The Witcher 3: Blood And Wine DLC

I have a love/hate relationship with Geralt of Rivia.  It is an amazing game that I love to play!
When I have the courage…  And that is not social media click-bait over use of words like awesome and amazing, this game genuinely leaves me amazed!

The scripting and voice acting are incredible, visually its brilliant and atmospheric (although I have seen more visual glitches in Blood and Wine than in all the rest of the game and currently Roach is missing his tail) The game play mechanics make for satisfying combat and the game has a huge depth of spells and items.  Compared to other recent releases (E.g. Fallout 4) it is incredibly well crafted and really pushes the boundaries of what we can expect from video games but for all of that it only keeps my attention for a few days at a time.  I’ll go weeks without playing it and then pick It up again. The first day I am full of wonder and can’t understand why I stopped playing, the second day (having remembered how the controls work) I’ll rip through the story and thoroughly enjoy it, the third day I start to worry I’m too focused on the main quests and focus on secondary quests and contracts.  By around the fifth day I’m bored of doing all the extra stuff and stop playing.  Obviously this is my own problem and shouldn’t really be taken as a criticism of the game but what it means is that I’m coming to play Blood and Wine from a very checked Witching career having not finished the main story line.

Luckily CD Projekt Red have made allowance for those of us lacking in time/dedication and you are able to launch Blood and Wine as a standalone story.  This is an excellent development as I have friends who have not yet played the previous DLC (Hearts of Stone) purely because they haven’t reached the necessary level!  Regardless of whether you launch a new game, come to this as part of the main story or come back to play it having finished the main quest it starts, as all the best fantasy stories do, with an underwhelming quest to travel to a small village… 

If you start a new game you are able to explore the world at large before heading to the new map region of Toussaint. Main story missions are turned off but all other features are still available however I didn’t find this option compelling as being a lofty level 34 the only mission nearby (requiring level 7) was clearly beneath me!  My previous experience with The Witcher is that the difficultly does not scale very well with the character level and the rewards for doing these low level missions are worthless.  I once found a dwarf outside Novigrad looking for help.  The mission was well below my level but I decided to help him out. My reward? 1 Xp.!  That was it! Where the Blood and Wine expansion starts this is the sort of thing you will find so instead I headed straight to Toussaint.

However, it turns out the monsters are pretty tough in Toussaint… I usually play the Witcher on “Blood and Death” as it makes exploring the wilderness very tense but to progress through the expansion faster I’ve been playing it down a level on Sword and Story and have died far more often than I expected.  To be honest I largely put that down to not having grown up with the character, not knowing how it works best (given I tried a different character build) but I also think that the main fights are just a bit tougher than comparable main story missions.  Maybe that is to address the levelling issue or maybe it’s just that I’m out of practice.  again…

Sadly, I quickly discovered playing Blood and Wine as a standalone story is a largely unsatisfying experience. Don’t get me wrong it is as amazing the rest of the Witcher 3 but (rather obviously) any work you’ve done so far is lost.  The bestiary is empty and although you launch with a pretty impressive collection of gear (they have certainly put a good deal of thought into what equipment a Witcher will have at this level) because you haven’t grown up with character and sculpted Geralt to your design it feels a little off… A bit empty and unsatisfying, like you have woken up with amnesia and no back story.

The DLC itself is more of the same Witchery goodness however the setting is very different in its tone.  Gone are the gritty war riven vistas. Replaced with a romantic, high fantasy setting with knights in shining armour.  Geralt is very out of place here but that accentuates the new setting and characters whilst reinforcing Geralt’s role as a pragmatic and strangely moralistic killer.  This setting is wonderful, most gamers (particularly RPG gamers) have a long history with medieval settings and high fantasy so to get to explore this type of world with all the Witcheresque style and nudity nuance is really very rewarding.

They have introduced some new features and expanded existing ones to flesh out the DLC but overall there is nothing in the expansion that is a killer feature.  I found Geralt acquiring a home to be an uncomfortable addition that appears to be meeting an industry standard for RPG video games rather than really fitting in with the nature of who Geralt is and what he is all about.  Similarly expansions to gwent,  armour, Witcher mutations and level cap all seem to be ticking the marketing peoples “essential for DLC” box.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and it fleshes out the already massive world of The Witcher 3 it just doesn’t add value to the average gamer who is never going to get to the limits of the original game.

So speaking of value, should Blood and Wine encourage you to part with your hard earned Nilfgaardian Florens?

If you are starting the game from level 1 then no, don’t bother until you are level 28 and are thoroughly hooked on the game and want more.  If you have finished the game are level 50 and looking for more to do then, maybe, but the difficulty will be low and combat could be unsatisfying.  The sweet spot is playing this as intended somewhere in the mid 30’s when you find the quest naturally.  Although given the huge scope of this expansion (this DLC is bigger than many games I’ve played, touted as 30 hours of game play) I am quietly concerned about the difficultly on later main story quests if you are 20 levels higher than intended.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to answer this question but that is definitely what I shall do.  Go back to my main character and play this expansion when it fits naturally into the main quest line.  I’m certain this will be an enjoyable and satisfying experience.  It should be the highlight of 2018 at the pace I play…

Rating: R16 Violence, sexual violence, offensive language & sex scenes.



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