Developed and Published by CD Projekt RED
In Thronebreaker, you will play a lot of Gwent. Gwent is a card game that apparently everyone plays in the fictional world of The Witcher series. In this particular instance, you are a ruler of a northern kingdom whose various adventures and battles are represented in an abstract manner through Gwent matches. Some games of Gwent are straightforward, where you play the standard rules and outplay the AI opponent. Others operate as special challenges or puzzles, with modified rules and specific solutions for victory. In between matches, you (slowly and tediously) move the warrior-queen-person-lady around a large world map, collecting resources, managing your base camp and card deck, and interacting with the numerous denizens of the land. Some quests will come about through shallow dialogue choices or by walking up to a confrontation; treasures and cards can be hidden in the environment itself, prompting thorough exploratory investigation.
The Story & Flow
The player assumes the role of Meve, the warrior-queen of the two northern territories Lyria and Rivia. After returning from a royal task, Meve and her small regiment discover her kingdom to be under considerable threat by bandits, invading armies, and the interpersonal squabbles of her citizens. It's up to her to repel a massive Nilfgaardian incursion, as well as solve literally every problem that she comes across.
Much of the plot is relayed via short sequences as though it was being written by a unseen author. Other times there will just be a few talking heads that will appear during a match or while traversing the map, and occasionally you can read a bit more about something by finding or receiving notes. As you encounter characters and situations, you often are required to make a decision and take a course of action, which typically gets divided into a level-headed/compassionate response and a cruel/aggressive reaction. Overall, the writing is solid, consistent, and fits into the dark fantasy of its progenitor; some flaws include the incredibly dry dialogue, and a meandering pace due to the way Meve wanders the wilderness solving mysteries with her pals in between crucial story segments. Another point of criticism is the often ludicrous nature of side missions that can take the player right out of the game with how silly they are.
Gwent is played in best-of-3 matches, with the contents of your deck being carried over as rounds progress. This means that playing all of your best cards to win the first round leaves you with decidedly inferior strategies available for the next two rounds. The goal is to have more points than your opponent by the end of a round; each card has a specific point value that also acts as its health, as well as abilities that activate when placed, ordered to, or after certain conditions are met. Each player can only play one card per turn, but can perform as many actions that are available to them other than placing a new card. There are also leader abilities which can enhance existing cards or perform some other tactical function. As Thronebreaker's story is centered around one character, your decks will always be built up of cards relevant to her.
Graphics and Sound:
The art style is remarkably similar to the TV show 'Archer' in how most character models are three-dimensional but have effects added to make them resemble two-dimensional animation. The visual clarity of characters and the environment is generally smooth enough, though the environment itself is covered in junk and ends up being too distracting and busy. Card games (the most important part) feature a very clean user interface that displays most relevant information with no hassle. The cards themselves have some well-designed, if not particularly impressive artwork.
Music consists of understated background noise to provide something that won't distract your thinking process, though I didn't find it to be enthralling or memorable. The library of sound effects for cards and the like is expansive, and add a small amount of satisfaction when performing actions with cards. Voice acting, while probably incredibly authentic and of high quality, tends to be bland and lacks a certain intensity, both for characters and card vocalizations.