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After CP77 mess, CD Projekt Red will switch to Unreal for next Witcher game

Ars Technica
Sam Machkovech
2022 03 21

The Witcher will return as a “triple-A RPG,” shifting to Unreal Engine 5

CD Projekt Red

The Witcher is coming back. No, there won’t be a new TV series, novel, virtual card game, or other project affiliated with the popular Polish fantasy series. Today, CD Projekt Red confirmed that its tentpole video game series will continue with an entirely new adventure game.

The news arrived on Monday via an image of the game series’ telltale wolf medallion covered in snow, with glowing eyes peeking through the frost. The announcement included a four-word tagline: “A new saga begins.”

“Decided from the earliest possible phase”

The teaser image was quickly followed by an official CDPR press release, which confirmed that the game studio will be using Unreal Engine 5 to develop the new game, as opposed to the internally developed REDengine used in prior Witcher games and 2020’s Cyberpunk 2077. The press release says that REDengine development will continue to support ongoing CP77 expansion content, patches, and other updates.

CDPR seems eager to communicate to fans what UE5 adoption will bring to its next project:

It is vital for CDPR to have the technical direction of our next game decided from the earliest possible phase, as in the past, we spent a lot of resources and energy to evolve and adapt REDengine with every subsequent game release.

Post-mortem comments from CP77 developers alleged that frustration and technical issues with REDengine caused the studio to struggle to commit to an original “bullshot” pitch for how its first-person, open-world gameplay would turn out as a final retail product. (Crunch apparently didn’t help matters.) Bugs, feature delays, and a one-of-its-kind PSN delisting made matters worse.

Unsurprisingly, CDPR did not give any time estimate or target platforms for its next Witcher game on Monday, let alone a name for the title. (And we have to wonder whether “new saga” suggests multiple upcoming games or some kind of games-as-a-service product.) For context, CP77 was first announced in May 2012 before launching in an arguably incomplete state in December 2020.

CDPR’s Monday announcement points to the Polish developer entering an unusual relationship with Epic Games, as it claims the deal will see CDPR devs helping Epic “tailor [UE5] for open-world experiences.” That kind of unusual partnership could carry with it financial incentives for both companies, but neither Epic nor CDPR explained how this portion of the announcement will play out. UE5 is already off to a promising start as a bona fide video game engine, proven in part by an incredible real-time open-world experience that’s playable on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S as timed with December’s The Matrix: Resurrections.

Listing image by CDPR | Aurich Lawson