of themselves with their lovers. It’s only gotten more prevelant with the advent of cel and smartphones. Keeping naked pictures of a lover may not be one of your fetishes, but that doesn’t make it inherently juvenile or immature. It’s just another bit of kink some humans like to indulge in.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      It wasn’t the cards themselves that bothered most people, it was the implied Pokemon nature of “Gotta catch ’em all!”

      • GameCat says:

        I think that even without cards people would be still like “gotta catch ’em all”. Compulsory collecting everything that’s possible lies in player’s nature since Pac-Man. Doesn’t matter if it’s an item, cutscene or sex card.

      • Sakai says:

        I don’t think the game ever implied that. There wasn’t any achievement for getting them, no reward or anything. As i see it, it was just a way around the crappy engine, nothing more. And its also not like the first game had more sex scenes in it. It always was a couple of main characters, few minor ones and prostitutes. To me in this case it feels like people project their own biases more than anything else.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          The first game had loads more sex scenes in it. link to witcher.wikia.com / link to kotaku.com. And as far as achievements go, this was 2007. The whole ecosystem of them was nowhere near as embedded. Either way, irrelevant. That was the objection to them, with The Witcher 2’s far more graphic ones going pretty much entirely without complaint because they felt more appropriate to the action.

          • Sakai says:

            Well, maybe a bit more. :) Though i’m guessing that’s simply because cards are much esier to make than animated cutscenes. To be clear, i’m not saying it was perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination, i just think it was massivly overblown.

      • Endsville says:

        It’s been a while since I played the first game but unless I’m forgetting something, that supposed implication never occurred to me simply because you were never told about the cards via, say, a tutorial prompt, there was no quest related to them and there was no collection screen, i.e. nothing at all suggesting the player actually try collecting them all, that they’re some sort of mini-game.

        As well as what jonahcutter said (that does seem to be what they were going for with the relaxed posing), I thought it was incredibly obvious they were they never intended to be looked upon in the way almost everyone refers to them as – not as a mini-game or even as cards, both of which I think are interpretations made by players. All they were to me was a visual representation of what the sex scenes were supposed to look like. Just look ’em up on YouTube – every time such a scene takes place it fades to a very brief and hazy image of Geralt and the other character embracing and then the picture or card pops up and we’re back to the gameplay. It’s nothing more than a way for players to see what the scene was supposed to look like, saving us from horrendous animations.

        Don’t get me wrong, sex is handled the least well in the first game, probably about half good and bad overall. But I always roll my eyes when people refer to the first game having a collectible sex card mini-game as it makes it sound way worse than it actually is, especially considering that not all of them are terrible at all.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          “there was no quest related to them and there was no collection screen, i.e. nothing at all suggesting the player actually try collecting them all”

          Pretty sure there was a collection screen – the character part of the Journal.

          Either way, doesn’t matter. It’s what they came across as and how they’re remembered, with CD Projekt aware of this back while making Witcher 2 and actively avoiding repeating the approach as a result.

          • Endsville says:

            I’d hardly equate that to the same thing as a collector’s screen. It was the specific character entries of anyone you slept with that you could see the pictures on again, if you wanted, but there was no indication prior to doing so that there was a card to unlock for that character.

            It is how they’re remembered unfortunately but I seriously doubt they took player’s reactions into account for changing it in the second game. If they’d had the engine used for the sequel at the time the cards would likely have never existed. Anyway, I find it does matters to me when the first game’s unfairly referred to as that horribly sexist one with the sex card collecting mini-game. That just makes it sound way worse than the reality.

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            “It is how they’re remembered unfortunately but I seriously doubt they took player’s reactions into account for changing it in the second game.”

            Having spoken to the producer before the second game came out, they absolutely did.

      • cHeal says:

        The “Gotta catch ’em all” nature of the sex cards always felt like CDPR gaming the player to me. There were at least a couple of situations where the encouragement to “collect” sexual partners caused problems for the player. I remember the scene after sleeping with Abigail as particularly problematic because she had just seduced me and now I was expected to arbitrate on the situation in the village. I was inclined to defend her prior to that incident but now I was questioning my own objectivity (in real life) and questioning her trustworthiness given she had apparently just bedded me to help save her own skin. I felt the cards increased the likelihood the player would throw rational thought out the window in those situations because of that “Gotta catch ’em all” nature and I saw another player get into the exact same quagmire in a lets play of the game, with the same guilt and deep anxiety I felt.

        The Vampires in the Market district also threw up a situation which would have been a clean cut and easy decision except for the lure of a little titillation and the card.

        I understand peoples issue with them but at least in my case they caused me to act in an irrational manner (because sex does that to us and rarely in games is that irrationality imitated) on a couple of occasions which caused all sorts of emotions in me that no game has ever replicated. For that reason I consider their inclusion a masterstroke of game design (you are free to disagree).

        On the Witcher as a series I think the feminist uproar over it is illustrative of how utterly incoherent “feminist critique” always is. The Witcher, even the first has had incredibly strong characters. In the first you have to choose between Shani and Triss. Shani being a loving caring motherly type and Triss a careerist. Both are very strong female characters and are still very very female. They aren’t just men, dressed up as women in that way that many “strong female” characters are and they aren’t without their flaws either. Shani is naive, Triss is selfish. I always felt very conflicted about this choice because as a person I genuinely cared for Shani, but her naivety in light of the coming conflict was striking. I felt Alvin would be safer with her, but would she be safe with him? By the end of the 3rd chapter I came to dislike Triss. She was cold but also far more realistic and sensible, however I always questioned how much of everything she told me was a smokescreen for her own selfish desire to harness Alvins power. These were real people with real motivations, strengths and flaws. How many games have male characters of such quality?

        The Witcher 2 had the lodge of sorceresses which is essentially a feminist wet dream. It’s women using their own unique feminine skills to gain power and influence and outsmarting a bunch of egotistical, privileged and lazy men. W2 has a wide range of very strong female characters including Vez who I thought explained her clothes as her wishing to feel sexy and powerful and use it as a means of distraction and disarming of men. No doubt there is some fan service involved but my understanding is that an awful lot of this characterization comes from the source content.

        And let us not forget that this is all coming out of a Polish studio. It’s very easy to finger wag from our western, “progressive” armchairs but in Poland, the church is still very very powerful, traditional values remain prominent and some of the social changes that have occurred in the west, have not occurred there. You cannot take that studio out of Poland, stuff it with a bunch of homogeneous (inevitably white male) anglo saxons and expect to get the same results but with less sexism. This franchise is so good BECAUSE it has originated in Poland, because it was created by these individuals, not inspite of them. Warts and all it is the greatest franchise of games I have ever played.

        The characters are the richest I’ve ever encountered in a game and through out it has attempted to deal with lofty issues such as sexism, racist, terrorism, fanaticism and various other real world problems. For the most part it has dealt with those issues extraordinarily well because people have tended to pick different sides and make different decisions. That fact alone is proof that the story being told is as nuanced as the real world.

        • ohminus says:

          And let’s not forget Adda when talking about the first game. Even if she gets in way over her head, she’s still every bit a schemer herself.

          • cHeal says:

            Indeed, I had forgotten about her. She in particular is interesting because she is a sort of inversion of the damsel in distress trope. You can save her, or not but if you save her she becomes somewhat meglo-maniac? I will go back some day and play it through again. It’s just a fabulous game.

  12. TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

    “One of Triss’ scenes in particular stood out for me here. She’s willing to volunteer for torture and humiliation at the hands of mage-hating witch hunters if it will help Geralt find Ciri, and duly suffers for it. As Geralt politely talks, we hear her screams as they rip her fingernails out with pliars.”

    Well, that’s mostly because you didn’t just burn the fundamentalist fucks in their home and destroy everything, which is the only possible outcome ( scientifical fact ).

  13. aircool says:

    The women keep forgetting to lace up their shirts…

    …and it’s funny how you never see the women having a piss behind a bush (no pun intended), or off a bridge.

  14. vence333 says:

    The next Witcher is going to be about Ciris adventures, Geralt is getting old and want just to retire away from human politics, and we’ve got a preview about what she can do as a warrior.

    • pepperfez says:

      And having invested the untold millions required to animate a female character, I’m sure CDPR doesn’t plan to let that model go to waste.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        I’ve heard Ubisoft higher ups are organizing frequent pilgrimages at CDPR’s headquarters in the hope of uncovering their secrets.

      • hungrycookpot says:

        I think they meant the millions in PR costs when you get a massive backlash over a female character walking like some females do (with a more pronounced hip sway, as has been commented upon in this comment section a few times)

  15. ohminus says:

    The Witcher games have always been way more mature (not “adult”) in their depiction of women than people admitted. People tend to overlook that what the whole affair with the cards really illustrated is how a Witcher is the ideal sex toy – strong, enduring, yet immune to communicable diseases and sterile. Especially in cities where inhabitants feel safe behind the walls, protected by a garrison, and see little use in Monster Hunters, there’s a reason why men on the street yell “A Witcher! Hide your women!”. The monster hunter is reduced to a sex toy capable of fulfilling what they can’t, without any risk other than being caught in flagrante deliciti by them.

    • GepardenK says:

      Yes, Gerald is mostly used as a willing sex-toy rather than the other way around. At least by the sorceresses, most other people find him repulsive because of the whole mutant thing

  16. montorsi says:

    The Witcher, female representation and high watermark. In one paragraph. I would think this satire if I didn’t know any better. There are developers who actually set the watermark without a bunch of pomp and circumstance, which CDP has time and again even failed to get within shouting distance of. Let’s not be ridiculous here.

    As for ^ maturity, oh dear.

    • ohminus says:

      Great to see you have such convincing arguments to make. It is obvious that in the light of such evidence, no opposition could be upheld.

      Hint: When suggesting other people’s comments were almost satirical, make sure that the only ridiculous thing in town isn’t you.

    • GepardenK says:

      I find it interesting that when we finally get an AAA title with really good writing for female characters people still find a way to complain about it or ignore the achivement. It’s like all they really want is straight up hero characters with no depth (nothing wrong with that, but damn its nice to see witcher 3 prove games can deliver more grounded characters as well)

      I dare you to list a game with better written female characters than Witcher 3. Jade from Beyond good and evil comes to mind, but then again she is a pretty standard hero character and not nearly as complex or deep as the main women in W3. Maybe Life is strange? At any rate it is not many games that can compete

    • jgthespy says:

      Your writing style leads me to believe that you’re nowhere near as smart as you think you are. Just thought you should know :)

  17. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    Okay, I admit it: I saw the article title and immediately started searching for the previous two articles in what is surely a multi-part RPS feature on the women of the Witcher universe.

    Instead of, y’know, just remembering that a game came out recently called The Witcher 3.

  18. Pax says:

    “The Witcher III has been getting a bit of flack recently for its all-white cast, and I’m not planning to get into that one here…”

    You know that “accusation” here basically smacks of typical American Anglo-centric arrogance. You have to realize that only small percentage of European countries in existence embraced colonial slave trade and you just happen to represent one of them.

    The Witcher 3 is a game made by Polish studio, based on “real” characters from Polish books, primary with the Polish audience in mind. Would you complain about lack of descendants of American slaves in a Japanese game?

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      You seem to be mistaking ‘I am aware that this discussion is going on and don’t plan to get into it’ for ‘I agree with this accusation’. For future reference, the clue is that this is what the words say.

  19. Majin neDrak says:

    The outfit Ves had in 3 did bother me a bit, though not enough to put me off the game, and I appreciated the day that Roche gives her hell, not necessarily for wearing an open shirt, but for being stupid enough to do so while disobeying his orders and attacking enemy soldiers, all of whom are wearing plate armour.
    but besides all that…. I have to say, I love the fact that you referenced “Good Omens” in relation to one of the burnings. Bravo, I’d never have correlated the two if not for you, now every time I play and hear about that message, it’s going to make me giggle a little inside.