If you had asked me if I wanted The Witcher 4 to return when The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was released, the answer would have been a resounding yes. Naturally, there would be caveats: the story should be fair, there should be a good reason to return to this world, but the chance to return to this rich, monster-filled kingdom would be too tempting to pass up...

That was in 2015, however.

The recent Witcher 4 teaser, an image of a lynx locket resting in pure white snow, doesn't tell us much. The accompanying announcement that the development team has removed its in-house engine for Epic's Unreal Engine 5 tells us no more.


(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

It's an exciting preview for fans, of course; the lynx head medallion shows that CD Projekt Red is breaking away from the books lore to chart its own path - there is no mention of a Lynx school in Andrzej Sapkowski's novels, so it must be a new Witcher school completely.

CD Projekt has lost its shine

However, since the release of The Witcher 3, CD Projekt Red has released another massive game, not as well received. While critics' ratings for Cyberpunk 2077's pre-release were high, the overwhelming post-release reaction was…pretty negative. The RPG launched in a mess, with major bugs that ruined the player experience; It hurt even more because he didn't live up to the promise of the first demos of him and had an overall lifeless world. This was a terrible disappointment from such a talented developer. Even those looking for diamonds in the rough must admit that, at best, Cyberpunk 2077 isn't a patch on The Witcher 3, frequently dropping the ball on its storytelling and falling into numerous lazy tropes and stereotypes.

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Part of this may be due to a simple fact: the CD Projekt Red that made The Witcher 3 is not the one that made Cyberpunk 2077. Quest designer Nikolas Kolm, a major role in the success of The Witcher 3, left the studio to work . at Ubisoft on the beloved Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Kolm wasn't the only key member of staff to do so, either.

With such an exodus of talent, it's fair to say that the team that created Cyberpunk 2077 is not the one that delivered 2015's fantasy RPG. For all the ambition and dizzying money a studio can throw at a project, the people create games and their success results from collaboration. Can The Witcher 4 live up to its predecessor when those developers are gone?

make and break

There is also the question of do we want the Witcher 4? The developers of Cyberpunk 2077 have spoken about the appalling conditions in which they worked to create the game. Releasing a bad game is one thing, but a studio that puts its staff through such stressful and debilitating development shouldn't easily forgive itself. Every time something worth playing escapes these conditions, it's a cursed miracle that only hides how unsafe and damaging development time is.

Cyberpunk 2077 Best Cyberware Guide

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

All that to say, while a new installment in a beloved series is exciting in pure abstraction, it can't be divorced the way CD Projekt did. It's hard to get excited about The Witcher 4 when the team that created The Witcher 3 has moved on, when Cyberpunk has been a disaster and the studio has failed to protect the good health of its employees.

There is fertile ground to develop another stellar RPG.

I could talk about possible features and plots – there is fertile ground to develop another stellar RPG – I would love to see Ciri in the lead role and what stories flow from her narrative. How does she make a living as a witch without the superhuman mutagens that turned Geralt into the killing machine that she was? Does he still have access to the power that defined her life for so long? How would Ciri handle life in a patriarchal world, a reality Geralt largely avoided?

Ciri in The Witcher 3

(Image credit: CD Projekt RED)

But that excitement doesn't outweigh the fact that the studio's latest release didn't deliver on its promise and didn't care about the people who created it. People will speculate wildly about what they want from a new Witcher game, but possibility rather than reality can blind them. Questions to ask about The Witcher 4 aren't about its plot or what's new. It should be if CD Projekt Red has done something to improve their working conditions. How can we trust the marketing of this upcoming release when Cyberpunk 2077 paints such a different picture from the reality of the final game?

The Witcher 4 deserves skepticism and criticism until CD Projekt Red shows the world that things have changed for the better. No promise of a dream sequel should change that.

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