Are we done yet? Unfortunately yes, we are. The Witcher III: Blood and Wine, the final full-scale expansion for The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, brings one of the best open world games we’ve ever encountered to a close. And it’s ending not with a whimper but with a burst of colour, a ton of chivalry and some of the funniest moments Geralt of Rivia has ever participated in. Oh, and more than 20 hours of new gameplay in a brand-new area.
Blood and Wine is intended to be played at or after the endgame for the main story campaign in The Witcher III. As mentioned, there’s a whole slew of time that you’re going to be spending in the game. That’s understandable as the expansion adds Toussaint, a duchy under the command of a very headstrong ruler, for players to roam around in.
Just what is new? New enemies, new factions, new quests, more Gwent, a whole lot of bugs (the kind that eat you) and Geralt will also get a first – a home that can be upgraded to show off those armour sets that you have so painstakingly collected over the past year or so. And it includes a lab, herb garden, and a few other items. This is a reward from Anna Henrietta, the duchess of Toussaint and Geralt’s new employer. You see, there seems to be a bit of a problem with knights dropping dead and then being dismembered. And vampires. A whole lot of vampires.
Quest For Glory
Toussaint and the whole premise of Blood and Wine is a combination of France’s wine-country, Camelot (complete with jousting and speeches that just… won’t… stop…), Interview with a Vampire, and perhaps the hills of Tuscany. Just a little. With a handful of fairytales and some of the weirdest Witcher quests we’ve even seen thrown in for good measure. And that includes the giant chicken quest from The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Any more of an explanation and we’re going to be heading into spoiler territory and there is too much of a good thing here for us to want to wreck any of it for you.
Compared to Hearts of Stone, Blood and Wine is far fuller-featured, story-wise, and players will actually be in control through most of it. You’re being sent to investigate two warring vineyards, each of whom claim the other is sabotaging the other? Yeah, you’re mopping up those messes yourself. The only time major action takes place in cut-scenes is when Geralt is skipping over rooftops and ship’s masts in pursuit of a foe or something similar. You know, the stuff you can’t actually do using the usual controls.
When you’re not exploring, doing the main quest line, being horribly distracted by all the side-quests or just killing those worm things, you’ve got a bunch of other things to do. Players have more alchemy options to look forward to, specifically with regards to mutagens. You remember all those drops from monsters that you didn’t look at? Yeah, those are useful now. They form part of a new mutation system that will give Geralt an improved edge over whatever is out there – play-style dependent, of course. And there’s something for everyone, whether you’re a damage dealer, magic-user, or alchemist.
There’s also a whole new set of armours for players to hunt down but these… are going to cost you. We made a single set of Grandmaster Griffin armour from the Blood and Wine DLC and spent over 70,000 orens (that was with most of the crafting ingredients on hand) getting it made. And that was also after tracking down the plans for the gear and killing the monsters guarding them. Luckily, the monetary rewards have been increased in Blood and Wine to compensate. You’re going to want these special armour sets too, as they offer various boosts to players who have three or all six of the pieces equipped.
Gwent nuts will also find that there’s a new, Skellige-themed deck for them to go hunting for, adding even more hours of play to Blood and Wine. We actually think that 20 hours of additions is more of a suggested total for speedier players. Is there more to do? Actually… yes. Bandit enclaves also need cleaning out, Geralt can play the knight errant (but without the flowery language) and there’s also an actual jousting tournament to get involved in…
Same Old Same Old
It almost hurts saying this but there are a few things that Blood and Wine could have done better. The gameplay, while it has been refined by patches over time, doesn’t attempt anything really new. It’s still the same blade oil, witcher sign, and cold, hard steel combination when it comes to monster (and the occasional human) slaying. It’s just a vehicle for the story, which we have no complaints with, but some effort in the direction of something fresh would have gone a long way.
But we still have the same old Geralt too, and that’s no bad thing. If anything, he’s snarkier in this outing than ever before. There’s a general attitude of Geralt-had-no-time-for-your-pointlessness throughout, something that seems connected to his previous travels through the region. It also sets up some of the funniest moments in the series. It’s a shame it has to end.
All in all, it’s more of The Witcher III. What you really want to know is: Is Blood and Wine worth my time and money? The answer to that is a resounding, and almost sad, yes. It’s a serious pity that the series has come to an end but if it has to, then Blood and Wine is an amazing exit for an already amazing game. It’s as long as some full-priced games, with better mechanics and story acting as a driving force. It’s hard to believe that this expansion includes everything that it does – until you actually play it, that is. And you really, really should play it. Right now.