Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth's Impressive Gwent: A Game-Changer in GamingFinal Fantasy 7 Rebirth's Impressive Gwent: A Game-Changer in Gaming

Once upon a time, Gwent was just a humble county in South Wales, across the River Severn from Bristol (and the border with England). Then, a few years ago, this proud Welsh region lost its Google ranking to a new name-stealer. It was a collectible card game within upstart CD Projekt Red’s epic role-playing game The Witcher 3, and it became an obsession for many of the game’s millions of players. Gwent took on a life of its own and inspired dozens of copycats, and now “a Gwent” is synonymous with any game within a game, especially if it’s a strategic, card, or board game involving non-player characters. Can be played against.

Now the Final Fantasy developers at Square Enix, who were seeding games in their epic RPGs years before Witcher 3 was even thought of, are back to reclaim their crown. One of the best and most inventive Gwents we’ve seen in a long time is included in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth.

Rebirth’s Gwent is called Queen’s Blood, and I got to try it out at a recent press preview in London, during which I got to play the first few hours of the game. Rebirth, Square Enix’s expanded and remixed second installment of the 1997 classic, opens with a dramatic flashback chapter. Next, we join Cloud Strife and his group of friends hiding out and relaxing in the charming pastoral town of Kalm. Here, Rebirth fills in some plot points, game mechanics, and features — including Queen’s Blood, which can be played with multiple townspeople.

You’re going to be surprised if you think Queen’s Blood will be a card battler similar to Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering. It’s not even like Gaunt. Although this is a collectible card game, it works very differently from these other games. The key features of the cards are not special abilities, but the patterns of influence they have on the board, in what is essentially a very tight game of territory capture.

Both players compete for control of the checkerboard. To start, the board has three lanes of five tiles (I think there will be bigger boards to play on later) and players work from the left and right edges. The goal is to open the board for your cards and lay down cards with the highest possible power value. When the strength values of the cards are combined, only the highest total value for each lane contributes to the final score.

Players take turns placing cards based on Final Fantasy monsters on the board, but they can only place them on tiles that have small pawns in their color. Once they place a card, it opens up more tiles to place more cards according to the pattern marked in the grid on the card. If the pattern overlaps with tiles you already have, those tiles get extra pawns and are ranked, which means you can place more powerful, higher-ranked cards there. If it overlaps (but is not occupied by) a tile owned by your opponent, you take control of that tile. Some cards also have abilities that affect special tiles, marked in red in the card pattern; An example would be that the power value of any card placed on that tile is doubled.

It’s a simple yet deeply strategic, almost puzzle-like setup. In Queen’s Blood, the spatial relationship of the cards and their spheres of influence are everything. Each turn is dense with decision-making as you try to increase your influence on the board, rank the tiles so you can put your best cards, and make the most efficient use of the cards’ abilities. It takes some getting used to, and after the tutorial, it took me three or four hands to defeat the first opponent I challenged (a nervous guy named Ned, sitting on a porch, who likes to have a good cry). does).

I haven’t even begun to get into the deck-building side, which is probably much more in-depth. While the abilities of the cards are fairly simple compared to something like Hearthstone, the interplay of ability, tile pattern, power, and rank for each card gives you many factors to build a balanced deck.

Queen’s Blood is dense and initially difficult, but the visual, puzzle-solving element of tile capture using different patterns of cards really appeals to me and sets it apart from other Gwent deck builders. I can see myself getting lost in it for hours before leaving the column for the rest of my adventure.

On February 29, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth will be available for the PlayStation 5.

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