If you’ve played The Witcher III Wild Hunt, you will have come across the mini-game called Gwent. Initially it was created within several weeks as a mini-game for leisure and ended up being a massively requested independent game, after literally thousands of emails to CD Project Red’s office by fans. Of course, they had to go ahead and make a standalone version.
So, how do you extract a mini-game like that out of an RPG that scales and turn it into a proper card game? The answer is you can’t. The only thing possible is to re-imagine the game, take the basic principles and begin balancing it out. It won’t work in the same way, mainly because you’re not facing an AI opponent, and you’re not supposed to win most of the time. In The Witcher III, that was the general intention. Because you’ll be facing real people, it’s going to be of key importance to get the balancing exactly right.
Comparing to The Witcher III
We had an opportunity to play Gwent at Gamescom and we can say that it still feels like the same game; you can still switch some cards from your first hand (3 instead of 2), you still have themed decks (including Northern Kingdoms, Scoia’tael and Monsters, which we’re familiar with, as well as a bandit deck that is part of the Gwent storyline), and you still use a leader. There will also be the well-known effect cards such as weather, training dummies, scorch, heroic characters, and spy characters, just like in the original game.
But the balancing will be improved and there will be new abilities that transform this tavern-time-out into an independent and complex card-game with its very own teams of core players and eventually eSports championships, something CD Projekt Red definitely wants to aim for. In the beginning, it seems like a simple game: best of three, your cards are your only resource, and the abilities on the cards tell you what will happen. However, it’s definitely not as simple as that.
The new Gwent game comes with a much improved interface that shows your layout and that of the opponent in clear sections. There is a zoomed-in area for any card which you are selecting (including your opponent’s graveyard, if you need to look for something specific) so that you can read the abilities easily. Selecting cards and viewing their abilities is also improved. The interface feels very intuitive. This creates a smooth gameplay that feels very much like the mini-game, but in effect it plays out in a more mature and complex way. There are many new abilities that deal with graveyards, card-draw, bonuses, removal bonuses and other things you’ve never seen before.
Okay, so they can’t help themselves. Even though the studio told us that Geralt’s stories are essentially over, Gwent promises us a full story featuring our beloved Gwynbleidd. The story allows you to discover places through comic-style story panels resembling the Witcher III loading screens. The voice-overs and text boxes tell us what’s happening. A young baroness needs to be escorted to safety and you (not sure if you’re literally Geralt or you are the whole team) are paired up with a bandit leader who has offered to help out. He is also the leader of your starting faction deck.
As you explore the world, everything you encounter will become a new card that you can add to your deck. Or, if you encounter an enemy or a monster, it will appear to you as an enemy deck, where you need to defeat them in order to continue the quest. You then obtain that card as well (we didn’t see this in the demo, but it is assumed that we do). In other words, expect an extended story for Geralt and other familiar, as well as new, characters to draw us in.
As always, the narratives hold great promise and we have every belief that this story will be as great as the previous ones offered by CD Projekt Red. Gwent plays out quite slow when you don’t know the cards yet, but I can foresee this being played hardcore by expert players later, in a much more in-depth fashion and therefor more quickly.
They mentioned to us that they certainly don’t want to make this game Pay-to-Win, and that means you cannot purchase cards literally in order to add them to your deck. What you can do, however, is purchase vanity cards, which work a little bit like foil cards in Magic: The Gathering. They look better, but they have exactly the same stats and play out the same in your card battles. Instead of a shine, these cards are 3D and animated, and they show you a setting, which looks like you’re eyeing the characters, creatures or events from your window directly. They look stunning and will definitely make your deck look and feel amazing.
Sign up for the Beta now and take a look! The closed beta starts in September for PC/Xbox One. The release for PS4 will follow later. Also check out the Gwent Database, created in cooperation with Curse Network for card information and deck building tips.
Related: CD Projekt Red, Gamescom, Gamescom 2016, Gwent, Witcher III