My thoughts on Gwent: The Witcher Card Game – Closed Beta Review

Greetings and welcome I’m Ash and I’ve spent
well over a hundred hours playing The Witcher 3, and I would even go as far as to say that
I consider it to be one of the finest RPGs ever made. However, while I’ve certainly done my fair
share of exploration and monster slaying, I am willing to wager that a good portion
of that time was spent in taverns rather than out in the wilderness. You see, in my world Geralt didn’t really
do as much monster hunting as he did card hunting, because lets face it, demolishing
yet another damnable nest of Nekkers isn’t going to help me complete this Gwent deck! But no matter how addictive and creative The
Witcher 3’s Gwent minigame was, it still suffered from a limited amount of viable cards and
balance holes so large you could drag a Wyvren through them. Most of the decks were based around the same
few overpowered cards, while the rest of the collection simply rotted away in Geralt’s
backpack alongside a variety of monster heads and body parts. Even back then it was obvious that what Gwent
really needed in order to become truly great was a standalone release – an entire game
dedicated to the concept and filled to the brim with brand new cards, mechanics, and
a whole host of balance changes. And as luck would have it, that little wish
came true about a week ago as Gwent: The Witcher Card Game entered closed beta! So now that we have a standalone version of
Gwent I’m sure the big question on everyone’s mind is whether its any good or not? Well, let’s find out! Before I say anything else, do bear in mind
that Gwent is currently in an early closed beta state. As such there are multiple features missing,
the balance isn’t yet nailed down, and there is a distinct lack of small, quality-of-life
features that make the game easier for new players. Naturally, all of this is still being worked
on, but if you manage to get a beta key yourself don’t be surprised when you log in and notice
that the single player content is completely missing – that will be arriving at a later
date given that this closed beta is mostly about the multiplayer experience. With that brief disclaimer now out of the
way, allow me to first explain what exactly Gwent is. To put it simply, it is a card game that focuses
heavily on resource management, card advantage, and careful planning in order to ensure your
own tricks don’t end up working against you. Unlike most other card games, in Gwent you’re
only allowed to play one card per turn, so there is always a chance to counter the opponent’s
strategy before it actually grows to fruition, but also to bait them into a devastating trap! Most interestingly of all, the match winner
is decided through a best-of-three system that only allows you to draw three extra cards
throughout the entire match. As such, it is of vital importance to ration
your threats and answers given that they’re all you have to work with, but also recognize
when you have been bested so that you can concede a battle in order to win the war! These sort of mechanics have already proved
themselves to be a great deal of fun in The Witcher 3, and I’m glad to say that the standalone
version of Gwent has only managed to make them even better! So what are the major differences between
The Witcher 3’s Gwent and the standalone version? In terms of gameplay they are almost exactly
the same, so if you’re a fan of The Witcher 3’s card game odds are you’re going to love
this one as well. Its still welcoming to new players while also
being surprisingly complex, there are still plenty of ways to trick your opponents in
order to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and there are still plenty of different deck
archetypes that you can toy around with. But while the gameplay mechanics are mostly
the same, the cards have been drastically changed as many have been uplifted from their
previously useless state, while other have received a much needed nerf. Some of the irrelevant and incredibly boring
siege units have been granted an ability to damage enemy units when entering the battlefield,
which means that the siege cards are now actually worth putting in your deck. The overpowered cards that doubled their strength
have been toned down in order to reduce the “I win because I drew the godhand” potential. Even “Poor Fucking Infantry”, one of the worst
cards in the entirety of The Witcher 3 and a bane to all new players, is now a completely
viable choice when building a deck! The list doesn’t end there, however, as many
of the specialist cards have also received a significant rework, most notably the obscenely
overpowered dragon and the equally obnoxious spies. Villentrentemerth (yes, that is actually the
dragon’s name) now no longer instantly destroys the strongest creatures when he enters the
battlefield, but rather three turns after. Not only is this much more enjoyable to play
against given that the game didn’t just instantly swing 20 points in the opponent’s favor, but
you also have the ability to use this against them! Since the ability only takes effect three
turns later you can strategically buff enemy cards in order to make them the dragon’s targets,
thus shifting the focus from your own units. Obviously, the opponent can do the same to
you, so every time Mr. Villy comes into play the entire game takes a hilarious turn as
you stop trying to make your own side stronger, and instead start focusing on making your
opponent look like juicer target. As for the spies, they have either been completely
reworked in order to no longer provide a card advantage, or have become so much stronger
that giving them to your opponent is actually a significant price to pay. Unlike their previous incarnation, every single
one of them now provides a slightly different take on the concept, and as such fits the
game in a much more natural and balanced way. And best of all, games no longer take 20 minutes
because both players are drawing through their entire decks! While this new version of Gwent might be nicely
balanced, or at least balanced enough that my newbie eyes cannot tell the difference,
there is a sinister evil lurking deep within its core – randomness! If you thought that playing against Yogg-Saron
in Hearthstone was obnoxious given his ability to completely flip the game around purely
by random chance, then I’m afraid you’re in for a surprise with Gwent. There are a couple of cards, and this sadly
includes the passive ability for the entire Monsters faction, that are able to pretty
much win you the game by flipping a coin. Not exactly what I like to see in my strategy
focused card games… So what’s the problem? Well, in the case of the Monsters faction
their passive ability states that one random creature will remain on the board at the end
of reach round. This sounds innocent enough, especially since
the Monsters faction loves to swarm the board with absolute garbage, but this passive ability
also works on Gold (Legendary) cards. Nothing says skill better than having the
Monsters player luck out and start the round with their absolute best creature on the board
while you have quite literally nothing! But better yet, if you’re the Monsters player
you might just start the round with a creature you WANTED to lose due to its powerful on-death
effect, but didn’t because the dice decided you belong in Loserville instead. And speaking of Yogg-Saron, the Scoia’tael
faction has a card that functions in a similar way. Once you put it on the battlefield it will
take a random spell from your deck and simply play it, no matter if it ends up summoning
a firestorm over your own troops or a freezing winter that completely decimates your opponent’s
army. You could build a deck entirely around this
card so that you only have spells that positively affect your own minions, but given how powerful
card combos are in Gwent you simply have to carry a large of removal spells as well. Then again, you could choose to not use this
card at all, but given how card advantage is everything in games with limited drawing
power its not so easy to simply ignore a 2-in-1 effect. It will occasionally ruin your game on its
own, but if you hedge your bets and make it a 70% chance for a positive effect, that’s
more than worth featuring in your deck. And that is exactly where the problem lies. Personally, I despise mechanics like this. Sure, in the grand scheme of things they are
perfectly balanced as the positive/negative effects will average out over the course of
thousands of games, but in that one game where you get completely and utterly trashed its
impossible to not get angry when the only reason behind your loss was a random dice
roll! Gwent is supposed to be a strategy game, and
one that puts the player’s skills front and center, so to have mechanics and cards like
this is a bit of a strange design choice. They don’t really add anything to the game
as they aren’t as zany as some of Hearthstone’s random effects, but they come with the same
sort of negative experiences so hopefully CDPR will do something to lessen the randomness
and promote a more interesting and skillful playstyle instead. I’m sure some of you are thinking I’m just
a big ‘ol whiny baby and that I can simply replace the cards I dislike for those that
I consider ‘truly skillful’, but this is another problematic area for Gwent. Since losses give you absolutely nothing,
and since you don’t start with many Silver (Epic) or Gold (Legendary) cards, you are
going to be stuck playing the basic decks for a very long time. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if
the Silver and Gold cards offered great power at a equally great cost, but they are unfortunately
just better and stronger versions of the Bronze cards. Most importantly, Gold cards are completely
immune to spells (both friendly and enemy), so if you have four Gold cards and your opponent
only has one, you are going to be at a distinct advantage! I’ve been playing Gwent for a good chunk of
hours now and I’ve unpacked multiple kegs (card packs), but I’m still playing basically
the same decks as when I started. This is because the cards I’ve gained so far
aren’t worth putting into a deck without having at least a couple of them due to deck consistency
and synergy. This is especially problematic for the extremely
powerful Gold and Silver cards, of which you can only put a certain number in your deck,
as I don’t even have enough to fill out all of the slots yet. You would think this wouldn’t be a problem
so early in the closed beta, but I’m already being demolished by people whose card quality
simply eclipses my own. Fighting an uphill battle every now and then
is an exciting experience, but getting steamrolled because the basic cards are just flat out
worse than some of the rarer cards is a different story entirely. To Gwent’s credit, however, I do love how
they’ve designed the progression system, even if I think its terribly slow right now. Much like Hearthstone you are able to disenchant
cards you don’t need in order to craft different ones, and use the ore (gold) you gain by winning
to buy more card packs. Best of all, if both you and your opponent
decide to end the match by sending each other a “Good Game!” message, you’ll be awarded
with a small bit of currency! Its a nearly meaningless feature, and one
that in theory doesn’t really do anyhting, but I still somehow found myself feeling all
warm and fuzzy inside whenever the opponent would send me a GG message. I guess the little things really do matter! Even the way you open card packs has been
cleverly designed to remove frustration. Instead of simply getting five random cards
and a swift boot to the buttocks, Gwent gives you four random cards and the ability to choose
the fifth one yourself! Naturally, you can only choose from a couple
of randomly generated cards, but since they can be of any quality its a nice way to fill
out those gaping holes in your deck. I cannot praise this system enough because
it not only makes building your decks slightly easier, but it also helps you invent new ones
by introducing you to potentially exciting cards you’ve never seen before. The final topic I wanted to briefly go over
was the UI and the design in general. While I don’t have any major complaints about
the interface, there are numerous tiny ones that all combine together to make Gwent a
lot clunkier than it should be. The most annoying problem is that some enemy
cards just don’t show up on the “recently played” part of the screen, so if you turned
your head away from a moment you might just come back to a completely different board
and no idea what in the world just happened. On a similar note, I also dislike how the
“You passed your turn” text covers up all of your cards, essentially making them unreadable. This isn’t too big of a deal given that you
most likely know exactly what you have, but I’m one of those weirdos that likes to constantly
fiddle with his cards, so having this massive black bar over them is rather unfortunate. As for the artwork behind the cards themselves,
its pretty damn good! While Hearthstone and similar card games feature
mostly cartoonish artwork with a massive focus on silly jokes, the cards in Gwent represent
the completely different side of the spectrum. They are drawn in a realistic and professional
manner, similar to MTG cards, which goes a long way towards making them more enjoyable
to play with. It also helps that the voice acting is generally
top notch, so all of the cards both look and sound awesome. Most impressively, some of the cards have
multiple cosmetic variations, so if you spawn an entire horde of Nekkers no two will be
alike! With all of that said, I do believe Gwent
still has plenty of room for improvement when it comes to animations and death effects given
that they are currently extremely basic and repetitive. It shouldn’t be the case that archers, catapults,
and even demonic elves from a completely different world use the same animation when dealing
damage. Most people will argue these little details
aren’t important, but when it comes to ensuring that each round of Gwent feels exciting it
is exactly them that most people will point towards. So hopefully CDPR will realize how important
this is, and dedicate a couple of future patches solely to design-related polish. Gwent might currently be in an early closed
beta state, but even now it is a vastly superior version of The Witcher 3’s minigame. The balance is tighter, there are more viable
cards with which you can craft decks, and the card abilities themselves have been greatly
redesigned to offer a much more strategic experience. If your only wish from Gwent: The Witcher
Card Game was to get a new and improved version of The Witcher 3’s Gwent – you can consider
your wish granted! When compared to other card games, however,
Gwent still requires a fair bit of work. There is a definitive need for more cards
in order to make each strategy less obvious, the animations and sound effects could use
a bit of an overhaul if Gwent is ever to compete with Hearthstone, and overall I would like
to see a couple of future patches dedicated solely to quality of life issues and the new
player experience. While all of that might sound like a tall
order, it is well worth mentioning that Gwent only recently entered closed beta, so CDPR
still has plenty of time to make all of the necessary changes in order to create something
truly special. And here’s to hoping they actually manage
to do so because more competition among card games is something everyone will benefit from! Thank you guys for watching, and if you enjoyed
this, or even if you didn’t, please do let me know. And if you would like to see more, feel free
to subscribe here or check out the website linked down below, that one tends to get updated
more often. With all of that said, I hope you have a nice
day and I will see you soon.

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4 thoughts on “My thoughts on Gwent: The Witcher Card Game – Closed Beta Review

  1. I like your point on RNG, though it's also important to mention that, just like in W3 Gwint, planning ahead, and making sure that you have, e.g. with the monster passive, only strong creatures alive towards the end of the round, or if you're playing that round as a sec, trying to get the opponent to use most of his good cards, you make sure to play as few, but as strong monsters that turn.

    Not saying rng isn't a big factor, but tbh, I think it almost has to be in any CCG for every game to be different. Idk, there are some issues, but if they continue to let you play/work around the RNG aspects like they have with the monster passive ,I'm fine with it tbh. The card that plays a random special though…. holy shit that one sucks xD

  2. The problem u have with not being able to fill all your silver or gold slots isn't even necessarily a problem . having more gold cards doesn't just give you an advantage, you have to make sure they will work together with your build. in most builds one to 2 gold cards is all you'll probably want since if you add more it will mess with the cooperative nature of your deck.

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