Witcher 3: the Wild Hunt - Blood and Wine - Deep Look

Now This Wine Tastes Too Thin.
by Scott Wachter

Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Blood and Wine
Platform: PC
Developer: CD Project RED
Publisher: CD Project RED (NA)
Release Date: 06.30.2016
"This outing is weaker than Hearts of Stone, and it's a shame to leave Geralt on a sour note..."
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   The Witcher 3 finishes its run of expansions in the form of Blood and Wine with an extended epilogue in the southern Duchy of Toussaint; there is a mystery to solve, old friends to reconnect with, several notice boards full of side content to tackle, and not to mention a vineyard estate to upgrade. This finale is much more a mixed bag than Hearts of Stone or the main game however, melding the strongest side missions in the franchise with the weakest main plot of any of the Witcher 3's main quests.

   Before we discuss the meat of the expansion it must noted that the expansion is paired with a patch that rebuilds the inventory and alchemy screens for a maximum usefulness. It's still console-friendly, but much more legible and sortable than ever before. Armor and weapons crafting gets a similar streamline in that base components can be purchased from the crafter in question without switching between menus. It's a small quality of life improvement, but it goes a long way. Another addition to play around with are a set of secondary mutations, allowing Geralt to expand his repertoire of skills. Such as the ability to deal critical hits with magic attacks, or dealing damage to anyone that strikes him, provided he's got active blood toxicity.

   The story opens with Geralt answering an official ducal summons to slay a beast that has been dismembering knights in the area, only to determine that a vampire has been acting under duress, possibly to expose the hypocrisy of the nation's knightly order at the behest of his lover's kidnappers. But wait, she kidnapped herself and is using the vampire to wreak vengeance on her sister, the Duchess, for not revoking her exile order when she gained power — even though she hasn't been heard of for more than a decade. The whole conflict boils down to people not talking out their emotional grievances, the best ending involves Geralt prodding all the surviving characters into reconciling, it's unsatisfying to see so much bad blood built up over nothing much, only to see it resolved with nothing but fatherly cajoling.

   The other major issue with the story is that it is created with a conclusion in mind, and no matter what, these sisters will have it out in court. Regis and Geralt will commiserate over a cryptside drink, and then The White Wolf retires to his vineyard villa happily shacked up with whichever sorceress he chose in the main game. The story contorts itself painfully to maintain these end points even in a scenario that gets the player thrown in the dungeon. There's also an incredibly contrived videogame-y moment where the player is given a three day ultimatum only to have those days pass in the same cutscene.

   The strangest part of all, is that this is where the side missions are the best they've been in this installment. Not only are the contracts as well thought out as the main game, but there's an deep round of curse-breaking set in and around a jousting tournament complete with playing matchmaker — courtly love style, that is an absolute stand out story. Even the treasure hunts are narrative-rich, with grand master versions of the witcher gear stashed across the country, complete with a tale of the witcher running afoul of local troubles. The new region does introduce some new enemies into the mix, but these supplant the previous mix, so expect to slay a great many plants and centipedes before the credits roll.

   This outing is weaker than Hearts of Stone, and it's a shame to leave Geralt on a sour note, but Blood and Wine is on par with the main game in terms of quality of storytelling and engagement. This is thirty more hours of witchering for twenty dollars, and itís hard not to recommend it even if the story doesnít hang together as well as other installments.

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