Score: 8/10 | RPG | CARD GAME | FANTASY
“Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales is a fantastic RPG and card game set in the Witcher world with classic Witcher storytelling being its greatest strength. The compelling main story quest and plentiful side quests and puzzles are backed up by outstanding voice acting and decisions that affect the world around you.”
Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales is a single-player RPG and card game set in the Witcher universe, developed and published by CD Projekt Red. The game was released on October 23, 2018 for PC via GOG.com. Initially an exclusive to this platform, I am usually hesitant to buy anything that isn’t on Steam (Gaben has got me well and truly hooked!). However, given this was a Witcher game, I just had to have it. Though I found out yesterday that the game can now be bought through Steam which was a little disappointing to hear given it was advertised as exclusive to GOG, however that doesn’t detract from how good the game is.
The main character Meve is a war-veteran queen of the lands of Lyria and Rivia. Rivia is familiar to Witcher fans via Geralt of Rivia. Set in the year 1267, tensions between the power-hungry Nilfgaardian Empire and proud Northern Realms grow. Although stern and formidable at times, she is respected and loved by her people. You get this sense through interactions not only with her closest allies, but the townsfolk of Lyria, who look to Meve for guidance and leadership. The voice acting is brilliant, perfectly setting the tone and conveying the emotion of each key scene, whether it be rallying the troops pre-battle, or emotive at the tough decisions Meve must face.
I was thankful to have a tutorial which introduces you to the main story as well as the RPG elements of the game, searching for loot, letters and sometimes treasure maps, and fighting battles utilising the Gwent card game from the Witcher series. Key story conversations, and private conversations with each main character as you meet them, gives dialogue choices like the main Witcher games. When conversing with townsfolk or the enemy, your dialogue choices have a direct affect on the story and those that choose to follow you or fight you.
As you progress through the game, your choices will either earn you allies and their corresponding Gwent cards, or turn them against you as an enemy, removing their card from your deck. In some instance, and often as quest rewards, you can unlock cards for the actual separate multiplayer Gwent: The Witcher Card Game, which comes free with the purchase of Thronebreaker. Along with cards, you can also unlock additional multiplayer avatars, borders, and titles.
You traverse the lands on an overworld map in an isometric view. Holding down the left mouse button will move your character and right click interacts with objects when you’re close enough. Spread across the lands will be wood piles, tree logs and other stashes to loot gold and wood, puzzle challenges, fast travel sign posts, message boards that will unlock loot locations, side quests and the main quest. Some puzzles and side quests are off to the main path and therefore optional, however others block the road. Its worth completing as many puzzles and side quests as you can as they reap good rewards of card fragments and treasure maps.
These puzzles can be quite challenging, and many of them have a restricted number and type of cards to suit the enemy and situation. They start off relatively simple, giving you an opportunity to learn how best to use your card decks in as many situations as possible. It was a bit of a steep learning curve for me as I’m not the biggest fan of these hearthstone-style card games, however this was offset by the balance of RPG and story elements.
Each standard game is played over three rounds, and you must win 2 of the 3 rounds to win. Early on I lost a lot of battles, mainly due to not understanding the effect of all my cards and it took time learning the enemy’s cards. You really do need to plan a few moves ahead, but even then, that could all be thwarted when the enemy drops a card you didn’t expect. You can reload the battle as many times as required but you can’t change cards in your deck. You need to reload the previous save if your current deck is just not working for you. I never had to do this thankfully, though some battles took me up to 10 times to finally get the right cards dropped at the right times to counter the enemy’s moves.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I had to look up youtube videos on some of the harder puzzle battles as they only last 1 round and most utilise a specific set of cards with limited number of moves to utilise them perfectly. Some of these battles were frustrating to figure out, but once you nailed it you got a sense of achievement for mastering that deck of cards. Deck building plays a big part in the standard side quests and main story quests. Thankfully this set up was much simpler to understand than the likes of Hearthstone, at least for me anyway.
As you travel through the lands of Lyria, Aedirn (about 6 hours each), the game loop started to get a little boring for me partway through the dwarven lands of Mahakam. As you explore each map and find more gold and wood, these resources enable you to upgrade your camp and craft more cards for your deck. There is a training ground where you can practice your card battles, and a mess hall where you can have personal dialogue with the heroes you’ve met along the way which gives some great backstories.
There is triumph, there is deceipt, there is love, there is betrayal and there is humour. The story telling and dialogue from this game could be ripped out and penned Witcher 3.5, it’s that good. Even though I was playing an isometric RPG and a card game, it did feel like I was playing in one of the main Witcher games completing side quests (there’s 75 in total if you find them all), trying to recruit soldiers and cities to my cause, slaying evil monsters, finding treasure maps, using fast travel sign posts, right down to the overhead map looking similar to that in Witcher 3. Indeed I was getting a little tired of the card gameplay loop towards the end, however CD Projekt Red have done a great job in capturing that gritty Witcher feeling in Thronebreaker.
Overall, I gave this game a 8/10. Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales is a fantastic RPG and card game set in the Witcher world with classic Witcher storytelling being its greatest strength. The compelling main story quest and plentiful side quests and puzzles are backed up by outstanding voice acting and decisions that affect the world around you. The Gwent card game is at the core of the gameplay, and I did struggle a few times with some puzzle challenges. In general, the card battles got a little repetitive and monotonous after reaching the third land, however the sense of achievement at finally nailing a difficult puzzle quest and completing the main story quests kept driving me forward.
This review utilised the GOG.com version of the game with 20 hours of gameplay. Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales is available now on GOG.com and Steam and is coming soon to Xbox and Playstation.