Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales Review
Following the immense success of the Witcher series, CDProjekt declared that they would no longer be working on anymore Witcher games and instead focus on new upcoming titles. The allure of success and money can be tempting however, and three years later, Thronebreaker: The Witcher tales has been released to audiences worldwide.
A purely single player game set in the world of the Witcher, Thronebreaker’s combines a exploration mechanic (think old school Final Fantasy) and with the battle system revolving around the card based tactical game of Gwent. Gwent should be familiar with players of the Witcher 3 and even has its own standalone game which released around the same time as Thronebreaker.
I spent many days with this game and came away pleasantly surprised. It does not surprise and entertain as well as the other Witcher games and the lack of budgetary input into Thronebreaker in comparison are evident. It does, however, have plenty of heart and CDProjekt’s customary attention to details is evident throughout.
The story of Thronebreaker
Thronebreaker’s story is arguably the best part of the game. Set during the events of the Witcher 3, Thronebreaker follows the tale of Meeve , queen of Lyria and Rivia. Upon returning home after settling a domestic dispute, she finds her realm invaded by the Nilfgaardian Empire.The story has great pacing with enough twists and tension to keep you attached to the outcome till the very end.
At is core, it is a generic fantasy story whereby the heroine saves her people from the evil foreign empire with the help of her friends and allies. It is the execution of the story that pulls you in despite its plain narrative however. Great cutscenes, rich dialogue and superb voice acting makes you care about Meeve and her companions.
The story also presents you with certain moments whereby your decisions are intertwined with the gameplay. Story characters like Meeve are represented in Gwent as cards with special traits and some uniquely powerful abilities. For instance, Eyck of Denesle, a monster hunter whom Meeve meets during her travels is particularly fond of chivalric acts. At certain points in the game, if you were to make a choice that isn’t particularly chivalrous, he is liable to leave the party and rob you of his character card for the rest of the game. It adds weight and tension to the choices you have to make during the course of the story. To the credit of the writers, many of these moments in throne breaker do not have a clear a good or evil choice and leaves you questioning your own decisions thereafter.
You will be spending a lot of time in the game’s overworld and maps in addition to Gwent itself.You will move Meeve around to talk other characters, get side quests and do treasure hunts. Doing these successfully nets you resources (wood, gold, soldiers) which you then use to upgrade your camp and Gwent cards. Your camp is your main area of operations to talk to your allies, upgrade cards and gain other bonuses.
Unfortunately, Gwent is the weakest area of the game Those familiar with Gwent from other games will find nothing new here which removes a lot of novelty from the game. The difficultly curve is also uneven with the early game having battles that range from challenging to downright frustrating while the late game has too many battles that are pushovers. Once you get settled into a deck of cards that work well together, you will find that it is mostly the same cards that you have been using from early on in the game. Certain character cards are also way too overpowered, such as aforementioned Eyck of Denesle, who gets bonus points to his power every time one of your cards get hit by the opponent. In many battles, I played him to get almost 200 points over my opponent which left my AI opponent helpless and me vaguely amused and bored.
The skewed difficulty curve also tends to make the resource collecting an exercise in tedium as you will not be using them once you settled on your deck. I settled on most of my cards within 5-6 hours of the game and didn’t see the need to change them as the game progressed. Gwent works on a system of random drawing, so the lesser cards in your deck (a minimum of 25) the higher the likelihood of drawing your strongest cards. Since you will want to use your most effective cards all the time, upgrading cards of another sort is pointless as the bonus points do not justify the investment over the cards you are already using. The system in place seems to be working against each other, at least from my point of view.
Easily, the best part of the game. The score is brilliant with rousing orchestral themes to sombre tunes that permeate throughout the destroyed and burning lands that you traverse to. The voice acting is pinpoint and the dialogue engaging enough to hold your attention. Large parts of the story are told through cut scenes that are beautifully drawn (although not animated).The game engine while limited in its scope, renders what it can beautifully. These are some of the most detailed 2d environments i have ever seen in a game.Even with the limited budget, the team at CDProjekt has delivered on the presentation without cutting any corners.
Another quality Witcher game from the Polish developers. Fans of the previous games will find something to love here, although you may get burned out easily if you have already played too much Gwent. Newcomers to the series will enjoy it as a starting point to the other games and books. Good game with a reasonable price tag.