The Witcher: Blood and Wine tells the final tale of the White Wolf, the Witcher known throughout the land as Geralt of Rivia. CD Projekt Red has woven a story so wonderfully here, a tale of betrayal, curses and conspiracy, that in some ways it surpasses the story found in The Wild Hunt. Blood and Wine is a fantastic send off for Geralt, and one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had this year.
Geralt is summoned to Toussaint, a beautiful land untouched by war, but not by evil, to stop a string of murders by an unknown force. Throughout the 30+ hour expansion, you’ll solve the mystery of those murders and see your resolution met with up to 3 drastically different outcomes, with a variety of epilogues that vary on your choices made in The Wild Hunt, and the expansion here.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Toussaint is how blissfully colorful it is, as it shines in extreme contrast to that of the locations found within The Wild Hunt, and even Hearts of Stone. Each and every section of this wonderfully crafted countryside is bursting with vivid color and extreme detail. After a dozen or so hours into Blood and Wine I needed to convert some currency as I just couldn’t find the bank in Toussaint for the life of me, so I fast traveled back to Velen. While there I decided to level up Geralt a bit and upon touring the countryside, it was apparent just how beautiful Toussaint truly was in compared to this war torn and often burnt and destroyed locale. Toussaint also feels different in its tone and mood, making this expansion feel even more self-contained.
Toussaint also offers a tremendous amount of content to discover and quests to fill up your queue. Clearing caves of creatures, discovering the cause of feuding wine merchants and sharing a hilarious and unique conversation with a well-traveled friend are merely small bites in the wealth of content here. There is also a new deck of Gwent cards to collect and even a new musical score to enjoy while playing a few rounds here and there. There is a second area you get to explore as well that contains some fun objectives, but the meat of the game is found within Toussaint. The map size here is enormous and packed full of so much to explore and partake in that it may very well be the best valued downloadable content ever released.
It is also impossible to talk about Toussaint and not mention its love of wine, as the countryside is littered with vineyards as far as the eye can see. You’ll earn the deed of one such vineyard yourself and by spending a great deal of coin, you can upgrade it to house your armor and weapons that have become trophies along your adventure. Depending on your choice in a quest later on, you can acquire a cook as well. You can upgrade the grounds or sections of your house by talking with your majordomo, Barnabas-Basil, who essentially serves as your Butler. I was pleased to see that you can construct a stable for Roach, your horse. I wish there had been more upgrades though as I had enough coin on me to upgrade them all nearly at once.
Geralt is joined here by many a figure from his past, including Regis, who is extremely well known to fans of the original books the series is based on, as well as mentioned in the first Witcher game for PC. You’ll also meet up with Anna Henrietta, whom while the ruler of Toussaint, was also involved romantically with Dandelion in the past. There are a few more characters here who either were in the first Witcher game or were more prominently featured in the novels.
I adored Regis, and found him to bring a bit of life to the game, which is fairly ironic given that he is a vampire. His interactions with Geralt are fun, mysterious and often sentimental. Anna Henrietta and her personal guard Damien also have some great scenes, and the missions where you are accompanied by Anna have some fantastic dialogue choices. Dettlaff, another vampire featured in the games main plot is greatly handled with some strong emotional scenes and when joined in combat with him and Regis, it’s exhilarating. There is another central character that is pivotal to the plot, as well as a few twists and turns, but I’ll leave those up to you to discover.
There isn’t just new characters for Geralt to interact with, but new enemy types as well. You’ll come across acid spewing plants called Archespores, Panthers and deadly vampire women called Bruxae. I also enjoyed fighting the giant Centipede’s that burrow under the ground. The vampire focus on this story is fantastic, as I felt in The Wild Hunt, that vampires got the short end of the stick, no pun intended. There are also Slyzards, which are often mistaken for Wyverns or Forktails, and many more enemy types to slay with your dual set of swords.
Combat is identical to that of The Wild Hunt, with not much change here. You’ll still pair your Steel sword with one of Silver, and your bombs and crossbow are available as always. The only real difference to any form of combat is the use of a new Mutagen system. Utilizing Greater Mutagens and Ability points you will earn specific new skills like gaining temporary invincibility while your health instantly recharges, boosting sign or attack damage, or increasing your critical hit percentage. There is even one skill where it boosts your crossbow damage from 119 to 899, which is insane, if you like using the crossbow that is.
The latest patch for Witcher 3 has some issues, but nothing game breaking. I’ve had some glitchy clothing, some characters sinking into the ground, but nothing that prevented progress. Roach still controls a bit off and still has issues moving around fences and drops off small cliffs. The same issues that affected the core Witcher 3 experience are more or less here with some small improvements made to better the game. You can now instantly read books upon picking them up and it’s easier to craft items at shops now should you need a certain ingredient during the crafting process. Witcher 3 plays better than ever, but it still has a few rough edges.
It was a bit sad to finish Blood and Wine, knowing that the story for Geralt is now done. I’ll miss my adventures with Geralt and his wonderful cast of characters. While the Witcher series may continue on, it will be told from the perspective of another main character. Who knows, maybe I’ll see Geralt in passing or hear stories about more of his adventures, or maybe come across his Vineyard one day. CD Projekt Red has crafted a series to stand the test of time and have offered an unprecedented value in content here. At around $20, or cheaper with the season pass, Blood and Wine has a tremendous amount of content to easily keep you occupied for dozens of hours. Blood and Wine is a fantastic end to the series and told a wonderful story to close out the chapter of Geralt of Rivia, the Witcher.