The Witcher 4: everything we know so far about Polaris

The Witcher 4 is officially in the works. Well, sort of. You see, CD Projekt RED has revealed a suite of Witcher games that are in active development. One of them, codenamed Polaris, is described as the next mainline game in the franchise. For all intents and purposes, this is The Witcher 4. For now, that’s what we’ll be referring to.

Back in March 2022, developer CD Projekt Red announced The Witcher 4 in a blog post. Alongside other Witcher games, and some Cyberpunk 2077 projects, the company revealed that Polaris (The Witcher 4) will be part of a brand new saga. This saga is a trilogy of games, starting with Polaris. This is great news for fans of The Witcher, though so far we know very little about what this new set of games will entail.

So far, CD Projekt RED has revealed few details on The Witcher 4, and aside from a teaser image, we don’t have too much to go off. As development progresses we’re likely to hear more. For now, here’s what we know about The Witcher 4.

The Witcher 4: cut to the chase

What is it? The next mainline The Witcher game When can I play it? TBCWhat can I play it on? TBC

The Witcher 4: release date and platforms

(Image credit: CD Projekt RED)

Let’s begin by tempering our excitement. CD Projekt RED has announced that The Witcher 4 is in active development, but it also made clear in a blog post that “no further details about a release date” are available.

Now, to put that in some perspective, the original reveal trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 was released seven years before the game actually came out. To pour a little hope back into the situation, CD Projekt RED published a Witcher 3: Wild Hunt title reveal trailer just two years ahead of The Witcher 3’s release. 

That is all to say, we are likely multiple years away from The Witcher 4’s release. Mark your calendars for 2024 at the earliest, though it’ll probably be longer.

No platforms for The Witcher 4 have been confirmed either, but that’s not surprising. We expect CD Projekt Red will make use of current-gen hardware, so releases on PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PC seem almost certain.

What we do know is that The Witcher 4 will be the first in a trilogy. This was revealed in October 2022 alongside a bunch of new The Witcher and Cyberpunk projects.

Polaris is a codename for the next installment in The Witcher series of games, which we recently announced was in pre-production. It is the beginning of a new saga: we aim to release two more Witcher games after Polaris, creating a new AAA RPG trilogy. pic.twitter.com/898Ez6Yk79October 4, 2022

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The Witcher 4: story and setting

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Spoilers for The Witcher game series

As stated above, there are few details available about The Witcher 4. The official blog post only confirms it’s in development and that it’s being built in Unreal Engine 5. But, over the years, CD Projekt RED has said plenty about what a future Witcher game would involve.

For a start, it’s not really The Witcher 4.

“The first three ‘Witchers’ were by definition a trilogy, so we simply could not name the next game ‘The Witcher 4’,” Kiciński said in an interview. “This does not mean, of course, that we will leave the world of The Witcher.”

At the end of The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine, monster hunter Geralt was alive and well. Well, he was alive, at least. But his story arc had ended, the Wild Hunt was over. That doesn’t mean he won’t return in this new Witcher game, though he likely won’t be the main character.

The developer said as much back in 2013: “We are not killing the world and walking away from it, but we will definitely want to make this game the finale in a big way,” executive producer John Mamais told Polygon. “We might even include Geralt in later games potentially. We just need to talk about it and figure out what we’re going to do next.”

Perhaps we’ll see the reins pass to Ciri – if it’s decided that canonically she survived The Witcher 3. To avoid continuity issues, perhaps the team will set its story head of the events of Geralt’s adventures. After all, Netflix is developing a series set long before the events of the books, Blood Origin is a prequel set 1,000 years before the events of The Witcher.

The confirmation that the medallion shown in the game’s announcement picture is a lynx certainly suggests that the game will take things in a new direction. Potentially, that introduces an entirely new Witcher school. 

The author of the Witcher books, Andrzej Sapkowski, signed a new deal with the company to “further solidify their relationship”. So. the studio is free to pull from any one of his short stories or novels. (If you’re wanting to get caught up, here’s how to read The Witcher books in order.)

The Witcher 4: news and rumors

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Polaris, and a brand new trilogy
In early October, 2022, CD Projekt RED announced a bunch of new titles via Twitter, including a new The Witcher trilogy. Polaris (what we’ve been calling Witcher 4) will kick off the new saga, which will then play out over 6 years from the first release. This is obviously a huge undertaking, so we’ll have to wait and see whether it pays off.

Reconfirming the start of a new saga
CD Projekt RED has re-confirmed that The Witcher 4 will launch a saga. While it didn’t confirm how many games this’ll involve, CEO Adam Kiciński made these comments during a recent earnings call.

“We said that there will be a new saga. Of course, now we are pre-producing the first game of this saga. But we have in mind more than one. The first saga was three games, so now we’re thinking about more than one game. But we are in pre-production on the first game from the second Witcher saga.”

First mystery solved: the medallion is a lynx
Following the detail-light announcement that The Witcher 4 is in development, CD Projekt Red has spoken out to address one point of fan speculation: the medallion shown in the announcement image. Turns out, it’s a lynx, suggesting that CD Projekt Red has created a whole new Witcher school for the new game.

“I can confirm that the medallion is, in fact, shaped after a lynx,” global communication director Robert Malinowski told Eurogamer

However, while the School of the Lynx doesn’t appear in official Witcher fiction, there are stories about the school elsewhere on the internet – on a Witcher fan fiction wiki. On the fan wiki, the School of the Lynx forms after the School of the Wolf dissolves. Founded by the surviving members – including Geralt – the school eventually departs its homeland and explores the Western continent. 

However, remember that this is all fanfiction, and therefore unlikely to be similar to the story that CD Projekt is working up for its new RPG. For a start, Geralt may not even feature in the new game. Indeed, the announcement talks about a “new saga” which does suggest an intention to move on.

The announcement
Considering most game announcements come with fancy reveal trailers and big new websites, news of The Witcher 4 is relatively muted. CD Projekt RED published a blog post with a single piece of key art and scant detail about one of the most anticipated RPGs in gaming history.

“We’re happy to announce that the next installment in The Witcher series of video games is currently in development, kicking off a new saga for the franchise,” the developer writes.

While the post doesn’t go into detail about the game’s release date or even how far into development the team is, it does include one major detail: CD Projekt RED has dumped its in-house game engine.

The team has been using the REDengine for every game since The Witcher 2. Capable of supporting gorgeous open worlds, the Polish developer has spent years expanding its capabilities. 

There was a huge leap in quality from The Witcher 2 to The Witcher 3, with the tech being able to handle much larger, denser worlds. The tech jumped on again with Cyberpunk 2077. While the world may have felt more hemmed in than The Witcher 3’s open plains and twisting forests, Night City was a packed city with huge amounts of activity stretch up above you across vertical apartment blocks.

Still, Cyberpunk suffered from significant technical problems at launch and perhaps it is that which has pushed CD Projekt RED to leave its own engine behind in favor of an industry-standard: Unreal Engine 5.

(Image credit: Epic)

“We’re moving from REDengine to Unreal Engine 5,” CD Projekt writes in the blog post, “beginning a multi-year strategic partnership with Epic Games. It covers not only licensing, but technical development of Unreal Engine 5, as well as potential future versions of Unreal Engine, where relevant. We’ll closely collaborate with Epic Games’ developers with the primary goal being to help tailor the engine for open-world experiences.”

Before we had seen any games for the PlayStation 5, we had seen an Unreal Engine 5 tech demo running on the console. Epic Games has been keen to push this new version of its engine as technology for the new generation of consoles. The fact The Witcher 4 will be built in this tech is both something Epic can shout about and Witcher fans burned by Cyberpunk can take solace in.

Of course, a game engine is just a set of tools, it doesn’t make a game good or bad. And, while many people at CD Projekt RED will have used Unreal Engine tech over their careers, shifting an entire studio to a different suite of tools is a production challenge that can show up in the final game.

Upcoming games in 2022

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