Gwent is not only one of the most well made minigames we've ever played but it's incredibly thoughtful, neat and easy to enjoy and could have gone straight from the minigame to stand on its own as a separate game. It had a great interface, incredibly stylish design (in both the stunning cards, the characters and the emblem that adorned them, not to mention the board), it is easy to learn and familiarise yourself with, you can always win - even with poorer cards if you play them right - and lord how hard it can be to resist doing "only one more game".
Gwent's only minus in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was the lack of real human resistance. Sure, the game's computer-controlled Gwent opponents were often well programmed and smart, but sometimes they were more annoying than challenging.
Regardless, we loved every second of Gwent in The Witcher, and when the beta started, first in the form of two short stress tests, called "Kill the servers!" and now most recently as a nearly finished game in a standard beta stage, we couldn't wait to get stuck into it. We've been playing each and every one of them and are ready to share our thoughts. It is obviously important to note, though, that it is a beta we're talking about and a lot of things might be subject to change.
As we started, a simple but fine menu appeared and the only options were to click on Settings or Multiplayer. After entering into our first match, it seemed like the differences from the Gwent mini-game were almost a bit too much. We liked the old look but found it hard to get used to, as there's a completely new design, new cards, redesigned cards and a lot of new ways to play. The stress test gave the players two factions to choose from: the base faction Northern Realms and Monsters (Skellige and Scoia'tael added to the second round). A hot topic right from the original game has been that the Monsters faction seems to have a terribly high chance for a win and in the stress test it was clear that not much has changed about this. If you had trouble against the Monsters before, you'll have problems now.
In terms of how Gwent played, though, there were no major differences except that almost all cards received new symbols, new design and new skills. In terms of playing against humans, though, quite honestly we felt no difference at all in the stress test. The only thing would be that the multiplayer sessions were hindered due to server issues.
After graduating from both the first and second stress test on PC quite happy, it was time for the beta on Xbox One, and here there were big differences. First of all, we got a closer look at the game's Deck Builder. There was one in the Witcher 3 as well, but in the beta it is totally different, and in our opinion significantly worse. A cluttered, unclear menu with many cards that blend into each other really doesn't work as well as the basic game's uncluttered, clear and easy to understand version.
In addition to the game's new Deck Builder was the difference from mouse to controller, which didn't bother us as we played The Witcher with a controller. We can say to you who have not played the console version, though, that it works incredibly well with the controller, even if the mouse is preferable.
Our absolute favourite addition to Gwent: The Witcher Card Game is the "Good Game" feature. After a match, the player receives material you can build cards with, plus XP to exchange for new cards. Also, if you think your opponent did well and behaved like a human being, you can quickly press Y to give the opponent some extra XP, which is a fine way to encourage players to behave decently online.
So how do we feel about Gwent-release then? We're incredibly ambivalent. Many of the changes have made the game worse from the minigame we fell in love with. The Deck Builder is absolutely terrible, colours flow together and everything is messy. To be comparable or even compete with Blizzard's super hit Hearthstone, a lot of work will be required. There is great potential here, but CD Projekt Red is not there yet.