Such an excellent piece. Here is our blood and wine review
CD Projekt Red puts The Witcher 3 to rest with Blood and Wine so it can focus on Cyberpunk 2077. Medieval Batman has voiced his final sarcastic remark, oiled his sword for the final time, dealt his final hand of Gwent, and romanced all the ladies. Is Blood and Wine, in light of this, a worthy sequel to Wild Hunt and the excellent Hearts of Stone?
So far, the answer is a resounding yes.
Geralt is transported to the sunny climate of Toussaint, a cross between medieval France and Italy, in Blood and Wine. Unlike the Temeria and Skellige regions, which were dark, drab Eastern European-style areas full of unhappy people, Toussaint is bright and festive. Knights, lords, and ladies converse in a flowery speech about honor and justice among the rolling hills of vineyards and sunflowers. The early moments of Blood and Wine are about Toussaint knights trying to function normally in the barren wasteland of Velen’s No Man’s Land, which is such a contrast from where the story previously took place.
Those knights are envoys sent by Duchess Anna Henrietta to track down Geralt. Former knights and nobles are being murdered by an unknown supernatural creature. There are no spoilers, but the cover art, trailer, and even title hint at the nature of Geralt’s foe this time around. The ‘what’ isn’t as important as the ‘who’ and ‘why,’ and Geralt’s loyalties have been torn between his duty and his friendships so far in the story. The search for Ciri was in Wild Hunt, and Geralt was forced to repay a debt in Hearts of Stone. Blood and Wine, while lacking the false urgency of the first, does have some of the emotional zings that the second lacked in the main quest.
The change in setting is what makes Blood and Wine stand out the most in Hearts of Stone. These are distinct lands with distinct cultures. The main city, Beauclair, is a stunning contrast, slowly crawling up a hillside from slum to palace. Seriously, with this city and its various districts, CDPR’s environmental artists continue to outdo themselves.
The countryside is just as densely packed with things to see and do. Ancient elven ruins can be found in caves, lakes, and forests. There are new monsters in those hills, as well as a slew of old ones. The people are so wealthy that they believe in knights battling giant monsters for the love of their lady love’s heart. This isn’t a war-torn region where barons and kings are vying for power. The tone isn’t light, but it’s distinct from the previous work. Temeria also lacks your fantastic majordomo, Barnabas-Basil. Geralt, he’s the proper Alfred you deserve.
While Toussaint toys with concepts like honor, loyalty, and justice, the region has its own dark secrets to hide. Geralt must navigate the rituals and pageantry to determine who is the true victim in this situation. People are dying, but is the Beast a demon or an unavoidable evil? Is it possible for a being to hide its true nature? Is humanity the true monster? (No, the monsters that kill and eat people are most likely the culprits.)
Blood and Wine is an expansion for The Witcher 3 that is built directly on top of the game. Combat is still a dodge-and-slash affair, with a system for exploiting monster strengths and weaknesses added in. Geralt and his invincible horse Roach continue to roam a vast, detailed landscape, with Toussaint roughly the same size as Velen in Wild Hunt. Crafting and alchemy are still required to truly succeed, with Geralt requiring the best armor, oils, and mutagens to complete his most difficult hunts. Your Witcher Senses are still being used to locate your next clue or objective. All of this works, and CDPR decided not to interfere.
More weapons and armor have been added, including new Witcher armor sets. CD Projekt Red also added a snazzy new dye system, allowing you to make your Geralt as colorful and vibrant as the cities of Toussaint. Dyes can be purchased or made by hand, but I usually find them in hidden treasure chests around the world. It’s a nice touch for a character whose appearance is fairly static; you could always tell where a player was in their game by the armor they had on hand. At the very least, your Geralt can now be a vibrant purple.
CDPR also revamped the user interface, but the inventory remains a quagmire. It’s better, but I still have bags full of useless items that I can’t get rid of because I might need them later. Blood and Wine add Geralt’s new vineyard estate, complete with built-in storage, to help with this. It’s convenient to have a place to store all of your extra junk, and the estate can be upgraded over time as well. There isn’t much real customization – think of Assassin’s Creed II’s villa – but it’s fun to spend money, go on quests, and come back to new upgrades. Your estate will provide you with a place to take care of all of your normal city needs, such as repairs, once it has been upgraded.
The Runewright enchantments were introduced in Hearts of Stone as a new upgrade system for Geralt’s equipment, and Blood and Wine introduced a completely new system for Geralt himself. Geralt dives into a mad scientist’s lair and emerges with some mutations, thanks to a quest you’ll receive via a letter from Yennefer. These Mutations are powerful additions to Geralt’s abilities and Mutagens, and they work in tandem with them. In fact, to research these new Mutations, you’ll need to spend ability points and mutagens.
In exchange for your sacrifice, you’ll gain access to some extremely powerful abilities, such as a six-fold increase in crossbow damage or a skill that boosts your Attack Power by 5% every time you attack. It’s an excellent system that complements the existing Combat, Signs, and Alchemy trees in which players specialize. I expect to see some very strong Geralt’s in the endgame.
All of this is before I get into some of the new side quests (CDPR claims there are 90 total quests in the expansion), such as a trippy fairytale-inspired affair, the case of the stolen testicles, a run-in with a spotted wight, the gentleman who sends you graveyard diving because he just wants to get some sleep at night, or the numerous knights who get themselves way too deep with the local monsters. (I’m actually surprised they’ve made it this far.) So far, the main quest is on par with CD Projekt Red’s excellent storytelling work in The Wild Hunt and Hearts of Stone. But I’m not finished yet, which is why this is a work-in-progress review. I’m curious to see if they’ll make it or if they’ll fall flat like the abrupt ending of Hearts of Stone.
CD Projekt Red‘s excellent track record continues with Blood and Wine. If you thought Hearts of Stone’s success was a fluke, this expansion disproves that theory. From what I’ve seen, it’s put together just as well in terms of story and quests, and the new scenery makes it a slight improvement over the previous expansion. Regardless, I don’t think Witcher fans will be disappointed with their decision to join Geralt on his final adventure.