Reviewed on: PS4. Copy supplied by publisher.
The Witcher 3 is a rare example of a complete game that really didn’t need any DLC. The vanilla game was massive, with more content than pretty much any other titles outside of the likes of Elder Scrolls and Fallout. Most players still haven’t finished everything there is to do in the world, and maybe never will. However, that didn’t stop developer, CD Projekt Red from giving fans even more of the sublime open world RPG. The first DLC – Hearts of Stone was critically applauded, offering what some would claim was the best Witcher content so far, better than the main game, even.
Now we have the second major DLC in the form of Blood and Wine. This is a larger undertaking, and includes a whole new open area to explore, along with a myriad of quests, Witcher contracts, items, weapons, enemies, and a new storyline for Geralt to embark on. Yep, The Witcher 3 just keeps on giving.
Blood and Wine takes place in the new land of Toussaint, which lies south of the Northern Realms, and is a very different place than the war ravaged settings we’ve seen so far. Here it’s much more high fantasy, with rolling hills, lush vineyards, gloomy forests, and fairytale castles. There’s a definite storybook feel to everything, and the population are brighter and more cheerful than the downtrodden residents of the north. There’s even a chivalric knight tournament in progress, one that you can even participate in. Of course, there are plenty of fair maidens too.
The setting Blood and Wine offers is different to the usual Witcher fare, and if not handled properly could come across as silly and ill-fitting. However, the developer has done a sterling job melding the distinctive and darker than usual fantasy world of the Witcher with more traditional fantasy elements, and the expansion comes off very well. Blood and Wine offers a different range of activities for Geralt to indulge in, with around 30 hours or so of extra content.
Sure, many of these activities are similar to past efforts, with side missions involving the timely dispatch of various nasty creatures and the lifting of curses, but we also get to do such things as play a knight for hire, clear the land of evil doers and storm bandit forts that are complete with powerful leaders. The number of additional quests is truly impressive, and is yet another example of CD Projekt Red understanding how to make DLC, and value fans. This is no rushed cash in, it’s a genuine expansion filled with new content, including a great main story that, as you may guess from the title, involves vampires. Fans of the series will also appreciate a few old faces from Geralt’s past.
This story is well paced, and involves some interesting missions and tasks. Geralt even gets to ride a unicorn (sort of), which I’m sure is something fans have been waiting for since that questionable sex scene in the vanilla game. The antagonist is genuinely interesting, as is the story behind him, and the higher level requirement means even experienced players will be met with a tough challenge (the game recommends at least level 34). We learn a lot more about the world of The Witcher and Geralt’s place in it, which is on the whole a top notch experience, if not quite as epic in scale as some of Geralt’s previous adventures.
Alongside the main story’s sea of missions, side quests, and odd jobs there are many other extras to be found. Geralt can now embark on treasure hunts for grandmaster Witcher gear, some of the best equipment in the game, and there’s a whole new faction deck for Gwent in the form of Skellige. This is tied into a new Gwent tournament and card collecting quest. Needless to say, I’m now firmly addicted to Gwent once again.
Geralt’s abilities have also received an overhaul with the addition of advanced mutations. Once you complete a special quest you’ll gain the ability to utilise further mutation skills that can enhance Geralt’s combat, sign, and alchemy skills further. It adds another layer of customisability onto an already brilliant character development system.
I was truly impressed by the scope of Blood and Wine, and it reminds me very much of TES: Oblivion’s Shivering Isles DLC. Not since then have I seen DLC that’s offered so much extra content. With a whole new area that’s surprisingly large and dense with things to do and see, and plenty of new features and mechanics, Blood and Wine is a great addition to an already huge, time sink of a game. Overall it’s a nigh-on perfect way to wish Geralt farewell. It also comes with the additional enhancements in the UI and game’s performance that have been added in recent updates. Sadly, the inventory, although much improved, is still a bit of a mess in places, and the load times can still be excrutiating, but with patience, you can deal with these.
If you’ve not come back to The Witcher 3 yet since finishing the main story, or even the first DLC, you really shouldn’t wait too long, as this is a superb expansion, and one that’s worth every additional penny.