CD Projekt is heading back to the Continent with a new Witcher trilogy that the company teases will "build on the legacy of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt". My interest is piqued, but after playing Wild Hunt for hundreds of hours, I quite fancy something that deviates from that formula. Good news: another studio is working on its own "innovative take" on the monster-slayers, and this one is going to have multiplayer.
Like my suggestion that Dandelion should be the protagonist of The Witcher 4, I'm pretty sure this will inspire people to hurl rotten fruit and veg at me, but I'm a lot more excited by the prospect of something that isn't just trying to replicate the success of a game I've played to death. I've travelled all over the Continent alone, aside from the odd NPC companion, and now I'm more than ready to share that experience with some humans.
We know very little about The Molasses Flood's Witcher romp, codenamed Sirius, except that we'll be able to play with pals. Nonetheless, there's a lot of potential here, whether it's a co-op romp, PvP, or both.
Though Witchers are often presented as solitary mutants, we know that's not really true—they've just got a bad rep. Despite being a big ol' grump, Geralt collected plenty of friends and allies across the last trilogy, many of them temporarily joining him on his adventures. His relationships and interactions with these pals helped define him and increase the stakes of his quests. CDPR recognises that companionship elevates these quests, and co-op feels like the purest expression of this.
Fatshark's Vermintide series, along with the imminent Darktide, shows us how we can have our cake and eat it too. You get to traipse off on an adventure with your human pals, but you still get to enjoy the banter and relationships between your characters, who bicker and chat throughout their journey through skaven-infested dungeons. A Witcher-themed Left 4 Dead-style game could be a hoot generally, though I suspect I'd miss the more thoughtful, investigative side of the gig.
With two (or more) heads, The Molasses Flood could really lean into the more studious side of the monster-hunting career path, or at least make it a bit more involved than finding a very convenient tome containing all the relevant information on how to dispatch the current pest. Some of my favourite moments, particularly in tabletop games, have come from the party trying to figure out its approach to solving a conundrum or winning a tricky fight, especially since there's always one person who just suggests setting everything on fire. It's me; I'm the one person.
Co-op would also give the devs more space to craft extra-challenging brawls and inspire a more tactical style of monster-slaying, even if it just means one Witcher acts as bait and the other sets up a nasty trap. It could potentially open the door to encounters becoming more like puzzles, with each player taking charge of one part of the solution. Again, a bit more like a tabletop game. It's my solution to everything: every RPG could benefit from tabletop design philosophy.
Pure co-op might be my preference, but asymmetric PvP is another tantalising prospect. Specifically, I'm thinking of Turtle Rock's tragically under-appreciated Evolve (RIP). It was blessed with one of the most compelling yet straightforward multiplayer setups: you and a bunch of friends get dropped onto an alien world where you have to hunt down a monster, controlled by another player, who gets more and more deadly as the match progresses. This fits The Witcher like a blood-soaked glove.
Nearly everything you'd need to make an entertaining Witcher PvP experience already existed within Evolve. Tracking, for instance, played a significant role, as the large maps offered plenty of hiding spots for the monster. Listening out for startled birds or looking for the carcasses left behind by its last trip to the buffet guided you towards your quarry. I love me some Monster Hunter, but when it comes to making you feel like you're actually stalking a deadly creature, nothing can really match Evolve. But maybe The Witcher: Sirius could be up to the task.
The wide range of settings and monsters would be a huge boon here, obviously. You could spend your morning hunting down a thirsty vampire in Beauclair and then hop on over to a hag-infested Velen marsh in the afternoon. And since many of the Continent's menagerie are intelligent, having a human player controlling them should create some confrontations that are more true to the fiction—tense games of cat and mouse where victory is far from assured. Unless I'm playing the monster, that is, because if my performance in Evolve and Dead by Daylight is anything to go by, I'm more of a level 1 boar than an intimidating boss.
Equally exciting is the prospect of playing a character that isn't a witcher. Both of these setups demand that players embrace different roles, and while not every witcher is the same, with each school having their own way of doing things, I'd love to see some sorceresses getting some love. Or, indeed, some bards. More magic, subterfuge and impromptu lute performances all sound like good ways to spice up a fight.
I'm also keen to see another developer take a crack at The Witcher. CDPR worked magic with Wild Hunt especially, but given how many projects it has on the go, and the state of Cyberpunk 2077 at launch, some new blood just makes a lot more sense. The Molasses Flood also has experience when it comes to multiplayer, though its last game, Drake Hollow, is a co-op survival affair, and that's very much the opposite of the direction I'd like to see Sirius take. Witchers might like to make their own potent brews, but they shouldn't be building houses and chopping down trees.
Slightly troubling, however, is the fact that Sirius will also have a singleplayer campaign. We've already got multiple singleplayer Witcher games coming and Sirius has the opportunity to stand alone as something properly novel, but it looks like it can't quite escape the last trilogy's legacy. Look, I know there are too many live service multiplayer romps and any suggestion that a singleplayer property should pivot to multiplayer sounds like a threat, but this split focus means The Molasses Flood won't be able to give either component all of its attention. I should probably rein in my expectations.
Nah, fuck it, I'm still excited.