The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was the single of 2015 for me. Having never played the prior entries, or even been aware of the series of novels it was based on, I jumped into it mostly through journalistic pursuits. Everyone was talking about it, and I felt it my duty to see keep on top of recent releases. I was genuinely impressed with The Witcher 3. Its world was robust and dynamic, there was an intriguing story with interesting characters, and I actually enjoyed the gameplay and combat mechanics. In terms of the big, “AAA” RPGs that released last year, I found myself actively wanting to return to Geralt’s world, unlike the colossal garbage heap that was Fallout 4. What better reason to go back to return to it then the Blood and Wine expansion pack, adding an extensive amount of content to the Witcher experience.
Blood and Wine finds Geralt in the Southern continent of Toussaint, an idyllic land untouched by the ravages of the war that besieges the northern continents. It’s a fairytale world filled with knights, tournaments, chivalry and of course wine (there’s some blood in there too, but we’ll get to that). The duchess of Toussaint hires Geralt to hunt a mysterious monster that has been killing particular knights, and what starts as a simple hunt for a vampire begins to unfold into something much more interesting. Geralt is soon confronted by a vampire and friend from his past, who urges him to find another way.
One noteworthy quest took place after a random NPC hailed Geralt, claiming to owe him a debt after Geralt saved his town from a monster attack with the NPC was but a boy. Said debt could be found in a bank which resulted in a bureaucratic nightmare as I had to go from window to window collecting the proper forms, being misdirected and redirected until I eventually got to the bottom of where my money was. While it’s a perfect example of everything Quinn thinks is wrong with the game, I couldn’t help but love that they were able to take the “go here, get thing” quest and make a pretty solid joke out of it. Plus it was doubly funny seeing Geralt, the grizzled monster hunter waiting in lines and trying to fill out forms.
What I liked most about Blood and Wine is look and feel of the whole thing. Toussaint looks beautiful. I’ve always maintained that The Witcher 3 looked great with vast, dynamic landscapes and a vibrant color pallet, and Blood and Wine takes it to the next level. The whole continent looks ripped from the pages of a fairy tale, with sprawling green hills and deep blue rivers and lakes. Towns have a whimsical, European style that adds to the compliments the bright style and lighter tone. And almost every NPC acts like they’re in a fantasy world, with fair maidens in distress and knights errant running to fight for their honor.
Blood and Wine offers a lot of new features to the Witcher 3 experience. To start, Geralt is rewarded with his own personal villa where players can rest and store items. However, having being left in a state of disrepair, it’s up to the player to invest money into rebuilding it making it a functioning one-stop shop for all your Witching needs. Also available through Blood and Wine is a whole new perk tree allowing for increased strengths for Geralt. By taking on a quest involving a scientist studying Witcher mutations, players can invest ability points and strengthened mutagens to give Geralt permanent buffs.
Aside from the big inclusions, Blood and Wine is also host to over 30 hours of quests, and treasures to find, as well as a host of new monsters to hunt. For any Gwent fans (such as myself), Blood and Wine offers a new Skellige Gwent deck, which is ridiculously overpowered.
I’ll admit that I was pretty generous towards The Witcher 3, especially when I first played it. Back when I first started, I was ready to call it “the best open-world, fantasy RPG ever made.” However, while I certainly do enjoy it, I definitely agree with a lot what of my former colleague at the journalism academy, Brendan Quinn, said against the game. The Witcher 3 is not a game without a boatload of issues, and Blood and Wine is no exception. Often I’ve had NPC dialogue disappear, quests lock-up when I couldn’t interact with specific things, or (my favorite glitch) seeing NPCs get locked into the default T pose. However, unlike Fallout 4, the sum of all The Witcher’s parts made for a more enjoyable game, and I found myself more forgiving of its flaws.
Overall, Blood and Wine is a worthy addition to the Witcher 3 experience. While it may not be perfect, it provides enough wonder, excitement, and adventure to keep the player invested.Those looking to continue the story of Geralt of Rivia will find plenty to enjoy with this expansion.