E3 2016: Gwent Could Be The Next Big Competitive Game

By Marc Caccamise, 6 months ago
As I sat watching Microsoft's E3 press conference from the Galen Center in Los Angeles, a thought immediately hit me as Gwent: The Witcher Card Game was being shown: This has some serious potential to be the next big competitive game on the market. Later that week, when I had the chance to play it for myself, that thought felt even more validated. A standalone Gwent exists solely due to the overwhelming requests CD Projekt Red received from fans for it, and I believe it will be these same fans that will help the game thrive upon release.

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For those who are unfamiliar with Gwent, allow me to explain. The card game exists within the larger world of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt as an extra activity to distract players from their main and secondary quests. While traveling the world, there is a multitude of NPCs to play and many opportunities to collect new cards for building a stronger deck. Much like how some players have spent a long time customizing settlements in Fallout 4, there are plenty of stories of Witcher players spending hours upon hours playing Gwent. As Lead Designer Damien Monnier explained during Microsoft's conference, some of the more inspired fans even made physical decks so that they could play outside of the game. In response to all of that feedback, the studio very wisely made the decision to turn this extra activity into its own free-to-play game.

Part of Gwent's charm is the simplicity of picking it up and understanding how to play. Each match pits two players against one another in a best-of-three rounds format. Players take turns placing unit cards with assigned Strength points into three different rows known as Melee, Ranged and Siege, with the goal of reaching the highest Strength total in order to win a round. However, players are only given a certain number of cards every match, which brings about the need to implement strategies of bluffing, or perhaps giving a round to an opponent, in order to come out on top. Leader and weather cards further these strategies by strengthening and weakening the other cards on the table. There are also four factions - Northern Realms, Scoia'tael, Skellige, and Monsters - to choose from that also offer their own strengths, weaknesses, and strategies to take into consideration.

If you had any predetermined notions that this will just be a cheap port to appease fans, you can put those worries to rest, because it is much more of a complete overhaul. Certain mechanics have been adjusted to ensure that players can't gain the sort of upper hand that was possible against AI opponents. Some of the basic rules of the game have been tinkered with as well, such as allowing the players to redraw three cards at the beginning of the match instead of only two. Taking it at face value, the Gwent board itself has received some extra pizzazz with upgraded visuals instead of its rather dull and plain appearance in The Witcher 3. The game cards are far flashier and full of life, and special Premium cards have 3D models set fully in motion. Weather effects now come to life on the board and the deck's Leader will often remark about your own moves and those of your opponent. Every faction also has brand new cards and abilities to add to the preexisting selection.

The game board feels far more alive than ever beforeThe game board feels far more alive than ever before


The presentation of Gwent's single-player portion was entirely hands-off, but what was shown was very intriguing. The campaigns will explore untold stories from the Witcher universe, and each of the campaigns is said to last 10+ hours each. These stories will feature both new and familiar faces, including Geralt who will have more of a supporting role rather than be a central figure. Progressing through the campaign takes place on an isometric world map, where you will explore new destinations. From there, different scenarios pop up, which will at times require the player to make certain choices that will have consequences later on. During the presentation, the characters had the choice of whether or not to explore some old ruins they came upon, and then had to deal with the result of their choice. Conflict scenarios play out as matches of Gwent, and any characters you meet along the way that join you, will become available as new cards in your deck. For players who are looking to delve even deeper into the Witcher universe, these single-player campaigns appear to supply that with intertwined Gwent matches to diversify the experience.

Even with how unique the single-player campaign may very well end up, the multiplayer PvP matches are still going to be the main draw. I had enough time to squeeze in two matches during my demo and it honestly felt as if I was playing Gwent for the very first time. The AI in The Witcher 3 may have presented a challenge from time to time, but there were often ways to outsmart the game. Gaining the upper hand on a human opponent is a far more difficult task and it emphasizes that Gwent truly is meant to be played between two human players.

While there is an obvious inherent competitive mood here, the online multiplayer portion will also cater to casual players as well. Everyone will be placed into leagues based on similar skill and other variables, and will have the ability to move up to higher leagues. Players will be rewarded in several ways for both winning and losing matches, but those rewards haven't yet been disclosed. The idea though is to create a system where players are encouraged to just have fun while playing Gwent and in the meantime appeal to those competitive players.

Each faction's leader has abilities that affect the matchEach faction's leader has abilities that affect the match


As I alluded to earlier when we began, Gwent strikes me as a game that has the potential to become a competitive name in the gaming industry. I look at some of the other big card games out there, such as Magic: The Gathering and Hearthstone, and believe that Gwent could join those ranks and have a competitive network of its own. The growth of eSports over these past few years has been nothing short of astounding, and by the looks of things, that trend will continue for years to come. When I asked if there would be any plans to promote Gwent within an eSports community, the response was that there is nothing immediately planned, but if there is enough demand from players, it would be considered. It seems like a fitting answer since Gwent itself is happening largely due to the demand of fans.

Gwent's Closed Beta is coming exclusively to Xbox One and Windows 10 this September, so if you'd like to sign up for a chance to get in, you can do so here.
Marc Caccamise
Written by Marc Caccamise
Writer of news, features, and reviews for TrueAchievements since June 2013. Discovered the incredible world of video games at a young age with Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf, and haven't looked back since. Outside of gaming, I'm usually found reading up on various history topics or rooting for the lowly Buffalo Bills and Sabres.