With the amount of popularity that The Witcher III: Wild Hunt has attracted, both publicly and among our staff, it should be no surprise that we were more than excited to get our hands on the new, standalone iteration of GWENT. It seems like every company wants to try their hand at a digital card game lately, but GWENT was initially meant to only be a single-player component for The Witcher series. It was through fan activism and an overwhelming amount of requests that CD Projekt RED decided to make it a full-fledged game.
Fans of The Witcher series will no doubt be familiar with GWENT: The Witcher Card Game and its mechanics, but the game has been modified for its standalone version. In The Witcher III, NPC GWENT decks ramp up in difficult as the game progresses while Geralt also obtains new and powerful cards. By the end of the game, it’s possible to obtain a rather unbeatable deck. This type of progression is being tweaked to give all players a fair chance. Of course, there will still be standard rarities: common, rare, epic, and legendary, but the difference in power between players won’t be as severe as it is in the single-player game.
Although I’m a fan of both The Witcher and a large variety of CCGs, I didn’t find myself messing with the in-game version of GWENT too much. I’ve done so before with other single-player games, such as Final Fantasy VIII & IX, and I knew what the challenge curve would be like. At the beginning, NPC decks are usually extremely easy and then ramp up in difficult very quickly, but eventually the player obtains enough over-powered cards to steamroll most decks. That being said, I did play a few matches in The Witcher III and understood the basic mechanics of the game.
In GWENT: The Witcher Card Game, there are currently four factions: The Northern Realms, Scoia’tael, Monsters, and Skellige. Each one has its own advantages, such as the monsters making excellent use of weather conditions, and has access to powerful legendary characters from the RPG series. There are also intentions to add more characters, cards, and factions including Nilfgaard in the future.
Unlike other CCGs, there’s limited card drawing and no resource mechanic in GWENT. Instead, players build their deck and the cards themselves act as resources. Generally, players will start with 10 cards and can only obtain more through special circumstances. Once a player runs out of cards to play, that’s it.
This is further complicated by the fact that GWENT is a best-of-three game. So a player could achieve overwhelming victory in the first round only to lose the next two, and thus lose the match overall. This is why one of the key themes is “bluff your way to victory” because the most important strategy is to get your opponent to waste cards. When you’re not relying on random resource generation or card draw, managing every card in your hand is essential.
During our demo at E3 2016, I had the opportunity to play both the Monster and Northern Kingdom decks. The Northern Kingdom cards are very straight forward and build off of each other. The obvious strategy was the play multiple versions of the same card because each one increased its attack based on how many copies were in play. So a single archer might have 2 attack, but three archers could have 12 total power. This deck also included popular story characters such as Geralt, Triss and Roche, each with their own unique abilities or statistics.
Another interesting aspect to GWENT is that most spells and abilities are global. This means that casting a Scorch spell, which destroys the character with the highest attack, might backfire if you meet the conditions instead of your opponent. This was also something that the Monster deck greatly took advantage of. Normally, players will cast Fog to reduce the attack of archers, but certain Monster decks can spawn a horde of Foglets whenever either player summons fog. There were also similar interactions with Frost, which either increased the power of Monster units or spawned additional ones.
In addition to the standard player duels, GWENT: The Witcher Card Game also features a story mode. This isn’t simply just another standard game mode with relatable scenarios, but instead players can walk around the world and interact with it. Instead of treating the world like a card game, the cards inside the game represent your party members and the spells they find along the way.
In the demonstration, Geralt was tasked with escorting a girl through a dangerous forest, which was obviously full of monsters. The development team decided to stray from the designated path and discovered some ancient ruins. Inside were ingredients for Scorch, which allowed them to also acquire that card to use in their deck. Furthermore, there were guest characters who were aiding Geralt in that specific quests that were also added to the deck. This shifts GWENT from a static card game to a living world where the cards have slightly more merit than most other CCGs offer.
With an expected Closed Beta release of September 2016, GWENT access is just around the corner. Currently, the game is planning to utilize a free-to-play model with optional in-game purchases, and it will be available for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Furthermore, there will be cross-play and account use between the PC and Xbox One. The upcoming Beta will focus on PvP, but single-player adventures and A.I. mode will be introduced at a later date.
If you’re looking to expand your time with The Witcher universe, and enjoyed playing GWENT in The Witcher III, we highly recommend that you give GWENT: The Witcher Card Game a try. We’re aware that CCGs and free-to-play models aren’t for everyone, but the story in GWENT is being designed by the same CD Projekt Red team that created The Witcher III. Furthermore, the core GWENT experience was left intact while delivering a competitive atmosphere and building upon an already excellent storytelling experience.Related: CCG, CD Projekt Red, E3, E3 2016, Gwent, Preview, The Witcher