The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine PC Review
I think it is fair to say that many add-on content for games never reach the days of old PC gaming, a time where expansion packs were a meaty piece that offered a substantial growth on the original game. CD Projekt Red made statements about the season pass for our Game of the Year 2015, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, saying that it would be content worth purchasing and wouldn’t be thrown together quests that don’t build on the world or its characters. The first of the two season pass content was Hearts of Stone, which brought a new quest line into the existing land of The Witcher 3. While Hearts of Stone supplied some fantastic characters and an intriguing plot, it was content that felt like another fleshed out quest from the original game. Blood and Wine, on the other hand, comes across as a continuation of The Witcher 3, bringing an expansion that could possibly be one of the best examples on how to expand a game with meaningful and substantial content.
Once the Blood and Wine content starts (requires a level 35 Geralt to qualify), it’s clear as the beautiful sunny skies of Toussaint – a huge new location built for this expansion rivaling some of the big parts of the main game – that this area of the world of The Witcher hasn’t been spoiled by the aftermath of war. Toussaint, as the name might suggest, is a land that captivates the vineyards of Southern France. This lively and colourful location is filled with happy nobles, joyous civilians, stereotypical loyal knights and medieval architecture, making this piece of content standout over the depressing and damp browns that remained in the first expansion and the original game. Geralt arrives at Toussaint on the summoning of Queen Anna Henrietta – she has a problem with a killer, named Beast of Beauclair, who is going around upsetting the peaceful capital with gruesome murders of members of the hierarchy. Geralt is assigned to finding out who is slaughtering these important figures and put an end to their serial killings.
As we have learnt from The Witcher 3, nothing is every black and white when it comes to its storytelling. Blood and Wine isn’t a simple hunt-and-kill-monster storyline, there’s a lot of small, complex, interlaced tales that all come together for another well written and engaging time, with some twists and surprises along the way. While I don’t want to spoil things, just be known that the characters are once again attractively written and uphold the high standards set by the writers. Even the vampires are fascinating and different than what the mainstream media has been portraying them over the last few years. Queen Henrietta is another great character. She might have only been ruling the land of Toussaint for two years, but she has developed quite a fearless attitude, wanting at all costs to protect her land and people, but still showing her caring side at times. She’s a multi-dimensional character, and that goes for Regis, Geralt’s old vampire friend who finds himself split between the problems that plague Toussaint, and also makes for a cracking drinking partner. No one is ever perfect in The Witcher 3, and that makes them believable characters, human or not, and how they act based on a variety of emotions and grey areas. The high standard of voice acting means that there is never a poor delivery, keeping you constantly believing what comes out of the mouths of everyone you meet.
A nice touch added with the story that that was sorely missing from Hearts of Stone is the fact that it acknowledges the events of the main game. Made Triss your love interest? She’ll get a mentioned throughout the game. It’s minor things like this that make this expansion feel like a continuation, rather than just another side quest or side attachment to the The Witcher 3. This helped me get more involved with the many decisions made throughout the game’s 12 hour main quest and 17 hours of side quests, monster contracts and treasure hunts. It’s a big enough expansion to be called a main game compared to many other video games, yet you can grab Blood and Wine for £15.99, or £19.99 bundled with Hearts of Stone – a bargain made up of top quality content for anyone wanting more from Geralt’s witcher adventures.
There is a lot of variety in the main quest line, and it flows well towards its conclusion, taking players to some very interesting places not experienced before with the series. But let’s not forget the side quests, a section that was highlighted with quality in last year’s title, once again brings more than just throwaway collectathons to artificially extend the game’s length. Blood and Wine even has a few genuinely funny moments, more so than previously, which I gather is due to the positive reception of the wedding party from Hearts of Stone.
Examples of these entertaining quests involve Geralt groping a statue to find a culprit who stole its testicles, getting Geralt his own portrait, and even partaking in some fable stories involving a cursed lady in a tree and three little piggies. This is Geralt’s most bizarre collection of adventures yet, one that even manages to poke fun at the banking system (tedium has never been as entertaining), and yet it continues to return to seriousness to build on the world and its lore. Nothing is wasted here, each monster, every fable, all those books, every piece adds to building on top of this already deep and developed fantasy. All this brilliance eventually accumulates to a terrific ending – no matter which of the three you eventually end up with – signalling the end of Geralt’s adventure with a celebratory last hurrah.
Quests do a good job of getting Geralt out and about in the land of Toussaint and absorbing its burst of colourful pastures, thirst inducing lakes, lively forest and plant life, and meeting the new enemies that infest this area. As soon as you arrive in Toussaint, the game throws a giant at you to take down. Later on, wildlife, such as killer plants, aggressive panthers and giant centipedes will stand in your way, and of course, there’s a whole group of various blood sucking vampire types that want nothing more than to drain Geralt of his old blood. Geralt also acquires a place to stay in Toussaint, an abandoned vineyard, Corvo Bianco, that he needs to invest money to refurbish back to life. While it doesn’t turn Geralt into a wine connoisseur to deal with businesses and exports, it does offer a base for players to gain additional stat boosts, store more items, craft new alchemy recipes or flash off their favourite pictures and gear on the walls of Corvo Bianco. It also comes with a majordomo who clearly is a reference to a certain John Cleese character in Fawlty Towers.
Combat has the same mentality as before with its focus on Geralt’s signs and potions to help get past tough foes. Mutagens have been expanded, which unlocks after taking part in a quest that involves finding an mutation experimental lab. Once acquired, Geralt can pump skill points into these bigger mutagens, which in turn can allow things like freezing enemies, becoming invulnerable for a short amount of time or dealing 25% more damage. The cost is expensive, as each one requires two skill points, but the pay-off in using them is worthwhile. Add those buffs along with the new Witcher gear and Blood and Wine‘s new gear and mutagen content turns Geralt in to a white haired, monster killing machine.
Other subtle improvements have been made to the game. Visuals remain outstanding, but the art direction for Toussaint produces better graphics than the main game, while also running slightly better than before. Additional small quality of life improvements have arrived regardless of owning the expansion or not. The user interface dealing with inventory has been revamped to make it much easier to see the important items in Geralt’s saddle pack, and picking up books now gives the option to read them instantly, rather than forcing people into the inventory screen to find that book in a wave of many, many books that Geralt finds on his travels. Some mechanics still remain untouched in this expansion, such as Roach, who still loves to get stuck on bridges and steep hill climbs, It’s made even worse here as some sections of the environment are made up of bridged passageways to get passed canals and streams. For people who had issues with combat or other aspects of The Witcher 3‘s gameplay, then this expansion won’t change your mind on that, but I feel by now you know if this game was for you.
The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine signals the end of CD Projekt Red’s adventures in master-crafting an engrossing story and the exceptional world building that has been portrayed in The Witcher 3 and its last expansion. While it doesn’t reinvent itself with this final large dump of content, what is here in Blood and Wine is some of the best parts of The Witcher 3 dropped into a beautiful and refreshing new land with fascinating stories and characters, and all given for a generous asking price. Geralt’s last outing may now be upon us, but it’s a bloody good showing by the Polish developers, acting as a statement on how to do extra content to keep players compelled to return to a video game. I’ll miss this world, its engrossing stories and brilliant characters, but at least it leaves on an incredibly high for not just Geralt of Rivia, but for all fans of The Witcher 3.