Gwent Hands-On Impressions: The Magic’s In the Cards
Gwent, the upcoming digital release from CD Projekt RED, is based upon a minigame from The Witcher universe, specifically The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. As one of the most discussed features of the best selling RPG, fans have been asking for a physical version of those cards above and beyond what came in the Collector's Edition and expansion pack releases. Now, CD Projekt RED is going well beyond those requests: they will craft a standalone, free-to-play collectible card game filled with those familiar mechanics and setting.
The core mechanics to Gwent are largely the same as in Wild Hunt. Two opponents face off with their own custom decks and draw forth a hand of ten cards. These cards are placed into three different combat rows (Siege, Ranged, and Melee) adding up to a total score. Whoever has the highest total score at the end of the round wins one half-piece of a crown and the first player to two pieces wins the game. What sets Gwent apart is that hand of ten cards is all that players can use during that game, barring card effects that help draw and so forth. Blowing ones' high powered cards early on might give one victory, but prevent the player from matching their scores in the following two rounds.
Gwent will feature a fully-fleshed out single player campaign when it's released, not surprising given the team's pedigree with story telling. During a small slice of gameplay, Geralt of Rivia and companions Milaen and Falibor were escorting a young girl by the name of Torina during the 5th of Savoine, 1245 for those keeping track of the timeline. When not playing cards or holding visual novel-style conversations amongst one another, players can traverse around an overworld map and explore around before walking to the next objectives. Expect a fully voiced narration to help set the tone of the adventure in the full release. While exploring the world map, players can on occasion stumble across hidden ruins and be given the choice to explore within. In one specific example, Geralt and the crew delved into some dusty ruins and found materials for an Elven Bomb. This turned into an in-game reward of a new card (Scorch) that could be added into the player's decks.
Jason Slama (Lead Programmer) confirmed that this free-to-play card game would feature both normal and premium versions of nearly every collectible card in the game. These premium cards go beyond just a shiny border or Holofoil printing and instead change the card's designs into 3D models with their own bit of movement. If you have any Pay-to-Win concerns, CDPR just addressed the subject here.
CD Projekt RED has set up a strong foundation for an enjoyable version of Gwent that doesn't require delving through a hundred-plus hour quest to properly enjoy. With the little hands-on time I've spent with the hands I was dealt, I do look forward to playing more Gwent when it's available in a closed beta later this September for PC (and Xbox One; PS4 to follow). You can already sign up on the official website.
No release date has been announced yet, but we do know Gwent will feature cross-play functionality between the PC and Xbox One versions with "other options" being explored. Check out some gameplay from E3 2016 below.