One Encore Too Many
HIGH The last ten minutes.
LOW The cliché illusion world was unwanted padding.
WTF Tiny villager, I am genuinely sorry.
Blood And Wine is the second (and final) add-on adventure for The Witcher 3. Astute readers might recall that it launched earlier this year in May, so why is this review coming so late?
I started the content as soon as it dropped, but it released in a buggy state. I got hit by a severe progress-halting glitch, and only after sending my data to CD Projekt Red for analysis (which led to update 1.23—AKA the Gallaway patch) was I able to get back in the game and see it through to the end. So, after such a long, drawn-out and painful road towards putting a bow on the adventures of Geralt of Rivia, was it worth the wait?
I hate to say it, but no… not really.
What I loved most about The Witcher 3 were its rich characters and story. The campaign, the sidequests, and all of the supporting content was amazing. Continuing the trend, its first DLC Hearts Of Stone was absolutely superb—easily one of the best add-ons I’ve ever played. Compared to those two bravura performances, it would’ve been nearly impossible for the developers to top them both with Blood And Wine, and of course they can’t. That bar was just set too high. That’s not to say Blood is bad content—not at all—but it doesn’t reach the lofty heights of its predecessors and suffers in comparison.
The premise of Blood And Wine is that Geralt travels to a brand-new land, summoned to help a duchess rid her domain of a beast that’s slaying the knights of her court. Of course nothing is as it first appears, and there’s a lot more to the beast than appearances suggest.
While I’m always up for a good monster hunt or a mystery to solve, the main plot never took off for me. Part of the problem is that Geralt’s in a new countryside, so almost none of the previously-established characters that I spent more than a hundred hours with make an appearance. This wouldn’t be a problem in and of itself, but it becomes one since none of the new faces clicked with me apart from Regis. This man was clearly someone of note in the books or games prior to Witcher 3 and Geralt has history with him. Their camaraderie was appealing and Regis’s voice actor was great, but apart from that one exception, I didn’t feel any attachment or interest in the rest of the cast—a disappointing surprise given the writers’ generally-great character work.
Making things worse is that what Geralt actually does in the main quest isn’t interesting or exciting. In both Wild Hunt and Hearts Of Stone, there were many absolutely fascinating situations and tough problems to solve. In contrast, Blood And Wine feels as though the developers have run out of ideas. The first half is a bit of fetch-this busywork, and the second half is thick with cliché. Again, it’s not terrible content, but it’s a clear notch below earlier efforts.
Of course, there’s a lot of content in Blood And Wine apart from the main quest—Geralt is awarded an estate that can be upgraded, there are a wealth of sidequests, there’s a pile of gear to search out and tons of treasure to find. The developers even go so far as to add a brand-new skill tree to complement the original one. All the experience points that are likely going unused from past adventures finally have a purpose! Although I didn’t get much use out of the new abilities myself, I appreciated that they were added.
For players who just want more Witcher, there’s no doubt that Blood And Wine delivers. It has a whole new land to explore, there are tons of things to do, and there’s enough content to keep someone busy for dozens of hours. On the other hand, it felt to me like the entire Witcher experience had already peaked, so following it up with something that’s just not as good leaves things in an awkward place. The last ten minutes are absolutely worth seeing, but the hours that come before it? Maybe not so much.
Disclosures: This game is developed by CD Projekt Red and published by Warner Bros. It is currently available on PS4, XBO and PC. This copy of the DLC was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 18 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the main storyline was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content and use of alcohol. They’re not wrong.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: There are plenty of subtitles to help out, which is good as there’s a ton of dialogue. Standard situational awareness issues apply, but it does a great job of catering to players less able to hear battle cries and the like for the most part.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options except that the “Witcher vision” clue-finding mode can be flipped to blue instead of the usual red.