"It was the shift towards open world support": Witcher 4 developers explain the reason to shift to Unreal Engine 5

CD Projekt RED has discussed the rationale for using Unreal Engine 5 for Witcher 4 (Image via CDPR, Epic)
CD Projekt RED has discussed the rationale for using Unreal Engine 5 for Witcher 4 (Image via CDPR, Epic)

When CD Projekt RED announced Witcher 4, it created a buzz around the entire community. The new game is likely to be a new saga, yet fans seem to have branded the game as a continuation of The Witcher trilogy, which was based around Geralt.

While developers have given very few details, one substantial piece of news includes the adoption of a new engine. In a recent virtual interview, the developers have spoken about using Unreal Engine 5.

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CD Projekt RED will work in a strategic partnership with Epic. As a result, not only will the new game be based on Unreal Engine 5, but the Polish studio will also work to enhance the overall engine.

There was a curiosity among fans as to why CD Projekt RED has shifted from the current REDengine. It now appears that there is a solid rationale behind it.


CD Projekt RED developers explain the rationale for building Witcher 4 on Unreal Engine 5

The Witcher games have a reputation for having a solid open-world setting. While Witcher 4 might be the start of a new saga, it would have been unrealistic for it to break the mold.

CTO Pawel Zawodny has confirmed that the open-world capabilities of Unreal Engine 5 are what drew them towards it.

"This opens a new chapter for us where we really want to see how our experience in building open-world games gets combined with all the engineering power of Epic."
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Zawodny added that he hopes the collaboration will result in something truly spectacular. Game Director Jason Slama added something quite interesting about a certain open-world demo last year, which grabbed their attention. There was a glimpse from the demo showing a notice board containing a poster asking for monster slayers.

Slama also described the difficulties of open-world games compared to linear games. Slama believes things can go wrong very quickly in open-world games.

"One of the things that is really important to keep in mind when talking about open-world games versus, let's say, linear games is the possibilities of the things that can go wrong or the scenarios that you have to consider are exponentially higher than linear games."

Slama believes the Unreal Engine 5 will provide Witcher 4 with the required stability.

"Players can go in whatever direction they want, they can handle content in any order that they want theoretically, and to really encapsulate that means that you need a really stable environment where you can be able to make changes with a high level of confidence that it's not going to break in 1,600 other places down the line."
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It's not rocket science that developers often try to learn from the positives of different projects. Art Director Jakub Knapik believes that Unreal Engine 5, having been used in other games, will help CD Projekt RED immensely.

"The fact that Unreal is used by a lot of teams already in the world, a lot of perspectives are projected into the design of the tools, and that helps the tool to be way more agile."

The expectations that CD Projekt RED has for Witcher 4 are quite clear. Fans are understandably skeptical after the debacle of Cyberpunk 2077. However, the Unreal Engine 5 may be the key that the developers were missing. Only time will tell how the brand new Witcher game will be.