The gargantuan and sometimes daunting size of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt‘s (2015) explorable world was such that it took me a year to complete, albeit still with a full to bursting log of uncompleted quests! To my dismay the incredible quality demonstrated in the character and story design, as well as the intricate attention to detail artistically means no other RPG has been able to scratch my RPG itch in quite the same way.
The Blood and Wine expansion, whilst carrying the stigmatic title: ‘DLC’, its essentially a whole new beast, and boy does it have claws! In wine making, the exact same grapes can be used to make the same wine year on year, but subtle changes can drastically alter its ‘character’. In the Blood and Wine expansion you are sent for by the Duchess of Toussant, a land with a vastly different character to the murky swamps of Velen or the stormy isles of Skellige. Visually Toussant is heart meltingly idyllic, with beautiful, brightly adorned houses and fragrant (looking) gardens giving way to acres of vineyards, all overlooked by a band of powerful snow-capped mountains and a fairytale-esque castle. But despite the brand new colour palette, this is unequivocally a Witcher game – because under the facade of chivalry and tradition displayed by the honorable Knights of Toussant is an ironic, sarcastic and often hilarious world, hosting some of CD Projekt Red‘s finest story telling yet.
*Mild Spoiler Warning*
Although the main quest line had me immediately hooked, I decided to adopt a wine addled approach: agree to everything. It still astounds me how well CD Projekt Red hide kill/fetch quests, because it’s only now retrospectively that I spot them. This sorcery is clearly pulled off by the injection of humanity into the characters. Toussant is crammed with some of the most eccentric, flamboyant people I’ve ever ‘met’. You never quite know which direction a quest will take because everyone is so humanly unpredictable. A contract to find a ladies’ sweetheart uncovers a seriously reluctant knight, whose endeavors to slay a mighty beast for his beloved really amounts to stalling because he’s not particularly keen. On the other end of the spectrum, a chance occurrence resulted in me cosplaying: acting out a historical scene… I think my most memorable experience however was trying to withdraw money from the bank – I won’t spoil this one for you, but the nod toward service industry abuse was 1 part thought provoking and 3 parts ironically humorous.
Why Blood and Wine?!
Because ‘Vampires and Vineyards’ would have been a terrible name.
Geralt isn’t the only person who doesn’t belong in Toussant. Whilst his stoney faced, deadly serious demeanor is met with comical misunderstandings, a more serious, ‘bitey’ misunderstanding has caused the systematic murder of 3 esteemed knights. Your task, if you can stay focused enough to avoid side quests, is to identify and erradicate the so-called ‘Beast of Beauclair’. What follows is one of the most complex and morally ambiguous quests I’ve ever been on, with no shortage of boss-fights, tourneys (OK only 1), and intriguing plot twists. To give one word of advice though: when you get the choice, go find the sister. You get to visit what she calls the ‘Fablesphere’, a trippy, rainbow wreathed fairytale land full of twisted children’s stories come to life. The Big Bad Wolf with the crushing hangover has to be my favourite cutscene ever. Just remember. Whatever happens in the Fablesphere stays in the Fablesphere, what Yen doesn’t know won’t kill her…
To answer the aformentioned question properly though. Blood. The beast is a Higher Vampire. Your biggest challenge yet, but the real challenge is deciding: who is the real beast. The wine part is simply because everyone in Toussant is either obsessed with wine making and tasting, or wasted on the cheaper stuff.
DLC packs are a gaming company’s opportunity to push boundaries. To use a tried and tested formula and turn it into something weird and wonderful. Once again CD Projekt Red have delivered a product far beyond my high expectations. The continued care and consideration appropriated in this expansion sets an inspiring example for game developers globally. The Blood and Wine expansion is bigger and better than most standalone games of its genre, a true RPG marvel.