In many ways, the final expansion for The Witcher 3—Blood & Wine—is a culmination of everything CD Projekt Red has done with the franchise up to this point, serving not only as an amazing Witcher adventure in its own right but also as a warm sendoff to the series. Everything about Blood & Wine represents the ethos of these incredibly talented developers—filled with superlative writing, mature themes, evocative art design—all while being bolstered by a glut of incredible new content for fans and newcomers alike to dive into.
The story of Blood & Wine starts like any good Witcher adventure: with a contract. Geralt is drafted by the Duchess of Touissant, an idyllic, peaceful land, to hunt down a beast that has committed a series of heinous murders. Naturally, upon arriving things are much more complicated than they seem. As with Hearts of Stone, CD Projekt confidently establishes a cast of interesting and diverse personalities—characters with real spark, who you will quickly become invested in across the 20+ hour main quest. The narrative itself is wonderful—weaving a tale fraught with love, mercy, and savagery in typical Witcher fashion. But it’s really the core themes of the story that I found particularly interesting.
Throughout the main quest, players are forced to ask themselves questions about of one’s actions, and where the responsibility of their consequences ultimately falls, often through questions of nature or nurture. It’s an interesting thematic thread that steadily grows in resonance as the story progresses—revealing shades of gray to each layer uncovered. Is Geralt a Witcher because he chooses to be, or because he’s never known anything else? Should I kill this feral monster, even though it was forced into an iron-clad captivity? It’s the kind of thoughtful contemplation that leaves the most compelling conclusions unsaid, yet it once again makes a strong case for CD Projekt having some of the finest writers in the industry.
And this narrative strength is everywhere you look in Touissant, extending even to the side quests—which should be of no surprise if you played Wild Hunt. CD Projekt Red makes some of the most engrossing supplementary content in RPGs, and the quests in Blood & Wine do not disappoint in this regard. Emotional beats range from funny to sad, from lengthy to brief, all while never ceasing to surprise or intrigue the player. One quest, for example, sees the gruff Witcher dealing with the tedium of personal banking in order to get some forgotten coin. Another sees him enter a tournament to help an injured knight woo his lady love. The constant mix of scenarios cleverly play with preconceptions, and most importantly, all in the name of joyous fun.
In fact, there’s a welcome touch of levity to everything in Blood & Wine. Touissant doesn’t have the blood-soaked battlefields of Velen or the foreboding caves of Ard Skellige—this is a quaint fairytale land, where the darkness is hidden from view. That’s not to say Touissant is an altogether happier place, but the writing comes with a wit that was used sparingly in Wild Hunt. It’s like the developers are sending the players off with a wink and a smile.
And Touissant itself? Undoubtedly a highlight of the package—brimming with color and whimsy, CD Projekt imbues this new region with a sense of magic and danger. The love and attention to detail is clear, with the city clearly being inspired by Renaissance culture and architecture—from the rusticated stonework of every arch and rooftop to the symmetrical columns rising above the packed streets below. Even the vineyards and countrysides bustle with life, with peasants and farmers tilling their fields. Wild Hunt and Hearts of Stone had eye candy galore, but Touissant cuts out the gritty medievalism and ramshackle mud huts for truly wonderful designs that take the breath away.
"CD Projekt imbues this new region with a sense of magic and danger."
Of course, no expansion would be complete without new gameplay mechanics and swag to collect. The biggest addition here is the inclusion of your very own customizable home. During the main quest, Geralt receives a vineyard, and players can choose to customize it how they see fit, reaping the rewards for their work through bonuses. The estate also serves as something of a gallery of Geralt’s previous adventures, offering weapon and armor racks, and trophy stands to give the place a personal touch, attuned to each player. While it is a nice feature, I wasn’t able to properly make use of it, as I sell everything in RPGs. It was still pretty damn cool, though.
Touissant also has it’s own distinct styles of armor and weaponry, offering new options to players, and new loot to hunt down. There’s even a quest that I stumbled upon that gave me one of the coolest swords I had seen in the game. I won’t spoil it, but it’s safe to say there are a lot of great secrets tucked away for players willing to explore.
While Blood & Wine is predominately an ideal package, I did want to mention that the main quest’s conclusion felt a bit rushed—suddenly giving characters motivation and backstory that allowed a convenient resolution. However, any slight feelings I had towards the Touissant story were immediately dissolved when I saw the “true” ending. I wouldn’t dare spoil anything of course, but the way CD Projekt Red ties everything together shocked me into a fit of joy. Their deft handling of those last precious moments achieved the seemingly impossible—I got exactly what I wanted, but in a way I never expected. Any fan of The Witcher will be delighted by the ending, even if the prior resolution of the main quest leaves a bit to be desired.
With Blood & Wine, CD Projekt Red have managed to outdo themselves—no small feat considering Wild Hunt‘s truckload of Game of the Year awards—producing something that is at once familiar and new. In giving fans exactly what they want, they have left me satisfied, even if I wouldn’t mind more. A smartly-layered main narrative is complemented by witty side content and a wonderful land to explore. Blood & Wine serves as a fitting send off to Geralt, and to the world that has been painstakingly crafted over the last 9 years, while destroying any doubts that when it comes to RPGs, CD Projekt Red are some of the best in the business.
Long live CD Projekt Red.