This is, at its core, a heavily updated version of the Gwent mini-game in 2015’s Game of the Year, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, and it’s got some new tricks for players to learn. The base object of the game is essentially the same: build a deck of powerful cards, use three placements (Melee, Ranged, Siege), and rack up higher points than your opponent. However, this version of the game throws in some extra twists, that make Gwent not only a little more complicated, but more interesting as well – both visually, and in gameplay.
Having played the game for a few hours last night (yes, hours. It’s fun, don’t judge me), I almost felt like I had to re-learn how to play, as the new mechanics and card abilities make strategizing a little more complicated. Certain cards in your hand now have the ability to weaken certain other cards in your opponent’s hand, and still others affect the entire field of play. Some cards which existed in the original seem to have been boosted in power, while others have been nerfed a bit (some damage themselves slightly when used).
Graphically, the game is beautiful. The look of the cards has been heavily upgraded, giving each of them a more hand-painted look, and bringing more of a feel of realism to the board. Additionally, CD Projekt Red has added small animations and sound bites to each card when they are played, which adds a level of immersion to the game that, while it wasn’t necessarily lacking in the original version, is a great feature in this one. I can’t wait to get into the more advanced cards, just to see what visual and aural treats the game has in store for me.
Another new feature to the overall game, is the card crafting system. Players will be able to craft new cards, and scrap duplicates for crafting materials. The way that the system is incorporated into the game itself not only makes the game more immersive and fun, but is definitely necessary in the world of card games like this one. It’s also a neat little nod to The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, as it reminds players of the weapon, armor, and item crafting system in the core game.
As expected, there’s a card purchase system in the game, which is done in one of two ways. Players can either earn coin by grinding through and winning matches, or they can pay real money to buy new cards & new packs to augment their decks. Thankfully, the game doesn’t have a progression-stopping pay wall, and the “card kegs” that can be purchased at the card shop (which is run by one of the charming & friendly trolls from The Witcher 3, no less) feel very balanced, regardless of whether in-game or real money is spent. Therefore, it really doesn’t feel like CD Projekt Red has made Gwent: The Witcher 3 Card Game a “pay-to-win” situation, as has happened with other games in the genre (we’re looking at you, Hearthstone).
As I mentioned before, I did feel like I had to re-learn the game a bit. While the controls aren’t really different from the game’s progenitor, the updated interface makes things a bit more complicated (in a good way), and the new abilities of different cards really need to be taken into account when building your hand. Remember: this is a game of strategy, not brute force. It only takes a couple of missteps to completely ruin what could otherwise be a great hand. My best advice to not only new Gwent players, but to returning pros as well, would be to go through the game’s tutorial (you’re even treated to the voices of Geralt & Ciri as your “trainers”), and let the new features really sink in.
If you’re not convinced about the open beta yet, there are two more reasons you should be. First, CD Projekt Red has stated that everyone who downloads the open beta for this game, will also be able to receive a free copy of The Witcher 2, which is another great game in the series. Also, the developer also mentioned that individual player progress made during the open beta will carry over to the full game when it is loaded on to the same system. Bear in mind, though: this is still the beta for Gwent: The Witcher 3 Card Game, and CD Projekt Red has mentioned that more features, cards, and abilities would be added between now and its official release date (which has yet to be determined). We do know that the full game will also introduce single-player story campaigns, so there will be even more to capture our attention upon its full release.
So, all you Gwent players out there: choose your factions, build your decks, and get ready to slash, burn, and cast your way through some competition, because Gwent: The Witcher 3 Card Game is definitely one to check out.
4 out of 5 Scorch Cards