What began as a fun, optional sidequest in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is slowly being morphed into its own fully fledged game, but is Gwent worth your time? CD Projekt Red have recently released the game into open beta and it can be downloaded and played by anyone now. Gwent is a free to play online competitive card game in which players aim to achieve a higher score than their opponent in two of the three rounds of play. While this may sound simple enough the large variety of cards, each with different strengths and abilities that affect the board in different ways, provides an experience with a lot of depth.
Fans of the original game will be pleased to learn that this is not simply a straight port from the Witcher 3, but instead has been reworked in an effort to provide the more balanced experience that is to be expected from a multiplayer experience. The different factions have been rebalanced and now each have a very unique theme and style of play. For example the Northern Realms are focused on infantry strengthening each other and support infantry wearing down the enemy, whereas Nilfgaard rely on subterfuge by revealing the cards in their opponent’s hand. There are also limitations on the types of card that can be included in a deck, resulting in the player having to decide between their most powerful cards. The game also feels a lot smoother and well made than its minigame counterpart, with the new animations and improved artwork really highlighting the amount of care and effort that the developers have put into the game.
The artwork of the cards is one of the major standouts from the game. Each card is beautifully designed after a character from The Witcher series, but even someone who has not played the games can appreciate it. Some sets of related cards form a larger picture when played together on the board, but the real highlight of the artwork is the rare animated cards. Every single card in the game has a special animated version, similar to a golden card in Hearthstone, that can either be found in packs or crafted with a special currency. The animations are absolutely brilliantly implemented and only add to the already fantastic artwork of the cards.
Due to the nature of Gwent the gameplay is much less luck based than many other similar card games. While there is a certain amount of luck involved due to the nature of card games, the fact that you begin with 10 of your 25 cards in hand, whilst also having the option to mulligan 3, greatly reduces its influence on the outcome of the game. It is for the reason that the competitive mode is very satisfying as you know that, more often than not, if you are the better player then you will win the game.
Another important factor is the accessibility of the game to free to play players. Many games fall guilty of overly rewarding premium players to the point when the experience is very negative for those who do not wish to part with their money. Fortunately Gwent does not fall into this trap and is actually very accessible for everyone. The daily reward system makes it very easy for a player to earn at least one pack every day, while additional rewards are given the more you play. This virtually guaranteed daily pack provides a reliable way for a player to consistently grow their collection without the need for significant time or financial investment.
One issue that the game does face is that it has not yet been completely balanced and regularly receives patches to try and remedy this. This only problem with this is that these changes will often break the synergies in your deck and render it useless, which can be very off-putting. Cards also often suffer from unclear or too much text, leaving the player unsure as to how exactly it will affect the board when played. This problem is slowly being remedied through subsequent patches, but is still an issue for the time being.
Whilst pack are easily earned many players are criticising the low drop rate of rarer cards, especially when compared to the price of packs. This was definitely noticeable during my experience, but it is still possible to craft the specific cards that you need. There is also a noticeable lack of different game modes, especially when compared to other card games such as Hearthstone which boasts an arena draft mode and multiple single player campaigns alongside its ranked and casual modes. However, it must be remembered that Gwent is still only in its Beta stage of development and new modes may be added in the future. There are also a few aspects of the game that currently need a bit of polish, such as some of the unnecessary loading screens when moving between menus, the lack of a spectator mode or the occasional disconnect during a game, but these issues will surely be addressed as the game progresses along its development cycle.
Overall Gwent provides a very positive and enjoyable experience. Anyone who enjoyed it in The Witcher 3 will be sure to feel right at home with this greatly improved version, and anyone who has not played it but enjoys similar card games should definitely give it a go. The game is only going improve as the developers continue to work on it and is definitely worth trying