I never took much time to play the head-to-head card game in The Witch 3: Wild Hunt from my Witchcraft career, but Gwent-based single-player RPG Thronebreaker: The Witch Tales was one of my favorite games. The whole Wicher franchise. And similarly, the new standalone spin-off Gwent: Rogue Mage has entered me with its rogue-like elements, tough boss battles, and light but penetrating story. I haven’t reached the end of that story yet, but I’ve completed a lot of runs and I’m still looking forward to seeing how it really ends after about 25 hours.
If you’ve never played Thonebreaker, both he and Rogue Mage originally use Gwent as an RPG combat system, fighting AI enemies and giving you some cards that will be pleasantly unbalanced in his PvP part. Look, part of why I always find the standard Gwent a bit dull is that there are a handful of meta strategies that are very powerful and putting together a deck with no restrictions can be tedious and scary. Thronebreaker and Rogue Mage work so well because their deck building restrictions, odd cards and unconventional matching rules make them really more interesting.
Unlike Thronebreaker in Rogue Mage, the epic of war and betrayal is not given as much attention, as the story is largely centered on a single character: Wade Mage Alzur, responsible for creating the first thinker centuries before Geralt’s rise. And you will do the same: hunt powerful boss beasts for their mutants and inject them randomly into human subjects unless you manage to find a brooding antihero to kill demons for fun and benefit. The taste of the narrative is small, the small, the small, the small, the small, the small, the small, the small, the small, the small, the small, the small, the small, the small, the small, the small. A small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small, a small. Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny Tiny In these tiny little scenes and there is a voice and a voice whose voice is acting and voice acting.
Instead of sending you on a linear, expansive quest, Rogue Maggie is made up of several roguelike runs in a monster- and bandit-infected space region that usually takes a few hours. As you make your way, you’ll encounter more than 30 different general, highbrow and boss enemies, each with their own separate deck and a powerful leader card that gives them a very unique playstyle. Some are relatively simple, like a bandit who can do little damage at every turn. There are many others who are insidious, like a spymaster who can spy on your units and make copies of them on their farm side.
This diversity really keeps things interesting in the beginning, even though once I scored two dozen runs, I started to feel like I had faced some of these rivals many times. I had figured out what their story was and how to deal with it, so the actual fight might seem a bit formal. Maybe something like a random mutation that could change that encounter from time to time would be nice.
The randomness created in the player deck, however, ensures that I can never fall into a really boring routine. There are three base decks that all have strong themes, from buffing your own units to sacrificing them for more power (as well as a fourth “Chaos” deck that can contain any cards you unlock). Depending on the deck you choose, you will always start the run using the same cards, but you can gain more as a loot along the way by defeating enemies, opening treasures, and completing events. And I think this unpredictability is fantastic.
Gwent: Rogue Mage screenshot
Random card drops and opponents that have weird mechanics that make you rethink each hand. And I was a little annoyed at the beginning that at the end of each run I had to throw away the incredible deck I had accumulated and start with one stock, so I was prevented and forced to rely too much on the same overpowering combo. I think of new coordinates every time. However, I lost the clever idea needed for some more creative puzzle fights from Thronebreaker. The overall variety is low, and the more elaborate boss fights in Rogue Maze are relatively straightforward compared to some of the weirdest and most memorable matches of its predecessors.
I haven’t finished the story yet and have given birth to my own vicar, who needs many, many runs to kill various difficult bosses for their mutants. But I’m enjoying my time with Rogue Maggie to the fullest and I’ve played well enough to say that his brilliance hasn’t diminished yet. As the level increases after each run, new cards are added to the loot pool and new spells are unlocked for Alzur, so I’m always looking for combos and mixing my playstyle with every three decks. The decks themselves are so different that I can change them when I get bored of one of them and I have a very different experience. I wish there had been a bit more linear progress, because almost everything you unlock is a different option than anything that permanently increases your base power.
I have a full review of Rogue Maze ready next week, so check back when I figure out how to deal with all my test subjects dealing with the little problem of screaming instead of becoming hot monster hunters.