Geralt of Rivia’s journeys in the The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt have taken him to faraway lands and right into his own back yard. In the last expansion to this beloved entry in the series, Blood and Wine brings our white-haired witcher to the new and colorful land of Toussaint and sees him bring his trade south where the weather is warm and bloodshed is on the rise.
Just like the base game before it, Blood and Wine is simply a black hole of content that provides a seemingly endless supply of quests and hunts for you to go on. Toussaint, a land modeled after the French countryside, is filled with vineyards and brightly colored guards who, much like the Dornish provence from Game of Thrones, exist in stark contrast to the gloomy war-torn lands of the north. The world in the base game was certainly one of it’s most redeeming qualities, and that has carried over into it’s final expansion. CD Projekt Red spared no expense when it came to creating a new land with beautiful vistas that at times surpass that of the original game.
The main quest in Blood and Wine, is part murder mystery part royal power struggle. Geralt is called upon by the Duchess of Toussaint to hunt down a monster responsible for a string of murders in the city. This is a shift in tone from the main game, where Geralt is tasked with saving the world. In Blood and Wine we see Geralt in a much more familiar position for a witcher, taking a bounty on a beast for money. However, like many of the side quests and monster hunts, this story is fleshed out enough to make you care about it’s characters and the fate that awaits them should Geralt make a wrong move.
Blood and Wine welcomes a number of new interesting people to this universe. Regis, Geralt’s vampire cohort throughout the expansion, is another example of the Polish developer’s ability to bring a sidekick to life. Like Dandelion or Zoltan, you can’t help but feel a sense of camaraderie with your vampiric buddy after a number of enlightening, meaningful conversations that provide depth to his and Geralt’s relationship. The rest of the cast is complete with a number of character’s who’s stories are littered with inconsistencies and gray areas that make it hard who to know who to trust. A number of times I found myself carefully making choices that would turn out to accomplish exactly what I set out not to achieve. One thing Blood and Wine teaches you is that no one person is truly good or evil and that everyone’s motivations can be justified if you’re willing to look deep enough.
Taking a deeper look into the main quest is one way to play this expansion, but what set’s The Witcher’s open world apart from it’s contemporaries is just how well it accomplishes everything it sets out to do and how engrossing yourself into it’s world makes its journey all the more enjoyable. In Blood and Wine Geralt is very early on gifted a vineyard which is upgradable and can be stylized to your hearts desire. In addition to this, the game makes the mode much more engaging by allowing you to bring in old characters to work for you, that give narrative significance and emotional resonance to what would normally be fluff feeling extra content. This type of storytelling is also seen in the new witcher gear quests available to you. Now searching for witcher gear allows you to hear the stories of the past witcher’s whose gear you’re searching for, making it less of a random scavenger hunt and more of a recapturing of a legacy of fallen witchers who’ve been long forgotten.
Aside from a new story, this expansion has a number of improvements and features that are sure to bring you back into the fold for a plethora of reasons. Introduced in Blood and Wine are a host of new monsters and weapons along with armor and armor dyes to spruce up Geralt’s appearance. I hadn’t touched the game since the last piece of add-on content, Hearts of Stone, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the sheer number of improvements that were on display and the impact they had on my overall experience. The frame rate which had been a bit of an issue in the past is now much more stable, while still not perfect. UI changes are also a concrete improvement across the board, as now menus load much faster and are far less cluttered than before. Gameplay has also been improved, with settings to adjust both movement and combat, Blood and Wine’s traversal and fights are now more fun than ever.
Despite these changes there are shortfalls in some places that CD Projekt still hasn’t addressed. While technical issues have definitely been cleaned up in comparison to the original game there are still bugs and little annoyances that pop up occasionally. Cutscenes are still too frequently interrupted by a horse walking through a conversation or someone’s head clipping through their clothes. While these things are to be expected in open world games, when they are all added together they do at times take you out of a world that is otherwise so easy to get lost in. Despite this, it’s not too hard to look past these flaws and become transfixed by what CD Projekt has created, and see how what they are doing is far and away more ambitious than anything anybody else is creating in this space today.
In an era full of overpriced, overwrought DLC, Witcher 3’s expansion Blood and Wine is certainly a shining example of the practice being done near flawlessly. When countless add-on levels are churned out that aren’t worth your time or effort, CD Projekt Red has crafted something that feels more like it’s own game and should make you want to return to something you might have put down months ago. It’s new world is breathtaking and replete with quests and interesting characters that make’s adventures feel alive and authentic. Geralt of Rivia is not an aristocratic like those he works for, but is a nobleman none the less and with Blood and Wine we’ve been given an exemplary final chapter to his story.
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