In almost all circumstances, time away from a game can change your perspective on it. Sometimes you are too enraptured in a game to see its faults, and other times you don’t appreciate what you are experiencing until a long time after. The latter was the case with me for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. While I thoroughly enjoyed and praised the game I didn’t realize until months later what an achievement it is and just how much it resonated with me. So, I couldn’t have been more excited to dive back in with the latest expansion: Blood and Wine. And somehow CD Projekt Red has outdone themselves once again with this awe inspiring expansion.
Blood and Wine begins with Geralt bumping into some knights from the land of Toussaint, who have an important contract for him. He travels back to their homeland, a land of love and wine, that feels nothing like anywhere you’ve been before. Toussaint is a place of chivalry, of knights and ladies, of nobles and duchesses. It is a place where honor and virtue is the most important thing, and grand romantic gestures are the norm. It is a place of beauty and color, and upon arriving my first thought was that someone flipped on a vibrant Instagram filter. At the worst of times it’s a beautiful landscape and at the best of times your jaw will hit the floor. Once you pick your jaw up from the floor you’ll find out that Gerlat must track down a monster who has been murdering knights.
As Geralt proceeds with his investigation the intrigue increases and the events that unfold are increasingly shocking and tense. Blood and Wine tells a magnificent tale that will leave you on the edge of your seat, as it takes you on a roller-coaster ride. As you’d expect, you aren’t just a passenger on this ride but an also an active contributor. Blood and Wine expertly shows the right way to handle choice in a game, with choices not being black and white, but grey, and the consequences of each manifesting themselves is surprising ways. Who do you trust? How understanding are you to other’s motivations? These are types of questions that change how the story unfolds. All conclusions are terribly poignant and some may hit you like a ton of bricks. This effect is achieved in no short terms not only from the story but the characters.
Blood and Wine has a stellar cast of characters each of which has complex motivations and histories. From strong commanding Duchess of Toussaint to the deeply philosophical Regis each character is written and acted magnificently. They are so deep in fact that Blood and Wine has no clear villains as I see it, just highly motivated characters with different goals. It is really up to you to deem who you is a villain in your eyes. Certain scenes between characters had me so enthralled that a dialogue box had to pop up before I was forced remember that I’m still playing a game and not watching a Game of Thrones like show. The characters, the world, and the story sucks you in, in a way unparalleled by any Role Playing Game I have ever played. All these characters are enraptured in a struggle surrounding an appropriate theme for the end of The Witcher 3 saga: What is a Monster? Blood and Wine asks some big questions of Geralt, and forces him to make important decisions this way or that. Is slaying monsters always the right path? Are all monsters really evil? What makes a monster? These questions and more guide your path and give you a lot to ponder.
This story is set against this fairy tale backdrop, a fact CD Projekt Red is well aware of and constantly eludes to. The Toussaint residents live in a happy bubble, and are stuck in there extravagant, pompous ways. It’s an interesting and refrershing location, especially juxtaposed against the struggles and trials of the rest of the world in The Witcher 3. Instead of taking a look at hard medieval life, Blood and Wine looks at the glorified version of it our culture often eludes to. And Geralt is fish out of water in Toussaint. This allows this expansion to be the first place in The Witcher 3 where we genuinely see a conscious comedic effort, as Geralt mocks the land’s customs and finds himself in ridiculous situations. A scene of Geralt filling out forms at a bank only to be given the run around was especially comical and even poked fun are our current society. Blood and Wine has it’s very own identity from the core game and feels truly unique while still retaining the best parts of The Witcher 3.
While Blood and Wine has its own identity it mirrors The Witcher 3 in its scope. Toussaint is massive and even after around 25 hours or so I feel I have barely scratched the surface. While the city of Beauclair is where you’ll spend most of your time the land sprawls far and wide and has many secrets to uncover and mysteries to solve. The side quests, in traditional The Witcher 3 fashion, are not only numerous, but engrossing, as Geralt is usually solving mysteries, and each one keeps you wondering where they could possibly go next. A lot of these mysteries end with showdowns against brand new remarkable monsters, as Toussaint offers what are in my opinion the best enemies to fight in the game. And if fighting isn’t your thing there’s a whole host of new Gwent cards and you’re even given a house to maintain. Blood and Wine has more interesting things to do than most full fledged games and op top of that it’s all stellar.
On the other hand, When The Witcher 3 first released there were some things fans found less than stellar. Through your first minutes of Blood and Wine it is clear that CD Projekt Red has taken this feedback to heart and made changes, with the results pushing The Witcher 3 to even greater heights. With the expansion, a new patch was released which completely overalls menus are crafting. Items are now organized much more simply and getting the right ingredients for crafting has become so simple. Even things like being able to read a letter right as you pick it up has helped immensely. Blood and Wine has also improved on the lackluster progression system. Now there is a new upgrade path, along with the current ones, that feels significantly more meaningful. Finally, leveling up feels substantial and you can see Geralt getting stronger immediately, to the point where I actually care about earning experience.
With Blood and Wine being the last add-on for The Witcher 3: Wild hunt, CD Projekt Red pulled out all the stops and delivered the best video game expansion I have ever played. Blood and Wine features some of the most memorable moments, craziest monsters and complex characters ever to grace the series. And while I will miss experiencing Geralt’s adventures for what is sure to be a long time, I can’t imagine a better way to end my time with him.