E3 2016: Can Gwent: The Witcher Card Game Match Hearthstone For Card Supremacy?

E3 2016: Can Gwent: The Witcher Card Game Match Hearthstone For Card Supremacy?

Richard Walker

Because you asked for it, CD Projekt RED has decided to create a standalone Gwent card game. We feared it might be a mobile-only game, but it actually happens to be a full-fat release for consoles and PC, complete with online multiplayer and all of the extra stuff you'd expect from a proper card game. There was in fact “huge demand” for a Gwent game following the release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt last year, so kudos to CDP for listening to the fans and responding to what they wanted.

Gwent: The Witcher Card Game (to give it its full title) is no half-baked straight rip from The Witcher 3, instead building upon the card game's key, defining factors of bluffing and deception for what Gwent's Lead Programmer Jason Slama calls “Gwent redefined”. It's that core strategy of bluffing and deception that's at the heart of Gwent's appeal, something the Polish developer is keenly aware of.

“We really want to keep that feeling alive,” says Slama, who also happened to serve as Lead UI Programmer on The Witcher 3, so is well-versed in the mini-game he helped create. And while redefining Gwent is on the agenda, so too is a single-player story mode to play through, penned by the same writers who concocted The Witcher 3's stellar narrative. Again, this is no half-formed Witcher-lite tale either, featuring untold stories from The Witcher universe that include both new and familiar characters.

Weighing in at more than ten hours, the campaign also includes the kind of impactful choice and consequence you'd associate with The Witcher, as we're shown in a quick demo that includes hand-painted artwork from the same folks that created The Witcher 3's superlative cut-scenes. We see Geralt partnered with Milaen and burly Falibor, who he's been hired to protect from monsters, as he explores an abandoned house where a scream is heard. It turns out to be Torina, a child possessed by a Zaphire demon, which leads into a Gwent battle to defeat the monster and free her.

These quests can be found as you wander the game's world map, where you're able to follow the dotted line to the next chapter in the story or venture off the beaten path to discover side-quests and other hidden secrets. An example we're shown has Geralt investigating some mysterious ancient ruins, winning himself an extra Scorch card for his deck. During story Gwent battles, you'll also hear dialogue (the story is fully voiced) as players react to moves, making sure you get a sense of what's at stake.

As for that “Gwent redefined” claim from Slama, the whole experience has been completely rebalanced from the ground up, with new cards, abilities and gameplay mechanics brought to the fore. At its heart, the rules remain the same, so anyone who played and wrapped their head around mastering Gwent in The Witcher 3 will immediately be able to get back into the game without having to learn everything from scratch.

And the good news is, it all still works remarkably well, with the user interface redesign, new game board, new card artwork and rare, premium cards treated to 3D animated pictures, all injecting fresh life into a Gwent match. Tweaks to the rules include being able to redraw three cards instead of two from your deck, while the majority of the game's core tenets remain unchanged. It's still the best of three, with spies, melee, ranged and siege units placed on the board.

The game will initially launch with Northern Realms, Scoia'tael, Monsters and Skellige decks, while the Nilfgaard deck will be added at a later date as CDP ensures it's properly balanced. Going hands-on with Gwent, it's wonderfully familiar but fleshed out to feel like a proper, standalone package, its online competitive matches retaining everything that makes Gwent unique, albeit with a beautiful new interface that makes Gwent feel bigger and better.

Will the AI be up to the task in Gwent's offline quests? We're told that it will, and simply having to build your own deck will alter the way in which you approach each Gwent bout against rivals. Free-to-play, Gwent will feature optional in-game microtransactions, as you're able to purchase extra card packs to bolster your deck. It's a practice employed by practically every other card game out there, so we're not too concerned about that. What counts is that Gwent: The Witcher Card Game feels like a proper, full-blooded game of cards that looks poised to deliver what the fans have been demanding.

Gwent: The Witcher Card Game will be heading to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, with an Xbox One and PC beta set for September.

  • I want this so much :Q___
  • This is a free-to-play game I will gladly put money in.
  • Never paid money on a free to play game but this a no brainier . Bloody game has at least doubled my Witcher play time . I just love a game of cards ,Gwent specifically
  • I believe it can. I'll be playing this.
  • Sounds like fun. Wish there was also cross play, but we can't have it all;-)
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