‘Gwent’ Pre-Beta Is a Mix of Familiar and New


On Tuesday, CD Projekt has invited players to “Kill the Servers” with a limited-time pass into their Witcher 3: Wild Hunt spin-off card game, Gwent.

And kill the servers they did. This part-technical test, part-promotional opportunity comes before the launch of the closed beta on Oct. 25 but was mostly a technical mess.

For the uninitiated, Gwent was originally a mini-game in the full version of Witcher 3.

The game would drop me out of matches as soon as they started. It would also load into games but immediately pop out to the menu, and most of the time I just waited for the stutter in the soundtrack and freezing of the screen to signal the game crashing all together. The controller support worked wonderfully though.

But at this stage, it’d be unfair to hold that against the game. After all, kill the servers was the campaign’s name.

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This message and I got real familiar over my time with Gwent.

When the game did work, it was Gwent.

For the purposes of this stress test, the developer disabled deck-building and gave players one pre-made deck per faction. There’s the classic, Medieval-European Northern Kingdoms, the ‘80s heavy metal album art Monsters, the Viking troped-up Skellige and the dwarf-elf allied Scoia’tael. Absent here is the Nilfgaardian Empire, which was present in the Witcher 3 base game. CD Projekt said they, among other cards, are coming down the line.

From there, anyone that played the Witcher 3 will know what to do.

Gwent is a game about building armies, mind games and strategic turn-ending. It’s not about destroying units and hitting player heroes, but it’s about out-maneuvering a rival army. A well-played match can lead a weaker army to victory.

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Victory? Yeah, sure… I’ll take it.

One mechanic that separates it from other collectible card games is how every player starts with a 10-card hand, and they don’t draw any more turn-by-turn. Players do draw one each between rounds in the best of three game.

The cards come in one of three classes—melee, ranged and artillery—dictating which lane they are placed in. Specialty cards can change the make-up of the battlefield by scorching units, changing the weather or buffing units.

Each faction has special abilities, as well. The Scoia’tael pick who gets the first move, and the Northern Kingdoms can make a copy of a bronze unit (more on bronze and silver units later). They all also get access to their own special cards, like the Monster’s Wild Hunt units who are immune to frost.

One notable change from the original version in the Witcher 3 is a card-promotion mechanic. Each unit card has a bronze or silver rating, with hero cards being gold. Promoting a unit from bronze to gold increases its strength.

After that, many of the cards from the original are gone or reworked. This was probably the most exciting part to me. It meant I got to relearn the game.

The Witcher 3 was my favorite game of 2015, and Gwent is among the reasons why. The first thing I did upon entering a new town was walk to the inn and challenge the bartender to a game. When I met a new named character, I’d scroll down the dialogue and giggle with glee when I could challenge them. When the expansion, Blood and Wine, came out, I ditched the main story for a time to collect the brand new deck and do the Gwent tournament quest line.

Gwent itself was a runaway success. For starters, they are making a spin-off game. But long before that, a fan made a mod for Witcher 3 to replace all the combat with Gwent matches.

My only real complaint with the game within the game was the relative simplicity it had. It felt like the game lacked legs. I mean, it felt like a game made to be a mini-game. This new version has a wonderful mix of familiar and new.

This stress test was for multiplayer only. There wasn’t any deck-building or single player. Though, the developer is planning a full single-player campaign that’ll be released in episodes. The closed beta starts Oct. 25.