If you’re a fan of the Witcher 3, you might also have been a fan of the infamous minigame Gwent – a card game so unique and fun that many people felt it could have done pretty well as a standalone game.
As it turns out, the developers thought so, too, because it actually has now been converted into a full, stand-alone game. And it’s awesome. Gwent: the Witcher Card Game is the full title, and though it makes numerous changes to the way the game functioned in the Witcher 3, all of them (so far) have been for the better.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m going to go into this game in detail below, and sort of give you my first impressions of the game as a whole. I’ll be dividing this article into 3 sections – what I like and what I think needs to be improved. I’m a huge Witcher universe fanboy (I’ve read the books and played all the games – including the clunky, bug-ridden Witcher 1), so I’ll try my best to put aside that bias and give you my objective opinion. 🙂
Let’s get started!
What I Like
There’s actually quite a few things I like about Gwent, but the number one thing that interests me is its emphasis on strategy.
The game is deeper and more complex than many other card games out there. Honestly, I’d even go so far as to say in terms of pure card strategy, Gwent is a better game than Hearthstone. Less RNG, and the lack of any “face damage” at all turns Gwent into a game of attrition. Outsmart your opponent through clever plays, and give them a round here and there so that you can gain the upper hand through card advantage. This is one of the things that makes Gwent so great, and so unique.
The card animations are also quite nice, without being too flashy or in-your-face (Looking at you, Hearthstone). “Golden” cards even have completely animated fronts, such as Geralt chopping the heads off of a few beasties.
Another thing I love is the “Good Game” feature. Essentially, at the end of every round, you can send your opponent a “Good Game” notification – if both players send one to each other, each player gets an extra 5 scrap, the game’s currency for crafting cards. While I’m sure it will just become standard to send this notification whether a game was actually good or not, it does give the games a feeling of sportsmanship, a small reminder that the person on the other end is – y’know – an actual human being, too.
I like the game’s reward system so far, as well. Simply by winning rounds (Whether you ultimately win the game or not), you progress towards daily “Rounds Won” goals, which award you another form of currency that is used to craft “Card Kegs” (Basically card packs, but in keg form, and opened by a very jolly Rock Troll). These kegs can also be purchased for real money, but you get them so often for free that I haven’t seen a need to go that route.
CD Projekt Red really stepped up their game in regards to the actual gameplay of Gwent. The original Gwent mini-game didn’t have much depth to it. It was fun and required strategy, sure, but once you got the most powerful cards in terms of raw card strength, nobody could stand in your way – period. Very few cards had any special effects, and there was only a couple cards that could remove or damage enemy units. All in all, it was a very simplistic card game, which was perfectly fine due to the fact that it was a minor subset of a much larger game.
However, this version of Gwent has a LOT more going on. You get cards that can damage other cards, morph into different units depending on certain triggers, gain different benefits depending on where you place them on the board (Yep, you actually have to concern yourself with the way your cards are lined up next to each other – not unlike Hearthstone), and a massive new array of special cards that have various different effects. The closest comparison for these cards would be spells from Hearthstone, but their effects are quite a bit different.
The final thing I really love is that all the factions are represented here, with a MASSIVE amount of cards to choose from for each – including special one-time-use “leader cards”. Being that this is a stand-alone game, it would have been easy for CD Projekt Red to cut some of the factions out and sell them as DLC in the future. Heck, I wouldn’t have even blamed them for it – it’d be a smart move. But they didn’t, and the game benefits from it in a big way.
What I Think Could Be Improved
As much as I love the game so far, it’s definitely not perfect. There are a few things that irk me, or outright piss me off – let’s get into those now.
The first thing I think should be improved is pretty simple – game modes! The game is in closed beta right now, so I definitely think this is something that’ll be scaled up in the future, but I’d love to see Hearthstone-like brawls or an arena mode. Heck, something entirely new would be pretty awesome, too – CD Projekt Red has already proven they know how to take a good idea and make it into a great one, so why not take key ideas from games like Hearthstone and knock them out of the park?
This is a minor nitpick, but one thing that frustrates me is the way passing works in the game. In Gwent, each player can only play one card per turn, after which it will automatically pass to the other player’s turn.
The exception to this mechanic is when one player passes. In the original Gwent minigame, when one player passed, the other player could continue to play cards until they ran out – uninterrupted. You can imagine my confusion when I attempted to do the same thing in the full game and had to sit through an irritating turn switching animation for 3 seconds after each card I played. The upshot of this is that a lot of other people have the same complaint, so it’ll almost definitely get patched before release.
One thing I’d like to see (Not necessarily a complaint) in the future is different hero icons/portraits. Geralt is fine and dandy, but because there are no unique classes in this game, I get pretty sick of hearing Geralt’s emote voice lines 10 games in a row. And since they’re mostly pulled directly from the Witcher 3 (For now), there’s absolutely no reason CDPR couldn’t dig up some for characters like Triss, Yennefer, Dandelion, or even Vesemir.
The final thing that irks me about this game actually ties into my previous point – voice lines. Virtually everything in this game is pulled directly from the Witcher 3. I start hearing random pieces of guard dialogue that appeared in the Witcher 3 pop up in a unit’s battle cry, and I have to do a double take! I’m sure a lot of the audio right now is just placeholder stuff (Due to it being in Beta), but as a lot of this game’s fanbase is going to be Witcher 3 fans, I see this as a serious drawback that needs to get fixed down the line.
Aside from a few complaints I have, I really think Gwent has a ton of potential. It’s a well-made game with pretty high production values and has every chance at being a solid competitor to games like Hearthstone. I believe this is especially true due to how many people get frustrated with Hearthstone’s many RNG elements, and just how often whether you win or lose is decided by pure luck rather than skill. Gwent could prove to be an excellent alternative for them.
If you want to learn more about Gwent, feel free to visit the official website! You’ll be able to read more about how the game works, and even sign up for the closed Beta.
Let me know what you think of Gwent in the comments! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you all next time. 🙂