Gwent is CD Projekt Red’s newly announced game – yep, that little minigame from inside the Witcher 3 is getting a full, standalone release. However, they aren’t just ripping out the code relating to Gwent and repackaging it for mass consumption – they are changing everything, from the game board presentation to the number of factions you can play. I went hands-on with Gwent at E3 2016 and found the experience to be gratifying and surprisingly strategic.
It’s easy to dismiss Gwent as CD Projekt Red trying to chase the Hearthstone dragon, but honestly it is such a different game that to call it a mere card game would be a disservice. Gwent is a strategy game, first and foremost. Matches of Gwent are decided in a best 2 out of 3 fashion, while the cards in your hand are persistent through the rounds. This means that not only do you have to marshal your resources effectively to win the battle on the board in front of you – you must also take care not to overcommit forces too early.
With just an hour to play, I obviously wasn’t going to become a master of the game, or even begin to truly appreciate the intricacies of Gwent, but if you’ve played the game within The Witcher 3 at all, you already know the basics: the game is played 1v1, each side has their own deck, hands of cards are drawn from those decks, and the cards are played onto one of three rows, representing ranges of combat (melee, ranged, and siege).
Each of those three rows can be affected by the use of weather modifying cards: for instance, a thick fog can be played to nullify your opponent’s range advantaged, or biting cold to negate the strength of melee cards. This, combined with the idea of preserving forces through three rounds of play, give Gwent the possibility of being far more than just a card game.
Of course, all of this additional complexity comes with a cost: the board on display at E3, while quite pretty, would also be way too complex for mobile/tablet usage, potentially blocking off a large portion of the market. However, it makes up in other ways. The first thing the presenters from CD Projekt Red stated was a goal for Gwent was not simply to make a standalone card game, but to use it as a vehicle to tell untold stories from the Witcher universe.
This means there will be single player campaigns, accessible via an overworld not unlike something out of Zelda or Mario World (though, obviously, with pretty great graphics). And in these single player campaigns, cards (as being representative of characters and events in the story) will come and go from your deck.
All told, I was highly impressed with the brief amount of time I got with the game, even in its early state. It doesn’t hit beta until September, and is slated to appear on both console and PC. Gwent represents a great CD Projekt Red spin on a recently successful formula and I look forward to playing more of it.