The phenomenon that was the Polish studio CD Projekt Red's massive RPG, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, took the world by storm in 2015 (and it's not stopped selling since). If you were an avid Gwent-player and card collector thinking about deck factions as you guided the White Wolf through his adventures across Velen and through the Isles of Skellige, did you jump with excitement when the Skellige faction was released in The Witcher 3? Did you sport five complete Gwent decks after winning the tournament at the Passiflora? Well if that's the case then there's a major possibility that you fell off your chair when CD Projekt Red announced the standalone digital card game Gwent: The Witcher Card Game.
The minigame it rose from was, for starters, one of the most well-made mini-games we had ever had the pleasure of playing and the standalone version of the Witcher 3 mini-game was great from the very start of its beta, building upon the original experience. The base gameplay was great (and still is), the battlefield was better looking, the cards were stunning, and the menus easy to navigate, however, it had been a while since we played it last. What's new, then?
Well, for starters, they are seeing new cards, new animated cards, new factions, and new special abilities. The first closed beta test run - "Kill the servers!" - gave the first players two decks to play, "Monsters" and "Northern Realms". Almost a year later we have three additional factions, "Scoia'tael", "Nilfgaard" and "Skellige" - all of which you're familiar with if you played enough Gwent in the main game. We have the shop, in which you can buy kegs full of cards, both with materials acquired through playing and with actual money. Then there's the deck builder and there's the "single player" tab, a tab that has been occupied with the tutorial sequence and the "practice" mode this whole time - however, soon that'll change. We attended a Gwent: The Witcher Card Game presentation at the developer's Gwent Tavern at Gamescom and now we've got some juicy information to share.
So, this single-player campaign we've been blabbing on about, Gwent: Thronebreaker, how different could it be from the other card game solo modes, you might ask - well, as it turns out, very different. For starters, the mode (which is paid DLC) features a top-down RPG-like map view. This top-down environment shapes the experience into a completely different adventure containing side quests, action and consequence, environmental puzzles, and full voice acting. During the presentation, we get to see some gameplay in which the player gets to decide what kind of ruler he or she wants to be. You control Queen Meve, regent of the kingdoms of Lyria and Rivia, and get multiple choices when conversing with the townspeople. The conversation sections are very much like the visuals of a fully voiced, old school point and click dialogue, and give you multiple choices, all of which are remembered by NPCs and some impacting the people's perception of you as a ruler. The presenters inform us that the choices the player makes, here and from here onwards, a difference in the story as a whole.
In the story mode, you move through five different maps as Queen Meve, taking on side quests for materials or loyalty. The main story is a dark one, written by some of the writers of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and takes place during a tough time before Geralt's adventures begin. As you go through the land you'll find all kinds of different game mechanics (as if the whole top-down RPG element wasn't enough) and elements new to the Gwent universe. You'll be able to scan your surroundings for treasure chests (that may contain cards for both single- and multiplayer matches), solve environmental puzzles to get to these chests, take on side-quests (that are marked on the map as grey question marks and can grant you some recruits by earning their loyalty - a loyalty you can lose when in disagreements with said recruits), build structures to train your troops in, equip items you find on your travels, construct and enlist units, and visit the tavern to interact with your soldiers.
Now you might think "but this is supposed to be a card game!" - very true, and we're getting to that. You can, of course, build your perfect card deck in the Command Centre, the single-player mode's deck builder, and there are plenty of new cards to pick and choose from here. When a dialogue goes wrong or your enemies catch up to you on the top-down map, you'll be forced into combat and, you guessed it, the battles are held as Gwent matches (some of which have objectives the player needs to complete).
For those of you who are tired of playing with the same cards since the beta's beginning, don't fret. Two new leaders were showed at the event, the Blood and Wine favorite Detlaff van der Eretein and the lovely Queen of the Duchy of Toussaint, Anna Henrietta. Twenty new base cards (some being single-player-only because of balance issues), one new faction and a bunch of new card abilities are being added with the story expansion. For example, you'll be able to stagger opponents, put out devastating unit fires, and restore these units from the release of Thronebreaker. More game modes will also be added.
At the end of the single-player presentation, we got some information regarding future events and, other than ranked play tournaments (Gwent Open, Gwent Challengers and Gwent World Masters) the CD Projekt Red Gwent team will host single-player events. One of these was referred to as the "Mahakam Ale Festival" and with that, we're assuming we'll see some tipsy dwarves in the near future. The last word fell on our last question and the answer that was given; will we be seeing more story campaigns after the five maps are released later this year? Well, that depends on us, the fan base. If the story mode is well received and the fans actually want more, there's a possibility we'll get more.
In the end, Gwent is still, to this day, easy to learn, easy to play and equally easy to love - and with the added story mode it's safe to say the CD Projekt Red-made card game has the upper hand when it comes to single-player. Are you up for a game of Gwent? If so, Gwent: Thronebreaker may feed that Gwent hunger. Do you want to play some Gwent without the pressure of facing a human opponent? Gwent: Thronebreaker may be for you. Hey, Gwent: Thronebreaker looks as though it'll sate a hunger for everyone.
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