From combat to conquests: The Witcher remake has its work cut out for it

The Witcher
(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

The Witcher is officially getting a full remake, and if there was ever a game that needed an updated, fresh coat of paint, it's Geralt of Rivia's very first adventure. After a slate of upcoming CD Projekt Red games were recently announced, the developer and publisher revealed that the project codenamed 'Canis Majoris' is actually The Witcher remake that will be brought to life by external studio Fool's Theory.

My memories of playing The Witcher several years ago don't necessarily make me want to revisit it again as it is. With clunky combat that's hard to master, the first game always felt like the least approachable adventure in the series, not to mention features that are outdated in more ways than one by today's standards. If I'm being honest, the news of a remake didn't really pique my interest until I laid eyes on the words "modern reimagining". As a full remake that will be rebuilding the first game "from the ground up" on Unreal Engine 5, it has the potential to make the first game far more palatable for modern audiences, and welcome new generations of players into Geralt's first story. But I also hope it does away with outdated features like the infamous, objectifying 'sex cards', and makes the overall experience of controlling Geralt more in-line with The Witcher 3

New beginning  

The Witcher

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

The game that started it all for CDProjekt Red does pale in comparison to the entries that have followed, but that's not to say The Witcher doesn't anything going for it. Released in 2007, the environments and design of the game effectively established the tone and feel of the dark fantasy world it was inspired by, and the decisions you could make in quests were never quite clear cut in terms of right and wrong – giving us our first taste of the moral ambiguity that permeates the world, which always made the choices in The Witcher 3 so compelling to me. 

Still, there's no escaping the fact that today, 15 years on, so much of the original The Witcher is outdated. I actually came to play the original game in the months leading up to the release of The Witcher 3 back in 2015, and, as someone who wasn't familiar with the Witcher series at that point, jumping into the games that came before felt like the perfect primer. Even back then, I had a hard time getting stuck in. In hindsight, it probably helped that I wasn't familiar with The Witcher 2 before I stepped into Geralt's debut adventure, but the strongest memory I have is struggling to get the hang of The Witcher's combat. I constantly felt like I was somehow doing something wrong, despite following the opening tutorial. Dodging didn't seem to do much of anything, and most of the time I felt like I was just trying to click my mouse at the right moment to try to land a good blow. 

All of this helped to establish the powers and general practices of a monster-slaying Witcher, but it was a lot harder to comfortably digest and master. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's unplayable today, but anyone who jumps from The Witcher 3 to the first game will naturally have a hard time getting pulled in – especially when it comes to the combat. I for one think The Witcher's combat could really benefit from a remake; modernizing the mechanics would, of course, make it more approachable to those who are familiar with The Witcher 3 and newcomers alike. 

The biggest problem I have with The Witcher is one I know many share. Sex has always been a part of the dark fantasy world of The Witcher series, with Geralt having many 'conquests' throughout all three games. In the first adventure, though, you could earn what has now become known as 'sex cards' – or the more tame moniker 'romance cards' as they're sometimes referred to. Essentially, each time Geralt slept with someone, you would earn a suggestive card of that character, like some objectifying collect 'em all trophy game that felt immature and, frankly, gross. If there's something the remake leaves behind from the 2007 release, I certainly hope it's that. 

Unified universe  

The Witcher Remake

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

In a sense, the Witcher series overall has always felt a little disjointed thanks to each game's release on different platforms. Each entry is noticeably different in certain respects thanks to developments in technology that's seen the series improve over time. Of course, that's true of many long-running series, and there's can be a certain nostalgic charm to the older entries. But with the Witcher only releasing on PC, the remake could open up the story that began it all to more players and make it feel more in-line with later games at the same time. 

Interestingly, with development on Unreal Engine 5, the Witcher Remake is also going to be using the toolset "CDPR is creating for the new Witcher saga" – which will kick off with the Witcher 4. You really get the sense from the studios upcoming line-up that it's striving to build up an expansive Witcher universe, and it makes sense to bring the game that started it all into the modern era to make it fit right in with the new AAA trilogy and The Witcher 3 – which is due to get a new-gen upgrade in the future

Described as a "story-driven RPG" in its initial announcement, there's also something to be said about the fact that Project Canis Majoris – aka The Witcher Remake – is coming to us from Polish developer Fool's Theory. The development studio specializes in role-playing games and has supported a rich pedigree of RPGs over the years, including the likes of Divinity Original Sin 2 and Baldur's Gate 3 with Larian, and Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice with Ninja Theory. The team is also made up of veteran developers who previously worked on The Witcher 2 and The Witcher 3. While CD Projekt Red will be providing creative supervision on the remake, having Fool's Theory at the helm sounds like a great fit thanks to their RPG chops and knowledge of the source material, and it'll be interesting to see what they bring to the table to modernize the experience. 

It will likely be quite some time before we see more of The Witcher Remake, but there's certainly a part of me that's intrigued to see how it shapes up. I can't say the first game in the series made a real, lasting impression on me in the same way that The Witcher 3 – and even The Witcher 2 to an extent – did. Maybe a modern reimagining will change that view someday, and I'm sure some of you are thinking the same.  

A fan of role-playing adventures? Check out our pick of the best RPGs you can play right now. 

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.