The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine Review – Paradise Found

CD Projekt Red
CD Projekt Red /

Everyone’s favourite seasoned professional returns, in an expansion of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that is sure to leave you satisfied.

Developers: IO Interactive

Publisher: CD Projekt RED

Platform: PlayStation 4 (Version reviewed), Xbox One, PC

Release Date: May 31st, 2016

Can you believe it? It has been over one year since The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt released, to the jubilation of RPG fans everywhere. Since then, the game has been tweaked with multiple updates, saw the release of its first expansion pack Hearts of Stone, and received enough Game of the Year Awards to justify the purchase of a trophy cabinet the size of a grand arch-griffin. So how does CD Projekt RED end such a successful year of consistent excellence? The answer is Blood and Wine; a final expansion pack that puts other pieces of downloadable content to shame.

Now, it’s important to state that if you didn’t like The Witcher 3 all that much, which is totally understandable, chances are that Blood and Wine will do little to change your mind, as the expansion doesn’t so much change the formula as it does rigorously build upon it. The combat is still a little awkward and simplistic, the general pace remains a slow burn (not necessarily a bad thing, just not to everyone’s taste), and Roach is still a pain in the arse. The cumbersome menus, UI and inventory system, however, have been greatly streamlined in the latest update, vastly improving the ease of use outside of the moment-to-moment gameplay. With all that said, if you do happen to be a Witcher 3 fan, then you’re in for real treat.

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Let’s begin with the ‘piece de resistance’; the new area of Toussaint. Roughly one-third of the size of the entire map from the base game, Toussaint is large and sprawling enough to comfortably justify itself as an open world in a standalone game, yet alone a piece of DLC. The peaceful and prosperous continent is a far cry away from the war-torn dreariness of Velen or the rugged wildlands of Skellige. Instead, CD Projekt RED have brought a welcome sense of levity to the proceedings, with colorful characters and idyllic landscapes. Don’t worry; there are still plenty of monsters to be slain. You will just be slaying them against the backdrop of vineyards and palaces, which is nice, isn’t it?

…The entirety of Blood and Wine is likely to keep you playing well into the 30-hour mark.

This new, cheerier tone is applied to the main campaign of Blood and Wine as well, which borrows inspiration from more than a few story beats found in classic fairy tales and folk fables. Don’t be fooled by the surface-level ambience of harmonic revelry, however, as The Witcher 3’s infamous obsession with violence and death is also prevalent, this time in the form of gothic horror. While the main thrust of the narrative – in which Geralt is called to Toussaint in order to slay a mysterious beast – is nothing new, CD Projekt Red’s trademark flair for compelling characterization and mature world building means that there’s plenty to enjoy throughout the 10 hour run-time of the main quests.

Of course, there are also an insane number of side quests to complete, points of interest to explore, new enemies to fight and loot to acquire (not to mention Geralt’s new vineyard estate where you can now proudly store this aforementioned booty). If you’re a real explorer, the entirety of Blood and Wine is likely to keep you playing well into the 30-hour mark. For a $20 expansion, this an incredibly generous amount of quality entertainment.

CD Projekt Red /

On top of all this, CD Projekt RED have added a new skill system to experiment with, in the form of advanced mutations. I always considered The Witcher 3’s progression system to be rather dull, since it dealt mostly with statistical upgrades over new and exciting abilities, though Blood and Wine somewhat counters this issue.

…The boss fights are also much more memorable than they were in the base game…

Mutations offer high-level players the chance to try out unique upgrades for Geralt, including the ability to finish a foe through a counter-attack or to freeze enemies using your enhanced Aard sign. After so many hours of working through skill trees consisting of passive abilities, I can’t tell you how much I appreciated the opportunity to enjoy Geralt’s high-level power through new and more visually impactful interactions in combat.

The result is that Geralt is stronger than ever before, which is handy considering the plethora of dangerous creatures unique to Toussaint. Enemies such as the man-eating plants and giant centipedes engage in radically different attack styles to what we’ve come to expect in The Witcher 3, and Geralt needs to be fast on his feet if he has any chance of taking them down. As with Hearts of Stone, the boss fights are also much more memorable than they were in the base game, boasting rich character design and unique environments to fight them in.

The first boss, for example, is a giant named Golyat; hardly, you might say, an enemy type that Geralt is unfamiliar with. Despite that, Golyat’s backstory, appearance (a dead peacock is somehow stuck to his head) and combat style within the environment (a.k.a. swinging his club across the ground and brutally taking out flocks of innocent sheep in the process) together create an experience that feels entirely fresh and engaging.

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Considering Blood and Wine may be the last time we see, or play, as Geralt of Rivia, this incredibly rewarding expansion closes the curtains on his adventures with a truly grand finale. After all the trials and tragedy of Wild Hunt, it was a real joy to spend time with Geralt as he indulges in the luxuries of Toussaint, even if all manner of trouble follows him along the way. If you enjoyed any of your time with this professional monster slayer in The Witcher 3, you owe it to both Geralt and CD Projekt RED to see Blood and Wine through to the very end.

. The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine. 9. <em>The Witcher III: Blood and Wine </em>may not break any new ground, but it is one of the most valuable and worthwhile pieces of downloadable content I’ve played in a long time. Big, bold and beautiful, it is an expansion for the fans that has been well worth the wait. Geralt clearly enjoys himself throughout the entirety of <em>Blood and Wine</em>’s main story, which is aptly reflective of the fact that this trip to Toussaint is quite simply a grand old time for everyone involved.. CD Projekt RED

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