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Gwent closed beta first impressions (XboxOne)

How about a round of cards? Gwent specifically. I was recently lucky enough to receive a key for the closed beta of Gwent: The Witcher Card Game. As a massive fan of the addicting and fun mini game from the Witcher 3 I eagerly dived into the fray. What follows is my initial first impressions.

Gwent closed beta first impressions (XboxOne)

Introduction

Gwent: The Witcher Card game is currently in a closed beta, those lucky enough to receive a key for the beta are in for a treat, in short, the game is incredibly fun and satisfying to play. Anyone who’s played the Witcher 3 will likely be familiar with the game, which sees Geralt challenging every innkeeper (as well as various other NPC’s) from Toussaint to Skellige in a game of cards. The Witcher 3 is, of course, an incredible game but many players including myself found great joy in travelling the land in search of new cards and NPC’s to challenge. So popular was the mini game that even a limited amount of physical versions of the cards were released. Gwent: The Witcher Card Game takes away the frustrations and annoyances of having to save villagers from monsters or finding Ciri so that players can concentrate on what really matters… constantly engaging in the thoroughly entertaining game of wits and tactics that are Gwent.

Gameplay

Despite being a beta there is an incredible amount of content on offer here. The main mode, of course, is the casual match where players get to engage in a friendly game of Gwent with players both on Xbox One and PC. At rank 10 you can enter ranked matches and gain access to the leaderboards. Aside from this, there is also a practice mode against AI, a tutorial, deck builder and collection screen as well as a fully functional shop and a number of settings that can be tweaked. Casual matches pit two players against each other in the first to win two rounds and in some cases a rare draw. Matchmaking is incredibly fast and by incredibly fast I mean I’m finding matches in less than 10 seconds 95% of the time. Loading screens are also incredibly quick. No two matches ever feel the same and time simply flies match up after match up. A fun feature is that at the end of a game players can rate the match by choosing to send a good game to the other player. Doing so gifts that player additional in-game currency. Apart from this, there is no way to interact with other players, an emote system such as that found in Hearthstone is an addition to the game I would like to see in the future.  

At the moment there are currently 5 factions that players can choose to play and build decks as Monsters, Nilfgaard, Northern Realms, Scoia’Tael and Skellige. Each faction has its own unique cards to use as well as a number of neutral cards that can be used in any deck. There is plenty of variety here and figuring out the various tactics of each deck is incredibly fun. The Monsters deck, for example, has a number of cards that are immune to weather or even gain perks from them, while the Nilfgaard deck has a number of cards which only gain true strength when used in tandem with other cards. After a number of hours with the game, it seems like the game is incredibly balanced when you lose it’s because of a mistake you made or a superior play by your opponent. Simply having superior cards does not guarantee victory. Perhaps one of my favourite ideas is that each card is ranked either bronze, silver or gold. Only a certain amount of gold and silver cards can be used in a deck meaning that even a player with every single card in the game does not have an advantage over other players. For example, when I first booted up the game I was able to win plenty of matches simply using the starter decks.  

It’s worthy of note that the beta does include micro-transactions. However, this is CD Projekt RED we are talking about and so the microtransactions are not intrusive. Essentially with real world money players can buy card kegs which when opened give players 5 cards. However, card kegs can be earned by levelling up or can be bought with the in-game currency ore which is earned daily by winning rounds or again levelling up. In addition to this, any card can also be brought individually with scraps earned in the same way as ore, in addition to this, however, unwanted cards or duplicates can be milled for additional scraps. Buying card kegs will speed up the rate in which you collect additional cards but is not necessary purchasing as it does very little to upset the balance of the game and progression without buying additional kegs feels fair.

Gwent closed beta first impressions (XboxOne) - The overall UI and look of the cards is great.

Graphics and audio

Graphics wise the game is what you would come to expect from a card game currently in beta. Essentially it’s not ugly but nor does it particularly stand out. The UI is perfectly fine but what really matters is the cards themselves, which feature some great design and artwork whilst also displaying all important and relevant information. Some cards at the moment do feature the same design as they had in the Witcher 3 but this is a minor complaint in what is otherwise a great set of interesting cards to look at and read.  Personally, in matches and in the collection and deck building screens the detail in the cards can be missed as they just seem a tad too small and you can easily miss the difference between the different tiers of cards. When zoomed in on the cards look truly fantastic. Again a minor complaint but the board used during matches seems a little over complicated and cluttered, I feel more can be done to improve the overall look of the board and the cards presentation and in the future, it would be great to see more interesting and varied boards such as those found in Hearthstone.

Again audio wise the beta is perfectly fine. Featuring serviceable music and sound effects as well as voice acting for when certain cards are played. Again like the overall look of the game, it feels like things can be tuned and perfected here for an overall better experience. As it stands the audio and visuals just seem to dampen the overall level of immersion. A way to remedy this, however, can be found in the options menu where players can swap out the painfully average music of the beta for the for more lively and fun Witcher 3 Gwent music.

Gwent closed beta first impressions (XboxOne) - An intense opening round.

Conclusion

Overall the game is shaping up incredibly well. If you haven’t already head over to the official website for your chance to gain access to the beta. Any fan of the card game from the Witcher 3 or games such as Hearthstone should not be missing out on what already is an addictive and fun game which can only improve and get better in the months ahead.  

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