CD Projekt Red Announces Gwent: Rogue Mage, a Single-Player Deckbuilding Roguelike
A Witcher prequel card game is out tomorrow.
IGN can reveal that The Witcher developer CD Projekt Red will release Gwent: Rogue Mage - a single-player deckbuilding roguelike - tomorrow, July 7, for PC, iOS, and Anrdoid.
Previously known as Project Golden Nekker, Rogue Mage is branded as a Gwent expansion, and retains the card game's core mechanics, but will be sold separately from the multiplayer original. The standard version will be available for $9.99, while a premium edition – which comes with in-game skins, cosmetics, and card packs for the multiplayer game – will cost $19.99.
"Rogue Mage came out of us noticing that years after The Witcher 3's release, there are a significant number of players who want a more PvE experience from Gwent," said game director Vladimir Tortsov.
"While Gwent multiplayer is a fantastic game for those who are looking for a great PvP multiplayer experience, we perfectly understand that many Witcher players loved the original mini-game of Gwent for totally different reasons. With Rogue Mage we aim to give this audience a reason to play modern-day Gwent in the format they prefer."
We've had the chance to play Rogue Mage ahead of its release date, and it definitely feels reminiscent of The Witcher 3 version of Gwent, though obviously set amid a roguelike format. Much like the original, players will use Witcher world characters like Dandelion, Zoltan, and Yennefer, but Rogue Mage uses cards from the multiplayer version of Gwent. While this means the mechanics are a bit more complex, cards are presented in simpler packages that aren't nearly as daunting as logging into the multiplayer version for the first time.
Players only start with around a dozen cards in their deck, and each deck focuses on an easy to understand main theme. The first deck focuses on a boosting mechanic, for example, meaning players know that every card in it will generally either boost another or do something cool when booster itself. There are four decks in total, though players also choose between three key cards to build around in each deck.
More cards can be added by exploring the map, but these usually arrive one at a time meaning there's not an overwhelming amount of information presented at once. Players earn experience during each run, and levelling up increases the pool (and power) of cards available to the player on their next run.
Tortsov estimated it will take players more than 30 hours to collect and do everything in the game (and Rogue Mage includes an extensive set of achievements to unlock too), though gameplay loops are split into shorter bursts that can take up to around an hour.
The roguelike mechanics mean players enter the map and progress through their chosen path before either overcoming the final boss or being defeated along the way. Some runs can therefore be over in a few minutes if an enemy proves too strong – for those seeking this sort of challenge, Rogue Mage also includes dozens of difficulty modifiers to make it as relaxing or relentless as players like.
The story of Rogue Mage takes place hundreds of years before Geralt was born, with players taking on the role of the mage Alzur as he attempts to create the first ever witcher. Moving around a procedurally generated map, the player participates in Gwent battles, confronts moral dilemmas akin to those in The Witcher series, and interacts with Places of Power and other locations to bolster their collection of cards.
Rogue Mage doesn't feature the in-depth story that fans of the Witcher games, books, or TV show might expect, however, as Tortsov explained the development team prioritised gameplay over narrative. "While we have a story to tell about Alzur's obsession to create the first witcher, we do not treat this expansion as an official addition to The Witcher lore," he said.
"Our goal with Rogue Mage's story is to give players enough context on who Alzur is, what is his motivation, and the general setting of the world he lives in. We hope that players will get enough immersion to complement the gameplay-first formula, but we do not expect the story to be the main reason for players to appreciate this release."
CD Projekt Red decided to release Rogue Mage as a separate package to multiplayer Gwent due to its size, with the project growing considerably since it was first suggested in late 2019. "Instead of chopping the campaign into multiple pieces and using microtransactions to let players progress between chapters, we decided to make it a straightforward buy-to-play title," Tortsov said.
The decision to release Rogue Mage as a standalone was also made so that it could be fully playable without an internet connection. While it does feature some online-only features such as leaderboards and cross-save progression, the overall experience is built for offline, single-player use.
It will likely be the only solo Witcher experience fans of the franchise can enjoy for a while, as the upcoming mainline game only entered pre-production in May. CD Projekt Red has been tight-lipped about it otherwise, besides saying it's being made in Unreal Engine 5 and that its game director - who was the previous director of Gwent - has promised there won't be crunch on his watch.