Fighting a hopeless fight in The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine

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In Now Playing PC Gamer writers talk about the game currently dominating their spare time. Today Jon goes toe to toe with one of Geralt's greatest foes.

Spoilers follow for the final fight in The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine.

Is there a finer treat in prospect than firing up The Witcher 3 for a fresh runthrough of all its quests and expansions and vacuuming up every single Gwent card out there? To be in the Northern Realms again, and to climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, ’til you find your dream? Sorry, suddenly started channelling Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music for a moment there. Anyway, I recently undertook the full-on Witcher 3 experience, which had been going swimmingly for many hours until I neared the finale of the Blood and Wine expansion at the Tesham Mutna Ruins. 

Read more: Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales review

Nithral, Imlerith, Caranthir, Eredin in the base game, and even that bloody great big frog thing in Hearts of Stone—I killed them all, but Dettlaff, the final boss in Blood and Wine, is proving to be a monumental pain in the arse. I know bosses are meant to be hard, but it’s slowly dawning on me that just using Black Blood potions and putting Vampire Oil on Aerondight then hammering the LMB won’t cut it here. I get past the first phase easily enough but once my fanged foe sprouts wings, gets airborne and starts commanding his bat swarms, any semblance of strategy I’m applying to the fight is whisked away on a riptide of panic and dashed onto the rocks of desperate, abject failure.

I consult the internet where many suggest that, while it doesn’t provide full defence against Dettlaff’s attacks, Quen is the most useful sign in this fight. Quen? Who puts any points into Quen? I’ll tell you who—thoughtful players who have considered that there may be times when Geralt has to stand his ground and recover for a time in a fight, rather than wade in brandishing an inverted neon triangle or flinging fire, just as a chimpanzee will sometimes hurl its own poop at a perceived threat. Attack is the best form of defence… is obviously what I thought the 52 times I levelled up or had points to put into skills or Signs. And checking the stats, I’m not entirely surprised to find that I’ve put precisely, ahem, no points into Quen. 

I make dozens more attempts but I can’t seem to time the evasive roll required when Dettlaff sets the bats loose and I’ve somehow developed an uncanny knack of ending up at the exact point where his blood tendrils spawn. I’m mashing the keyboard to dodge and to mainline potions, and in making him cast Signs, Geralt is throwing more shapes than the Happy Mondays. My clicks sound like a cricket on heat as I try to cleave Dettlaff’s head open, and all the while I’m wishing that those incredibly talented sadists at CD Projekt Red could see the gibbering wreck of a man that they have created in a dark room in South London. 

As the bats sweep past Geralt for what seems like the hundredth time, he collapses to his knees and dies once more. Dettlaff, this blood-guzzling, prize prick of a Higher Vampire and his swooping noctillionine minions have killed me yet again. I finally concede that it’s time to load an earlier save and find a merchant who sells a Potion of Clearance that will enable me to reconfigure Geralt’s skills. This has turned into a matter not of who, where and why, but Quen.