Last Tuesday CD Projekt RED held a preview event in São Paulo in order to show off its newest game set in The Witcher franchise, Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, a standalone adventure game that makes use of the Gwent engine for combat and puzzles in some very novel and admittedly fun ways. I already had the chance to see some of it last year during Brazil Game Show, but this was the first time hands-on was made available to the press.
Since then, it has certainly grown in scope, as Mikolaj Szwed, CDPR’s senior localization producer, who handled the presentation pointed out. The campaign alone, according to him, will last around 30 hours, offering twenty different story outcomes, world end-states, as he called them, as well as a host of side quests and the aforementioned puzzles to partake. CD Projekt Red created over 200 unique cards for this single player adventure, and upon buying Thronebreaker, 20 new cards will make their way into your Gwent deck for use in multiplayer.
The 45-minute hands-on portion of the afternoon allowed me to play through the initial portion of a pre-release version of the game, and put me in the shoes of the not-at-all-afraid-to-put-her-sword-through-anyone queen of Rivia and Lyria, Meve, who having just returned from a gathering of kings held in a far away land, now faces the dangers that preyed on her kingdom during her absence.
What makes Thronebreaker so special is that unlike the mainline The Witcher titles, it’s that it’s not an action game. Instead, you guide the queen across a huge map, visiting different locales of her domain, engaging with NPCs, and most importantly, getting into scuffles, the point where the game switches to a Gwent board. While I’m still not particularly good at Gwent yet, having had played it only a handful of times since it was initially released, the tutorial parts of the demo did a fine job teaching that the basic concepts of Gwent, and for the few encounters I played through, I was able to quickly grasp the fundamentals and have a good time.
Out of the four Gwent matches that I played, the one I that grabbed my attention the most was a puzzle scenario in which boulders suddenly put the queen’s committee in danger. So far that particular fight, the boulders were the enemy, taking the opposite side of the board, while my cards provided defense for the queen’s forces, attacking the incoming rocks as they moved down the ranks. For anyone not familiar with Gwent, the board is split into six rows, split into two sides, so the boulders came down from the top of the screen and moved down one row with each turn. Generally, in order to win a match, you have to tally more points at the end of the round and win two of those, but in this puzzle’s case, breaking the crashing rocks was the goal, which is how I assume other scenarios will play out, offering more objectives outside of merely beating the opposing forces’ deck in traditional TCG style.
I came out of the hands-on session quite impressed with what I got to see. Thronebreaker feels like an incredibly exciting twist to The Witcher formula, and if the demo’s any indication, it’ll be a fun way to enjoy Gwent, especially if you’re not into the idea of facing off against online opponents. The story bits that I ran into during the initial portion of the game were pretty solid and in the same writing quality as other titles in the franchise, which is to say quite excellent. It’s worth mentioning that the game will be fully voiced and localized in 12 different languages, as well as beautifully presented via some gorgeous hand drawn 2D artwork, similarly to what we’ve already seen in the Gwent standalone game.
Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales will be available on October 23rd for PC alongside the official release of the final version of Gwent. Console players will be able to join in on the fun December 4th when Thronebreaker hits Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
I’ll be posting a full review of the game close to release day, so keep an eye out for that!