Developer: CD Projekt Red
Homecoming: CCG (Collectible Card Game)
Platform Played: PS4 Pro, PC
Thronebreaker: Story Completed
Hours Played: In Total ~96 (and more)
Review Read: ~20mins
This article will contain both reviews for Gwent Homecoming and Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales as both games are closely related to each other and better for player experience when purchased and experienced as a whole.
Gwent Homecoming is the official launch version of CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt’s mini-game Gwent. Like the saying of many Witcher 3 gamers go, “came for the story, stayed for the Gwent”; Gwent Homecoming is a great CCG for old players to stay playing again, and new players to get into, alike.
In its purest essence, Gwent is a numbers game – to put it more accurately, it’s very much like a game of math with a touch of intrigue. The primary objective is to, plainly, just have a higher power number on the board than your opponent best two out of three rounds. The board (or battlefield) is split into a few rows – Specifically two rows for each player. Ranged and Melee. You play cards to increase this number on your side of the board (or inversely, decrease the power number on your opponent’s side.) – some cards are units with existing power numbers (with abilities to damage power levels in a given row), some are special cards that does special effects and are then discarded, and some are “artefacts” – cards that have special effects but stay on the board until removed. To get cards, you either spend ores to buy barrels (that is kinda like you card pack; each barrel contains 5 cards and at least 1 card is a rare card); or you spend scraps – these scraps are used to craft specific individual cards.
A round of Gwent is as such: Each player draws 10 cards, they will decide which card in their hand to mulligan (swap for another random card in their deck from their hand), and then players play one card per turn until one of them passes. The higher number wins the round, and the next round commences. Players will then draw another three cards from the top their deck, and they will decide what cards to mulligan again before the next step. To add into the intrigue, players will have to be strategic in the cards they mulligan as these cards may come back into their hand the next subsequent rounds – it’s a feature of the game. Also, not all players can mulligan as many cards as they want; each player has a deck they create based on a certain leader, and that leader has abilities that are synergistic to their decks while having a fixed number of mulligans a player can use. Additionally, players will only be able to have not more than 10 cards in their hand. Any additional cards drawn after 10 will be discarded. As you play the game with these basic rules in mind, you will find that sometimes it is better to allow your opponent to win one of the rounds in order for you to win the whole match. Okay, we kind of have the basics of Gwent gameplay laid out on the table.
For new players, the rule of Gwent is somewhat easier to learn than for old beta Gwent players. Those familiar with the game would agree that old Gwent is quite (or very) different than Homecoming. In old Gwent, cards drawn each round are three for first round, two for second, and then one for last. Mulligans are also limited to three for each round. Right now, the number of Mulligans you have are carried through the whole match, and three cards are drawn for each round. Having the game mechanic of three cards drawn for each round encourages players to play on for every round instead of having one player to hard pass without playing anything. Old Gwent players will have to unlearn their idea of what makes a good round, for example, of hard passing in this case – They will have to think a few turns in front of the possible number of cards (on top of what kind of cards) their opponent might play in order for them to determine if the round they’re playing would be a round worth playing. Both kinds of players will also have to learn that some cards are better mulliganed in later rounds for better power value.
Apart from playing matches, there is joy in building decks. The deck building process is also a game of math. You cannot just throw a set of 25 cards in a deck and expect the whole deck to work. You will need to calculate “Provisions” in the whole deck. The current maximum provision number of 165 and maximum card count of 25 in a deck limits the types of cards you can put. Picking cards becomes a healthily tedious process of calculation in this case – To decide if a certain card can grant maximum value despite their provision cost. In order to build a new deck, you will have to determine the factions and leaders in the factions for the specific deck you will be using in your matches. There are 5 factions – Northern Realms, Nilfgaard, Scoiatel, Skellige, and Monsters. Each faction has 4 different leaders to unlock. Each leader has a special ability that can add into the synergy of a deck, and each faction has their very own flavour and way of playing. For example, Northern Realms decks are famous for using different siege machinery to deal power damages to their opponents; Nilfgaard decks play with spies and controlling what your opponent, in a way, draws in their hand; Monsters consume each other for higher power plays; etc. These leaders are not immediately available to you, however. In order to unlock them, you will have to achieve reward points and work towards unlocking them in a rewards board. This is something entirely new to Homecoming: unlocking rewards to open new ways to play and to collect more cards. Reward points come aplenty and easily – the more you play, the more reward points you will gain. Level up: 1 reward point. Get a set of specific cards: 3 reward points. Get the entire main character card set for the Witcher story: 5 reward points. Buy Thronebreaker: 5 reward points. Play more of Thronebreaker (I will get to this in abit) and finish the story instead of playing more Gwent: 5 reward points. The list goes on and on and you can find the whole list under “Contracts” in the Gwent.
Having all these nitty gritty aside, the short of it all is despite the new board layout, rules, and graphic overhaul from old Gwent to Homecoming, if old players are willing to take the time to unlearn what they have been playing for the past year and learn the new ropes, it is pretty easy for them to ease back into the Gwent community. For those that are looking into diving into this game with fresh eyes, you would be familiar with how the game works a few rounds in. Besides, there is a tutorial suited for both kinds of players the moment they boot up the game; so you can rest easy you won’t feel so lost when you first play.
I was an old beta Gwent player. I still had to play the tutorial of Homecoming despite my prior knowledge of Gwent. What made me really get into the game was the amount of scraps I got as refund because old players coming back to Gwent will get all their cards removed from their collection and refunded with scraps to rebuild a new card collection. A year in playing old Gwent and getting to level 50 refunded me a whopping 173,630 scraps with 65 reward points. These resources allowed me to craft the whole set of card collection for at least 4 and a half factions. By the first month of playing, I’d have every card I could use for all 5 factions and a few others from the Neutral collection. Even after collecting almost every card in the faction, I’m still motivated to play more given CDPR’s promise in improving the gameplay experience, adding to the collections, and the daily quests given.
One notable thing about Homecoming that I think new players can appreciate is that Homecoming is arguably one of the more graphically beautiful CCG games to date. The artwork for every card is meticulously well drawn. To enhance the experience, there are premium cards for every card in the collection. These cards have the same effect, just that their artwork isn’t just a still image, but a moving picture. It’s not the kinds where they shimmer with glitter, or when one of the robes of a character be floating in the air like a GIF, it’s those where the character in the card would be doing a full action – Like throwing a bomb, or shooting an arrow.
The whole Gwent experience wasn’t filled with a bed of roses though, the initial patch of the game was not optimised for consoles compared to the PC patches. I encountered screen tearing, game-breaking bugs in my time while playing casual matches. A card in particular (Stennis) would cause the game to stop working
Now, because Gwent and Thronebreaker are games related to each other, I shall include the review for Thronebreaker in the same thread.
Thronebreaker, is an interesting concept for a game. In terms of how it relates to Gwent, you can get the game and it would give you a set of separate cards to use and play in Homecoming. The more you play Thronebreaker, the more exclusive unlocks you can achieve in Homecoming. But it’s not the unlocks that made me play more of Thronebreaker; playing Thronebreaker made me realise how much I missed the world and deep storytelling of the Witcher universe.
In Thronebreaker, you are queen Meve – Betrayed by your son and usurped from your throne, you must unite an army to launch a coup to regain your kingdom from Nilfgaard. The storytelling is done by a series of narration and vignettes told and voiced throughout, while battles are done Gwent style, with the abilities of units tweaked to match the storyline of Thronebreaker. You traverse through 5 maps: The vast fields of peaceful Lyria, war-torn battlefield Aedirn, the snowy blizzard-battered mountains of Mahakam, the swampy labyrinth of Angren, and Rivia, home of the famed Witcher Geralt. These 5 expansive maps will take you at least 4 hours each to complete.
The spotlight on Thronebreaker shines on its character development and writing. The story puts you in situations where it really makes you think. One of those that impacted me was a story vein of a dragon who went on a rampage in a nearby village. After weakening her, I was called to go to her lair for a coup de grace only to find out that she was female and her reason for her rampage was because the inhabitants of the village had destroyed her eggs and poison her food in fear that she would ask for more in their tribute. I was then given the choice to fulfil my promise to the villagers to kill her (In the back of my mind, knowing that killing her would benefit me the most in my relationship with the village and their race), or to spare her in my morality. These stories are awe-inspiring and littered throughout your time in Thronebreaker.
The characters in Thronebreaker that follow you through your journey is as memorable as any character in Witcher 3. You’ll get to meet and know more about the likes of many; from a bandit that would serve under your ranks known as Gascon, to a knight who slays monsters out of his self-righteousness and believes in a book that sounds very much like the bible. The voice acting for each of these characters are also of top quality – each line holds the right beat and emotion enough to keep you glued to the screen and invested in whatever happens on screen.
The game is a glimpse into what made Witcher such a memorable game. With more of Andrzej Sapkowski’s world of Witcher, it made me want to go back to playing Wild Hunt again from the beginning (Which is what I would probably be doing, in fact.). It is also a good addition to those who are invested in Gwent Homecoming with its exclusive rewards, and of course more reward points.