GWENT®: The Witcher Card Game – Review (Beta)

If you’ve played the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, chances are that you’ve tried your hand in its Gwent mini game and have a solid grounding on how it works. The response to this game was so positive that it now has its own standalone game, and it has improved markedly.

Gwent’s primary focus is on its online modes, (though there are offline modes as well, where you can complete six mini-quests for each card faction; Northern Realms, Skellige, Scoia’tael, Nilfgaard and Monsters.) The best feature of the online modes is the matchmaking which focuses on bringing together players of similar skill levels. This gives new players the chance to learn from each other, rather than being at the mercy of players who have had months to develop their decks and tactics.

There are three online modes available: Casual Matches, Ranked Matches, and the brand new Arena mode.

Casual Matches are the only online matches available to the player before reaching level 10.  There is little difference between Casual and Ranked mode; however, Casual gives new players an opportunity to get used to the game before playing more competitive matches.

Ranked matches are like the casual matches with the addition of better winnings; Ranked takes place across a month-long season, where players aim to increase in rank to increase end-of-season rewards.

New cards are awarded via loot crates “barrels”, which hold four cards and a choice between three additional cards.  At least one of the cards is rare or higher. Barrels can be awarded to players, paid for with in game earnings or bought via microtransaction.  As Gwent is a free game, microtransactions are to be expected and the impact on the game seems to be low, which makes transactions a little easier to accept.

There are four card ranks:

The Leader cards are the only cards you are guaranteed in your hand every round.  The leader card, like the faction should blend into your strategy.

Gold cards are often the most powerful cards in the game. The player is allowed four of these cards in their deck. They are a rare find in the barrel system, perhaps too rare as few of these cards could be described as game changing.

The silver cards will be your greatest assets for most games. Those with special abilities always come in handy and at times are more useful than the Gold cards.

The Bronze cards are the most common in the game.  These cards are easy to overlook but vary so much that, while some prove useless, others may change the game.

Special cards like Geralt were undamageable in the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt minigame.  This made them too overpowered – now the cards are just as at risk as the more common cards.

The new weather cards work a lot better; before, weather effects would take all cards (except for gold cards) down to 1 point each, unless a special card was affecting the points. Instead of all cards on the field affected being weakened, only one card is affected, and it is different for each weather condition.

In the beginning, victories will rely somewhat on luck.  But as you accumulate cards and start customizing your deck, luck stops being a factor. Most individual cards are not overpowered and most game changing cards require the support of other cards.  But cards like Geralt: Igni can lay waste to any player whose strategy revolves around giving points to a single card.  A player may build a card’s power up, only to be robbed of it in the end – this can completely alter the game. But it only has an advantage if played at the right time.

I miss the location specificity on the cards. In The Witcher 3 Gwent mini game, the cards could only be placed on certain rows depending on their purpose. Siege type cards were placed in the rear; ranged cards in the middle, and infantry units in the front. While no side gains an advantage from this, it’s bizarre that a catapult can be placed in the front lines.

Arena mode, which is a newly released feature as of February 28th, gives players the opportunity to challenge opponents with a deck built from scratch out of a selection of cards (whether you have them in your own collection or not). While the core rules remain the same, the decks are not faction specific; this a much-needed addition to the game, as the matches become less predictable, and gives incentive for veterans to keep playing and try new deck combinations. The limited access to the mode is the only drawback – it requires players to use a new in-game item called Mirror Shards to enter. All players logged in before March 7th acquire three free tokens to try it out – however, you can buy a Mirror Shard with 150 Ore, so you can get a chance to play, without having to chip in real world currency to play it.

 

Here’s a quick rundown on how Arena mode works:

Check out the New Arena Mode Trailer here, with the suitably unsettling Gaunter O’Dimm as your guide:

 

In short, Gwent is how an online card game should be made. Does it have flaws? Yes, but they don’t matter in the big picture – not to mention the fact that CD Projekt Red are still technically developing features for the game (it’s still in Beta).  I highly recommend this game.

4/5

 

 

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