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Preview: Gwent

Gwent is the collectable card game of CD Project RED. They announced the game in 2016 at the E3 Xbox briefing. The game originates from the ‘The Witcher’ novels and their card game. Later, you could play it already in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. At first, it was only a side project. They made in the last weeks of development and there wasn’t much consideration for it. But it went unexpectedly well,  captured a large crowd of players and distracted them from doing their campaign. Many of them run from one vendor to the next and brought all kinds of cards. It filled many hours with a lot of fun.

But now, they choose to do the card game separate and put a lot more effort into the game. So, I got my hands on Gwent and I thought to myself: Let’s walk into one of those pubs, grab a beer and play a few rounds of the good old card game. But I was surprised about the approach of the game. During my time in the world of The Witcher 3, the card game wasn’t so well developed. It was very much unbalanced and broken at that time. But they learned and did a lot better in this new version

The way of the card battle

Gwent Battle

Gwent shines with a lot of mechanics and tactical features. During one game, you have to use your cards wisely to win two out of three rounds. Sometimes it is good to leave out one round and try to get the other player to use up a lot of useful cards. Unlike its predecessor, many cards come along with additional effects. They are important and have to be utilised well to win against others. You can, for example, strengthen your units or weaken the enemy’s units. In contrast to its predecessor, cards get destroyed when they reach zero strength. With this, they vanish to the graveyard and can’t be buffed up again. All this mixes up the otherwise simple math and leads to some surprises during a match.

Depending on the deck you want to play, your play style differs too. These are the five different factions used to build decks: Skellige, Northern Realms, Monsters, Scoia’Tael and Nilfgaard. While the Monsters utilise the frosty weather to do a lot of damage, Skelliges damage themselves, boosts their weakened units and revives them from the graveyard where the boosted cards only wait to get back in action.

The goal is to have more strength as the enemy at the end of a round. If you are able to win two out of three rounds, great rewards are waiting for you. You can get rewards for winning a match, sending some scraps to the enemy while wishing a good game, and for increasing your level and rank.

All my sweet, little cards

Gwent Cards

In Gwent, there are a lot of cards. They are divided into the five factions and additionally, there are some neutral cards which every faction can use. You begin your time in Gwent with a deck for each of those factions.

If you want more cards, you have to buy Kegs in the shop. They usually give you 4 random cards. After those four random cards, you will be able to choose an additional fifth card out of three cards. This gives you at least a bit of control over the cards that you get. Either you can take a card, that you need, one that you still don’t have or one that you are going to mill into powder.

To get Kegs, you either have to collect copper ores, get a keg itself or you can just buy them with real money. Copper ore can be collected through different challenges or through playing a couple of rounds. Usually, you get around 25 ores as a reward and you need 100 for a keg. A keg itself can be acquired through challenges or climbing the ranks in a season.

Apart from Kegs, you can also acquire cards by collecting scraps. With them, you can directly craft the card that you want. In order to craft those cards, you need between 30 and 1,600 scraps. You can get them through milling cards, getting it from the other player after a match or as a reward for the match and daily tasks.

Who wants normal cards if you can have special ones?

Gwent Customisation

If you have your deck that you like to play and want to stand out, you can make your cards special. It is like giving your figure another skin. But in Gwent, you don’t give it another look of course. You rather change the static picture into a moving one. On many cards, this looks pretty cool.

Every card in Gwent can be turned into a moving one. This makes the otherwise static view of a card game into a more lively one. To change a card, you have to collect meteorite powder. You get those through duels and daily tasks. When you have enough, go to the card that you want to change and complete the process. Hopefully, they will add some more in the future so that you can choose between different options and don’t always see the same movements on every player’s cards.

In order to change a card, you need between 100 and 400 meteorite powder.

One pleasure for the eyes

Gwent Graphics

The artists did a great job with the game. The menu looks nice and clean and has some big and beautiful illustrations. The characters were nicely captured in every card and the animations make it feel even so much better. The card borders help distinguish the cards but can also be a bit confusing at some time. Especially gold and bronze can be easily mixed up due to the thin borders.

The border is great and intuitive. The few symbols that are used are easily recognisable and gives a steady game flow. Only the responsiveness could be further improved. I found myself often enough clicking a card, want to put it back and instead play it by accident. This can be frustrating if you kill your own strongest unit with an accidentally played Scorch for example. Or you look through you graveyard, try to get out because of the timer that is running, and it is not working. But as it is still in Beta, I’m sure they will work on it.

They also added a little menu in the game where you can send your opponent some catchy phrases. You only have to click your portrait to open it and there you can choose phrases like ‘Well done.’ or ‘Watch out what I’m going to do.’ I hope to see some more option in the future because right now you only have four options.

 

Pros

  • Five different factions with a different playstyle each
  • Most cards influence others giving it a lot of tactic and strategy
  • Over 200 different cards
  • Well-drawn cards and animated versions

Cons

  • Past level 9 it gets hard meeting all the big players
  • Can be cash shop dependent as it is necessary to have some good cards
  • The interface sometimes feels like that of a console game
  • Handling is sometimes not that intuitive and responsive as it should be

Conclusion

Overall, the game gives a good and robust first impression. When compared to the old version in the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, they did a lot of work and made it far better. If you liked it in the game, you will love Gwent. There is a lot of room for tactics and strategies to dominate your enemies, while there is always the possibility to get countered. Due to the limited cards you have at hand, you always have to find ways to play them well together as set tactics can easily detour through the limited amount of cards in your hand.

If you don’t want to play the multiplayer part, there is also the singleplayer mode where you can do some challenges. In those challenges, you will play against bots to experience new stories. CD Project Red already stated that they want to tell some more stories of the Witcher universe with this. And to top it all, they want to work out even more of them in the near future

Apart from all that good stuff, there is always something bad. One of them is the balance when players buy a lot of cards and get all the good one. When you don’t buy any with money, you can find yourself in a thought spot battling against them. And you will meet a lot of them after level 9. And there is another annoying thing with the interface. It sometimes doesn’t respond 100%. It can also happen that you accidentally do things you didn’t want to do like playing a specific card. It did happen to me playing a Scorch by accident and kicking a unit 15 Strength into my graveyard. It all ended with my bitter defeat. But then again it is still in beta. So, we can only hope that they will work on it some more.

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