Review of the game Gwent: The Witcher Card Game - cards on the table

Author: Hubert Sosnowski
Date: 2018-11-06 16:06:00
The review was based on the PC version. Also applies to PS4, XONE versions

In its card game, CD Projekt RED separates itself from genre standards with a thick line and tries something new. The foundations already laid this separateness in the thread, which we know from The Witcher 3. Then the beta version of The Witcher Card Game expanded the idea, and further powerful changes appeared in the massive update titled Homecoming. At the moment, this is a slightly different game than the one we played a few weeks ago and completely different than the one from The Witcher. Many changes have worked, but a few things have not turned out as well as they should be. It's time to take Gwent apart.

A new deal

During the Gwent beta, my impressions were ... mixed. He was discouraged by slow progress and the playing of cards the size of a postage stamp. The mechanic was intrigued and entertained by the tavern atmosphere. However, despite the apparent potential, I was struggling with this game. She was too crude in that state. If I had to go through that version of it for several dozen hours in the name of a review, then ... I would really do it mainly for you. I know that Gwent had many followers, but I wasn't one of them.

Homecoming changed a lot. Starting from the mood, through the reward system, to the mechanics as such and the balance of individual cards. It's quite a radical transformation and many people may not like it, but now you can see the potential that could make this card game reach a wide audience. The first change that stands out was in the graphics.

Even the main menu has undergone a considerable facelift, and although it echoes the tavern games (mainly in the store and in the arena), it has a much more warlike atmosphere. Just like the whole game, especially the boards on which we issue cards. Now they are full of animated details and usually resemble a battlefield with the commander in charge of the maneuvers. Paradoxically, this is the only change that has really turned out to be worse for the game.

I understand why "Redzi" decided to hit more serious tones (although it's a bit breakneck when playing magic cards ...), but it doesn't work in practice. This type of gameplay is associated with a pleasant sit-down and a social atmosphere, not mud, toil and potholes of the rainy battlefield. The fact that every other card game looks like this is a different matter. In any case, it takes a while to convince oneself to the grays, dullness and browns dominating the basic available "boards". You can unlock other sceneries, but they don't change that much.

On the plus side, there are more refined animations of playing units and special effects, and the fact that the cards are finally the right size. It is a pity that they stand out so poorly from the background - they are as dark and "witcher" as the battlefields. A board that differs in color from the cards would really do a good job here.

Nevertheless, the graphics themselves - both in the basic and animated versions - are a great result of the artists' work. The monsters, characters and battle machines taken from The Witcher make a fantastic impression. And in most cases the cards (importantly) are sufficiently different from each other.

Now that the aesthetic layer is behind us, it's time to take care of the rest. Because a good card game should attract with plastic and stop with mechanics.

Cards on the table!

Gwent stands out from the competition with a different approach to mechanics. Most card games of magic origin ( Hearthstone, The Elder Scrolls Legends ) are all about reducing your opponent's health with units and spells that deal damage. CD Projekt Red proposed an idea that is perverse in its simplicity - the player / commander / hero ceases to be a target . Winning increases the strength of the units on the table at the end of the round. Let us add that the match consists of a maximum of three rounds.

We play cards - one per turn - by placing them in one of the two (formerly three) rows. Units that specialize in melee or ranged combat belong to various classes and races, and in addition to them, we also have spells, traps and artifacts. In this respect, Gwent resembles competition - but the strength of a soldier is also his health points, and apart from rare cases caused by special plays, there are no direct clashes between cards.

Apart from that, CD Projekt's card game forces a different approach to the game and deck building . Something like aggrodeck does not exist here, because cheap units focused on quick damage dealt have nothing to kill. Even those units that have the ability to directly destroy the opponent are used to control the situation on the board. Gwent is a paradise for those who like to play with controldecks, trap combinations and buffs.

The game focuses on a different deck management philosophy. Before and during the game. Cards have "weight" and we can have any number of units in the deck as long as they do not exceed 165 points. This set must be enough to get you twice at the end of the hand. We will not use the card used in the first round in the second round, so we leave the one-time va banque behind the door and send it to the romantics of poker and Hearthstone .

This kind of management is a bit of a breath of fresh air, especially since cards are assumed to be drawn only once at the beginning of a round - although there are units and spells that allow you to draw cards, they are rare. Naturally, there is a loophole in this philosophy. You can leave your opponent with the first card played, surrender the second round and throw a powerful combination on his head with the hussar charge momentum on his head. This is a common practice that has actually become a permanent part of the game. Some people will find it irritating, but for me it was a nice change and part of the "over the table" range.

Royal Poker ...

... or actually it's chess. Remember all those times when you prayed to the RNG gods during a game of Hearthstone that the "agony" (the property that fired after the destruction of the unit) would not fall into a suicidal creature or that Ragnaros would hit the opponent in the "face"? Here you can let go of such godliness. One Hail Mary once from the great bell is enough. In Gwent, randomness has been reduced to a minimum. Effects over which we have no control do happen, but they are rare.

These are single cards, not that common - from what I've observed. So far, the largest concentration of them can be found in Scoia'Tael decks, and not all of them. Maybe such units and spells will appear in greater numbers in the add-ons, but so far the fun has a more tactical and strategic dimension and the only lottery we are facing is the order of cards drawn from the deck.

This gives stability and allows you to plan the game sensibly. At least on our side, because we can meet absolutely anything at our opponent's. And now the choice of cards is really large and there are quite a variety of options.

Well, we'll be less swearing and less likely to throw the mouse against the wall, but I'm afraid it could hurt the game in the long run. Gwent lacks the unpredictability and that flash of madness that the competition generates cards with random effects. This in turn means that the subsequent games are accompanied by less emotions.

Here you can almost always predict what will happen. And while it is a paradise for players with calculators in mind, those on Sundays and those who like to be surprised from time to time may feel a certain monotony. To avoid this, "Redzi" will have to focus on introducing additions and variations on a really regular basis.

Big Shu

Fortunately, you can already see that Gwent boasts a large number of strategic options . We have five factions at our disposal - Scoia'Tael, the Nilfgaardian Empire, Northern Kingdoms, Skellige and Monsters (there are also neutral cards that can be used to replenish each deck). Each party offers different tactics and atmosphere. Scoia'Tael often use traps and artifacts, Skellige benefits from the mutilation of units, the Empire focuses on spies, Monsters support themselves with global effects, weather and "unit cannibalism", and the Northern Kingdoms can, for example, rely on strengthening soldiers.

An ace up my sleeve

However, the lack of a campaign does not mean that the game is empty. For now, Gwent offers fairly typical variants of fun - a ranked game, a skirmish, training with the computer and an arena , which we enter for 150 gold pieces (game currency unlocked for completing tasks). There, we assemble a deck of random cards and face new opponents. For each victory - up to the ninth - the prize pool grows. All these variants have been implemented properly, are as enjoyable as they should, and encourage you to continue your adventure. However, there is something else ...

Someone at CD Projekcie RED must have been knowledgeable and knew how to choke players to the screens. There is a thread of something that works as pure heroin. It is addictive and addictive, making us devote long hours to the game. The name of this devil and tempter is progression system. Something that was complained about in the pre-patch version turns into a drug here.

Especially in the beginning, we are rewarded for everything. ALL. For victories. For the right plays. For congratulations from the player. For opening the appropriate number of kegs with cards. Not only do we get gold for completing daily missions, we also get victory points for unlocking new achievements, and for these we unlock development trees with various rewards.

There is gold waiting for us, barrels, fragments of cards, dust used as decorations, avatars that we would not otherwise get, and fragments of the history of individual factions. Thanks to this, you can get cool cards pretty quickly and build at least one or two meaningful decks . There are over twenty trees. And the cards that we will get thanks to this - definitely, definitely more. Of course, at some point the momentum slows down, but the pace of unlocking new products is still faster than in the beta.

An additional flavor is decent sound, with voices of characters and music strongly inspired by the third Witcher . Those players who cannot come back to reality after the trip with Geralt will feel at home again. The rest will probably enjoy these decorations for a while and return to the YouTube playlist.