Feel free to either watch the review below or read it, the old-fashioned way. I like to cater to all tastes.
Blood and Wine is set to be the final expansion of the final game in the The Witcher series, which I have to admit makes me very sad, as I’ve enjoyed every second of playing these games. What a way this is for the franchise to go out, though. The expansion takes place in an entirely new area, Toussaint, a land of knights and chivalric code and very, very bright colours. Yes, you might want to be ready to adjust the colour contrast on your TV if you’re playing this on PS4, because the colours are garish but all so in design not error, as the flamboyance is matched by the culture and styles of Toussaint.
While the rest of the game is quite dark, set in the war torn northern kingdoms, this expansion is a breath of fresh air, set in a region untouched by war and the wild hunt. There’s more of that wonderful witty humour, which surfaced occasionally in the main game and the last expansion, with some really, very amusing side quests on offer. A couple of my favourites are “Paperchase” a truly genius take on bureaucracy gone crazy, and “Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of Granite” which is rather more licentious in its topic. Both quests had me in fits of laughter, so I highly recommend hunting those down if you are in need of a laugh.
The main quest chain of the expansion is a little more serious, though still not as dark as the main game. It involves Geralt being recruited by a pair of very colourfully armoured knights to investigate a string of murders, committed by the so called ‘Beast of Beauclair’, a creature reported to have magical abilities and a penchant for murdering nobles, which is not well received by the region’s Duchess, Anna Henrietta. She immediately has Geralt summoned to deal with the beast, enticing him in with the promise of rich rewards. No sooner has he arrived than Geralt finds himself examining the grizzly, severed remains of the latest victim which is soon added to by a fourth. The main quest chain of the expansion reintroduces one of my favourite characters of the novels, one which has not made an appearance before in the games, for reasons anyone who has read the books will know.
I won’t say who it is, but for those who want a hint, above is a screenshot. They’ve done a fantastic job with this character, too. In fact, considering the theme of the main quest chain for this expansion, it feels like the story was near specifically designed for the reintroduction of this one character. Of course, there are plenty of other strong characters in this expansion, all well written and developed. There are also new gameplay elements, a new inventory system, new armour sets and new levels of armour customisation with the addition of dyes that can be applied to some armour sets.
The addition with the most impact on game play would be the new mutations advancement, which allows you to further customise Geralt’s abilities with some newly unlocked slots, which you’ll be given the quest for early in the main quest chain, which involves tracking down a professor reputed to have researched Witcher mutations. This is a quest worth following up quite early, as without doing so you won’t unlock the extra mutation skill slots and advancement options. As part of the main quest chain Geralt is also given a vineyard, making him a member of the landed gentry. Unfortunately, it’s quite run down and will prove a money sink, if you wish to renovate it, in a slightly similar fashion to that in Assassin’s Creed 2, if you’ve played it, with the manor. Unfortunately, don’t expect Geralt to earn anything off it in return as unlike Ezio, Geralt seems doomed to be forever broke, even as a landed gentry. However, renovating can give some access to some useful services such as a herb garden, alchemy lab, a stamina boost for Roach and a boost to Geralt’s vitality when you rest there, so it’s arguably worth doing.
This expansion also adds another upgrade level for your witcher armour sets, grandmaster, available for all four of the original sets, Feline, Griffin, Ursine and Wolven along with a new set which is up for grabs, Manticore. Just like with previous upgrades, you’ll need to hunt down the designs before you can craft them. Each set has its own quest which you can pick up from the grandmaster craftsman. I’ll have to confess that this is the only aspect of the expansion that I’ve found disappointing, as while the sets look good enough, the specs aren’t that much better than the previous expansion’s Viper set. All the sets are wearable at level 40, but the cost of crafting them is quite ridiculous between 15 and 30 thousand crowns a set, depending on how much of the required crafting materials you happen to have. So unless your Geralt is sitting on a goldmine getting all the sets in one play through is near impossible without attracting the attention of Mister Walthemor Mitty. I can assure you, however, that no cows were harmed in the making of my five precious armour sets. Although, Winnie the Poo might be after me for stealing his honey…
This expansion also adds the ability to dye your witcher armour sets. Dyes can be bought or crafted, if you’ve found the recipes. I do like this new addition. I’ve always wanted to change the dull colours on my ursine set. I think the addition of the option at this point is fitting, considering Toussaint’s love of bright and garish colours. If you intend to buy your dyes, then you’ll need one for each piece of armour which are about 1200 a pot, so dying a set would cost around 5 thousand which is quite steep. I mean, I know Geralt was poor in the novels, but I still think the economics needs to be looked at here. Lets add it all up, 30 thousand for the armour set, 5 thousand for dye and 15 thousand to renovate your house, when quest rewards net you between 200 and 1000 crowns a time and are limited in number… Just who did the maths here?
Anyway, my grumbles on the money aside, this is a fantastic expansion to a truly fantastic game. I’ve loved every second of playing it and that’s a crazy lot of hours. I can only say that this game and its expansions have proven ridiculously good value for money for me. If you haven’t played this game yet then unless you have a fatal aversion to action RPGs then I strongly suggest you give it a try.