June 04, 2016

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: Blood and Wine - Review

CD Projekt Red have released their final piece of content for The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt and what an addition it is, with a mystery to solve, a brand new region to discover and more ways to play it does offer a lot, but is it really a feather in their cap?

Geralt just goes about his Witcher business, but if you stop by the message boards, you will see a notice, requesting that Geralt come to a small village, to get some details on a monster that is causing havoc in the land of Toussaint, a region that is more known for its ample supply of artists and wine than anything else. Accepting the contract will have you head to the new region of the world, joined by two of the knights from the Palace. Once there, you will get your chance to break into some action right away as a lone Knight is attempting to defeat a Giant, in order to win the affections of a maiden, it is here he tells you that the Beast of Beauclair, a creature that is hardly seen, but leaves behind mangled corpses and is the reason you are here. The game recommends that you start this quest when you are at least 30, but if your character is not there yet, you can start a new save, with Geralt at the required level, but you loose the choices you have made.

The story will unfold, depending on your actions, with information coming pretty consistently, my biggest gripe with it, the Beast of Beauclair is such a mystery for so little time, that before Geralt can even hazard a theory as to what it is, we are shown not only what it is and the reason it has for killing. Of course things are not always what they seem, but sadly once the mystery of the beast is made clear, the story follows a predictable path. However, the side missions that are available to you are quite entertaining on their own, giving you lots more to do, should you tire of hunting the Beast. One of the longest ones has you attempting to clear out two wineries of their problems, which leads to a bigger quest and that in turn leads to another one, while the reward was not quite enough for the amount of time the mission takes, it just proves that the team are still on point making quality side missions.

Gameplay wise, there are two big additions, mutagen mutations and grandmaster gear, with the first being something that you will find out about sooner than the other. A child will bring you a note, from Yennifer about a professor who was studying the witcher mutations, which kicks off your quest to find them out. Once you have done this, you can actually level up your mutations more, granting you even better buffs than the standard ones, but you can only have one active at a time. Levelling them up requires you to have spare great mutagens in your inventory and ability points as well, so there is a risk/reward to things as well. Honestly, apart from the tutorial, I never bothered expanding my mutagens with that system, I did use the greater mutagens I crafted in the slots from the main game, but that was it.

The other big addition is the quest for the grand master gear, which will have you scorer parts of the world to complete a set of Witcher gear, from one of the five schools of Witchers. Geralt is part of the Wolf school, if that helps, but it’s not just find the gear, you are actually looking for the plans, which you then take back to a blacksmith who says they can make it for you. It is a minor quest in terms of the grand scheme, but its rewards are the best the game can offer, so it is worthwhile investing the time into doing them. For everything else, you simply need to remember the combat, interaction and movement functions from the main game, as nothing has changed there.

When it comes to the presentation, the game again hits some pretty stellar notes, the vistas as you stare out from the porch of a vineyard are wonderfully bright and exude a wonderful portrait of Toussaint. What is even better though is when the clouds turn grey and the world loses that bright colour, it is really noticeable and helps set the tone, perhaps even more so as it is a rare sight. The world still looks the same though, from the rest of the Witcher 3 experience, so it is not a completely foreign site to see, however there are new looks, because Toussaint is more akin to France than the Poland of the main game. Characters, more so the upper class, are dressed in shiny look attire, which helps to elevate them above the poor, but even that is not it, the grand palace also stands out as something to bare, as it cuts a striking silhouette against the horizon.  

Sadly, there are a number of technical issues I encountered which mare the experience somewhat, items not appearing as expected, characters facing the wrong way in cutscenes and such. Were they happening in total a few times, it would not be an issue, but they happened quite a lot, more so than one would naturally accept as part of the open world genres issues. The voice work for the citizens is also an issue, for the most part, the general chatter of the masses is just there, with a few times I noticed it being odd, but the Duchess and her hand maiden seem to flicker between a light French accent and heavier versions of them, mid speech. Even some of the more minor characters you have to deal with have this problem, so in that sense I am glad I had subtitles on, but all of the pales to the casting of the announcer at the tournament you can compete in, for a critical role it sounds like someone was phoning in a bad French accent, but being forced to rhyme words that would not normally go together, it made me cringe to the point I skipped almost all those cutscenes.

Blood and Wine is a fitting end to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, it offers you a chance to experience more of the world, outside of the life of a Witcher and even takes you away from the muck and dreariness of the main land mass. Sadly the mystery about the Beast of Beauclair is over way to fast and the technical and vocal performances, hurt a lot more than you might expect.

Thanks to Bandai Namco Australia for supplying the expansion for review

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