'Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales' Review

Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales is a spin-off game within The Witcher universe that is heavily driven by an intense narrative while also offering up a familiar style for those that love pen-and-paper adventures. This unique card came is a single-player tale spun from GWENT that offers challenging puzzles, breathtaking characters, and a fight for the player's life.

Make no mistake, this companion tale to GWENT stands very well on its own and the team over at CD Projekt RED has done an incredible job and providing a full-fledged RPG experience once more, though in a very different format that those have come to know through Geralt's journey. If the fact that this is a card game puts you off, abandon that idea right now because Thronebreaker goes above and beyond the genre and executed an immersive narrative flawlessly.

As a huge fan of a wide range of RPG experiences from D&D, to Dragon Age Inquisition, I went into Thronebreaker having abandoned all expectation. I enjoy card-based games and play them often, but if one were to ask me if that was the avenue I'd want for a Witcher tale, then the answer would have been a hard no. At least until I played it and now all I want to do is jump right back in.

Who Is Meve?

The tale begins with Meve, a ferocious war-veteran queen of both Lyria and Rivia. Throughout the game's journey she is faced with impossible odds against a coming Nilfgaardian invasion. Consumed with vengeance, the path that lies ahead for Meve is paved with chaos, death, and the consequences of choice.

What makes this game so incredible is no matter how many hours you've tanked in The Witcher series, there is always so much more to explore and that's exactly what Thronebreaker offers. This game is for the lore lover, for those that love to lose themselves entirely in a dramatic adventure.

The Journey Begins

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The game itself lasts roughly 30 hours, give or take, and really relies upon the player building up their party. For those worried about a potential grind, don't be. The characters all are so unique and so very "them" that building those relationships and advancing through the story is a genuine treat. Beginning with only Commander Reynard at your side, the path to retribution begins on a very "in it for the long haul" note.

For those that are like me and love the torturous pain that BioWare has put us through in the past, CD Projekt RED offers much of the same. Thronebreaker is filled with devastating choices and losses that will be felt hours after having put the game down. Those Meve trusts the most will offer wildly varying advice to the player, making it difficult to choose a path and not feel "did I do something wrong?" And trust me ... you will do something wrong. Every decision matters and some of them will come back to bite you in the ass in a MASSIVE way. So good luck!

Being a fantasy game, players will encounter many predictable dilemmas: nobles fighting, bandits, rising crime, desperation, and so much more. Thronebreaker makes these issues personal and if even if you're the (evil) type to skip right through the cutscenes, their tales will resonate with you on a deeper level than you'd expect. What also helps with this is that the game's pacing is incredibly fluid in no small part to the game's narrator: The Storyteller. The progression feels so natural that I think many will be surprised by how much they won't want to put this title down.

Mechanics

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The game itself is turn-based broken down into two rows, which makes Ranged vs Melee a bit easier to manage card-wise. This game doesn't rely on minions, instead requires a "big picture" mentality that requires the player to be attentive to their direction on a long-term scale. What that means is that this isn't a card-by-card game, though there are individual cards. Thronebreaker is less about a reactionary game style and instead relying on strategy and sticking to the original plan in battle.

Matches are best-of-three built in a way where if the right cards are played right in the first round, a win is certain. Whether you're going up against human foes or something a bit more monstrous, the way battle is set up is much more satisfying because it really is more realistic feeling. Whereas games like Hearthstone are enjoyable, it's very card-by-card in its base experience. Thronebreaker is about the story first, the cards second, which is an interesting take for a card game.

On an aesthetic note, the cards - much like the entire game - are stunning beautiful. I mean it with everything I have when I say that this game is a work of art.

Overall

Overall, CD Projekt RED nailed this. I know many are skeptical because it's not The Witcher 4 but trust me - if you love this universe even a teensy bit, Thronebreaker is for you. This game just set a really high standard for card-based games and the overall design both visually and mechanically will satiate that RPG craving for every type of player.

If you like RPGs, if you want to feel your soul ripped out of your body and ice left in its place but somehow you still want more, then get Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales. Trust me, you won't regret it.

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The adventure begins on October 23, 2018 for PC players on GOG.com, with an Xbox One and PlayStation 4 version coming later this year on December 4th.

WWG Score: 5 of 5.