CD Projekt RED opened for business in 2002 and set out to become the premiere video game maker in Poland. It’s established itself well in the years since. Its video game adaptations of Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels, The Witcher and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, have been commercially and critically successful. They’re also premiere examples of one of video games’ most familiar molds: The Tolkien-style fantasy. That is to say, there’s a guy with a sword in a vaguely European land full of elves, dwarves, and lusty barmaids, and he gets caught up in all kinds of world-altering adventures both supernatural and political.
Once you’ve mastered one corner of video game tropes, the only place to go next is… other video game tropes. How about the dystopian, near-future sci-fi epic? CD Projekt RED’s got it covered with its newly announced Cyberpunk.
The trappings of Cyberpunk may be familiar thanks to games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Shadowgate, Syndicate and countless others, but CD Projekt RED deserves credit for going straight to the source; this new game is based on the pen-and-paper role-playing games created by Mike Pondsmith and R. Talsorian Games in the early ‘90s. Those RPGs were in turn based on the genre of fiction born out of William Gibson’s Spawl Trilogy of novels that started with Neuromancer. If you’re going to make an RPG with a gritty hacker in a decaying urban society, it’s probably smart to tap the proverbial rockies.
CD Projekt RED is also promising the sort of fare that made The Witcher games so successful: An involved story built around murky moral choices, complex character building, and violence. There will undoubtedly be some terribly awkward sex scenes thrown in there as well, though whether those will include behooved succubi this time around is unclear.
Pondsmith himself announced the game alongside CD Projekt, promising to collaborate with the team on the game. A new development team comprised of members of The Witcher staff and others, but the publisher is still hiring for the project.
Truth to tell, it’s disappointing to hear that this is CD Projekt’s ballyhooed next game. The Witcher 2 is a deeply flawed game with a story that is, while complex, about as emotionally deep as an intelligent college freshman’s Game of Thrones fan fiction. The seeds of greatness are there though, and every time the game embraces subtlety and the team’s Polish roots, that greatness shines through. It would be wonderful to see CD Projekt pursue a wholly original property, because they are such clearly talented and creative people. At the end of the day, there isn’t much difference between heads getting cut in half in medieval-fantasy-land and those laser-ed in half in technologically-advanced-fantasy-land.