E3 2016: Gwent Hands-on Impressions – Witchin’ and dealin’

Like I needed any more reasons to spend even more time in The Witcher 3‘s world, the new standalone Gwent game is almost upon us, and I had the opportunity to check it out. While not a particularly huge fan of CDProjektRED’s own flavor of Hearthstone, Magic The Gathering, and the such, it charmed me enough to go out of my way to at least find and collect most of the hidden game cards while playing Wild Hunt. So with that, I was surprised with just how much more I liked Gwent as its own thing.

Well, maybe it’s because I really like how beautiful everything looks now. Gwent was a tightly budgeted feature in The Witcher 3, but now it’s getting a do over that really pops out thanks to the fantastic art design that the main game got. For instance, special cards are especially modeled and animated in the art style of The Witcher 3. And heck, there’s even a single player story mode that’s more of a tabletop story driven game with card playing mechanics, complete with its own unique story set in the rich background of the books and games. Story events add unique rules that influence your matches, going beyond merely providing an excuse to play cards with a monster who happened to cross paths with your party.

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When it comes to playing, Gwent is pretty easy to get into. Before anything, you pick a faction, which decides your army’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as your cards. The actual game is played in a board with three rows. Each represents a different unit type. Front is melee, middle is ranged and the last one is for siege machines. The numbers for each row adds up, and whoever has more points at the end, wins. There are cards that add special effects to the field and units, as well as army leaders who are really bad ass and buff your deck, but are basically one use. Each match is best two out of three, but unlike other games, the cards you spend in a round is gone and can’t be used in others, unless you manage to bring them back with special cards. With that, it’s in your best interest to conserve your plays and treat them as finite resources. It’s a cool take for a card game, and one that works extremely well in this format.

On top of that, the core game has received a host of improvements to its gameplay that make it way more playable than in The Witcher 3. For instance, you can now take apart unwanted cards and craft new, more useful one that suit your play-style, which works well with the progression that comes with playing a free-to-play card game. It worked so well with Hearthstone and co., so CDProjektRED is betting their chips into this standalone version. It will be completely free to play, but like the aforementioned Blizzard success (that I love to death), Gwent will have little things you’ll be able to spend both in game and real currency on.

I’m extremely interested in seeing how this thing shapes up. There’s a beta coming up in September, so everyone will get a chance to play and see what it’s about. As for a release date, CPR kept it under wraps.

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