CD Projekt unceremoniously announced this week that it has three—no, four—no, five?—new Witcher games in development, alongside a sequel to Cyberpunk 2077. Big Geralt is back.
Or at least, witching is. We don't know whether any of CD Projekt's planned games will star or guest star Geralt of Rivia, though the company has said that its next big RPG won't be Geralt's story. We now know that game, which we're tentatively calling The Witcher 4, will be the start of "a new triple-A RPG trilogy." CD Projekt has given that game the codename Polaris. Will it star Ciri or an entirely new cast of characters? We don't know.
It seems more likely Geralt will show up in one of the planned spin-offs that CD Projekt referred to with codenames this week: there's Canis Majoris, a "full-fledged Witcher game, separate to the new Witcher saga starting with Polaris," and also Sirius, a Witcher game from former indie studio Molasses Flood that will include multiplayer in some way.
These are not the only rumblings in the Witcherverse. Season three of the Netflix Witcher series is out next year, and prequel spin-off The Witcher: Blood Origin, starring Michelle Yeoh, debuts in December 2022. Netflix has said it has another anime film and a "family-friendly" animated series on the way, too.
That's a lot of Witcher. But is it too much Witcher? Is CD Projekt just out to appease investors, or is it finally giving the series the attention it deserves? Our team is split between skepticism and excitement, so we argued it out.
Can CD Projekt really release three RPGs in six years?
Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor: If you believe CD Projekt is actually going to manage three new RPGs over a period of six years, I have a bridge in Novigrad to sell you. 10 years sounds way more realistic. Six years(!?) seems like an impossible schedule for a studio that had to delay The Witcher 3 twice and Cyberpunk 2077 three times. And not just because those games take years to develop: CD Projekt also has a long history of supporting its games post-launch, with months of patches and updates polishing them up. Cyberpunk has desperately needed that time to feel like a finished game, but in the case of The Witcher 3, CD Projekt was just making a great game better—still, that vital post-release time seems unrealistic if two sequels have to get done in six years. On the positive side, since I'm assuming each sequel takes a year or two longer than expected, I'm less worried about burning out on Witcher games than I otherwise would be.
Lauren Aitken, Guides Editor: Three games delivered over a six year period is absolutely doable! After the first game drops, it could be a three or four year wait for the next before the final chapter arrives two years later. It's ambitious, and CDPR has definitely done a 180 from the "we aren't going to give definite time scales ever again!" vibe since Cyberpunk 2077 came out. It makes me think these games will be smaller in scope and are way further into production than has been claimed. Or, they're building it as one big game that, when just about ready, they'll dice up into three games and fire out a trilogy. Blood and Wine and Hearts of Stone added an extra 30-40 hours to Witcher 3, and both came out within a year of Witcher 3's release, so the expectation it can work is already set.
A trilogy released over a short timespan worked with Mass Effect so it can work here! Either way, stick it into my veins.
Are back-to-back-to-back Witcher RPGs going to feel samey?
Wes: This is the bigger concern for me. I've played all three Witcher RPGs and enjoyed them all, but they each have a very strong, very different identity. If CD Projekt is making three more in rapid succession, I imagine the necessary reuse of assets and design learnings will make them much more similar. Maybe the developers end up overcoming that through the sheer quality of writing and quest design—that'd be amazing. But assuming they're all open world RPGs following the same characters—which seems likely if they're planning out a distinct trilogy—I have trouble imagining them feeling as distinct as the first three Witchers, or improving as dramatically between games.
Announcing three games from the jump just strikes me as a business decision, not one driven by game developers with so many plans and ambitions that a single game just wouldn't cut it. But hey, if they do aspire to make something like the Mass Effect trilogy with story decisions that carry over between games, I'm curious to see how it goes.
Lauren: There's a lot going on other than just a trilogy! Project Sirius is being made by The Molasses Flood, so will be a separate development to the in-house Witcher team. Looking at their previous games (The Flame in the Flood, Drake Hollow) it'll probably be unlike any Witcher game in existence right now, including Gwent and standalone and spinoffs like Thronebreaker.
Canis Majoris is also being developed by a separate team—a third party studio founded by Witcher veterans. It's unclear whether that's a subsidiary of CDPR or a yet-unnamed team—they may even be part of the new Boston team (though it looks like that studio will be focused on Cyberpunk 2077 and its sequel Project Orion Orion). I think the trilogy will be the most recognisable—I am loathe to say samey—and Canis Majoris has the potential to feel very Geralt-y if it's lead by a team who worked on The Witcher 3's design and quests. Maybe Canis Majoris will be the Ciri game instead of a whole trilogy about her, or maybe it's the Dandelion RPG Fraser wishes he could play.
If the trilogy focuses on a new school, which the Lynx medallion strongly suggests, then there must be a new way of recruiting Witchers, and maybe a new way of mutating them (could Keira & Lambert have something to do with that?). This would take it in a "modern" sorcery and alchemy direction as the two, alongside potentially Ciri, Geralt and co. could come up with new methods of monster hunting with new Witchers. Or, maybe they move away from monsters on this planet and can traverse time and space using portals? You've also got to wonder which of these games, if any, will be based on the canon 'Ciri becoming a Witcher' ending. Or are we looking further in the future at new threats? Who else is lurking in the shadows that we need to consider, even scarier vampires than Detlaffe or the Unseen Elder? Use your imagination, Wes!
Wes: I'm trying. I'm trying! Um… The Witcher: Time Bandits?
Between games and TV, can we see too much of the Northern Realms?
Wes: As much as I love The Witcher 3, I think the last few years of media generally has really soured me on too much of a good thing. I lived and breathed Star Wars in my teens and even my 20s, and I've seen nearly everything from the MCU, too, but I'm feeling the fatigue for both these days. They really made a movie about young Han Solo and I watched it like a sucker. I don't want to play a game starring young Geralt, or daddy Vesemir, or watch a Netflix spin-off about Dandelion. I love these characters! But I partially love that I don't know everything about them.
My favorite thing about The Witcher 3 is how certain quests will see Geralt crossing paths with another Witcher or an old acquaintance; CD Projekt did a brilliant job of writing dialogue that sketched out their relationships and history without infodumping their life stories. It made the world feel bigger, and more real, and reinforced how many adventures Geralt had been on. You lose something when each one of those characters has their own origin story and every piece of media interconnects, Marvel-style, and starts prioritizing building the shared universe over making the individual pieces great.
Maybe that will never happen with The Witcher—since CD Projekt and Netflix are each doing their own thing, it's not really an MCU situation. But a new trilogy and more spin-off games on top of that all being developed simultaneously is enough to make me nervous. And tired.
Lauren: There's so much of the world beyond the main cities that needs exploring, though! Visiting Aretuza in-game would be rad, as would exploring Mahakam, Lyria and Rivia but further afield than we've yet been able to. You get to briefly visit these areas in Thronebreaker but it's not the same as full world-building. Witcher's aren't restricted solely to the Northern Realms or Novigrad and it's time to go further.
I'd like to see more Witchers in one place and not just have a token quest where they all get drunk in a fortress—that's one of my favourite Witcher 3 quests for sure, but seeing them interact in the wild was great, too. I'd like to see CD Projekt place a slightly heavier focus on the sorceresses, and definitely more elves, considering their storyline from The Witcher 2 was shafted in The Witcher 3. And I want to play more of the cool stories from the books involving golden dragons. But that's because I'm a big nerd.
I am equally hesitant about the Witcher going a bit MCU. But honestly, I enjoy the Witcher universe so much outside the games this isn't really a concern for me. It does feel risky stating so many Witcher projects are being developed at the same time, alongside a CP2077 sequel and more. I get it, though—CD Projekt is seeking more investment, wants to drive a bit of mystery and hype for fans, and wants to prove that despite the "failure" of CP2077 at launch, it's committed to making games. Striving ahead with a brand new Boston studio is proof of that. It is once again an exciting time for CDPR. Nevermind new games right now, though—where's that Witcher 3 next-gen update?
Wes: As wary as I am of stuffing the Witcher world with side stories and origins, if they give me a turn-based strategy game in the style of Final Fantasy Tactics I'll be there in a second. If you can turn Metal Slug into a tactics game, it'll sure as hell work for Geralt!