Review – Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales (Switch)

We’ve talked a lot about Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales already. We were all shocked when the game was first unveiled three years ago, first as just a standalone Gwent multiplayer game, then evolving into a full-fledged card-based RPG of its own. It was a game that could have easily failed in the hands of less competent developers, but this is CD Projekt Red we’re talking about. Naturally, they made sure to tinker their little spin off title to be as good as the mainline Witcher games they’re so famous for.

CDPR then proceeded to shock us once again with the surprise release of Thronebreaker for the Nintendo Switch. It’s clear that they’re taking advantage of the sudden burst of popularity of the Witcher franchise after the colossal success that was the Netflix series. Can we even blame them for that? The more, the merrier! We will never say no to more Witcher games on-the-go.

Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales

All of you crazy people praising the Netflix version of Queen Calanthe for some nonsensical reason should be looking at Queen Meve instead.

Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales is a perfect fit for the Switch’s hardware and portability functionalities. This is not just a trading card game that’s been adapted into a video game. This is actually a very long and very meaty pseudo-isometric RPG, full of sidequests, treasure to unlock, and hours upon hours of well-acted dialogue, that just happens to have a fast-paced variant of Gwent as its combat system. It might be a lengthy game, but it profits from the fact you can play it in fun short bursts on-the-go, without ever needing to worry too much about the Switch’s battery life, as this isn’t a hardware demanding game at all.

This doesn’t mean this game isn’t well-made, however. It might not be the visual masterpiece that the original Witcher games are (at least not on the Switch, that is), but damn if it doesn’t look great. Both the characters and environments are hand drawn in the same style as the loading screens from Witcher 3, and they look excellent on the Switch’s small screen. The Gwent cards also look great and they even feature small animations that bring them to life in a weird kind of way. In a nice gesture, CD Projekt Red added the name of each individual artist on the description of every single card they designed.

Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales

I just killed that ghoul using the heart of the cards, just like Yugi told me to do.

I really like how, in a way, the battles feel less like simple Gwent matches against another pre-designed deck and more like puzzles you need to solve by building an adequate deck with an intelligent strategy behind it. Even better, if you don’t want to battle anyone, you don’t actually have to. The game allows you to skip battles if you feel like it and play the entire game as a light RPG instead. In any other game, I would have considered this a ridiculous idea, but considering how well written and acted Thronebreaker is, I don’t see any reason to complain.

There is one thing that really bugged me with this game though, especially considering this is the Switch version. This is a card-based RPG, a game originally created with a mouse in mind… and there is no touchscreen support. I couldn’t have possibly imagined such a better usage of the Switch’s criminally underused touchscreen than with a freaking Gwent game, as it would have sped the gameplay up dramatically. You blew it big time, CDPR!

Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales

I actually prefer the outskirts of Oxenfurt.

Lack of touchscreen support aside, this is still Thronebreaker, but on a portable console. It’s a smaller scale spinoff made with more care than most companies out there put into their flagship titles. This is a perfect fit for the Switch: a big fat RPG with characters to talk to, cards to acquire, sidequests to complete, and a lot of card battles to partake in. Or not, as there is the choice of skipping everything if that’s actually what you want. I ain’t judging.

 

Graphics: 9.0

Thronebreaker‘s comic book-inspired art style fits perfectly on the Switch’s portable screen. The framerate is also very consistent.

Gameplay: 8.0

The mix between card game battles and classic RPG overworld exploration is great, but the absence of touch screen support on the Switch version is almost criminal.

Sound: 10

It’s a Witcher game, so you know what to expect. The soundtrack is serene when called for and intense when needed. The voice acting, as always, is many levels above anything else in the industry.

Fun Factor: 8.5

One of the best aspects of Thronebreaker is the fact that it can either be a great card-based RPG on a portable console or an engaging story-driven Witcher adventure with no combat if that best suits your style.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales was provided by the publisher.

Advertisements