New Gwent: Homecoming or going?
Hey there! My name is Aphelion, I’m a long time CCG player who came to Gwent pretty late in beta. Since I had only played for a few months before Homecoming was released, I did not go full tilt into learning the game because I knew it would look very different in the coming months. I also did not play The Witcher 3, and Gwent was purely on my radar from a CCG perspective. I had heard a wide variety of reviews ranging from “Best, most unique CCG ever” to “Excel spreadsheet the game.” I was very pleased to withhold any judgement until I got my hands on it, and I found that I very much enjoyed the game for what it was. I enjoy Homecoming quite a bit, but my experience does not reflect the longstanding relationship with the game or community that others have had.
Change Is Hard
Part of the reason I did not jump into the game during beta was that I knew it would be different, so I didn’t want to hone my skills on something that would be irrelevant in a few months. I was lucky enough to get coaching from some fantastic members of the community, found a deck I liked, and casually grinded it on ladder. The other main reason was the lack of a mobile client. Coming from a background in CCGs, a lot of the more recent ones have been digital and featured a mobile client. I grew accustomed to playing on the couch or in bed while having streams on in the background. Sitting at my computer wasn’t the most conducive to relaxing, so I held off. Finding that I did indeed love the game made it somewhat difficult to come to terms with the fact that it would change (pretty dramatically, as I later found out) fairly soon. So I sat and waited patiently.
The preview weekend rolled around, and I had no idea what was going on. Sevenzh and LordBushwook gave me some lists to play around with, mostly to learn how the mostly re-imagined mechanics now worked. I could not win a game to save my life that first weekend. It was insane. I am not the most competitive player on the planet, but I felt like I had the competency to pick things up and get rolling. Boy was I wrong. I just got absolutely steamrolled for about 4 hours before I decided to take a break. The next day I came back and things started to click a bit more. While my beloved tutor chains had vanished, and thinning was a very different process, the synergies started to make more sense. This led to me being able to focus more on the games potential. Like many others, I was skeptical. Having Gwent and Homecoming be functionally completely different games, I really was unsure what to expect from it’s future. Once I got hands on with it, and it started to make sense, the weather was cleared when the sun came out on my perspective.
In With The New
The release of Homecoming finally came, and it was a pretty interesting couple of weeks. Reddit was very confused, with a healthy mix of “Wow, what a refreshing take” and “CPDR IS TRYING TO BURN MY JOY TO THE GROUND!” Admittedly, I was concerned, as I am sure many others were.
A new game was released. Not just a changed version of a game many loved, but a COMPLETELY new game. It shared somethings thematically with its predecessor, but it essentially was a new thing to get familiar with. This had some interesting ramifications. Most notably has been the exodus of the “Old Guard”, or people who were heavily invested in beta who got handed something that only loosely resembled the game they fell in love with. Understandably, a lot of them were shocked, saddened, and felt somewhat “betrayed” that their beloved Gwent had traveled to wherever the Kardashians live, met their plastic surgeon, and popped out with completely different features. The mood that hung over the top end players and content creators was palpable. No one really wanted to completely dismiss it, but the writing was on the wall pretty clearly. Once one big streamer announced their departure, several others followed suit. To a relative outsider, this did not bode well. With Artifact just around the corner, major switch ups to the game seemed like a pretty obvious nail in the games future. I am not a gaming industry professional, and have not spent any time actually researching market trends, but as a game lover, it seemed like an odd choice. One of my other favorite games did something similar recently, so I was a bit concerned.
A Change Of Pace
With the game being pretty different, and a lot of uncertainty in the air, I was really not sure how I felt. The changes to pro ladder requirements were pretty big, there were clearly some balance changes that needed to be made (looking at you Froth and Artifacts), and many veteran players were confused as to what they wanted to do. To top it off, playing for an extended period of time on my computer results in me not needing a heater in my room any more, and games seem to be slower than in beta. The more I played, however, the more I felt that same satisfaction I got from beta. While it was different, it still had a lot of the remarkably deep gameplay I enjoyed, the ability to get rolled by some random jank, and tons of variety in the overall meta. While some decks/leaders have not been fully realized yet, I was feeling pretty inspired.
It’s sad to see some of the top names move away from the game. Inevitably, this likely would have happened with Artifacts’ release anyway. While the changes to Gwent may not have helped, new games can lead to new fires being lit in the personalities we have grown to love, and I genuinely believe that’s a good thing. Being grateful for the time they spent with us and the things they shared with us is important, as well as supporting the decisions that are best for them. It takes a lot to be a content producers or competitive players, and a big part of that is that drive to keep going. If you feel unmotivated about a game, your presence will be a reflection of that, so moving on when the time is right is a good thing for all parties involved.
The other positive result of this is the opportunity for new stars to rise. While Homecoming may not be for everyone, it’s much easier to learn, and thus, likely to draw a wider audience. Some of those new faces will be amazing streamers some day, or up and coming tournament/ladder grinders. Getting an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with a whole new swath of talent is actually super exciting. It gives all of the veteran players a chance to get some fresh eyes on how they work things, as well as an opportunity for newer players to receive mentor-ship from those with years of experience.
Onward, Sons of Nilfgaard!
Despite what the general consensus FEELS like right now, Homecoming set the foundation for something pretty cool, and to me, looks to have a bright future. It’s hard to not get bogged down by a lot of the negative comments, or departure of old favorites, but try not to let those detract from your experience of the game. If you like what Homecoming has to offer, the sky is the limit. There is a ton of potential in future sets or expansions for the game to grow in a really beautiful way. Information on future features of the competitive scene, spectating friends, or tournament mode is generally pretty limited, but I think there will be a big increase in interest for newcomers. Gwent has always brought a unique take to the CCG atmosphere, and CPDR has shown that they are pretty invested in the games future, despite sometimes having no idea what is going on with the niche market they appeal to.
As we near the release of the console iterations of Homecoming, I expect a swell of new faces and positive thinking about the game. It won’t be without its disappointment from those used to beta Gwent, as there will certainly be echos of overstated concerns flooding in when the console versions do go live. However, we still have an active and caring community to interact with, jovial streamers to watch, and several entities committed to bringing quality Gwent content.