Games

A Brief Lament for the Witcher Game That Never Came to Consoles

We’ve all got them—games on other systems that we’ll never play on ours. And the consoles-ducking ‘The Witcher’ is foremost amongst mine.

by Mike Diver
Jul 7 2017, 1:52pm

‘The Witcher: Enhanced Edition Director’s Cut’ screenshots courtesy of CD Projekt RED.

Since The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt came out in 2015, I've been pretty significantly engaged with all things related to the game. It made that substantial an impression on me.

I acquired a bunch of the books, the source fiction penned by Andrzej Sapkowski that forms the foundation for Geralt's interactive adventures. I even read some of them, too. I brought the enhanced Xbox 360 edition of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings home from a local second-hand store not so many months ago—though, apologies, I'm no further than killing the tentacled kayran (and I've got to that point twice before being pulled away to some other, newer game, uh).

I even allowed myself a little whoop when news came out that Netflix was to develop the series for a TV show. Which might all be CGI, given the involvement of Witcher 3 trailer-makers Platige Image, or a mixture of that with live action. Either way: yes.

But what I can't do, what I'll never be able to do, is play the original The Witcher—the adventure that started it all, and Polish developer CD Projekt RED's debut production no less, that celebrates its tenth anniversary in October this year. Because I am without PC. Realistically, given I've never owned a particularly powerful one (long since sold), I've always been without PC. Since the Spectrum-succeeding Master System days, I've simply been a console kid—dalliances with an Amiga or two aside. (Look, I'm British. It's practically the law to have owned an Amiga.)

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The Witcher has only ever been available for PC and Mac. It's certainly the third-best-rated of the three main Witcher games to date, packed full as it is of piss-poor voice acting, ugly character models, over-sexualized NPCs and a (really) bad attitude towards women in general—but I'm sure to not be the only fan of the series who's a little gutted they can't go back to the start, because of the platforms available to them. And before you ask, no: we've nowhere to put one, and my wife can find 1,000 uses for that kind of money before we reach the spend-it-on-a-PC option.

I would be okay with this. I mean, not happy, but okay. I can read up on it, and see how the first game bled into the second; which in turn impacts on events of the third (if you choose to have your Witcher 3 story reflect your decisions in its predecessor, which you have to do manually). But I'm not okay with it, because we were teased a console port of The Witcher, only for it to ultimately join the vast number of video game projects that simply never come to fruition.

In December 2008, CDPR announced that The Witcher would be coming to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, in an all-new form, subtitled Rise of the White Wolf. (So into that.) The game was to essentially be rebuilt, using Lyon-based studio Widescreen Games' DaVinci Engine. The French team's only real production of note, to that point, was 2005's Namco-published Dead to Rights II, which barely limped above a Metacritic 50 across Xbox and PS2. Nevertheless, it was Widescreen that CDPR were partnering with, and the result was promised to be a massive improvement on the PC original.

But things, as Idaho rockers Built to Spill warned us of in their album of the same year (coincidence, huh?), fell apart in the spring of 2009. Widescreen halted work, claiming that CDPR were late with payments. CDPR replied, claiming that they were withholding the money due to Widescreen not meeting agreed deadlines. Whatever the truth of the matter, the situation was irreparable and the port was fatally dashed, like so many sailboats against the jagged rocks of the Skellige Isles.

Today, it's tough to see The Witcher ever making the switch from what it was to what it could be on modern consoles—to look at it in motion for just a couple of minutes is to see how rough about the edges it is held up beside The Witcher 3 and its spectacular DLC, and even the older second game. I suspect it'd need to be ripped up and started anew, to get it anywhere close to where CDPR and series fans alike would want it to be—and nobody at the studio, with Cyberpunk 2077 on the go, has that kind of time, whatever the demand.

So I'll go on not playing it, wondering what extra context doing so would lend to my previous Witcher experiences, but never truly knowing. Such is the lot of the console-only player. Which leads me to a question for you, reader: what PC-only game, or game restricted to some other platform you don't have access to, have you pined for a port of, only to never see it? Discuss the topic on the Waypoint forums.

Course, this cuts both ways—PC gamers, no doubt, are pissed that a clutch of console hits have never gone across to mouse and keys. Be realistic, though, please—I mean, outside of Sega of Japan itself, nobody ever had Super Mario Bros. running on a Mega Drive. (Look, go ask Yuji Naka, and he'll tell you about it.) Super Mario World, on the other hand.