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The Witcher Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales - Gwent expansion turns into standalone RPG

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Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/...w-witcher-tale-we-seek-or-is-it-bloody-barren

Is Thronebreaker the new Witcher tale we seek, or is it bloody barren?

Card games haven't done story on this level before. With Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, we're not talking about a bolted-on campaign, we're talking about a whole separate game - a 30-dollar, 30-hour Witcher story with more lines of dialogue than The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt expansion Hearts of Stone. Thronebreaker has 77 side quests, 20 possible end-states and is directed by Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz, lead quest designer on Witcher 3 (and also brother of Witcher 3 game director Konrad Tomaszkiewicz).

The message is clear: the people who made one of this generation's most celebrated role-playing games have made a new Witcher story. You'd be forgiven for not realising it was a card game - the title Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales doesn't even mention Gwent, the card game upon which it is based. Then again, 'more Witcher' is a far tastier proposition. But can a card game reach the same storytelling heights?

I played Thronebreaker for two hours earlier this week, which wasn't long enough to gauge whether the story will rival the Bloody Baron in terms of gut-rending oomph, but was long enough to sense a similar dirt-smeared grit in the world around me, and to be reassured dark and mature story is front and centre of what Thronebreaker is trying to do. At one point I ordered a defeated rabble - whose only real crime had been a few wrong words - to be hung, for example. I did it because as a monarch - Queen Meve - I didn't want to show signs of weakness, but when a grubby onlooker then scorned me (brave, considering what I'd just done) for my cruelty, I felt awful.

These decisions and the story play out on a campaign map which looks like it's been pulled from the pages of a graphic novel, and across which your hero tramps. It's a bit like a Heroes of Might & Magic game in this regard - you can even equip Meve with new trinkets to up her power. You find people to talk to, quests to undertake, all kinds of points of interest to investigate and, of course, monsters and human monsters to defeat.

Bump into anything battle-y and it is decided by a game of cards, and to keep encounters varied, Thronebreaker employs special rules. For instance, one encounter wasn't a battle but a rock slide, and instead of enemies I fought boulders, which tumbled a row closer each turn. To win I had to stop the boulders reaching Meve, at which point she would presumably be crushed like a can of Coke and not be much use.

In another encounter I fought bandits but was really trying to prevent horses making off with stolen goods. If three escaped: defeat. But they were armoured and didn't stick around long. It doesn't sound difficult, but it was. By limiting playable options and time, Thronebreaker pushes for precision, often unforgivingly, and I was surprised by how challenging I found it - not that I'm a Gwent expert, but I do dabble. I was ready to give up when my fifth attempt proved successful. If this sounds daunting, however, there's a Story difficulty available, which boosts the power of your cards and also lets you skip encounters if you wish.

Thronebreaker plays a slightly different game of cards to Gwent in public beta. It uses the upcoming Homecoming version of Gwent, which rolls out with Gwent 1.0 and Thronebreaker on 23rd October on PC and on 4th December on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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Theres my Meve, flanked by her two companions Reynard and Caldwell.

In Homecoming, boards are 3D and leaders stand upon them, issuing commands and generally posturing. Rows are reduced from three to two a side, and new mechanics have been introduced. New Order abilities can be used at any time rather than specifically upon deployment or death, for example, and some attacks are now limited by range, making row placement a real concern. That's by no means all of the changes, but to discuss every one would take a long time. Suffice to say, Gwent is refreshed and looks and plays better than ever. And if you haven't played since the mini-game in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, then goodness you're in for a treat. The fundamentals might be the same but it is infinitely deeper, a puddle turned into a sea.

Thronebreaker's cards, however, are only for use in Thronebreaker. Because they can be improved and powered up, they cannot carry across to Gwent for fear of upsetting the multiplayer balance there, although there will be 20 Thronebreaker-inspired cards added to Gwent which you get immediately when buying Thronebreaker, or earn via crafting or opening kegs (card packs) otherwise.

Crafting and improving your cards in Thronebreaker happens at your travelling base camp, which you can also expand and improve. Doing so depletes your gold, wood and recruit resources, of which you can find more as you explore. But bolstering your army is more complicated than filling it with more powerful cards, because more powerful cards have a higher recruit footprint, and keeping 25 cards (your minimum) under your 125 recruit limit is a very tricky balancing act. Gwent will also apparently introduce a recruit limit, but the team wouldn't tell me what it will be.

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The new-look board. Notice Meve standing on the left. You fight monsters in the game too. Here I'm against a wyvern, which played harpies which spawned harpy eggs which spawned harpies. Nightmare.

As well as standard soldiers you can recruit talking, storied companions. These are represented as gold cards but they play a role outside of the battlefield, too. They appear in talking-head dialogue sequences - where characters stand largely still, undulating slightly, while their mouths yap energetically - and hole up in your mess tent waiting to be talked to. They're not characters I recognise, although you might if you're familiar with the books, but there's potential for familiar faces to appear along the way. The Thronebreaker team went coy when I - like everyone else, apparently - asked whether Geralt will show up.

Dilemmas drain resources too. Take a wagon axle snapping for example. You could ride on and ignore it at no cost; you could have someone else deal with it for a bit of wood cost but gold gain; or you could pay for a new axle and increase troop morale. Morale is important; everything you do will affect it, and if you let it sink too low, bad things are bound to happen. These choices layer on top of bigger choices (like hanging people, Bertie, you monster) which will echo through the game's acts as they unfold.

In Thronebreaker there are, then, many things to juggle, although it's tricky trying wrap your head around it all at once. It made for a bumpy start. But I'm sure as time wears on and mechanics sink in there will be depth to happily absorb you and characters and story to wrap yourself up in. After the first act, I'm told, Thronebreaker really gets going.

The glimpse of Thronebreaker I got was encouraging. Most importantly, it nailed the distinct personality of The Witcher, and the quality of writing, storytelling, voice acting and presentation was high. It wasn't The Witcher 4 and nor should you expect it to be, but as a new story in the same universe it's exciting nonetheless, and as a card game may be unprecedented.
 

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Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
https://www.pcgamer.com/thronebreaker-is-a-true-witcher-rpg-and-a-surprisingly-sharp-card-puzzler/

Thronebreaker is a true Witcher RPG and a surprisingly sharp card puzzler
Rich in dialogue and decisions and clever card-based puzzles, with a vastly deepened version of Gwent at its center.

I thought I would be a fair and judicious queen. When a peasant reached out to shake my royal hand, I didn't toss him in prison as my most pompous advisor suggested. I laughed it off, and even gave him a pass for harboring a local criminal, understanding that times are always lean in the Northern Realms' kingdoms of Lyria and Rivia. But when I stumbled upon a village where a bloodthirsty crowd was slaughtering every nonhuman they could find, there was no hesitation. I put every racist instigator to the sword. Typical Witcher sidequest. In Geralt's world, something twisted or tragic is always right around the corner.

Except I'm not Geralt anymore: I'm Meve, queen of Lyria and Rivia, a minor character from The Witcher books that CD Projekt Red has built the campaign of Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales around. Surprisingly, after spending so much time as Geralt, it doesn't feel jarring to slip into another role in the Witcher's world. Thronebreaker isn't a sprawling 3D RPG--it's mostly a game of dialogue and decision-making peppered with Gwent card combat--but it's still unmistakably a Witcher game. Within moments I was making morally gray choices and catching whiffs of the complex politics swirling around me. It felt good to be back.

Thronebreaker started life as a much smaller singleplayer expansion for Gwent, but has since morphed into a campaign CD Projekt expects to take 20-40 hours to finish. In some ways it feels a bit like an adventure game (or even a visual novel) when you're not in combat. It's heavy on the dialogue and narration, and the voice acting feels decadent as text unfurls on the screen. The accents are strong and varied, and after playing for a couple hours I'd say the voice acting is at least as good as The Witcher 3's. Maybe even better. This game is boldly confident in its presentation from the outset.

The catch, of course, is you're watching largely static 2D art as the characters talk. While the first two hours of an RPG aren't a great litmus test for dramatic impact, I'm skeptical this dialogue will have quite the same effect as The Witcher 3's many cutscenes and detailed facial animations. But from what I've played, it seems like quests will be plentiful and varied in Thronebreaker, asking you to make choices as Queen Meve that will affect how that quest plays out and potentially how your campaign goes, in the end.

Principal writer Jakub Szamałek told me that there are more than 20 different end states based on the decisions you make. I expect there are a lot of small variables inflating that number, but seeing the ramifications of even minor decisions makes Thronebreaker more of an RPG than I was really expecting.

Exploration plays out across five 2D maps or areas, and judging by the first one, at least, they're huge. I walked around only a fraction of it in my two hours with Thronebreaker, and there are little sidequests and points of interest and treasure chests to be found everywhere. Like in a lot of open world games, you can also wander off the road to collect things, in this case some generic resources, either gold or materials, which are used to upgrade your military camp and improve your army.

It's a shame that wandering around for these things and clicking on them is instantly boring. They're all over the place, and all you get for clicking on them is a very videogamey pop-up, like "+25." They seem like they're there because the world would be too empty without more things to click on, but they're not interesting in any way.

I spent a while thinking about why I found this rote resource gathering so dull, when it's effectively the same as running over plants in The Witcher 3 and tapping a button to scoop them up, or grabbing bugs as I run past in Monster Hunter World, a game I've been greedily hoarding resources in for the past month. Collecting those items is not really fun, either. But in the context of their environment, those items have purpose. They're decorative, adding color and variety to the world. And they're used in crafting recipes, which applies some light level of narrative to why you're collecting them. Thronebreaker abstracts these environmental interactions to nothing more than a number. It's disappointing busywork.

That was the only thing I didn't like about Thronebreaker. Gwent has changed radically since it first appeared in The Witcher 3, and is now far more complex, with many interactions between cards and active abilities that make it more than a game of straight numbers. I didn't have nearly enough time with the game to say if Gwent will stay fun as the focus of a lengthy campaign, but what I played was really promising because Thronebreaker weaves story into nearly every battle, introducing one-off mechanics and cards to give encounters their own gimmicks.

For instance, in my first real boss battle, a rogue named the Duke of Dogs spent the entire battle on my side of the field, damaging cards on either side of him unless their strength outweighed his. And in his deck he had cards that would create duplicates of the card they were placed beside after a turn had passed--and he kept playing those cards next to the Duke, who had the highest strength on the board. I had to scramble to kill those duplicating cards before their ability triggered, or I'd be quickly overwhelmed.

Battles in Thronebreaker often aren't going to be straightforward, and I think that's the only way to keep a card game campaign interesting over many hours. Accumulating cards and customizing your deck will be fun, and Szamałek said there will be quite a lot of variety there, but I'm relieved that they're using the mechanics of the cards themselves to tell stories even in the first two hours.

Sidequests and monster hunts, in proper Witcher fashion, are even better. Here battles are literally turned into puzzles, giving you a set hand of cards and an obstacle to overcome by playing them and using their abilities in a precise order. It's an idea that's been done in the digital Magic: the Gathering games and Hearthstone, and I can't get enough of it. Here's an early example: I ran into a group of rotfiends, gruesome necrophages who eat flesh and are filled with nasty gas which makes them explode when they die. It's bad when they explode, so the puzzle requires that I drop their health to 1 but don't kill them.

The solution, which it took me a few tries to perfect, was first playing a card that spawned two more units, then playing a couple infantry cards that can switch rows when I activate them, and only then playing some crossbowmen cards that deal damage to an enemy card based on how many cards are in their row. By moving the controllable infantry cards out of the row one at a time, I could keep playing crossbowmen and deal the needed 7 (but not 8!) damage to each rotfiend.

Even in the first two hours I ran into a few sidequest puzzles that stumped me for a few tries. They get complex and hard fast, and are easily the part of Thronebreaker I'm most excited about. I expected to play a card battle RPG, but I didn't think I'd get a puzzle game in the bargain.

The card combat is inventive. The puzzles are even better. Meve's story isn't exactly thrilling right away, but Thronebreaker is heavy on tutorials for the first hour, and it seemed like I was just beginning to see the real story--trouble brewing with Nilfgaard--when I wrapped up my demo. This is a remarkably strange follow-up to the biggest RPG of the decade, and if you hate Gwent you're still probably not going to like Thronebreaker. But I have to admire CD Projekt for looking at what was once a minigame and saying "Yeah, we can turn that into a 40 hour RPG."

Thronebreaker is out October 23.
 

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Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
https://www.pcgamesn.com/thronebreaker-the-witcher-tales/thronebreaker-rpg

Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales is more than a card game – it’s an RPG for diehard fans
Thronebreaker should please fans of The Witcher RPGs and Gwent Grandmasters, but it might be trying to do too much at once

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For diehard Witcher fans, Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales offers a look at the Continent from a new perspective – a unique, complex story arranged with the same narrative excellence that originally drew so many people to the fantasy trilogy. If you’re a Gwent Grandmaster, there’s a fleshed out single-player experience and plenty of room for experimentation with new cards and a variety of twists on the formula. But if you enjoyed Geralt’s adventures without necessarily falling into either of those two camps, CD Projekt Red’s latest adventure is a bit of a hard sell.

Thronebreaker is an RPG built around an adapted version of The Witcher 3’s in-game card game, Gwent. It focuses on Meve, the warrior queen of the twin realms of Lyria and the somewhat more famous Rivia. Set a few years before the events of the Witcher trilogy, the game opens as Meve returns from a peace summit to find that her realm’s appointed caretakers have let things slip. As she arrives in the first of the game’s five maps, Lyria, Meve and her army are met by collections of ghouls and bandits. But a few monsters and an ambitious band of ne’er-do-wells soon prove to be the least of her worries.

Meve navigates her realm via an isometric overworld. This can be used to simply travel from one encounter to another, but you soon learn that exploration is important as you can come across the supplies your army needs to maintain its full strength. While in the overworld, you’ll search for supplies, find treasure, settle disputes, and explore your kingdom. It’s a scaled-down version of what we’ve come to expect from the Witcher games, but Lyria is colourful and detailed, with the same sense of rural hustle and bustle that The Witcher 3 captured so effectively. Later on, new maps will take the story to other unexplored regions – Mahakam, Rivia, Angren, and Aedirn.

The main event, however, isn’t the world, but the battles. As Meve moves through her realms and into others, she’ll come upon plenty of antagonists. Geralt would take them on with magic signs and swords, but in Thronebreaker you’re not a lone Witcher, you’re a general managing an army. As a result, your disagreements are resolved through games of Gwent, which represent full-scale battles between opposing forces.



However, Thronebreaker features two different ways to solve a conflict. Most recognisable are the full matches – best-of-three scenarios in which rounds are won by the player with the most points. These bear some resemblance to both the original version of the card game from The Witcher 3 and its standalone multiplayer version.

More common throughout the world, however, are puzzles. These are shorter matches, that take place across just one round, with very specific win conditions. One puzzle required me to eliminate all of the enemy’s cards, while another tasked me with saving the army from a rockslide. In these situations, winning or losing the round in the traditional sense (by having the most points) is irrelevant – completing the win condition is all that matters. Some of these puzzles are, as a result, much more enjoyable than others. One asked me to whittle a group of monsters down to exactly one health each using a fixed selection of cards. It was an interesting twist, but felt needlessly obtuse, requiring more precise mathematics than I was willing to put in during my preview. The approaches are out there, but encouraging players to whip out a notepad and calculator for optional challenges could breed frustration.

My larger concern, though, is that CD Projekt is trying to capture too wide an audience with Thronebreaker. There’s a nuanced and well-established RPG in there – many members of the Witcher 3 team worked on the game, and their narratives were reportedly designed using the same method. As a result, there’s a 30-hour branching narrative with more than 20 potential endings, exploring an underutilised corner of The Continent. It’s a look into lore that helps contextualise the events of The Witcher 3, focusing on the second war with Nilfgaard. My preview introduced a handful of lively characters brought to life with a cartoonish art style and impressive voice acting. But it’s not the Witcher fans I’m worried for, it’s the Gwent players.

If your only experience of Gwent stems from its format in The Witcher 3, you’ll find there’s quite a lot to learn, as Thronebreaker is based on the multiplayer version of the game. But even if that’s what you’re more familiar with, you’ll find a pretty massive gap in your knowledge, as Thronebreaker is built around the game’s unreleased Homecoming update, which rebalances cards, reconsiders the presence of leaders, and strips an entire row from the board.

It’s still recognisably Gwent, but the update takes a while to adjust to, and Thronebreaker throws plenty more change into the mix too. You won’t be using your Gwent decks, either, as there are 250 new cards balanced specifically for single-player. Puzzles add new mechanics and rulesets while removing the capacity for others. Add to that overworld exploration, RPG elements, and even base-building, and it’s not surprising that this is billed as a Witcher story rather than a Gwent expansion.



There is, however, plenty to like if you’re invested in the card game itself. Meve is a confident and experienced ruler, which means Thronebreaker is more about outright attack than either single-player or multiplayer Gwent. As a result, your battles with the AI need you to wring the most efficient approach out of your cards, rather than worry about what your opponent might try and pull. Enemies aren’t as devious as human players can be, but they also had plenty of new tricks up their sleeves, and were effective at dismantling some of the more potent strategies that the starting deck encouraged me to build on. Across puzzles and battles, Thronebreaker offers both a new take on the traditional format, and a host of new ways to play.

If you’re a standalone Gwent fan, you’ll find Thronebreaker offers plenty of variants on what’s always been an entertaining theme. If you played hours of The Witcher 3 but never so much as laid eyes on your Gwent deck, there’s the potential for another rich and emotive story that touches on the trilogy’s central themes. But I’m worried that while Thronebreaker offers a potential jumping-off point for a host of interesting and varied Witcher games, the current approach relies too heavily on the passion of two different fringes of the franchise’s wider community.
 
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Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
https://www.pcgamesn.com/thronebreaker-the-witcher-tales/thronebreaker-meve-isometric-puzzles

The full Thronebreaker interview: How CDPR is expanding on The Witcher’s legacy
Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales releases next month, but what does a Witcher game look like without Geralt at the helm?

thronebreaker-meve-2.jpg



Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, is the next game from Witcher developer CD Projekt Red. It’s a single-player adaptation of the standalone CCG Gwent, itself taken from The Witcher 3’s in-game card game. But while Thronebreaker takes place in the same world as Geralt’s adventures, it’s a very different offering. For one thing, Geralt is out as the main character, replaced by warrior-queen Meve, ruler of the twin kingdoms of Lyria and Rivia.

Also gone are The Witcher franchise’s open world and combat mechanics, replaced by an isometric overworld and games of Gwent intended to replicate battles between opposing forces. Story-telling is much the same as fans of the series will have seen before, but the rest of Meve’s adventures are a significant departure.

Ahead of the its release next month, we spoke to Thronebreaker’s game director, Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz, about the new format, the inspiration behind the lead character, and the potential future of The Witcher Tales. If you want to know more, you can also check out our Thronebreaker preview, based on the first few hours of the main campaign.

PCGN: Why did you choose Meve as the main character?


Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz: When I was asked to work on the single player campaigns for Gwent, I was thinking who could actually be the character that would be the protagonist for our campaigns. I had a few different ideas but in terms of the Northern Realms characters it would have to be a leader, a charismatic leader. It had to be someone who operated in a setting that justifies using all the decks that you have in Gwent, and the second war with Nilfgaard is a perfect theatre for such story. It had to be a character that was interesting and that would be appealing to the fans.

Meve is a character remembered from the books and I obviously re-read the parts where she was present or mentioned. fortunately the way that Andrzej Sapkowski wrote these chapters was very general. He mentioned her being in different places but he didn’t say much about what she was doing there so it was a perfect opportunity to fill in the gaps and actually build the story around this character. Also the way she was described was very interesting because she was one of the few female monarchs in the North – she was a strong warrior, an influential woman that actually all the other monarchs respected which in the Witcher world is not very common. Usually it’s sorceresses that have such positions of power. So I just felt that was interesting and felt we could build on that. I think we kind of managed to achieve that, I hope people will like her as a character.

throne-900x507.jpg


PCGN: Is that why you didn’t choose more well-known characters like Henselt and Demavend?

MT: Yes, especially because these monarchs had – like I did consider [Witcher 1 and 2 character] Foltest for a while. First of all those characters were used already a lot in the previous games, secondly they had a lot of negative traits as well. One purpose was to show that the monarchs in the North are corrupt and so on and each of them has issues so to speak and Meve was this monarch that wasn’t much explored. When I was reading through the forums I saw people who read the books saying ‘I’m curious what happened with Meve’ so I thought ‘why not? I mean that might be a cool character to work on.’

PCGN: Are you confident that this is going to be a recognisable Witcher experience for the people who haven’t dived that deep into the wider lore?


MT: I believe so, first of all because of the recurring characters that we had, secondly because the way we write dialogue and the way we write the story hasn’t changed. It’s still the same way we were writing our stories from the previous games. I think the spirit of The Witcher universe is still within that game. From the people that we allowed to play the game so far we got that vibe that they also feel that this is another Witcher game and so on.

Obviously we also have more mechanics, but it’s still very story-related for choices and consequences. The theme of choices where no option is actually a good option but you have to make that choice is still there. With Meve it’s actually it’s even better and actually allows us to tell this in a different way. She as a monarch is forced to make such decisions on a daily basis while Geralt only got himself in a pickle from time to time.

CD Projekt Red PR representative: And obviously this is something that’s going to appeal to The Witcher audience but Thronebreaker is also a great starting point for potential new Witcher fans, how did you design the story?

MT: Well the story is written in a similar way to our previous games, so in a way that should allow you to get smoothly into this universe, and we explained the concepts again so if you didn’t play the previous games you have nothing to worry about. It’s not a direct continuation of The Witcher 3-

PCGN: It’s actually set before.


MT: Yeah exactly so you don’t have to worry about that either, it fills in the gaps, it tells you more about this universe. So, if you’re a player that loved The Witcher games you will learn new things about it, see new areas and so on. If you’re a new player then you’re not missing out on anything.

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PCGN: What inspired the move to those the previously unseen Northern Realms?


MT: One of the things, the limitations on building the story was that Meve actually visited those places in the books, so it was kind of a natural choice to pick those, but some of them we added on our own. But we believe that these are cool places for the players to see. As you know, Geralt had this title of Rivia right? And I personally as a player was always curious what Rivia looks like, since he had that title and the place was referenced multiple times within the books and the games. I always wanted to make Mahakam in one of our games because it’s just such a cool concept. It’s the land of dwarfs and dwarves are awesome in The Witcher so I always wanted to see it. Angren is I think is the most Witcher-y place we have from Thronebreaker because it’s this dark swamp, Velen-like with monsters and you know these Witcher themes. And Lyria is a good starting point for the story because this is one of the Twin Kingdom that Meve rules and is the best way to show what kind of character she is and what is her relationship with the other characters and with the world in general.

PCGN: How did you arrive at the start of the overworld and this isometric top down view?


MT: So at the beginning actually we started off with a much simpler idea than what you saw today. It was supposed to be around 10 hours of gameplay, it was supposed to be a much simpler adventure. At first I was thinking about a node based system. You might have played Puzzle Quest. The way that the exploration works there you have isometric as well and you just press nodes and the character moves between them and you have story nodes and you just unlock them.

However, once we started working on it we felt we could do more, and we actually made a full fledged exploration. Once we did this the discussions about the scale of the game started, about the proportion of the character to the assets, whether they should be realistic or not. If they were realistic then the maps won’t be too big because of stuff we have to do, if they are more symbolic then we can do bigger maps, but this didn’t sit well with everyone so we went for something in between.

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We went for isometric for multiple reasons, well first of all we were heavily inspired by games like Heroes of Might and Magic. Secondly, we wanted to show the game in a kind of different scale because again this time around you are not a single Witcher that is travelling the road that is in this world and just does quests. This time around you are leading an actual army so it had to be a bit more symbolic because we didn’t find a good way of showing an army travelling in a realistic scale. You’d probably have to do a full fledged RTS to do this.

PCGN: Gwent has gone from 10/15 hours to 30 hours, so beyond the presentation what else has changed and why did those changes come about?


MT: So, we have added many more features so for example now when you travel around the world you not only have the main storyline, dialogue and so on – you also have a lot of side activities. So you have side quests; you have puzzles which you can solve to gain additional resources and find items; you can find buried treasures which give you currency for in the game, but hey also give you unlocks for the multiplayer version of the game; you have locked objects where you have to find the key to open them. You have standard battles, you have letters and POIs you can find, shorter interactions where you can exchange goods or you have to get rid of an obstacle that is in your way.

We have also improved heavily upon the feature of the camp because this is something that we wanted from the beginning. We have added a lot of buildings to it in order for it to last through this whole campaign and give you this customisation, and options to build new units and different buildings that give you different things.

PR representative: And all that he’s mentioning now is all completely story-driven. Its a true RPG experience, what we expect of a Witcher game but a different perspective.

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PCGN: You mentioned puzzles, which are very different to traditional battles – where did they come from? What do you see as their parallel within the Witcher games to those puzzles?


MT: Well I would say these puzzles are used by us to show more abstract situations where we couldn’t actually do that with a standard Gwent battle. For example when you get a rock slide we couldn’t actually show this with a standard Gwent battle, because, well, who’s the leader for the rock slide? It doesn’t really work.

So more abstract concepts like these work for puzzles very well actually because you can show a rock slide by cards, by giving them specific abilities and giving you a special objective to survive the rockslide. I would say the best parallel is the cast of sequences we had in Witcher games which are not just regular fights but more like cutscenes and more like events that happen throughout the game. We can tell those kinds of stories through them.

Of course sometimes these puzzles also relate directly to battles like when you have a specific boss monster for example. Let’s say you’re fighting a manticore – the way we do that is basically like building her from different cards. You know, it’s like a big boss you have to beat and these different cards do different things; one of them is a paw and one is a wing and so on. If you did that in a standard battle we would have to do more of a stretch. The manticore would have to be a leader and have its own group of monsters with it, but that doesn’t really work because manticores are solitary creatures. So in this way, by making it a puzzle we actually make it work better in terms of immersion and how it makes sense in the world.

PCGN: The name has changed – Is the Witcher Tales thing an ongoing aim for more Witcher projects?


MT: Of course if people enjoy this project, if people enjoy Thronebreaker we will think of making more. This will be an idea but we will see how it is received, and we’d be thrilled to make more games in the Witcher universe. Of course if we do, those would feature different protagonists and different factions because this one is Northern Realms.
 

Mark Richard

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Meve bears a resemblance to Saskia from The Witcher 2, minus the scars.

I'm all about the single-player Gwent. Progression... collecting objectively better cards that would steamroll the starter pack, is a key component of Gwent's addictiveness. The pricing is brutal though.
 

J_C

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This is fun-fucking-tastic! I always loved the digital card game concept, but always found it a grindy experience when it is done in multiplayer. So making a single player tactics-card game hybrid is a big A+ in my book.
 

MicoSelva

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Not sure if I understand complaints about the pricing. Yeah, it is a worse deal than $50 for 150 hours of The Witcher 3 (but almost every game is a worse deal than that), however still leagues better than $15 for a Hearthstone adventure with 3 hours of content.
 

fantadomat

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It looks interesting but i dislike the protagonist,doubt that i will endup playing it. Shame really,there could be pretty good game in there.
 

Mark Richard

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Reviews are coming in.

https://www.pcgamer.com/uk/thronebreaker-the-witcher-tales-review/ - 81
https://www.pcgamesn.com/thronebreaker-the-witcher-tales/thronebreaker-review - 7/10
https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/thronebreaker-the-witcher-tales-review-queen-of-ca/1900-6417014/ - 9/10

The general consensus so far is that the writing is on par with the the rest of the Witcher series, but the card game itself doesn't encourage much experimentation (at least on the normal difficulties), failing to provide reasons for players to shake up their decks. PC Gamer used the word 'easy' a couple of times. While that doesn't exactly inspire confidence, The Witcher 3 was awful on normal mode. Only the higher levels gave the intended experience.

Do not reply by quoting 'The Witcher 3 was awful' and removing the rest of the post. I know you were thinking about it.
 

Infinitron

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https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2018/10/18/thronebreaker-the-witcher-tales-review/

Wot I Think - Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales

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Thronebreaker has been taking me for a ride. Fighting monsters and blackclad horsemen in this card-game-sorta-RPG is a bit like being on a bumpy mine cart. You’re going up and down and swiping lots of gold along the way, the ride is smooth then boring then exciting then dull. Sometimes it could use a diesel engine. Or something more environmentally friendly? I don’t know, this metaphor is breaking down. There’s been a cave in, the mine’s closed, everyone go home. What I’m trying to say is: Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales has a few problems with pacing and a dry story in places, but otherwise it’s a decent singleplayer spin-off of Gwent and the cards are worth a shuffle.

It’s about a queen called Meve. But let’s put her highness and her retinue of misfits to one side for now, and talk about what you’ll really be doing most of the time. Surprise! It’s Gwent.



If you aren’t familiar with Gwent, it’s a two-player game in which you basically need to get a higher number than your opponent. You each get a deck of numbered cards and, oh look, this angry pikeman has 5 power. That’s good, save him for now. Let’s say your foe goes first and – ah, he put down an elf with a dagger, that’s 9 power.

Luckily, cards have special abilities. That pikeman? He can summon all other pikemen in your deck. Throw him down and they all spill onto the field like eager cockroaches. Now you have 20 power in total, and your opponent (a disgusting loser with only 9 points) has to catch up. Games go on like this, one card at a time, with different tricksy moves. The victor is whoever wins two of three rounds.



There’s a lot more to it than that, but I’ll let you read our Gwent impressions for more about the basic rules. It’s a good game, as solid as paving slabs, and it’s the beginner-friendly bluff ‘em up that I recommend to anyone looking to get into collectible card games.

The biggest difference in Thronebreaker is that card battles aren’t fought against stinky, fleshy humans, but the computer-controlled antagonists of a (surprisingly lengthy) story. Nilfgaardian generals, elven guerillas, grumpy mages. The kind of folk who inhabit the world of the Witcher. That you’re battling a computer kinda removes the joy from bluffing and misdirection, a big part of Gwent’s appeal. It reduces fights to clashes of logic, arithmetic, and a simple matter of who’s got the better cards.



It’s still interesting, but there’s a reason most of the encounters here are “shortened battles” that only last one round. Why there are only two lanes, instead of three. Why the landscape is peppered with puzzles (matches with special rules and limited cards). The AI isn’t up to outsmarting a human player in a three-round match (at least on normal mode it isn’t). So the challenge lies only in using the right stabby assassin at the right time, or in building a deck full of snarling bandits that can take all comers.


But this card game also finds itself shunted into an isometric adventure game of sorts. When you aren’t throwing crossbowmen and cavalry onto a muddy grid, you’re walking about with happy clicks, exploring a rustic world full of hamlets and farms and fields and windmills and – oh no, they’re all on fire.



Queen Meve is in trouble. She’s returning from a summit of leaders and there are rebels pestering the locals. There’s a war coming too, from the imperial forces of Nilfgaard. And plenty of monsters along the roads as well. You’ve got a large map to explore, and fights to start (mostly by wandering up to baddies and right-clicking on them). As a result the story is very slow to get going. It took six hours until I really felt invested in Meve’s struggles, even though the plot twist that brought this on was not exactly a surprise.



It also marks a turning point in the cardy battles. Up until this moment new cards come to Meve in a drip-feed fashion. I found her starting deck uninspiring, a clattering column of vanilla troops and damage-dealing crossbow dudes. As a player of multiplayer Gwent, I’m maybe more impatient than most, being used to more choices and freedom when deck-building. It’s only after the first twist in the tale that whole new decks become possible, and the camp you’ve been travelling with is allowed to upgrade in any meaningful or interesting way, unlocking new warriors and scrappers.



But I understand that not everyone is in it for the cards. To those seeking Witcher-like storytelling, you sort of get it. It’s not quite an RPG. And if it is, it’s a very limited one. The world is beautifully drawn, and I’m glad the animators of Gwent got a chance to show off their talent outside the borders of a card. I’m going to use the word “sumptuous” now and smack my lips several times.

Mmmm. Sumptuous.



That said, it’s not as freeing a landscape as it looks. You get to plod around this world, and pick up bits of wood or gold (used to forge copies of cards). You get to listen to farmers moan and dwarves giving you insurance advice. But the map is always more or less a straight line, all winding paths eventually looping back to the main thread. You don’t really explore the countryside of Lyria or Aedirn or [redacted], you take a tour bus through it, stepping off to check every quaint side road for pennies and puzzles. Many puzzles irritated me, too focused on fiddling with numbers, but some of them are great, such as one that makes a puzzle out of a drinking competition, or one that grimly asks you to get rid of all the corpses on a field.



At certain times, dialogue boxes pop up and you get choices to make. But often this choice boils down to “fight” or “don’t fight”. And when you’re rewarded with card-making currency for fighting, it makes little sense to say no. I’ve seen headlines spinning Thronebreaker as an RPG in its own right, and I could even understand if it was compared to a visual novel at times. But really, it’s a card game with walky bits. And that’s perfectly fine. Because it’s a good card game, with good-looking walky bits. Just don’t go in expecting The Witcher 3.5.



As for the quest itself, well. The storytelling doesn’t so much ebb and flow, more “faff and flood”. It’s a story being told by an external narrator, held up in a tavern with some guards. That framing device disrupts Meve’s character, I found. You are too often told about Meve’s fierceness, bravery and ingenuity, but rarely shown it. When the game does let you display some royal verve (mostly through dialogue choices) it’s fairly rote stuff. Kill a man or spare his life. Kill some elves or spare their lives. Kill a monster or spare its life. Hmm, yes, this is definitely a videogame.



Only later do your choices start to become more complex, tinged with regret and consequence, and the roster of characters grows to a point where you can try to forget about Meve herself, because although this is her tale, she is one of the least interesting sword-swingers of the bunch. Your squad of hippy sorceresses, scarred siege engineers, and racist bodyguards is far more interesting, each character bringing with them a powerful card to be used in battle. And it’s possible to lose some characters (and their cards) because of choices that you make along the way. But new ones are just as soon introduced, so you don’t have to slum it with her highness.



It’s probably the way queen Meve talks that puts me off. It’s very “prithee speak gentle squire”. Rather than give her majesty or nobility, I just find the affectation distracting. Meve and other characters also have a habit of speaking in the order of object-subject-verb. “Our land they’ve attacked,” says Reynard. “Speak with him, I shall,” says Meve. It’s just a bit odd. They’re aristocrats, not Yoda. She speaks fine much of the time, and then one of these “fnyar fnyar” lines will slip through. It’s not a huge deal, just a bit inconsistent. You’re a no-nonsense warrior queen, Meve. Why lappeth the words about thy teeth so? It doesn’t fit her character, and it’s not even how people spoke back in those days. You know, those days, with the swamp hags.



I’m nit-picking, of course. I picketh of the nits. When a single character’s dialogue is the most annoying thing about a card game, the creators probably deserve some credit. Lord knows the voice acting is at least as good as it is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and so is the writing. By that I mean the writing is a passable exploration of fantasy tropes and power politics that’ll probably become hugely overrated.

BAM. Hit you with my lukewarm take there. The Witcher 3’s writing is just OK.



Anyway, I have to wrap up this review, before the Bloody Baron squad comes for me. It’s important to say that I still haven’t finished this tale of motherly love and elf racism. After 20 hours of troll-bashing and soldier-slaying, I still haven’t revealed the final lands to which Meve and the gang will travel. But I’m enjoying it enough to crack on, to ignore the limited nature of the maps, and even the cards that don’t work as described (I’ve had two cards so far that are bugged and just do nothing but whatever I’m over it).

Right now, I have a deck that’s a bit cheesy, full of traps and firebombs that slowly bleed any enemy to death as they fight. But part of me is hoping for another twist that’ll throw even more cards into my hands, snatch my beloved deck away from me, and force me to experiment a little. At the risk of opening a vein I should have closed, I’m waiting for the mine cart to get de-railed and send me over the next gorgeous cliff.

Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales is out on October 23rd on GOG.
 
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https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/...w-a-card-game-with-the-heart-of-a-blockbuster

Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales review - a card game with the heart of a blockbuster
Geralt who?

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Thronebreaker proves card games can tell a story every bit as punchy and provocative as the blockbusters it takes inspiration from.

I had concerns about Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales. What worried me most was the story. It's the most important thing; the premise the game is sold on, and a chance to return to the world of The Witcher. How could Thronebreaker possibly follow on from the outstanding The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt? When I first played, I wasn't sure it could. The queen whose royal sabatons I was filling left me cold. I couldn't relate to her stuffy world of advisors and generals, and I didn't like them. Her mission to reclaim gold stolen by bandits? Hardly mutant monster-hunter Geralt pursuing the near-mythical Wild Hunt, is it? But Thronebreaker gets better. It gets so much better.

It takes a wonderful turn, and in doing so makes the sedate opening act look more an ingenious set-up. Think of it as a prologue: make the necessary introductions to world, characters, and game, then, when you're knee-deep and invested, flip it. Everything goes out the window. All the regal pomp flies away and the real story underneath is uncovered, and in blows a gale of charisma. Thronebreaker gets personal. I've been gripped ever since.

Now I know what you're thinking: 'You said card game,' and I get it. The Witcher 3 was a cinematic action role-playing game and you ran around slicing monsters of all kinds into pieces and it was all glorious to behold. But a card game - what?

Don't be so hasty.

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It's a simply pretty game, with strong, clean lines. What you don't see are boats bobbing up and down upon the water, butterflies fluttering around trees, and the blurred shapes of clouds drifting by. You also don't hear the lapping of water, the creak of wooden villages and chatter of the people and animals within them.

Thronebreaker doesn't look the same, obviously. You look down on a dinky world map from way above and order Queen Meve around, who represents herself and her army, and when you bump into situations, writing appears describing them, with a picture. Sometimes there are animated dialogue sequences where characters stand either side of a text box, talking but barely moving, and sometimes there are comic-pane-style sequences, but mostly it's writing. This doesn't dull the impact.

It's because the writing is confident, witty, and imaginative, and accompanied by a rousing library of sounds. When a 30-foot golem comes crashing through the forest towards you, you hear it; when a town is ablaze and inhabitants roasted, you hear it; when armies hurl themselves against the walls of a city, you hear it. And you hear every word written, either narrated by the Storyteller or voiced superbly by whichever character is being quoted.

Thronebreaker made me think more than once of Game of Thrones, actually. I know The Witcher 3 used British accents, northern English accents particularly, but in Thronebreaker, you're a monarch, which means people call you "Y'Grace" a lot. You're also on a mission across a gritty world to strengthen your faction because you're at war with others, which in turn gives rise to all kinds of politicking and backstabbing. Sounds familiar doesn't it?

Regardless, what I mean to say is Thronebreaker can evoke a scene as powerfully as The Witcher 3 by sparking your imagination in the right ways. A leading image here, a noise there, and hey presto a battle springs to life in your mind's eye. It's a freeing technique. In some ways Thronebreaker can show you bigger and grander things because it isn't limited by the expense of painstaking art, animation and motion capture. It just can't do it in as explicit detail, which isn't to say there's nothing to look at. The lands you roam through, from hazy, lazy river villages to burning, dismal forests, and to mountainous blizzardy peaks, are delightful. They react to you moving through them, debris spilling on the road after battles, or little candles flickering to life at wayshrines, or flocks of birds flapping by just too close for your vision to focus on them.

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Thronebreaker takes you to places you haven't seen in Witcher games before, too. Here, for instance, you glimpse Mahakam, home of the dwarves.

Cute it may look, but it's tone is far from it. At one point, for example, I came across a big tree which, at a distance, appeared to be moving slightly and was letting off an odd smell. On closer inspection I realised why. Humans, captured by elves, had been strung up and left for the tree's corrosive sap to burn them, which wouldn't kill them but would open wounds that would fester. Then the insects would come, and come they had, in their swarms. Some people could still speak, others were staring husks being eaten alive. It was disgusting; it was brilliant. You wouldn't find Legolas doing that in The Lord of the Rings.

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The gruesome tree in question, and one of the descriptions of it. Again, not pictured are all the grizzly sounds accompanying the scene.

As Queen Meve you must also decide, frequently, whether to execute captives - to hang them where you stand. Remember when Geralt rescued that lady from being hanged by the roadside in that famous Witcher 3 cinematic? This time you're the one ordering the hanging. It's grim, but it's the lot of a ruler - the buck stops with you. It's not as simple as wandering the land as a nomad, fighting evil as you see fit. Behind you stands an army scrutinising your every decision. Go against them at your peril. There's no such thing as an easy choice in Thronebreaker, and the consequences can be far-reaching. Liberate a captured town for the enemy's gold stored there, for example, and you may effectively sign their death warrant, because as soon as you leave, swift and bloody revenge will come in your place. Everything Queen Meve does has many more strings attached.

But it's not all doom and gloom. Thronebreaker can be funny, too - silly even. Coarse characters blurt out all kinds of inappropriate things. Queen Meve asked a villager for directions, which he duly gave, adding, "then ride on straight as piss". Then he remembered who he was talking to and quickly corrected himself: "um, an arrow". It's a sense of humour which seeps into everything. I've got a dog called Knickers, for goodness sake!

What's even more ingenious about being a warrior queen is how well it fits Thronebreaker being a card game - or how well a card game fits telling this story, more to the point. It makes total sense laying cards as if you were a commander ordering troops into a battle. You can even get stuck in yourself via your leader ability.

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Puzzles encounters are brilliant. You are given a specific hand to overcome a specific objective, and it can get pretty weird.

It's easy to get to grips with, the card game. Any quibbles I had about difficulty before are not here now. Thronebreaker is spot-on in the speed it introduces Gwent, the card game underpinning it, and there are three difficulties to cover all bases. You don't really need to touch your pre-built deck if you don't want to, you can just add new cards here and there. But if you want to meddle, the sky's the limit, and when you eventually upgrade your camp to raise your army's power-cap, you can really pack some punch.

Amazingly, using cards to settle almost every encounter doesn't get boring. Some of this is because Gwent is great, but it's more to do with Thronebreaker painstakingly tailoring the majority of encounters to be one-round (rather than three) affairs with special rules. A siege might have a puzzle based around breaking palisades, for example, whereas a manticore boss might be spread across several cards, each one representing a different body part with different abilities. They're all thematically in keeping, and they're all pacey, fresh, and imaginative.

Puzzles are the best of these, and often fiendishly hard, but they're optional so you needn't bother (although you should). Puzzles disregard your deck and give you a specific hand to overcome a specific challenge. It could be using a handful of crossbow-type soldiers to clear an entire screen of monsters, for instance - but monsters which blow up damaging adjacent monsters, and crossbow-type soldiers whose damage depends on how many other units are on their row. So the puzzle becomes how to place your crossbowers and where to trigger a chain reaction of exploding enemies first. You know you have the right cards, you just have to work out how to play them. What's so clever about this is Thronebreaker surreptitiously teaches you advanced Gwent. It introduces new cards and has you find the complex synergies between them.

Those initial concerns I had about Thronebreaker have vanished. Thronebreaker has proven a card game can be gripping, entertaining and powerful in a way I hadn't realised was possible. It's CD Projekt Red going above and beyond again - pushing things to another level with lavish care, attention and talent. Thronebreaker isn't a blockbuster, but it has the heart of one. I am smitten.
 

fantadomat

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I couldn't read trough all that communist vomit,the fact that this cuck liked it,means i will not,i am going for the bucket now!
 
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Rahdulan

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I think my grievance is they really should've turned it into a tactical RPG if they were already divorcing the game from Gwent. Fact you're still doing battles through a card game for no reason just comes off as weird now. Doubly so with how they overhauled the game board so you have visible leader models. Could've taken it one step and applied it to all the card units.
 

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