Upon first glance, Geralt seems like a cold, unflinching killer. His tone seems apathetic and his demeanor is calm and calculated. Legend has it that once a young boy becomes a Witcher and endures the Trial of the Grasses, his emotions are stripped from his being and he is pumped full of hormones and elixirs in order to gain superhuman abilities. Usually three out of ten boys survive these trials to become a witcher.
Anyone who’s played The Witcher games or read the novels knows that this isn’t entirely true. Geralt, despite his poise, is much more emotionally complex than he seems. No matter how stone faced he appears, he is sympathetic. He loves, he hates, he feels remorse, he has a strong sense of justice, and so on. Yet whenever someone picks up on the subtle cues of his emotions, he often denies it by saying the mutations suppress whatever feelings he might be going through. It doesn’t take long for one to realize that this is only a defense mechanism.
One of the strongest aspects of Blood and Wine, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s final expansion, is how one of Geralt’s old friends brings light to his vulnerabilities. Vampires play a key role in this expansion, and as it turns out, higher vampires are much more emotionally complex than humans. Seeing that foil come into play between Geralt and some of the side characters sets the stage for a story built on betrayal, love, and heartbreak.
Despite the mature story, Blood and Wine doesn’t take itself as seriously as the main story line. There are plenty of pop culture references, side quests and contracts that take on a lighter tone, and there are plenty of jokes for those willing to dig deep enough in Toussaint.
This lighter tone is paired beautifully with the new setting. Toussaint is a lavish duchy south of Velen and Novigrad. A year later, The Witcher 3’s visuals hold up beautifully, partly thanks to the superb art direction. The map is covered with new vegetation, animals, and an architectural style unique to the region. The details extend down to the accent of characters. Toussaint feels like a region inhabited long before Andrzej Sapkowski put it on paper or when CD Projekt Red started designing it. The attention to detail speaks volumes about the developers reverence for the source material, but after The Witcher 3, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
But Blood and Wine isn’t just a pretty picture. There’s plenty of things to do for a witcher. Although a lot of what you’ll be doing may not seem like work for a witcher, it kept me entertained nonetheless. In one quest, Geralt is tasked with hunting down a thief who steals genitalia from statues, and in another quest you’re hired to help a vineyard owner capture images of the creatures around Toussaint. I found these side-quests to be hit or miss. One of the duller quests I ran into had Geralt track down forms in a bank as he went from window to window dealing with bank tellers. It reminded me a lot of the DMV. However, one of the strangest additions to Blood and Wine is Geralt’s vineyard. Early on, Geralt obtains the deed to a vineyard in which he can renovate and upgrade in order to give him various buffs. As out of place as it may seem, this turned out to be way more intriguing than I expected it to be.
Blood and Wine also adds an array of deadly new mutations. After completing a quest, you are awarded with an entirely new skill tree that features some of the strongest perks yet. Unlocking and experimenting with this new skill tree adds a whole new layer to the combat, especially for those who are playing through this expansion on new game plus. Some of these perks can be a pain to unlock, but in most cases they are worth the trouble. One power transforms Aard into a deadly ice blast, while another gives Geralt the opportunity to self revive with a three minute cooldown. The catch is that you can only have one activated at a time. This design decision does feel a bit limiting at times, but it makes sense considering how overpowered some of these perks can be.
The story in Blood and Wine is also very good. We are introduced to handful of new, three dimensional characters throughout Blood and Wine’s ten hour main quest. Anna Henrietta, the Duchess of Toussaint, quickly became one of my favorite characters. She can be hot headed and daring, but she’s also very tender. The people of Toussaint love her, and I can see why. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the antagonist. I felt like the characters in the game hated the enemy far more than I did. Despite the few hours you spend with her in the main quest, and after getting to know her, Geralt and other characters still despise her.
This is a series that I am very emotionally invested in, and I had high expectations. Thankfully, CD Projekt Red delivered with this excellent expansion. I am sad to see the end of this series, but it couldn’t have gone out a better way. This is an unmissable experience for fans of The Witcher series and RPGs, and it’s one I will be going back to for months to come in order to squeeze out of every little bit of narrative I can.
-Some Side Missions Fell Flat
-I miss the old crew
Blood and Wine is an excellent expansion that is sure to make Witcher fans a bit teary eyed.