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    dkirschner's Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales (PC)

    [July 20, 2023 10:11:59 PM]
    This is a CCG + Heroes of Might & Magic style Witcher game. One draw of Thronebreaker is that you can acquire cards to use in Gwent. It was well reviewed on its own though, so it was a no-brainer to play (and I paused Gwent until I finished!). Thronebreaker is extremely engaging, though it does peter off after the halfway mark as the game begins to drag for its length. The maps may be a bit bland, but the characters and especially the cards are well drawn and animated. I always like looking at and reading the Gwent cards. The writing is excellent. Gwent itself is fun, but dulled down for this single-player experience, though the addition of puzzles added some interesting situations. You play as Meve, a backstabbed and deposed queen, who travels far and wide, building an army, to expel a conquering army from her land, punish the traitors, and take back the throne.

    In the beginning, Thronebreaker seemed to provide some challenge, but unfortunately once you get some specific cards, learn the enemy AI, and develop some fairly basic strategies, it is really easy, even on the hard difficulty (and then you fight the final boss, geez. It took me about 10 tries, some strategizing about my deck, and a dose of luck to win. There should have been more of this difficulty!). This could also be because Iíve played a fair amount of Gwent and other CCGs, but itís really not that complex here, being distilled from the full Gwent game.

    I found a lot of these ďinsta-winĒ strategies across my playthrough and rarely had to vary them; they applied to almost all situations. For example, the card Reyna has an ďorderĒ ability (which means you can perform an action with the card once itís played) that lets you choose a card to play from your deck. I had another card with an order ability to give two charges to another cardís order ability. So, of course I always chose that card, then just gave the two charges to Reyna, who could then choose two more cards from the deck. I had yet a third card that gave one charge to any card that had exhausted its order cards. So I always picked that one last and Reyna got another charge, and so did that card that gives cards other charges (so I could give Reyna yet another charge). All in all, by playing Reyna, I started a combo that resulted in me putting like 6 hand-picked cards on the board, which is absurd. No enemy ever was able to match that. Thatís part of the problem with the difficulty. The enemy canít match you. You pull off these crazy combos (that are not hard to set up) and the enemy can do nothing. But, in the story, Reyna massacred some dwarven prisoners because she is racist and I kicked her out of my party, so I lost her card. This happened a few other times too. I thought the game would get a bit more challenging after these characters left and I lost their cards, but not really. There are numerous other insta-win strategies to find.

    For example, my last one (near the end of the game, not the final boss) was to play literally the most basic card in the game. Itís a farmer with 10 power who gains +7 power when Meve uses her leader ability (which you can get down to every 2 or 3 turns). Then, on the second turn I play an artifact that lets me play all copies of any card I have on the board. So I play four more copies of the farmer. Then I use Meveís leader ability. That makes 17x5 = 85 points on turn two. And the artifact is a golden card, and the first time I play a golden card, thereís a cool dog card that automatically plays. So really like 92 points after turn 2. The enemy has no hope of keeping up after that. Another insta-win strategy is to set both enemy rows on fire (I have two cards that set a row on fire) and bounce enemies back and forth between rows (I have five cards and a leader ability that move three cards at a time to a different row and damage them). I mean, these strategies just decimate the AI. The AI, by the way, frustratingly refuses to give up or pass when itís clearly losing, and forces you to play rounds far longer than is necessary. Iíll be up 200-20 and the enemy AI is still considering its next move. Annoying. A variety of changes could make Thronebreaker meaningfully shorter, and this is one of them. The other main one is smaller maps. Theyíre unnecessarily large.

    So about halfway through the game, I realized it wasnít going to get any harder. It was a cakewalk. And you basically do the same thing across five giant maps (and yet another small map after you technically beat the game. It keeps fucking going!), traversing the land, clicking on resources, clicking on encounters, making some story decisions, and stomping the enemy in battles. Luckily, as per CD Projekt Red and The Witcher games, the story is thrilling and characters are dark and complex. Every little side branch, every character, every engagement, itís all so well written, often dreary with unexpected twists, that itís what has kept me going. Battles are still fun, of course, but knowing Iím going to win makes them feel like time-wasters. One very cool addition though is the puzzle battles. These give you specific cards, specific rules, and a specific objective, and you usually have to figure out a specific order in which to perform actions to meet the objective. Some of these have been quite tricky! Puzzle battles are where the gameís challenge lies, instead of the regular battles (which are also usually arbitrarily shortened to one round, which at first I didnít like, but now I like because theyíre too easy and I want them to go faster). One puzzle battle took the form of a game of memory. Another riffed on Hearthstone, and was hilarious. Another challenged you to get that cute dog I mentioned through a dungeon, eating all the food along the way. Each one is unique.

    Finally, youíre collecting all those resources on the map for a reason. You can upgrade your camp, which is interesting enough, but like the realization that the game is easy, youíll realize you donít need to think about upgrades either. Youíll have enough resources to upgrade everything and create every card. There arenít tough gameplay choices to make here.

    Iím looking forward to seeing what all I unlocked in Gwent because it turns out I just about 100%ed Thronebreaker! Just. About. I missed a weapon somewhere and got 38/39 achievements. I 97%ed it. Damn mystery weapon!
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    dkirschner's Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Sunday 9 July, 2023

    GameLog closed on: Thursday 20 July, 2023

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Heroes of Might & Magic crossed with Gwent. Badass. --------- Certainly fun, but starts to drag, is really long, too big maps, too easy.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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