Review: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine
More than a year after the arrival of the original The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and roughly 6 month after Hearts of Stone (which I only published the review recently), it’s time for CD Projekt Red’s second and final expansion called Blood and Wine, the closing chapter to complete the long saga of the Witcher. A successful epilogue?
While The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone was a good first expansion for the game, it left me in a neutral spot with the game, mainly because as fun the new region and the lore was, the story itself didn’t connect its dots, and left me with many unanswered questions. CD Projekt Red though kind of knew that, and Blood and Wine is an expansion they promised with over twenty hours of additional story content, a lot of new items, and a change in scenery that is more spectacular than Hearts of Stone. And so, the final adventure of our good old Witcher will see Geralt of Rivia enter the realm of debauchery, in the The Duchy of Toussaint, a land known for its wine (and their ample drinkers) and a setting influenced by French winery regions such as Bordeaux and Champagne.
But before focusing that much on Blood and Wine, let us dwell for a moment on the big patch that was released to prepare the ground for this final expansion. Praised by many, and based on comments of the community, the final patch brought many innovations, especially in terms of reorganization and quite a phenomenal redesign of the game interface to make things clearer for everyone, especially console players. Now everything is better separated, classified, books can finally read quickly, to the point that the action can be fired by pressing the R3 thumbstick button as soon as you pick the tome (or the corresponding key depending on your platform). This may seem like a smaller detail, but if you never played the game before this update, you would appreciate the new feature to its fair value.
Players will basically now spend much less time in these menus, and on consoles, the clarity of the interface helps a lot, as description of items now get magnified when highlight, but sadly the menus are still slow when changing category, and that’s a shame. I would have appreciated more work on that front, as it’s been a rather annoying thing. Past that, this facelift is more than welcomed, so much that it reminded me of the work done on The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition. Many other additions were made including the Gwynt guide to know what cards are lacking in your collection and especially where to find them, which will be a delight for completionist.
Now that I delved enough in the free update (also available to those that don’t have the expansion), I think it’s time to talk about the synopsis of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine, don’t you think? Checking around new contract hung on the notice board, you find that one of them is actually directly addressed to you, tasking you to find two people in a certain place, which have a mission for you in the duchy region Toussaint. This is when you learn that a creature called “The Beast” is terrorizing the duchy, known to be very calm in nature, and decide to go directly investigate the scene, at the express request of the Duchess of Toussaint, Anna Henrietta. After listening to vague witness descriptions, and can’t find any sort of clues left behind by this creature, you’re set on a rich and full of suspense hunt till the end, which can be accomplished in ten hours – give or take – if you focus solely on the main story.
If you played the game before, you’ll know that this adventure takes place in a completely new game area specially designed for the occasion, but the most avid Witcher fans already know it from books or by some references in the game. Toussaint is a peaceful area that seems far away from the political issues and clashes found in Velen, Novigrad or Skellige. As mentioned above, the specialty is the viticulture and vineyards in the region, and all individuals encountered seem straight out of a chivalry romance series, or even a fairy tale.
The new area set is also extremely broad and offers many quests and waypoints to discover. As usual, while you continue your journey towards your main goal, it will not be unusual to find individuals requiring the services of a Witcher. Rescue missions, contracts, treasure hunts… You will find the same types of activities as in the main game and the expansion before. But on the contrary of Hearts of Stone, I felt a genuine effort from the developer to create and offer some unique features including small random encounters and sometimes funny moments. Anyway, on top of finishing the main quest, consider that it will take between 25 and 30 hours to reach completion.
On the point of view of artistic range, I bow my hat to the careful design of the area, as the Toussaint region is a treat for the eyes. The region is obviously inspired by Italian and French wine country with its colorful houses, making the main city of Beauclair absolutely beautiful, magnified by its palace with elven architecture, full of finesse and might at the same time. The region as a whole is lush with flora, much more present than before, showing the effort that CD Projekt did in the technical optimization of the game to reach these vibrant textures, especially on consoles. Musically, the soundtrack got some new tunes which are excellent and stick perfectly to the theme of the area, but also the game as a whole, keeping true to the ancient folkloric and gipsy tunes of Central Europe. It’s a almost as crazy in differences as Yin and Yang, while everything else the game is a darker medieval tone, Toussaint is more of a lighter renaissance golden era region.
One other interesting point to raise and actually rather fun one, is that the Polish studio has not rested on its laurels from the perspective of writing and script. The story is neat and I realize how the universe and original work have been told in the game. Geralt remains true to himself and shows that he is not a simple monster hunter, ready to slay any creature for no good reason. Similarly, I find the same set of nuances tending to show that monsters are not always as one believes. The border between good and evil is quite blurred, if not non-existent… and it’s always so much fun to discover it while playing!
If earlier in this review, I mentioned the innovations introduced by the patch, I have not mentioned, apart from the new quests, the content offered in this extension which is extremely rich. For starters, one of the main quest will allow Geralt to get a Toussaint title and a property with it named Corvo Bianco (or White Raven for those that don’t know Italian). An abandoned vineyard, you will have the option to restore it to its former glory by renovating it through some donations, all handled by your very own butler. Renovations can allow you to relax in your home, use a workshop to craft and enhance your weapons, use a grinder to sharpen your blades, … In short, everything you upgrade or alter at the mansion will either give you some substantial bonus (Library gives you a boost of experience, stable enhances Roach, etc.), but some are of purely cosmetic aspect, and also give you the opportunity to show off your trophies and various weapons, armor and other works of art you would have received on a quest.If you played the Assassin’s Creed series, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about.
But that’s not all because, through a new quest, our monster hunter can see finally improve his mutations to its full potential. These are unlocked by fusing mutagen superiors of the previous base game (12 in total), to obtain high-level ones that amplify the power of signs and even cause enemies to explode upon inflicting a critical hit. Another capability allows our Witcher to be revive itself upon death, and get a short damage immunity. In short, this is more than formidable strengths and new ability that will be useful to those willing to go through the New Game + or replay the game at higher difficulty.
Of course, a new extension also mean new beasts to hunt. If Hearts of Stone offered us a few creatures that lacked inspiration, as being made of components of other creatures from the original game, here they are some new ones… or almost! Indeed, here I have the pleasure to see the return of the Barghests and spectre dogs that are known from the first episode of The Witcher in the region of Vizima. Similarly, you’ll meet the bug-themed Arachnomorphs (giant spiders), the Scolopendromorphs (giant killing centipedes) or even Shaelmaar, probably the most difficult creatures to face in the Blood and Wine expansion. More than 20 creatures and many characters are introduced, but I will say no more, so as not to spoil the pleasure of discovery.
Equipments were also entitled to a new update, with no less than a hundred new armor pieces, 30 new weapons, all available to assist Geralt’s quest to face the Beast. The expansion quests can also unlock a new level for the Witcher’s equipment that passes “Great Master” range, with their share of additional bonuses. There’s also fresh new Witcher sets such as the infamous Manticore set which should bring back some memories to players of the first game.Finally, Gwynt enthusiasts will not be disappointed either as the card game is enriched with a new deck based on the Skellige region. You will have the opportunity to participate in a new tournament and collecting all new cards which, as usual, are not lacking in style!
However, as everything is rarely all peachy, I had the displeasure of being confronted with some bugs that got troublesome and linked to quests. I had the bad experience of getting locked with a notice board that was impossible to interact with, until I reset the console numerous times, and went back to restore an older save. Similarly, some bodies of enemies killed by my blade had the tendency to freeze like statues in the air, instead of falling to the ground. Although that will probably corrected in the near future (or by the time The Witcher 3 GOTY or Enhanced Edition comes out), it’s a bit sad to see these kind of bugs, especially in an expansion that came a year after the original title. I mainly just expected a better result at this level.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine was reviewed using an Xbox One redeemable code provided by CD Project Red.The expansion is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC in both retail and online store releases. The original game was reviewed in June 2015, which you can read by clicking right here. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• Toussaint is one sublime region
• Amazing art direciton
• The colossal content
• Exemplary lifespan
• True to the lore of the original story
• Charismatic new characters
• A well-awaited interface and UI facelift
• Corvo Bianco
• New skills, armor sets and weapons
• Menus and loading is still slow on consoles
• Still so many bugs, even a year after the original release
• Sadly the last piece of adventure in The Witcher saga