Earlier today CD Projekt announced The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, an open world sequel to one of Xbox 360's finer PC ports, down for release on desktops and (shush, keep it under your hat) better-than-current generation console platforms in 2014. Here's what we know, in a nutshell: the world's continuous, persistent and around 20 per cent larger than Skyrim, quests now extend to fleshed-out monster hunts, and you'll inflict area-specific critical hits by learning about enemies outside combat.
At the risk of causing some sort of linguistic explosion by mixing metaphors - beyond that nutshell sprawls a glistening blank canvas of potential. For my money, The Witcher 2 is Mass Effect's equal and, indeed, better in terms of lore, battling and supporting systems, but that doesn't mean there isn't work to be done. Read on for a list of things I hope Wild Hunt addresses.
1. Differentiate weapons and combat styles more
Geralt, the Witcher of the title, has access to a severely tasty pair of longswords. There's the basic steel variety, which is used for chopping up mere mortals, and the posh silver kind, which is used for disposing of supernatural creatures. Both blades are elegantly designed and handle marvellously, but there's just the one problem: the game's other weapons, including axes and polearms, animate and handle much the same way. Ever tried brandishing a halberd like it's a sword? Because that way both madness and dislocated shoulder bones lie.
With The Witcher 3, I want to see something approaching the complexity of Dark Souls - a game where to opt for a scimitar over a short sword is to commit yourself to an entirely different blend of timing, reach, height and power. Combat styles like those of Devil May Cry 3 could be a fun alternative, and would represent a natural evolution of The Witcher 2's three-way skill upgrades split between swordsmanship, magic and alchemy. Actually, screw "alternative". I demand both.
2. Female characters for non-perverts/other women
In some ways, The Witcher 2's universe is quite grown up about gender and sexuality. As I've argued on these hallowed pages in the past, the game incorporates the objectification of women as a component of the world's politics, something characters actually discuss when they're not swording giant insects through the glands or whipping up a batch of skin-toughening magical brew.
Despite appearances, the game's countesses, sorceresses and kitchen wenches aren't just slabs of meat - they're slabs of meat who're entirely conscious that they inhabit a society run by lecherous men, their dialogue peppered with commentary that's as applicable to the player-turned-voyeur as it is to other male characters.
That's said, there's only so far you can push the "challenging, self-aware portrayal of a chauvinist's paradise" line when certain leading ladies take part in real-world Playboy photoshoots. Beauty comes from within, Ms Merrigold. We're a long way from the days of the original Witcher, with its softcore card collecting, but CD Projekt still has a bit of growing up to do.
3. If you must have multiplayer, don't break anything
CD Projekt announced vacancies for work on the multiplayer component of a "dark fantasy" IP last July - in the absence of any other possibilities (Cyberpunk 2077 has been discussed separately), the project in question is presumably The Witcher 3. I can't say the idea of Witcher multiplayer sets my eyebrows on fire - I'm not sure how such a component would sit alongside or, indeed, within the single player storyline. But with Mass Effect 3's example to hand, there's possibly scope for a standalone online mode born of some global turn of events in the campaign, and featuring a distinct customisable hero or heroine.