Blood and Wine has a lot of great moments in it. There’s a fun sequence where you visit a fairy tale kingdom and battle childhood figures like the Three Little Pigs. There are several terrifying battles against vampires. But for me, the best sequence is one of the quietest. The Witcher Geralt’s sitting in a graveyard with an old friend and the two are sharing a bottle of wine and reflecting on their long history. The old friend asks if Geralt were given his life over again whether he’d choose to be a Witcher. In Witcher 3, you learn that witchers don’t choose their careers; they’re abandoned orphans who somehow survive a heartless training process that kills most of them. If they somehow survive the mutation process, their jobs mostly involve traveling between cities facing wary townfolk and wandering around sewers killing nightmarish creatures. You do start to wonder whether Geralt finds any joy in this life he was forced into. In the Blood and Wine expansion, you get to decide whether Geralt loves his job or not, a question the game has been hinting at for dozens of hour of gameplay. It’s a powerful, difficult question.
Of course, by the time you get to Blood and Wine, things are starting to look good for Geralt. He’s been recruited to the beautiful country of Toussaint to solve some supernatural murders. He’s even been given a beautiful winery of his own for his trouble. In a country in which supernatural plants and subterranean monsters frequently interfere with commerce, being a winemaker who is also a Witcher can be a real advantage. The monsters here do get really freaky; there’s nothing as horrifying as those spiders from Hearts of Stone (though those guys are here also), but Toussaint has a thriving vampire population and they can be tricky to kill. There are also bandit headquarters now that you have to clear out to reduce the criminal activity. Fortunately, Geralt has some great upgrades now, including some new abilities you can unlock as you level up. My favorite so far is this freezing wind that turns an army of bandits into a bunch of snowmen.
I think there are better moments in Hearts of Stone; the ghostly wedding and the bank heist gone wrong come to mind. Blood and Wine has bigger events, however. You’ll see an entire city attacked by a horde of vampires and visit a Shrek-like fairytale kingdom. You’ll meet a monster obsessed with spoons (protip: try to resolve that one peacefully!). There are some great little moments as well as every side quest, Witcher quest, treasure hunt and question-mark on your map has some interesting adventure for you to complete. I’ve given dozens of hours over to the expansion already and I still haven’t quite explored the full map or completed all the sidequests. I have a lot to do, but I have already seen how this expansion gives Geralt a well deserved conclusion in a beautiful home with a nice retirement and the company of the people he loves.
Someone smarter than me will someday write an article exploring how much of Geralt’s world is occupied by toxic masculinity; powerful men who mistreat the women they love. In The Witcher 3, there was the Bloody Baron who possessively abused his wife. In Hearts of Stone, there was the Man of Glass whose ambitions led him to leave his wife behind. Heck, Ciri’s own biological father has some issues, too. Anyway, those elements show up here as well as Geralt untangles the mysteries around an unstoppable monstrous assassin. As unusual as he is, Geralt still comes across as one of the most stable characters in his world and, yeah, I ended the game feeling like he really enjoys being a Witcher.
Once again, there’s an amazing amount of content here and this may be the most beautiful locations yet of a beautiful game. The basic dynamics of The Witcher are expanded in interesting ways a well. The DLC here makes the original game more fun.
I did miss the fun moments that Hearts of Stone provided, but it’s hard to complain when the big events here are executed so well.
Our Verdict: BUY IT
The Witcher 3 is one of the best gaming experiences there is. The game is beautiful. The gameplay is fun. The story is one of the best stories out there. You absolutely need to play through it.