The Witcher 3’s Next-Gen Changes Signal Good Things for Series’ Future

CD Projekt Red is back to over-delivering. Though its player trust took a hit following the turbulent launch of Cyberpunk 2077, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s free next-gen update is a return to form, with the effort put into improving an already amazing game signaling good things for the series’ future .

What could’ve been a simple PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series port with spruced up graphics and a $20 price tag instead became a self-reflective mission for CD Projekt Red, as the developer went back to the drawing board to truly try and improve The Witcher 3. Anyone who bought the physical editions of The Witcher 2 or 3 in the past will remember the bundle of extra goodies they came with (such as soundtrack CDs and maps), and CD Projekt Red has essentially created a digital version of that with the next-gen update.

Whether it’s one of the new armor sets based on beloved book locations such as Dol Blathanna, snippets of new lore, the brand new mission, or even the new Gwent card, the development team is really trying to show that it cares. What truly bodes well for the future isn’t just the effort behind these new additions, however, but instead the changes that CD Projekt Red has made to previous mechanics.

For fans returning to The Witcher 3, the most noticeable of these changes is in the combat system. It’s something a lot of people had gripes with in the original, as it could sometimes be slow and somewhat repetitive, but CD Projekt Red has made several small changes that bring real intensity and dynamism to every fight.

The new close-quarters camera angle thrusts players into the center of the battlefield, sprint being attached to L3 essentially adds a new mechanic to combat, and the quick-casting sign system keeps you locked into the battle at every moment. Combine these with 60 frames per second gameplay and haptic feedback (at least on PS5), and the combat almost feels scripted. Geralt casts Yrden to trap one enemy, parries another’s blow, flashes Igni to take them both down, then dodges an arrow before sprinting towards the archer and performing a brutal finisher. Every battle feels like a cutscene.

These changes would even feel like a satisfying improvement if they arrived in The Witcher 4 (for lack of an official name), so the fact CD Projekt Red is unveiling them now certainly suggests that even better things are on the way. And its understanding of what the community wants is even more exciting.

CD Projekt Red didn’t stop there though, as it actually included fan-made mods as official features in the next-gen update. Improvements to the world map, balance updates, and even some texture upgrades were all features added by the development team but made by the community. Especially after marginalizing a lot of players upon the launch of Cyberpunk 2077, the fact CD Projekt Red is back paying attention to its community hopefully shows that the same mistake won’t be repeated when The Witcher 4 is released.

It’ll just be the first (or second) of several new Witcher games, of course, as CD Projekt Red announced earlier this year that at least five sequels and spin-offs are on the way. While this hike in game development will likely provide its own challenge, as long as CD Projekt Red puts the same amount of effort and attention into its future games that it did with The Witcher 3’s next-gen version, then fans of the series won’ don’t have to worry.

Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer and acting UK news editor. He’ll talk about The Witcher all day.

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