Written by: Dominic Aleksei Nikita Solberg
Name: Thronebreaker – The Witcher Tales
Developer: CD Projekt Red
Publisher: CD Projekt
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Reviewed on: PC
Acquired: A copy of this game was provided by a publisher for review purpose
It’s been three years since Witcher 3, one of the most praised video games of modern times, and now Projekt Red has followed up their success with Gwent, a free-to-play card game similar to Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering, set in the same universe as the rest of The Witcher series. A stand-alone singleplayer campaign – Thronebreaker – was also released simultaneously, and that’s the focus of this review.
The story of Thronebreaker is relatively straightforward – you play as Queen Meve, ruler of the twin kingdoms of Lyria and Rivia, during her guerrilla war against Nilfgaard. I’ll be honest, I’ve never really played The Witcher series, so I’m not familiar with most of the characters that showed up, or the importance of certain battles, but the storyline was still simple to follow, even for someone who’s rather fresh to the Witcher universe.
However, it gets rather dry and tedious at times. Most of the story is told through voice-over text screens, and there is occasionally a lot of it. The old-fashioned way of speaking could also become a bit grating after a while.
Moral choice has also been implemented, and at times you forge how you wish Queen Meve to respond, or act, which later on will have consequences to how the people see you, the morale of your soldiers, and how others treat you. I’ll get back to that in a bit.
Thronebreaker has visually a style very reminiscent of the TellTale games. In between the card battles, it has some gorgeous sceneries and a quality soundtrack. For whatever reasons, however, they have chosen to leave facial renderings out, leaving you with empty skin where there should’ve been a face. Similarly, the voice acting could do with a bit more work. Queen Meve especially comes across a little flat in comparison to some of her companions.
A nice touch is how Meve’s armor makes a clunking noise whenever she moves, making her armor feel like it is as heavy as we’re supposed to believe. Background noises also help draw you into the game, such as the sound of soldiers as you move through battlefields, or the crackling of fire as you pass houses being burned down.
During the card battles, the layout is simple to understand, while still surprisingly detailed. The cards themselves have some incredible art, and the animations for various abilities – such as fog, fire, etc. – are neat without being overwhelming or showing off too much.
Here’s where the game falls a bit short for me. Although the tutorial is smooth and detailed enough that you get a good idea of what you’re doing without bombarding you with too much information, the difficulty curve ramps up immediately after you’ve finished it. It is especially during the game’s puzzles that this is felt the most. The puzzles are somewhat similar to side quests, where all the rules fly out of the window, and you’re left at the mercy of whichever rules the game’s decided for the particular puzzle you’re at. These types of rules can include not letting any of your own cards get destroyed, or reduce the enemy’s health to 1. If you’re not familiar with card-based games from beforehand, these can easily become frustrating. However, the easiest difficulty – Adventurer – lets you skip battles if you lose. So there’s a silver lining.
Then there’s the morality system I previously mentioned. You have the option to be sympathetic to both your companions and your people’s problems, and this doesn’t just affect how others feel about you as a queen, but certain tasks you encounter along the way, often requiring either gold, wood, or men, will affect the morale of your soldiers. High morale will give you an advantage in the battles, while low morale will bring a disadvantage. I chose to play as a rather ruthless queen, though I always made sure to keep my soldiers’ morale as high as I could.
The controls for Thronebreaker are very simple – all you need is a mouse. You place your cards down with the mouse, progress the story with the mouse, and move the Queen with the mouse. Everything works relatively smooth, except for one thing – moving Queen Meve is a very sluggish endeavor. As you have to move her around quite a bit, this becomes an irritation that sits with you like an itch. Instead of guiding her, however, there is an option to just click where you want her to go, and she’ll go there on her own, but I found that to be more of a hassle considering everything you have to pick up along the way – wood, men, letters, and keys. Overall, however, the controls work just fine for their purpose.
Seeing as you face the choice between being a benevolent queen and a feared one, and as the story and the battles are relatively solid, I’d say this is a game worthy of at least one more playthrough, if you, unlike me, have a fondness for strategy-based card-games.
Replay Value 6
Thronebreaker is a challenging card-game with a somewhat stilted and dry storyline and has the problem where the tutorial is too easy compared to the rest of the game. This game is largely for people already familiar with the Witcher series and its characters, as none of them are properly introduced, but feels like you’re already supposed to know who they are. The music is nice to listen to, and the map you run around on is large enough to feel like a kingdom, without being overwhelmingly so.
User Review( votes)
- Good soundtrack
- Decent controls
- Abruptly difficult
- Stilted storyline