Imagine a fairytale land, if you will. I’m willing to bet that many of you picture a colourful medieval landscape with a picturesque town, and a large castle overseeing it all. There are probably knights there dressed in shining armour, looking like pillars of chivalry. If this is in your mind’s eye, then you will not be too far from Toussaint, where the events of the The Witcher 3’s Blood and Wine expansion take place.
Blood and Wine is the final piece of DLC to be released for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and can also be considered as a farewell of sorts to Geralt, as CD Projekt RED leaves The Witcher behind to take on other ventures. This isn’t a half hearted effort, as Toussaint is a grand new region with a major plotline, as well as a lot of side quests dotted around the world that can be picked up from the notice boards in the little villages, or encountered when meeting certain individuals. It is recommended that you play Blood and Wine after completing Wild Hunt’s story, since chronologically that is when it is set.
Toussaint is a beautiful setting with its own distinct style, with vineyards dotting the landscape and the wine they make a key part of life. The town of Beauclair looks like a place you’d find on the Mediterranean coast, and it is clear that much of the design influence comes from the French landscape. In general, Toussaint just seems brighter compared to Velen, Novigrad and Skellige, which matches the general atmosphere of the region. War has not reared its head here and the people give the impression of living carefree lives, but under this veneer of joy lies fear and betrayal.
Geralt is invited to Toussaint by Duchess Annarietta, ruler of the region, to help with a monster that has been dubbed the Beast of Beauclair. This creature has killed a number of knights and people fear that the Beast has been sent as punishment for their sins. Of course, since this is The Witcher, that simple explanation is far from the much more complicated truth. Blood and Wine’s story entwines themes of love, friendship and betrayal, with every character having to face the consequences of their actions.
Without getting into spoiler territory, I would say that the main plot of Blood and Wine is a strong and features memorable characters, but on a personal level, I believe Hearts of Stone has the stronger story with a much more interesting villain. That isn’t to say Blood and Wine is a poor offering, because it can be considered one of the best pieces of DLC to ever be released in terms of content alone. However, Hearts of Stone managed to grab my interest much earlier on with its mystery.
Blood and Wine does force you to make tough decisions at times as well, and not all play out quite as you may hope. As is the case with most of these quandries, not everyone will be happy with the path you choose, with some suffering as a consequence of the actions that are carried out. There is one particular character that draws a lot of sympathy for the hand they are dealt. After the way the main story ended in my main play through, I did think it was a bit unfair due to the context of what happened, but life is never fair.
While the content offered by Blood and Wine is huge it isn’t completely perfect. First off, the loading times are incredibly long, which can kill the game’s pacing, especially after dying a couple of times during a particularly tough fight. Another is the huge amount of pop in that Blood & Wine suffers from on PlayStation 4, with plants, animals, buildings, and people just appearing out of thin air not too far away from Geralt. It’s more than what I’d call a minor issue, because it constantly draws your eye, and especially when it’s something large like a big tree with white blossoms. It’s compounded by some minor screen tearing.
Despite those issues CD Projekt RED has raised the bar for what DLC can be. Toussaint’s beauty draws you in while the twists and turns of the stories within keep you engaged. The sheer quality present in Blood and Wine is astounding, from the artwork to the acting, and if some of the problems are fixed, it’ll be close to perfection. If Blood and Wine is to be The Witcher series’ finale, then it’s going out on a high note that befits the high standards that have been set over the years. If you’ve enjoyed The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, then this expansion is essential.