I have a confession; I have never played any of The Witcher games before Thronebreaker. It was never intentional as I never had a PC that could play any of them without screaming like a banshee with a stubbed toe. The chief editor has reminded me on numerous occasions that The Witcher 3 is on Switch, I am not sure I want to pay money for that as the Switch is not known for its amazing hardware. I assume it will look like Final Fantasy VII on the first PlayStation.
But, as always, I digress.
The Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales game was an attempt by amazing developer CD Projekt RED to further expand on the GWENT card game found within The Witcher 3 game. It was a lot of fun having Geralt of Rivia pause from killing monsters in The Witcher 3 to play what was actually a different game, GWENT, with its own rules and cards to collect. So it makes sense that GWENT would be made into its own game. That effort was wildly successful, and there are already millions of players and hosted tournaments.
Thronebreaker is technically something different. It uses similar cards and rules as GWENT but is its own game. The game is backed with a narrative adventure where you make various choose your own adventure type decisions. Whenever those decisions lead to combat or conflict, the cards come out as a way to decide the matter. The developers do a good job of creating special challenges by bending and changing the rules for different scenarios, so it’s more than just playing GWENT over and over again.
The Thronebreaker game was originally released on PC exclusively through the CD Project RED store and then later came to Steam. It then was released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. And now it finally makes the jump to the Nintendo Switch, which is where I am picking it up. If you want to see our review of Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales when it first came out on PC, simply follow this link.
Thronebreaker takes place in the Witcher universe and follows Queen Maeve through a story of betrayal and conquest. Even without knowing any of the lore, I was sucked into the world and wanted the story to continue. Despite the main mechanic being a card game, it blended in well with the story and rarely caused any disruptions to the flow. The characters were likable, and the voice actors were incredible throughout the story.
It is hard to find something negative about the game and what I did find was relatively minor. Most of the issues I had come from the choice system in the story. There were quite a few times when I was asked to make a choice with little context, and they were often drastic. Here are two slightly hyperbolic examples:
The townspeople are fighting about their diet and how many vegetables are in it, especially corn. What do you do? Tell the townspeople that corn is not a vegetable or Hang the agitators for showing insolence.
Townspeople are rioting against each other about an elf that passed through the town three fiscal quarters ago, what do you do? Ride in and lay an unholy smackdown that will stain the road for eons to come with blood or Sit on your horse and blow raspberries at the rioters.
Most were not that drastic, although some lacked a lot of context. One example was an elf that was accused of being a traitor. The townspeople wanted him executed and you had to choose to pardon him and take him or leave him to the lynch mob. However, at no point could you ask what led them to believe this. So, I was essentially blindly guessing, with no ability to deduce anything until I forgave him and he poisoned six or so people and killed them.
In addition to the narrative choices, you also get to work on crafting your deck. You collect all these resources as you wander around on the main map, and those can be turned into new cards at your camp. There are enough resources in the game that you should be able to build out whatever kind of deck you want. This is a relatively minor part of the overall game, but a vitally important one if you are going to survive some of the later battle challenges.
Despite a few very minor flaws, Thronebreaker is still a perfect game in my eyes because, pardon the philosophy, but is any game truly perfect? Overall, if you have a Switch and you have any passing interest in The Witcher, card games or epic fantasy games then pick this up. The game is beautifully drawn, and the characters have interesting personalities to go with them. I give Thronebreaker a perfect 5 GiN Gems and a strong vote for the best Switch game I have played in the past year.