Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:CD Projekt RED
Developer:CD Projekt RED
Release Date:2018-10-23
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay

Unfortunately, the balance for the battles is terrible.  I think they're supposed to end up somewhere around football or maybe basketball scores, but after Chapter 2, I started regularly winning by over 100.  The Scytheman strategy pretty much guaranteed I'd win one round easily, but even without it I could usually kill my opponent's cards as soon as they appeared, and build up my power in the process.  I almost never lost a battle, even playing on the "bonebreaker" (aka most difficult) setting, and I rarely had to make adjustments to my strategy, or shuffle cards in or out of my deck.  That's just bad, bad, and bad, especially in a game where combat is supposed to be one of the cornerstones.

Luckily, along with the battles, there are also Gwent puzzle games.  In these sequences, you're given some specific cards, and you're tasked with achieving some result.  Some of the puzzles are basic, where it's just Concentration or a match-3 game, but CD Projekt Red also had some fun in this department.  In one puzzle, you help a dog explore a cave and sniff out some food.  In another, you help a companion win a drinking contest.  The puzzles, by and large, aren't any more difficult than the battles (I only got stuck once, on the very last puzzle), but they're way more entertaining.

Extras

Thronebreaker is played using an isometric view.  Nothing about the presentation is fancy or memorable, but it's effective, and you can always tell what things are and where you're allowed to go.  Also, the resources that you can pick up almost always have some sort of green coloring to them, making them easy to spot, which is nice.

The star of the game is the writing.  Stories about battling kingdoms, with lots of politicking and background shenanigans, are almost always fun, and Thronebreaker's storyline is no exception.  Plus, all of the characters are handled well, and they do believable things for believable reasons, with their personal motivations directing their actions rather than the plot.  Nobody does evil things and commits atrocities just because they're the bad guy.  And best of all, the voice acting is terrific, and the actors always sell their lines.  Even the minor characters get nice performances.

As for bugs, I encountered very few.  I noticed a couple of typos, and I had a problem with treasure chests where I missed out on an achievement, but there weren't any broken battles or skills, or anything adversely affecting gameplay.  That's not bad considering I spent nearly 50 hours with Thronebreaker, especially since the game still hasn't seen a patch.  There's a lot of polish to the engine, if not the balance.

Conclusion

Overall, Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales is a nice game.  Dare I say "pleasant"?  It tells an effective story, and it is polished in many ways, but it's also lightweight.  It's far too easy to play, even on the toughest difficulty setting, and it covers a lot of the same ground as The Banner Saga trilogy without providing anywhere near the same sort of tension or pathos.  The outlets giving Thronebreaker a 90% or better score are just plain wrong.  They're either fooling themselves or trying to fool you.  But still, you could do a lot worse than Thronebreaker.  If a balance patch comes out, then it might elevate itself to "good," but for now I'd only recommend you try the game out if you can get it on sale.  Or if you really love The Witcher and / or Gwent.