Optional quests can side-track you pretty darn hard in video games. You get trapped down a rabbit hole of wanting to get rid of all the annoying clutter in fear that you’ll miss something if you progress too far down the main path.
None have quite had the pulling power like Gwent in Witcher 3, where you constantly played an intriguing card game instead of slaying monsters. In fairness, it’s a good job the world kind of stops while Geralt does that or there would be a lot more problems.
Now CD Projekt RED have the same plans for Gwent to pull you away from your real-life issues. That will either fill you with joy or strike fear into your heart that you may never be able to pull yourself away after going cold turkey when it was just part of another game.
Currently in its closed beta, you can request to join via the Gwent website, it’s a simple yet complex game. You each have three rows, you start with ten cards and the aim is to win a best two-out-of-three scenario.
That’s then mixed with cards that buff others, weaken your opponents, copy cards, bring them back from previous rounds, get better over time, add to your opponents but help you draw and so forth. Add that to the cards that bolster your team or hinder a certain line and there’s a surprising amount of depth to what on the surface can seem pretty straightforward.
The team have also made some tweaks to the formula that worked so well in Witcher 3’s version. All classes now draw twice for the second round and once for the final round, instead of three factions being restricted to the initial 10 cards throughout the experience which seems to balance things better.
In general, a lot of cards have changed to make it work on a competitive level. The odds, if you calculated them rightly with your deck, could easily be swayed in your favour and having that concept in PvP would create the most anger-inducing meta since Pirate Warrior in Hearthstone.
Or Grim Patron Warrior in Hearthstone. Or Miracle Rogue in Hearthstone. People get angry at Blizzard a lot.
The tutorial for newcomers and those that have quickly forgotten the strategies involved is excellently in-depth. So long as you take your time, there’s a lot to soak in, you will have a solid idea of what needs to be done and built to succeed in the open world.
Just don’t take on the AI to start off with as they like to pound weak decks into the ground. It feels strange to jump into the comfort of playing the computed only to find out that only want to show you how you suck, a bit like being berated on your technique in a first guitar lesson by the teacher.
Strangely enough, it’s the casual player games where you can find the noobs to practice on. Those jumping in simply throw their entire deck down as soon as possible, allowing you to throw the opener only to clean up in the next two rounds, which also doesn’t aid your progress.
The levelling up system is a little slow, along with the flow of packs. You get around one per level, which takes around five games, with an interesting mechanic of picking out of three rare cards at the end of opening a “barrel”.
It’s a solid idea, allowing you to go for something super rare or powerful that would work later or instead choosing the one that fits in your best deck at that time. The only issue being that it would be nice as a starter to get a little more of a boost to ease you in.
There’s plenty more to play and with yet to be anywhere near finished, this is a bit of an early judgement. No doubt tweaks need to be done, both in the balance against PCs and the distribution of packs early on but nothing feels too different from what you may expect from other card games in their earliest forms.
The hope is that continued support will allow it to grow into a viable alternative to the others on the market. No longer the moment of procrastination from adventuring, Gwent might become a real distraction to your life.
Now, if I could just get a Triss card, that’d be just as lovely as she is.