Blood and Wine, the second and final content expansion for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt whisks the Butcher of Blaviken away from the gloomy swamps of Velen and out into the innocent and beautiful lush lands of Toussaint, where the sun always seems to have its hat on, seriously, it never rains here. It’s been an impatiently long wait for a return to the award winning machine that is Wild Hunt, two hundred and thirty-one agonising days to be precise since we last got to showcase our monster slaying skills and womanising prowess throughout the alleyways and streets of Oxenfurt with Hearts of Stone. The opening moments of Blood and Wine prove the wait to be well and truly worth it, every single agonising second.
A sight for sore eyes
Upon arriving in Toussaint my first thoughts were filled with utter amazement. The landscape is picturesque, the sky a gorgeous shade of bright blue that spanned the untouched regions horizon, its hue’s easily distinguishable from the other areas of the game, diehard Witcher fans will be familiar with. Amazement quickly turned into dread, however, as a giant enemy wielding part of a destroyed windmill attempted to smash my skull in, ending Geralt’s epic adventure before it had even begun. I have to say, I had high expectations for the final expansion and conclusion to everything Geralt after the previous expansion, Hearts of Stone set the bar extremely high in a world where DLC is thrown out for money, not pure enjoyment. You’d be forgiven for feeling like the Witcher expansions were a completely new game altogether, with each quest and encounter our white-haired casanova experiences well thought out and unique.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Blood and Wine Expansion: Xbox One [Reviewed], PC, PlayStation 4
Developer: CD Projekt Red
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Release Date: 31 May 2016
Price: £15.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer]
Don’t get me wrong, it’s more of the same Witcher that we know and love but it just feels better, fresher, bluer, more laid back and has a sense of fantasy entwined with every corner turned. We’d all love to spend our lives precious hours being the hero, saving the day and rescuing beautiful damsels from distress, something the Witcher has always had in droves. The biggest difference from the main game, is the noticeable humour Blood and Wine presents, whether it’s the french sounding residents yelling something about chopping someone into pâté or its ridiculous side quests; one of which includes the retrieval of a statue’s testicles which you can then later rub to further heighten your sexual life – something Geralt hardly needs. The usual toil and gloomy war-racked countryside now replaced with a sun-soaked atmosphere, a setting far less serious than the tales that spun before it, showcasing CD Projekt Red’s brilliant ability to both amuse us or distress us.
Toussaint under threat
As beautiful as Toussaint is, I often wonder why people even bother to venture out of their town into the brutally dangerous world that sees a dead body strewn across the countryside, their mutilated blood-soaked limbs beside them. The very fact that it is so undeniably dangerous is where Geralt comes in, transforming the surrounding lands into his own personal playground. Blood and Wine’s story begins with our hero being summoned by the Duchess of Toussaint, a strange beast is killing knights in the region, with different descriptions given of the dark shadowy vampiric creature, one of which bears an uncanny resemblance to that of the rather haunting Slenderman. The White Wolf sets out on a quest to save the day once more and maybe win a lady or two’s heart along the way.
Blood and Wine really feel’s like the finished product of The Witcher 3, vast improvements and fixes have been made to the game after CD Projekt Red listened and acted upon feedback given to them by fans and players. The inventory system has been completely revamped and is now much easier to use, with blocks for each group of items. Players can now develop mutations which offer players the ability to freeze their foes among many others and even unlock additional slots for their various skills. Reading books and quest pages become’s far easier with the option to read available the moment an item is picked up. The areas mentioned above were slight niggles in an otherwise close to perfect a gaming experience as you are ever likely to find in the current market.
A wealth of new opportunities
The 30+ hour addition introduces 90 new quests, the ability to dye your armour pink (yes!) and other colours because priorities! An impressive 20 or so new monsters to encounter and fight have also been included, each with their own dangers and weaknesses for you to discover. Blood and Wine also manage’s to beat Hearts of Stone’s 6000 lines of dialogue with a phenomenal 14,000 spoken lines throughout. The DLC plays highly on your decisions, meaning you can end the game with one of three different endings, making it great for a second playthrough, while adding a new level of replayability to what is already a heavily successful game. Like many role-playing games before it, Blood and Wine introduces a home ‘Corvo Bianco’ that Geralt can call his own, with the ability to hang paintings on the wall and upgrade to feature armour stands, weapon racks and short-term bonuses acquired by sleeping and reading. The new estate is a much-welcomed addition that doesn’t feel tacked on in any way.
In all honesty Blood and Wine could be completed in 10 hours or less if you chose to forgo the many side quests, driving straight at the heart of the main plotline but its side quests are what makes The Witcher 3 such a breathtakingly enthralling experience, soak it all up, Toussaint has a lot to offer, to not walk its streets and listen to its stories would be shameful. Avoiding these smaller in scale moments not only defeats the purpose of playing such a wild and truly wonderful game, it would also see you robbed of around 20 hours worth of gameplay in the process. Toussaint is a large region bristling with life, the sun beams while bright yellow sunflowers stand tall and proud out in the fields, it’s an area worth the exploration, worth the entry fee and with so many different tales to take in from the various town folk, Blood and Wine has an undeniable charm to it.
Blood and Wine is a fitting end to what it is a true spectacle of modern gaming in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. From the moment I rode into the region of Toussaint, I felt blessed to be surrounded by such immense beauty, drenched in the gorgeous glow of the sun, in awe of its luscious scenery. The newly introduced area is different from of my previous experiences with the game. Not only captivating by sight, Toussaint draws you in and compels you with its mystery and unknown dangers. I have been a fan of Geralt of Rivia since I can remember, some of my fondest memories reside within the White Wolf and if this is indeed farewell to the legendary sword bearing lothario than it has been an experience I will always cherish, one that will live long in my memory. The Witcher 3 is a prime example of what video game developers should be striving to achieve in the 21st century. The art of creating fiction entangled amidst a wide open world where your wildest dreams become a reality is something not to be missed, it should be celebrated and will be for many years to come.