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CD Projekt Red | Shutterstock

CD Projekt Red Announces ‘Witcher’ Sequel

CD Projekt Red has announced its newest game: a sequel to the beloved 'Witcher 3: WIld Hunt'. Fans are excited, but some critics worry that the game could suffer from delays and bugs like 'Cyberpunk 2077' before it.
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CD Projekt Red, the Warsaw-based developers responsible for Cyperpunk 2077 and The Witcher, has announced its newest game. In a recent post, the company confirmed it’s working on a sequel to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The teaser shows a Witcher medallion like the one protagonist Geralt wears, lying half-forgotten in the snow. 

CD Projekt Red has said little about the new title, other than confirming it’s the start of a “new saga” for The Witcher franchise and that the game will run in Epic’s new Unreal Engine 5. The company has explicitly refrained from announcing the game’s plot details, development timeline, or possible release window. 

Aside from the new game engine, all CDPR has confirmed is that the new game isn’t titled The Witcher 4. Radek Grabowski, the developer’s head of global PR, tweeted a clarification regarding what wasn’t in the teaser. 

“What we have NOT announced today,” Grabowski wrote, “[is a] game called The Witcher 4 [or a] game exclusive to one storefront. It was our initial confirmation of a new saga in The Witcher franchise. Right now, we are not discussing any specifics in terms [of the] story, characters, mechanics, or plot details.”

Why Are Fans Excited?

The Witcher is a massively popular franchise based on a long-running fantasy book series by author Andrzej Sapkowski. CD Projekt Red created a trio of action RPG titles based on the novels, which helped popularize the series outside Poland. The third game in the series, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, is one of the most beloved role-playing games of all time. CDPR released that game seven years ago, in 2015. The franchise has only grown more popular in the intervening years.

The game received praise for its detailed world, robust storytelling, and immersive side quests. Many reviewers noted that Wild Hunt is impressively responsive to player choices. Several side quests that seem inconsequential at first develop into sweeping, multi-leveled affairs that can have lasting ramifications for the main plotline.

The game’s popularity helped convince Netflix to adapt the books into a dark fantasy TV series. Henry Cavill stars as the stoic, tight-lipped Geralt of Rivia. Many critics lauded the series as a faithful adaptation of the books and an entertaining spectacle for fans of dark fantasy. 

This has created a positive feedback loop, with newcomers to the series directed to play the game, and fans of the game pulled in deeper by their love of the TV show. 

Unreal Engine 5

Unreal Engine 5 is the newest game development tool from Epic Games. Epic’s Unreal software is a ubiquitous engine for marquee video games, powering everything from the Batman Arkham games to No More Heroes III. CDPR’s decision to pivot development into this third-party engine is major news for longtime fans of the company’s open-world RPGs. The in-house REDengine is allegedly a nightmare to work with, leading to longer development times and grueling developer crunch conditions.

Using an established engine like Unreal could be a major boon for the studio. It will allow them to hire developers from other studios who are already familiar with the software, streamlining the development process. It could also save the studio time, as Unreal is full of existing assets that game developers can deploy. 

CDPR also announced that this is the beginning of a multi-year agreement with Epic Games. The company notes in its release that this agreement will allow Epic to develop its newest Unreal engine with open-world game development in mind. The new arrangement “covers not only licensing but technical development of Unreal Engine 5,” according to CDPR.

Crunch Culture

CDPR has faced criticism from game journalists and some fans over their alleged practice of forced overtime and harsh working conditions. The industry calls this “crunch,” the process of slamming workers with unrealistic deadlines and long hours. Critics argue that game publishers employ this strategy by abusing programmers’ passion for the medium. The game’s director took to Twitter to dispel any concerns that CDPR will engage in such abusive practices again. 

“I am super thrilled to announce that I have humbly been working to ensure the success of the next big AAA The Witcher game as its Game Director!” tweets longtime Witcher designer Jason Slama, calling on aspiring devs to join the process. “Think you could join the team? We have tons of roles open with the possibility of remote work we could discuss!” 

A user quote-tweeted Slama, noting that he left out how CDPR would likely subject any developers to “horrible crunch and being treated like a dog.” Slama rebuffed this characterization, writing “Not on my watch.” 

The Cyberpunk Precedent

CDPR reportedly engaged in brutal sessions of crunch to rush the development of Cyberpunk 2077, resulting in a buggy, unfinished game. Over a year past that game’s initial release window, CDPR is still pushing updates that include basic functionality. The game is in a much better state today than when the company released it, but it’s still shocking that the studio placed such unrealistic expectations on its programmers. 

Notably, the company announced Cyberpunk 2077 in 2012 and showed the first teaser trailer for the RPG in 2013. They originally planned to release the game in April 2020 but pushed it back several times, eventually shoving the buggy game out the door in December of that year. Even after over seven years of development, CDPR still struggled to hit its own deadlines. Some critics have speculated that this could have been the result of internal mismanagement and programmer confusion regarding the REDengine software.

If Cyberpunk sets the precedent for the next Witcher title, the new game could be in development until 2030. However, this seems unlikely. The studio is much larger than it was a decade ago, and it’s now relying on a third-party engine that outside developers can help them work with. 

CDPR may have been working on this new Witcher title as early as mid-2020. Still, fans should temper their expectations. CDPR has released no information about the game’s development timeline, so it’s impossible to assume when it could release. It could be a short few years away, or it could take another decade before the studio has anything to show the public. 

See Related: Netflix Announces the Witcher: Blood Origin Cast

Some outlets note that this teaser is as much about drumming up talented developer interest as it is about hyping up players. CDPR wants to present itself as a great place to work for any aspiring game designers, so it’s integral for the company to shed the image of long hours and overtime. 

What Could the Next Game Be About?

Potential spoilers for the third Witcher game follow after this! You’ve been warned.

Some fans have noted that they’re not sure where the game series could go after the finale of Wild Hunt. The game’s various endings all close Geralt’s story conclusively, seeing him either live out his life on the road as a Witcher or settle down with Triss or Yennefer. Some speculate that the sequel could star Ciri, Geralt’s adoptive daughter, as one of Wild Hunt’s endings sees her taking up Geralt’s swords and striking out on her own. 

Others think the game will distance itself from its predecessors. Since the player’s decisions in the third Witcher title can have sweeping ramifications for the game’s world, it would be easier for CDPR to leave Geralt and his friends behind and move to a different region of the fictional setting. There are numerous Witcher schools in the game’s universe besides Geralt’s Wolf School. For instance, the Cat School favors a more lithe, agile approach to combat. 

Eagle-eyed fans have pointed out that the snowy emblem seen in the teaser image bears a resemblance to the Cat School medallion worn by Ciri in the third game. Could this be a hint that the next Witcher game will follow Ciri’s adventures, far from the European-inspired setting that Geralt adventured through? 

Could Geralt Come Back?

Fans online can’t agree on whether they’d like to see an older Geralt in a potential Witcher sequel. Those who want to play as Ciri in the new game have suggested that Geralt could appear as a mentor figure, offering guidance early in the game and giving Ciri his blessing to take up the life of monster hunting. 

Others have suggested that this could be too sentimental, or even too tricky, for a new game in the series. Even if the new game follows an existing character like Ciri, the player-driven endings to Wild Hunt still present hurdles for storytelling using any of that game’s characters. Fans of that game might feel betrayed if the Witcher 4 presents a version of Geralt that made different choices than they did. 

Some fans have called for a clean break from Geralt’s adventures and want to see a new Witcher school in a different part of the franchise’s sprawling world. There are more areas to explore than muddy fantasy versions of Eastern Europe, after all. Maybe CDPR’s snowy teaser image is a hint that the next title could take place far to the north of the game’s Continent location?

Whatever the case, fans might find themselves waiting a long time for any updates. In the meantime, fans hungry for some CDPR content should check out the latest Cyberpunk 2077 update. While the game is still a bit rough around the edges, the company’s post-release support has brought the title to the level of polish fans have come to expect.