The Witcher 3 Blood and Wine Review
It’s been awhile since I’ve been played The Witcher, so I haven’t really thought much about Geralt and his world of monsters. Don’t get me wrong, I loved The Witcher and thought Hearts of Stone was a great addition to an already great game, but after it was over, I wasn’t yearning for more Witcher. But by the time Blood and Wine was close to release, I eagerly awaited something new to pull me back into the game. Enough time had passed since October that I started to miss being immersed in that world and couldn’t wait to explore somewhere brand new as Geralt. Now having finished the expansion, I’d be hard-pressed to think of a better addition and conclusion to the tale of the Witcher than Blood and Wine
The first quest of the new content has you answer a summons from Anna Henrietta who rules over the duchy of Toussaint, a part of the Nilfgaardian empire famous for its wines and knights errant with their strict chivalric code. Before Geralt can begin the long journey to Toussaint though, he must first go and meet the knights Palmerin de Launfal and Milton de Peyrac-Peyran. Compared to the muddy, run-down town that they’ve placed under their protection, Milton and Palmerin look ridiculously out of place with their mannerisms and elaborate golden armor that set them apart from just about everyone else you’ve met in the The Witcher 3.
Wandering around Toussaint is enjoyable in of itself, the numerous vineyards and towns that dot the countryside make for excellent distractions. It’s great to see Geralt in a place as flamboyant as Toussaint, his gruff nature and dry sense of humor clash with the over-the-top environment.—
Toussaint is far and away one of the most visually stunning areas in The Witcher 3, the sheer vibrancy of the environment is such a departure from what has come before that it’s almost overwhelming. Despite its pleasant appearance, Toussaint is no less dangerous than anywhere else Geralt has traveled. The dangers in Toussaint tend towards having a more dramatic flair than what the witcher usually faces, though.
Within the first five minutes of Geralt’s arrival in Toussaint, you witness a windmill collapse as a giant (complete with plumed helmet and tragic backstory) charges through it in an attempt to turn a knight-errant into a paste (or pâté, seeing as we’re in Toussaint). Geralt and his knightly companions charge in to assist the young knight in an impressive opening scene that makes some of the more pedestrian clashes in the main game seem downright dull.
Wandering around Toussaint is enjoyable in of itself, the numerous vineyards and towns that dot the countryside make for excellent distractions. It’s great to see Geralt in a place as flamboyant as Toussaint, his gruff nature and dry sense of humor clash with the over-the-top environment. Filling up the colorful land of Toussaint are a selection of new treasure hunts, witcher contracts, and secondary quests. A standout example of one of the longer secondary quests has Geralt fitted with armor to take place in an elaborate tourney, facing off against knights in competitions of skill in an attempt to help a friend lift a powerful curse.
Near the start of Blood and Wine Geralt is granted the rights to Corvo Bianco, a vineyard just north of Beauclair, by Anna Henrietta. Upgrading the vineyard is an expensive undertaking but it’s nice to have a little piece of Toussaint Geralt can call his own. There are a number of practical benefits to upgrading the house such as temporary boosts to vitality as well as cosmetic ones, like the ability to put all the swords you’ve been hoarding on display.
As I moved through the main quest, I didn’t think it was anything particularly special, there were some great characters and an interesting plot but even as late as going into the final act I wasn’t convinced it could be as interesting as some of the other things you can do in Blood and Wine. As the events of the main questline start to come to a head, though, the plot rapidly picks up its pace and has you travel to some truly unique locations while presenting you with some tough, if at times slightly unfair, choices. In the end, I didn’t get what’s being considered to be the best ending but, unusually, I was fully satisfied with the way it panned out, it’s a testament to how well-written Blood and Wine is that I could be happy with a tragic ending that was completely avoidable.
Besides all that, Blood and Wine adds a number of other things onto already existing systems in The Witcher 3, most importantly a new Gwent deck. Gwent is one of the best parts of The Witcher 3, and the pursuit of all cards and tournaments took up an embarrassing amount of time on my part, so when I was introduced to the new Skellige deck I was, of course, overjoyed, that is, until I actually tried to use it. The new deck added some interesting new features to Gwent like special berserker units that can transform when placed next to Mardroeme, a special fungus card that’s played the same way as a commander’s horn, and Olaf the bear who has a whopping 12 strength and a morale boost that increases the strength of units on his row. The problem with the deck is the same problem the monster and Scoia’tael decks have: it doesn’t have any spy cards so it is effectively trash against either Nilfgaard or the Northern Realms.
Along with the addition of new Gwent cards, there’s a handful of other offerings as a part of Blood and Wine, grandmaster witcher armor can now be crafted with treasure hunts for the new diagrams available across Toussaint. All the witcher armor previously available, as well as a brand new Manticore School set, can now be crafted at a grandmaster level (with the exception of the Viper School set from Hearts of Stone). The addition of this new armor means old sets can be upgraded to be viable in the new areas as well as providing incentives to collect all the diagrams, bonuses for having multiple pieces of the same set equipped are available with each set having two stages unlocked at 3 and 6 pieces equipped. I found myself encouraged to go back and collect the diagrams I’d previously missed in the main game just to craft the grandmaster variants.
New mutations are also available in Blood and Wine, although I found them to be just another convoluted aspect of an already pretty bad skill system. The new mutations do include some powerful upgrades but they come at a pretty high cost in terms of skill points and they don’t offer enough of a payoff for the necessary investment.
I thought I done with The Witcher 3 back when I finished Hearts of Stone and was sure Blood and Wine would put a bow on the whole Witcher 3 experience, and it did. But it also made me want to go back and play through Geralt’s adventure all over again. Being placed back in the world of The Witcher made me realize how much I had missed it. With CD Projekt Red announcing they don’t plan to make a Witcher 4, Blood and Wine enough to play through the base game to completion, then I would fully recommend the new expansion, and even if you couldn’t get all the way through the main game, Blood and Wine is still an excellent self-contained story that’s worth a play. And who knows, it could be the thing that convinces you to go back and play more of The Witcher 3.