Thronebreaker : The Witcher Tales - Critique
It's while playing games like Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales , which blithely exceed my expectations in many areas, that I remember why I chose to work in the video game world. We are indeed far from the simple single player campaign grafted in a hurry to a multiplayer card game. CD Projekt RED delivers a grandiose, complex and moving story, all carried by memorable characters, excellent dubbing and above all parts as varied as they are exciting.
The writing is the thing that blew my mind the most. The story takes place just before The Witcher game trilogy, during the Second Nilfgaard War, and puts you in the boots of Meve, the intrepid, dynamic and complex ruler of Lyrie and Rivie. Throughout her adventure, the heroine is confronted with a powerful enemy, political stakes and countless uncomfortable decisions that defy morale and which have made The Witcher saga famous. Are you ready to sacrifice your honor for the sake of your neighbor? Are you prepared to make sacrifices for the good of your soldiers, but at the expense of a potentially useful alliance? This tale makes no distinction between good and evil. In the end, I only retain from my adventure difficult compromises, emotional and imperfect, which stuck to my skin for several hours after having made them.
Throughout my epic, I was accompanied by several aides-de-camp, with personalities as diverse as they are fascinating. Characters that, in my opinion, equal - if not eclipse - the best companions encountered in traditional RPGs. From the irreverent Gascon bandit, to the pacifist and fanatic witch Isbel, they all make an impression with their unique reactions to the decisions you make. Depending on your choices, they may open up to you, or on the contrary want to stand apart. I did not manage to keep everyone happy, which adds credibility to my decisions and my behavior during the adventure.
And it's not just about losing a drinking partner. Some of the most powerful hero cards can only be obtained if certain companions are by your side. In addition, several of these companions can offer special solutions to certain events in the game, or on the contrary put you in front of certain dilemmas which can end in bloodshed. The Eyck monster hunter, for example, is very useful for clearing a cave, full of treasures, of its evil creatures, without having to sacrifice the lives of its soldiers.
Many other maps and branches can be unlocked by using diplomacy or by forming alliances with one of the many factions encountered, thanks to the connections of your companions. I particularly appreciated the very intuitive functioning of this system, and the way in which it rewarded me - or punished - according to the values that I had chosen to defend. Even though I only played the campaign once, each quest seems to have a lot of different outcomes.
Help me !
The quests and accompanying dialogues are on their side as well written as in The Witcher 3 . More than once, I have experienced deep emotional satisfaction, before being overwhelmed the next moment by intense sadness. And the card games that punctuate all these moments are really fun. There is no question here of playing hundreds of standard Gwent games. Each encounter revolves around particularly satisfying twists and turns to overcome. For example, some commanders can resurrect any card you destroy. The only way to win is to reduce their hit points with non-lethal attacks until the end of the game.
Some scripted fights also sometimes require the destruction of heavily armed gatehouses in order to attack the unit behind. The high level of customization of the decks - especially after obtaining the ability to recruit special cards such as dwarves or Skellige mercenaries - also allows you to spice up the games a little if you are bored, or on the contrary to tackle some clashes far too thorny with more serenity.
I regret the absence of a function to save and load decks associated with certain game situations. This defect is particularly problematic during certain scripted confrontations whose rules favor or hinder a certain type of card I remember in particular a lieutenant who could increase the power of his soldiers based on my strongest unit. One situation that encouraged me - or forced me, it depends - to use weaker cards. The only way to prepare for these kinds of games is to rearrange your deck by hand, one card at a time. And after you have won, you must reset it to start again on a more "standard" deck. In my opinion, this system discourages experimentation. The idea of spending several minutes creating a unique deck, before having to reset it completely because it ultimately does not suit me, did not delight me.
The soul of cards
Otherwise, I found the various puzzle parts dotted around the beautiful hand painted Thronebreaker map very interesting. These require certain unorthodox conditions such as using a specific set of cards for a limited number of turns. Others ask you to place a card in a specific location on the game board using movement abilities, or to increase a card's power to a certain level. Sometimes it took me over an hour to find a solution to some problems. Some goals were a bit frustrating, but that was nothing compared to the great satisfaction felt when finding a solution. And since all of these tasks use pre-made decks, the lack of a save feature was less of a problem.
The five maps (six including the short epilogue) of the game are also not lacking in character and style, thanks to their magnificent landscapes which scroll in the background and which give the impression of playing a title much more ambitious than 'a simple 2D isometric RPG. In particular, I enjoyed being able to glimpse the snow-capped peaks of the dwarf kingdom of Mahakam, a region unlike any that Geralt visited during his adventures. The visually vivid environments brilliantly capture the essence of the famous Witcher's world, from the smallest mud puddle to huge monsters stalking their prey. Thronebreaker has nothing to envy to the 3D world of The Witcher games. To end it all, the game revolves around an interface that is both intuitive, responsive and pretty, which can be handled as well with the joystick as with the keyboard / mouse.