The game: Troneser: Stories about the witch story
Genre: Card game, RPG, strategy system: PC/Team (also available on Switch, PS4, Xbox One, iOS)
Developer : Price of the CD Projekt Red
: USD 19.99 | UK £ 16.99 | EU € 19.99 Age Rating
: US Teen | UK 12+
Release date: 28 January 2020

Test code not used; purchase of the game.

It’s not every day that a minigame, especially a card game, gets its own title. Not to mention an entire 30-hour process with intrigues, party members, dialogue choices and laying the groundwork. Yes, the creators of the popular role-playing game The Witcher 3 took the trouble to make Gwent their own game for $19.99. And is she worth it? Really, I am.

A game for fans who don’t run?

If you’ve never played witch games before, but generally as card and puzzle games, you might enjoy Thronebreaker. It’s a bit of a niche taste, but the story is so well done and requires no knowledge of the Witcher series. You won’t like it unless you hate violent and gritty war stories where there is no happy ending for many people and the scenery doesn’t shine like Candy Crush.

Are you afraid the game is too difficult? There are three levels of difficulty. In its simplest form, you can completely miss out on battles and puzzles for which you have no patience. Yeah, you can even skip the battles on the ground floor to get the action going. What’s more, you don’t have to reorganise your terrace too much if you have a small setback. All I had to do was fix the bridge before the final battle. So I’m not sure if it fits the term bridge builder – it’s great if you just want the occasional experience, but maybe not if you’re a Gwent fan.

On an easy difficulty level, I also finished the game with a surplus of resources. Search between the map battles and the puzzles to three sources along the way: Coins, wood and recruits. They are used to solve extra quests, build a camp and buy new maps. By modernising your warehouse, which is your moving base, you can buy new tickets.

So Thronebreaker is a mix of card battles, puzzles, a bit of resource management and a whole series of stories.

The artistic style of the comics used for the cut scenes and for the whole world is a feast for the eyes. Unfortunately most landscapes are dark and gloomy, because the story of Queen Mav is set in a war-torn country. The art of cards, on the other hand, is always a delight for the public and the animation of the special cards is impressive.

I liked the witch-like soundtrack that accompanied this witch world, although you might need to add one or two tracks for more variety.

The most fearless of all

Fans of the Witches are lucky they’re not here in Geralt or Rivia’s boots. Geralt makes a short appearance and you can use him in a fight. But that’s it.

But you don’t miss anything, because Queen Miwa is a worthy and satisfying protagonist of the game. If Geralt was brave and deadly with his knife, then Miwe is just as brave – though deeply compassionate, if you will – and just as impressive in her bravery and charisma. The Queen of Lyria and Rivia is no small thing. She’s actually quite insistent. This comes in handy when you’re a throne breaker against a massive invading army, the Nilfgaard Empire.

It’s not just any conspiracy. CD Projekt Red spent a lot of time recording – dialogs, extra searches and creating interesting characters. You can see that the witch formula is used with care: A, but B. Each corner of the game has an extensive plot, up to the brief description of the one-way mission.

And as far as the general plot is concerned, this is a rare case: The main plot is actually more interesting than the subplots. With each chapter you can expect a pleasant surprise. I would have liked the cuts in the epilogue to have been a bit longer, because the end was a bit abrupt.

There is an enormous amount of narrative text. It’s almost a visual novel. The dialogue and the story can progress quickly, but I often listen to the story in audio book form with great pleasure. The voting’s pretty good.

The characters are also remarkable. So as not to make waves, I won’t talk about their personalities here. But you should know that you can skip some characters if you don’t choose the right dialog options. What’s more, characters can leave your party if they disagree with your decisions. Or you can throw them away at certain points in history. Do that, and their card disappears from your deck.

Card game or role-playing game?

Wait, is this a card game or a role-playing game? You’re just asking. This is a card game with RPG elements. You go through six cards (the sixth is a short epilogue), collect resources along the way and take part in card fights or solve card puzzles. We’ll come back to that later.

The inspiration for the role play is most expressed in the members of the recruited parties (there are several) and in the choices of the story. The choice of plot is what makes The Guardian of the Throne (and The Witch) remarkable: It is often a difficult moral choice, sometimes between two atrocities. You’ve decided to choose one evil over another, the game says ominously, putting salt in the wound, while I make some unfortunate decisions.

But the interesting thing is that you can’t change those decisions and you just have to live with your mistakes. Moreover, it is these incidental errors of judgement that give an extra dimension to Queen Miva, who would otherwise be impeccable. In any case, the letter supports your decisions well and points out the unpleasant consequences.

A nice piece of character development in Thronebreaker is the Mess Hall. This is a tent in your base camp where you can talk to the group members. On the way there are new conversations, but unfortunately not as many as I would have liked, because they are well written. The conversation with a certain gnome was very funny.

So, to the elements of the map. It took me a while to get there, because what really makes Thronebreaker (and the Witcher) a star is that, in addition to decent gameplay, it is animated by meaningful and often tragic stories that can help shape the player.

Not someone you know.

Most of the playing time is still spent on card fights and puzzles. But it’s not quite the Gwent you might be used to.

Witch 3 was easy enough: Before you compete in a G-game, you can decide which of the five bridges you want to play with to accommodate different races or factions. You tried to win the best of three rounds against your opponent. The winner was determined by the cards with the highest total score. Every turn you played a card. These were usually numbered cards (parts of your army). For example, some cards had special skills. B. Weather maps that may affect a number of units. The cards were placed either for close combat or in line for a siege. Instead of playing cards, you can also pass and save the cards for the next round.

However, the battle in Thronebreaker is more difficult because the maps themselves are more complex and varied. It took me a while to get used to these new, unknown cards.

Your bridge in Thronebreaker consists almost entirely of people, although I won’t say which factions they are, because that’s directly related to history. They also have maps that are not people, but war machines, traps, magical trinkets and banners. Of course they have special skills.

You no longer choose between the traditional Gwent faction games, but simply modify your fake game by adding or removing cards. Another fundamental difference of Throne Breaker: Not all fights are better than three. Many of them are short fights that only last one round, for which I am grateful because I wanted to continue the story.

There’s one stupid thing I’ve encountered in battle. If you play a unit that deals in intentional damage (such as a crossbow unit), but there are no enemies in sight, you are forced to deal in damage to one of your units. This is bullshit.

Puzzle, also

In addition to card fights, there are also card puzzles. The puzzles work according to unique rules that sometimes don’t resemble Gwent or the usual Thronebreaker battles. Often a predetermined card game is sold that you have to learn to handle.

I was surprised how much of the game consisted of puzzles. There are many of them in the first half of the game, perhaps to help players learn the ropes of an unknown card game.

I liked the puzzles a lot more than the usual fights. They were always fresh and interesting, while the battles became boring from the middle of the game after I built up a library of powerful cards.

Only two or three of the puzzles were staggeringly simple and not at all satisfactory. Most of them presented a worthy and manageable challenge. Some puzzles I had to try more than ten times before I solved them. And only two puzzles I looked up on the internet for help. So it’s a fairly even distribution in terms of difficulty.

Endwords

Thronekeeper promises more than 30 hours of content, much for a humble mini-game that turns into a full-length title. And it’s more than just a deck of cards. The excellence of the writing and voting game, as well as the difficult moral choices, make it a niche game for both Witcher fans and Gwent players, although it doesn’t appeal to the masses in terms of gameplay.

I spent 38 hours with this game and completed 36 battles and 36 puzzles. I loved puzzles, but the battles seemed boring and a waste of time in the middle of the game. I don’t know if playing in a heavier environment enhances the experience of standard three-round battles. If the fights were harder and I wanted to play them all, Thronebreaker might not have been so well received. Fortunately, they can all be skipped to the easiest difficulty level, so you can just enjoy the story.

I was going to buy Thronebreaker for Nintendo Switch, but because of a good deal on Steam, I chose the PC version. When I compared the mouse to the controller, I thought it was just as easy to use the controller for this game. So, from a management point of view, I expect that the switch port will also be useful.

Finally, a note to the parents: The age rating is US Teen and UK 12+ because of the cruelty depicted in the war (and the witch games in general). But the blood is barely visible and only in faded shades; there is no visually depicted mountain. There are some pictures of dead bodies hanging in trees, but it’s just as terrifying. The monsters looked less grotesque than in Wizard 3, but they can still seem scary for a younger child. I liked The Witcher 3 and Gwent, but I hated monsters and gore, and I was happy to see that Tronendrager was very moderate in these areas.

Conclusion: I like it.

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