The Witcher May Be That Rare Remake That We Actually Need

The Witcher May Be That Rare Remake That We Actually Need

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Josh Wise

Something Witcher this way comes. CD Projekt announced this week that a remake of The Witcher is on the way. The game will, apparently, be “rebuilt from the ground up,” using Unreal Engine 5. This is good news for PC players, who can look forward to seeing a beloved RPG all ground up. It is, however, very good news for console players, who have no idea where the hell the ground even was.

Despite some damp and gusty rumblings of a port back since 2008, The Witcher only ever came to PC, and, the truth is, it lends itself rather well to being forgotten. It came out in 2007, which wasn’t a good plan. Unless your name, that year, was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Portal, Super Mario Galaxy, Assassin’s Creed, BioShock, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Mass Effect, or possibly Crysis, then you can count on slipping the minds of most. It wasn’t until The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings came to PC and consoles, in 2011, that the series started to exert its peculiar grip. From there, it was a four-year hop to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which was garlanded with awards and happened to launch CD Projekt RED into rarefied status. The Witcher, meanwhile, slunk into the mists.

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All of which means that, in this particular instance, one doesn’t feel the urge to greet the news with a groan. We live in the era of the remake, bracing ourselves each week for the recrudescence of games past. Last month, we had The Last Us Part I, in which Joel and Ellie set off for Salt Lake City all over again, the graphic details of their trip given a bolster by the PlayStation 5. Just last week, Konami announced that it was going to reacquaint us all with the familiar fogs of Silent Hill 2. We have Dead Space drifting back into orbit, along with Resident Evil 4, Lollipop Chainsaw, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Splinter Cell, and, ironically, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. (Having played the latter again this year, I can confirm that it remains unimprovable; the best thing to do is to buy a copy of the original and watch as the years slip away.)

In the case of The Witcher, however, there is not only an entirely fresh audience for the game; there is also, pardon the blasphemy, a number of blemishes that could easily be buffed out. Consider, first of all, the figure of Geralt: mutant, monster hunter, hero, and – once you get past the pale skin and the reptilian tint of his irises – handsome fellow. It wasn’t always this way. In the original, Geralt’s chief tactic in the battle against leagues of monsters was to bear a striking resemblance to Katie Hopkins. As for the battles themselves, they consisted of clicking on one’s foes, watching Geralt unload on them with a series of canned animations, and patiently waiting for your input to be required once again.

Then, there is Ciri, the fan-favourite heroine of the series. Or, rather, there isn’t Ciri. The Witcher instead featured Alvin, a young boy – unaccompanied by chipmunks but irritating nonetheless – who channels strange powers and has trouble controlling them. He was an odd replacement for Ciri, who featured prominently in the books and who had a more central role in subsequent games. Perhaps the developer in charge of the remake, Polish studio Fool’s Theory, will bring the game more in line with later entries and swap Alvin for Ciri. While we’re at it, maybe the studio will have mercy on Geralt’s knees. The first game didn’t feature Roach, Geralt’s horse, and the poor guy did all his exploring on foot. The map was also smaller, so it didn’t seem quite so laborious. Still, a beefed-up map and some Roach-boosted exploration wouldn’t go amiss.

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CD Projekt RED studio head Adam Badowski said, of The Witcher, “It was the first game we made, ever, and it was a big moment for us then. Going back to this place and remaking the game for the next generation of gamers to experience it feels just as big, if not bigger.” It’s a nice sentiment, but, in the end, the art of the truly great remake isn’t only about revisiting cherished work and bringing it to a new audience. It is, at its best, about capturing something in the original work that seemed to elude its time. Think of Shinji Mikami returning to Resident Evil in 2002, confident that its shocks transcended the trappings of 1996, and that its furnishings were merely in need of renovation. In the case of The Witcher, it doesn’t feel as if the game were ahead of its time – more that it was a flawed attempt to start something that would, in the fullness of time, flourish, as it was burnished by technology and experience. How better to honour The Witcher than by giving it that burnish?

Comments
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  • Hope some of the clunky controls get improved, it's still a great game though and I will be getting this for sure.
  • @1 Considering it’s a remake, they almost certainly will.
  • IIRC they didn't have the full rights to the franchise with the first title and the author wasn't oo keen on it, either (surprising absolutely no one)., which explains some of the missing characters.
  • Wish we will get more remakes like this, I missed so many good games that are hard to go back to because of shitty controls (and crappy graphics).
  • I liked this news, as I've tried twice to play the first game on PC and barely got past the prologue both times - mostly due to its controls.
  • I hope the score card stay in. It's a part of history that should not be cancelled.
  • Dead space says hello
  • @XenoFan - even though I’m ecstatic about the Dead Space remake, I’d argue it wasn’t needed. The original still plays really well, so a simple upres or visual remaster, or even a straight port, would have worked wonders. The Witcher 1 though is definitely more in need of a remake - similar to how Code Veronica is more in need of a remake than Resident Evil 4.
  • Witcher 2 is the remake we actually need.
  • @XenoFan Dead Space is in the article.

    Also still handles well and is available easily (on PS3)
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