Sometimes, sometimes an expansion is more than just some extra content and/or missions. Sometimes it’s a new game entirely, with hours of gameplay, a new region, new gear, new skills, and a clear focus on improving the overall quality of the game. Blood and Wine, The Witcher 3’s latest (and last) expansion, falls into that category. Therefore, I believe it also warrants its own ‘Games We Dig’ post.
Let’s start with the obvious. It… Is… Gorgeous. I did not think the game could drop my jaw any lower, but it’s just hit the proverbial basement floor. Even on my average gaming rig, it’s mind blowingly beautiful. And not only did I notice a solid jump in performance and FPS, I also noticed a huge amount of added color tones. The new area of Toussaint is vibrant, colorful, cheerful and overall an extremely happy place to be. The world revolves around wine there, and it is clear that the ratio of bon vivant and gourmandie vs war and blood is somewhat skewed to the former, which I did not mind at all.
So much so, that at first I did only the introductory mission and from that moment on, I did nothing but doing secondary quests, contracts and treasure hunts. The queen, who sent for me to hunt down a mysterious beast that was wreaking havoc in Toussaint, must have thought I had 99 problems but a beast ain’t one. And the reason is simple: once again, the side content adds just as much entertainment to the Witcher experience as the main storyline, it just never bores.
Eventually though I stopped procrastinating (I actually just ran out of stuff to do) and got on with the main story. And I have to say, all in all maybe that is the only somewhat average side of this expansion. The story in itself is actually quite good, but the main protagonists are a bit superficial. I just never got that click I had with Dandelion or Triss in the main story, or with Olgierd and Shani in the Hearts Of Stone expansion. I can’t put my finger on why, but if anything, I was most intrigued by the antagonist this time, which is quite remarkable. If this was Projekt Red’s intention though, then they definitely succeeded. That said, the main story was deep enough to warrant multiple endings and there were some pretty epic battles and funny quests within this expansion. As shown below. Yes that’s a unicorn. Don’t think I’ll explain that one, you’ll have to figure it out for yourself.
There are a couple of new features in the game; ever so subtle, but the seasoned player notices them immediately. The menus have been reorganized a bit, overall functionality has been improved, and a new Mutations mechanic has been implemented, which allows you to add even more skills, based on the mutagens you already know from the main game. A somewhat more visible feature is the fact that for the first time you get a house you can upgrade. And contrary to what most of your initial gag reflex reactions imply, it was actually quite fun, mostly because it looks gorgeous and doesn’t go too deep into things. But setting up my first ever armor on a stand, with the two standard issue witcher swords next to it? That’s badass.
And for the gear/loot itself, an entire new upgrade level is available for every Witcher gear set, plus a couple of new sets entirely. The Grandmaster set does not take as much grinding as it did in the main game, but the 3- and 6-set bonuses are pretty cool. However, I finished the game with two magic weapons, which you obtain not by grinding, but as a reward from a quest. Reason for this is that they outclass the Witcher weapons damage-wise by quite a lot, have very unique weapon bonuses and they look quite cool while doing so. Just goes to show that there was some room to mix it up this time, which I kind of liked.
Toussaint is about the same size as Novigrad without the Hearts of Stone content. Although the main city of Toussaint itself, Beauclair, is not as big as Novigrad, the fact that around every corner you are enveloped in color, singing, dancing and drinking people, just makes it such a nice place to be. It makes you smile and slow down every now and then, and just appreciate the liveliness of it all.
All in all I can be short about this, if you have played The Witcher 3 and have not played Hearts of Stone yet, just buy the season pass and play both expansions. Hearts of Stone was already a very good DLC to begin with, but Blood and Wine gives this acronym a whole new meaning (literally, you’ll see what I mean when you play it, I chuckled). It’s almost as if it’s an entire new game. Keep an eye out for sales on Steam or PSN and when you see it, pick it up. You’d be crazy not to.
I must go now. My vineyard needs me. Santé!