Review: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine (DLC)

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Title: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine
Format: PlayStation Network Download (12.7 GB)
Release Date: May 30, 2016
Publisher: CD Projekt RED, Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: M
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Review of the Original Game:

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As if there is more that can be said about The Witcher 3, it’s quite possibly one of the greatest games I’ve ever played and definitely one of the best role-playing games. The original game already offers hundreds of hours of gameplay, spanning a giant open world with side-quests that rival most full games in storytelling and content.

Seriously, there were side quests in this game that had better storylines than all of Skyrim. Yet here I am, a year later, talking Witcher 3: Blood and Wine, the DLC, which could well be a full game, to last year’s highly praised epic.

Of course I am exaggerating a bit by calling DLC a “full game”, but only because playing Blood and Wine requires access The Witcher 3 prime. Otherwise, this $20 expansion feels and plays like its own game, complete with, again, a large enough map to dwarf other full games, a story that holds its own, and more than enough weapons, armor, and content to warrant being called a full experience.

Gameplay:
At this point I’m assuming you already know enough about The Witcher 3 since you’re reading a follow-up review for a game that released a year ago, so I won’t go into much detail about the main game.

Not in Kansas anymore.

Not in Kansas anymore.

You still play as Geralt of Rivia. Combat remains the same, except that now you can augment your combat and signs with new mutations that you discover early on in the DLC, provided you take on a quest offered by an old “friend”.

What sets this apart from the previous adventures of the The Witcher 3 is the new world of the Duchy of Toussaint, located south of the main areas of the Velen on the world map.

… waiting at a bank …
Not only does this new environment provide hours of quests and main story, it does so with a fresh new environment that exists in sharp contrast to the more bleak and gray worlds of the main adventure. Rolling green hills and foliage dot the horizon while clear blue skies complement the crystal clear streams and lakes of Toussaint.

But it’s not just the landscape that exists in stark contrast to Geralt’s world. The Witcher himself is a stranger in a strange land in this place of brave knights and damsels in distress. Here, everyone speaks like practitioners of the MLA handbook. And based on the cushy lives to which they are accustomed, Geralt is exactly what they need to deal with giant beasts that are normally foreign to these lands.

"Please take a seat, and we will call you when it's your turn."

“Please take a seat, and we will call you when it’s your turn.”

Once again, you are given the option of following the main storyline, as well as taking on a myriad of quests. These range from destroying murderous creatures to waiting at a bank while the tellers are on break. Yes indeed, there is a quest where you have to go through the arduous task of wading through a bank and filling out paperwork in order to withdraw money.

The notion that a legendary warrior like Geralt must sit through the mundane, makes for a hilarious quests. And believe it or not, you learn a pretty interesting out-of-game lesson while you’re at it.

… a slight step up in performance …
In addition to the aforementioned story-driven quests, there is new gear to acquire, and this add-on has no shortage of manuscripts, including some new options for Witcher gear. And did I mention that you are now able to color your armor for some unique customization? Of course I didn’t.

I immediately took a liking to a cobalt tone for my Witcher gear. You are offered the option to remove stains as well, so no worries if you accidentally colored your hard-earned boots a hot orange.

Stonecutters' SettlementGorgon Foothills

Visuals:
As amazing as the original Witcher 3 game looked, Blood and Wine surprisingly looks even better. We were told that there had been some enhancements that would make the expansion run a little smoother, and it truly does.

Maybe it’s because Toussaint isn’t as dense with weeds and other messier foliage, but for some reason, this feels like a slight step up in performance. Not only is the new map huge, but it also sports such a unique style that you could truly consider this a worthwhile DLC, and not one of those “included in the original disc” controversies.

… the feeling of stepping into a Renaissance faire …
Environments aren’t the only visually diverse elements. Enemies in Toussaint come in all shapes and sizes. While the common drowner still populates the areas near lakes and rivers, giant centipedes join other new terrors in bringing Geralt hell on the countryside.

Some of these enemies present new challenges in the approach to inflicting damage, or simply keeping damage away from your person. Those centipedes were little bastards when I first encountered them.

The game has an incredible visual style and graphical potency that truly exemplifies excellence, particularly when factoring in that the landscape goes on for miles and miles.

Kill the beast, or tame it and save its life?

Kill the beast, or tame it and save its life?

Audio:
By now we have come to expect everything in The Witcher 3 to be voiced and performed in an absolute professional way. Nothing has changed here, except for the type of performance delivered by the citizens of Toussaint.

Rarely do you hear the nasty gurgling drunk or pathetic sobbing woman, although there are still a few. Toussaint is a place of dignity and respect, and the feeling of stepping into a Renaissance faire is enhanced by the dialogue choices used in this expansion.

Knights and patrons speak proper English and even the crisp sounds of the countryside enhance the concept that this is a much friendlier world that Novigrad.

… the content truly exceeds the money spent …
Not to be outdone by the score in the original game, Blood and Wine introduces a more fantastical score that is preluded by a haunting theme. It’s one that I often sit and listen to all the way through before pressing the Start button.

However, outside of that, the music is more akin to high-adventure and slightly more James Horner-y than the darker tones observed in the story proper. Fanfare even swells sometimes when Geralt is at a shop, making every moment a grand event.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

This is not a glitch. Geralt is standing on water.

This is not a glitch. Geralt is standing on water.

Conclusion:
I completely agree with Mike’s thoughts on the full Witcher 3 review. He nailed everything that there is to love about this game. It is true that in terms of value-to-dollar ratio, Geralt’s adventure has just about everything beat. Yes, I’ll even add Fallout 4 to that list.

Blood and Wine is a twenty dollar addition to an already jam packed experience that delivers on every promise. It is one of the few instances where the content truly exceeds the money spent and I feel absolutely confident in recommending it to anyone who loved the Wild Hunt.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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