The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was hands down one of the finest games to release in 2015, bringing back the Witcher series in an incredible new way that raised the bar across the board. Featuring hundreds of hours of content filled with incredibly well-written stories and beautiful lands to explore, it was a game that many simply couldn’t get enough of. That didn’t stop developer CD Projekt RED from giving us more though, delivering 16 free DLCs and a fantastic expansion in Hearts of Stone that launched last year. This expansion, called Blood and Wine, is set to be the swan song both for the game and the series alike, and if that’s the case then it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Blood and Wine starts like any other of protagonist Geralt’s adventures, with the famous Witcher accepting a contract to hunt down some form of evil that needs to be dealt with. However, this particular contract sweeps him off to an entirely new land called Toussaint, which is easily the most gorgeous Witcher setting yet. Thanks to the fantastic design and the new patch that the developer released to improve the visuals amongst many other things, no matter where you look it’s hard not to just stop and admire the amazing scenery. The colors are so vibrant and the world and its people have a fairy tale vibe to them that almost makes you feel like you’ve jumped right into a story book.
Of course, this being the Witcher series, there is much more underneath the surface than what the bright and shiny surface lets on. While there is a constant air of celebration and joy everywhere you look, there is actually a sinister beast that is terrorizing the region that Geralt must investigate and eventually put an end to. There are many new characters that are mixed into this new ddilemma, and each and everyone of them is complex and has you questioning whether or not you truly have them figured out. It’s a 30+ hour adventure that offers much more than many main games do, with quality that even surpasses what was featured in the base game.
Tough decisions remain this series’ high point, as this expansion once again tasks you with making choices which rarely have clear-cut consequences. It’s advised that you manually save your game on several different save slots, as you’ll want to return to major junctions in the story to see how differently it can all play out. Just as in the main game, it’s amazing just how completely different a particular scene can unfold on the basis of one decision you made. There are also 3 different endings to the expansion that are the direct results of your actions throughout the quest, so there’s plenty of replay value here.
While the entirety of Blood and Wine progresses how the main game does in the sense that you are taking on quest after quest and using your Witcher Sense to uncover clues that lead to eventual battles, this expansion does have some new things to offer. Geralt is finally given a home base called Corvo Bianco, which is a vineyard that comes with its own set of subquests that allow you to expand it. It’s not a huge part of the game, but having the ability to display your trophies on the wall or to have a stall for your trusty steed Roach is a nice touch that’s very appreciated. There’s also an all-new dye mechanic that lets you alter the colors of all pieces of equipment individually, which can result in some pretty awesome and/or atrocious designs.
Apart from the new features though, Blood and Wine is fine with just giving you an avalanche of more of what you’ve already loved for over a year now. There’s around 90 new quests filled with many new interesting characters to interact with, as well as lots of new Gwent cards, weapons, armor sets and monsters to take on. There’s even new mutations that lead to even more abilities to learn that encourage you to explore them further in the new game plus mode, which this expansion has increased the level cap of to 100. Considering I was around level 50 when I completed the Blood and Wine expansion on a file that completed the base game and the Hearts of Stone expansion, there’s plenty of room to grow in new game plus.
Once again, CD Projekt RED gives you the option of tackling this quest as an extension of your base game file or as a standalone adventure. This is a great move, because it allows those who aren’t at the recommended level 35 on their regular save file to hop in immediately with a pre-leveled character without having to worry about level grinding. The game’s UI has also been completely overhauled to be more user-friendly and visually pleasing, which is a fantastic upgrade that improves the overall experience. Sifting through the many menus doesn’t feel like as much of a chore anymore, as everything takes up more of the screen real estate and has been simplified enough to feel less overwhelming.
If there’s any flaw to be found in Blood and Wine it’s one that has been present throughout the entirety of The Witcher 3’s lifespan, and that’s the combat. While it works fine and can result in some pretty intense encounters that require you to utilize both physical and magic attacks, it’s all a little too simplistic. Battles regularly boil down to lots of dodge rolling mixed in with with quick flurries of attacks, and the overall feeling of it isn’t as smooth or fluid as it could be. This, unfortunately, leads to scenarios where the combat can get a little repetitive at times, which is a shame considering how great everything else is.
Blood and Wine feels like it was made as a loving goodbye to both Geralt and the Witcher series in general, as there’s so much attention to detail that it’s impossible not to regularly be in awe of it all. CD Projekt RED upped their game to a mind-boggling degree with this expansion, packing it to the brim with dozens of hours of engaging content to get lost in with new facets to the gameplay to tinker with. It’s the perfect bow on a game that has been nothing short of a gift that keeps on giving, and I expect it will continuing doing just that for all who fancy an adventure with a certain Witcher.