After three games and numerous adventures filled with plenty of monster slaying, CD Projekt Red brings the story of Geralt of Rivia to a close with Blood and Wine, the second expansion pack for The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. And what an end it is, filled with plenty of emotion, action, and humor. This is DLC done right, giving us a new environment to play around in and introducing some very memorable characters. Plenty of references abound (Game of Thrones fans will pick out a few) and those familiar with the books by Andrzej Sapkowski will enjoy some nice surprises.
I won’t divulge too much of the plot to Blood and Wine here, as it’s best experienced as things unfold for yourself. Geralt is summoned to Toussaint, a land to the south filled with bustling towns and thriving vineyards. The Duchess Anna Henrietta needs the Witcher’s help as a darkness is plaguing her land. Off Geralt goes to slay the Beast of Beauclair, and of course things are never quite what they seem. The story has various twists and turns, and makes clever use of familiar fairy tales and vampiric lore. There are an assortment of vampires on display here, each with their own weaknesses and strengths that will test your skill in battle. The story has branching paths as well, so your decisions matter and affect which ending you will receive (there are at least three endings but may be more). A mission following the credits wraps things up in a nice way and is not to be missed. Also in the credits is a wonderful, heartfelt message to the fans from CD Projekt Red.
The main story is not the only attraction here. There are plenty of side quests, and their well worth your while to explore and take on, as they just add to the proceedings instead of distracting from them. My playthrough took me around 30 hours, though those focusing just on the main story can get through in less. Those who wish to complete everything may spend even more time. Side quests here are necessary to make your life easier, as later bosses will tear you apart if you are not adequately outfitted and prepared. One side quest even adds a new layer to your mutations, which opens up new abilities for Geralt. Another gives you a home base to tend to and spruce up if you wish, granting some bonus perks. It helps that all of the quests in Blood and Wine are engaging and fun to play, and they are varied in their make-up. Some are even quite funny, adding to the joy of playing this expansion.
Toussaint is just beautiful to behold, filled with bright colors, colorful characters, and plenty of nooks and crannies to explore and get lost in. But don’t be fooled. Even with Toussaint’s fairy tale like appearance, this place harbors plenty of new dangers. You’ll encounter some nasty beasties and there are plenty of boss type battles to test your mettle in combat. Keeping yourself well stocked with potions, bombs, and repair kits is crucial to helping you survive your quest, and you’ll find some new weaponry and armor that will also aid you in your endeavors. Some will take some doing to seek out, but it’s worth your while to do so.
While the expansion is an absolutely fantastic addition to the main game and well worth your money, there is one niggling flaw that holds it back from perfection, and that flaw is the load times. They’re not too bad between cut scenes, but if you fall in battle they are annoyingly long to get you back into the action. They’re long enough that you could go grab a snack before getting back into the game. Luckily the story and gameplay is stellar enough to rise above this, but the load times throw off the pacing just enough and often enough to make it a noticeable nuisance. Occasionally there are some camera issues as well, but these are minor and don’t detract from the overall experience.
Blood and Wine also gives us some terrific voice acting to bring its characters to life, and the music provides the perfect backdrop to the action. The accents and mannerisms really help Toussaint stand out from other locales in The Witcher III, helping to immerse you completely into the story. Those who enjoy taking screenshots may find themselves taking plenty during their time in Toussaint, as the scenery is just gorgeous to look at. The cut scenes are wonderfully executed, and never left me antsy to get back into control.
On the whole, Blood and Wine is an outstanding expansion to an already incredible main game. It’s obvious that CD Projekt Red has poured a lot of love into this meaty piece of DLC, sending the character of Geralt off with a brilliant end to his story. It’s telling that you just don’t want this to end, though at least after the credits roll you can return to clean up any lingering quests and contracts, extending your time in Toussaint. It’s a near perfect expansion, marred only by long loading times, and holds up against any main AAA title out there on its own. This is DLC done right, and is not to be missed. We may not want Geralt’s story to end, but this is an ending he deserves and is worthy of the series.
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