I didn’t immediately fall in love with Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales. In fact, I had to readjust my expectations right at the start.
Having a blast with Gwent in the Wild Hunt (which I rate one of the best games of all time), I expected a similar experience. One of my favorite quests in the Witcher 3 was the Gwent tournament at the Passiflora, and I was recalling those moments as I entered Thronebreaker.
Not Just a Card Game
I soon realized Thronebreaker was something else entirely. Things seem to start slowly, with some card puzzles and a narrative that just started introducing its main characters. Luckily the storyline soon kicks off and exactly at the point where I was having doubts I will finish the game and write a review.
The production values did help too, with some great voice overs and a soundtrack I have since downloaded.
And I am very happy I didn’t quit after Chapters 1 and 2, as even though some puzzles and map areas felt kind of a grind, I could better understand the characters and their motivations. I also soon started to see the consequences of my actions, too.
At this point it became clear to me that Thronebreaker is more about creating a narrative driven game that will introduce some Gwent mechanics and puzzles, but actually center on the storyline and characters, leaving the serious Gwenting for the Gwent online game.
The Dwarfs of Mahakam
At Chapter 3 the game had me in its hook. I generally love dwarfs and their culture in games so this map was a joy for me with plenty of dwarf lore and quests.
Speaking about lore, this game offers a lot. If you have played previous Witcher games and were curious about the Northern kingdoms or the Empire before the events in Witcher 3, there is plenty to keep your interests.
As a matter of fact, similar to Skyrim, we learn a lot about what makes the North tick and we get to experience that bit of stubbornness and the need for self-determination that checks mighty empires in both games.
You might be wondering at this point if familiar faces from the previous Witcher games will appear. Yes they do, but only in short cameos and that is fine as their “star power” could take away from the new characters we are getting to know in this game.
A New Success for CD Projekt Red?
Thronebraker: The Witcher Tales Gameplay Video
It’s interesting to note that Thronebreaker combines several genres together. This is much more than just a card game. You are doing resource collection, you are upgrading your card units and camp buildings. There are many items and leader weapons that will change your gameplay.
All of that is followed by having to make tough moral choices that can influence the game in major and sometimes unexpected ways. Some choices will make important characters leave your party, while others will give birth to future challenges that follow you down the road. You cannot escape from your decisions…
As you proceed towards the conclusion of the game, you really start to appreciate what was done here. This is not your everyday game.
To have so many genres combined and connect everything together with such an intricate and well developed storyline and characters is nothing short of amazing. However, what makes this an exceptional, instead of ‘just’ an excellent game for me, is that the story itself is one worth being told.
Yeah, I do have some gripes with the game. Some puzzles were confusing to say the least and some areas and fights felt rehashed and kind of a grind. I would have loved more building advances or specializations. There could have been some difficulty adjustment to better prepare you for the last battle. But all of this is minor when I consider what was accomplished.
I don’t know, maybe after the disappointing Game of Thrones ending I appreciate good writing and well developed and consistent characters more than ever these days, but Thronebreaker did it for me on many levels.
Witcher Ivo joins your party for this battle
While the story might not have the depth of Planescape: Torment, it’s very well told. And as a good storyteller, it takes your attention and doesn’t let go until the end. After it’s all over and you are watching the end credits, you gain appreciation for both the story and the teller. It’s one journey I am glad I took and saw it to the end.
Whether or not you enjoy the Witcher series or even card games in general, Thronebreaker comes highly recommended. It’s more than mere joining of the two and fully deserves your time.
Intricate story with well developed characters
Successful combination of genres
Great art style, voice acting and soundtrack
Some puzzles not well thought out
Difficulty disparity between the final battle and previous chapters