The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine
CD Projekt Red
We live in a very interesting time in the modern day gaming world. On one hand, we have some really excellent new IPs that have broken out and taken the gaming realm by storm. Technology has also finally caught up (in some cases at least) with the elaborate narratives and plotlines of many games and gaming series’, allowing them to facilitate much more immersion into their carefully developed worlds.
On the other hand, we have some rather unscrupulous game developers and their publishers which are keenly aware of this, especially on the pretty graphics part. By wowing many of today’s diminished attention-spanned gaming folks, a lot of wham-bam, sock it to you graphics attract the masses like pieces of cheap tinsel—shiny and gaudy, but ultimately flimsy and insubstantial.
The slick PR marketing teams hired by triple A companies have sprouted up almost overnight, and do a knockout job of luring gamers to their client’s projects. It has become both acceptable and commonplace nowadays to pre-order season passes, and almost a requirement that one has all of the DLCs in order to get the most out of a game or gaming series. Sometimes, however, there are notable exception, and CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher series in one of them…
I’ve enjoyed all of The Witcher games, some more than others of course, but overall they have struck me as some of the best RPG experiences one can have within the digital realm, and that’s coming from an old-school tabletop RPGer. The series has reached such a high benchmark in terms of quality that I have continuously looked forward to each game (and their DLCs) with bated breath. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt was, at least in my opinion, the pinnacle of the trilogy, and with a slight sniffle, they’ve drawn a close to the entire series with their latest (and last) DLC, The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine.
Blood and Wine starts off routinely enough, with aging main protagonist Geralt somewhere in the Northern Realms scanning some job posting boards for work as usual. Something stands out to the battle-weary veteran and he snaps it up immediately. He then goes to meet the job’s posters and things quickly turn out to be a little more than what Geralt had bargained for. This really sets the tone for the introduction of what comes to follow, as the contrast between where he is from and the new region he travels to soon afterwards, is marked.
Just as in the equally impressive first DLC, Hearts of Stone, Blood and Wine introduces a whole new part of The Witcher’s world, Toussaint. By listening to the dodgy French accents of Toussaint’s citizens (as well as how the name is spelled), I quickly picked up that it was modeled after renaissance France. I say renaissance because everyone is fat and happy (and pretty much continuously drunk) in the land of wine—knights vie for the adulation of fair maidens in campy and often hilarious examples of chivalry (which reminded me of how ridiculous and outdated the concept of chivalry is in modern feminist society). The peasantry also alternately stumble and swagger around relatively unmolested by the local soldiers and their governmental overlords. All seems so idyllic in Toussaint.
Except for the fact that ravaged corpses have been popping up here and there throughout the local area. When Geralt comes upon the latest victim’s body lying on the banks of a beautiful countryside river, he quickly ascertains a few clues that lead him onto the trail of the thing that is committing all of these dastardly deeds.
There are a whole plethora of new monsters and villains for Geralt to play with, some more interesting than others. In fact, many of them are just old rehashes of ones that we’ve all seen before. After figuring out each of their strengths and weaknesses, I found it pretty easy to eliminate them. This doesn’t make the combat any less fun, we’re just not talking about Dead Souls-type, rage-quit worthy difficulty here.
Blood and Wine’s main baddie (no spoiler) is well-crafted and on par with the one from Hearts of Stone. It had me intrigued all the way through the storyline as to what its motives and origins were. The finale is also one that I won’t soon forget, and an appropriate sendoff to a well-loved series that came from the bowels of obscurity and developed into one of the most exemplary examples of what a RPG game can really aspire to be. Hey, everyone loves an underdog, right?
The combat is largely the same in Blood and Wine, which is a good thing for gamers who are used to it and not so good for ones who still find it unintuitive and clunky. Luckily, what has changed is the game’s UI, which is much more accessible and handy. The inventory system has also seen an overhaul and you’ll no longer be blundering around while trying to find that certain potion or sword. I especially liked the introduction of dyes for Geralt’s various items. They were not only fun to tinker around with but it really fit Toussaint’s color-saturated themes and helped you to feel like you were becoming closer to the land and its people. The whole realm looks like it is awash in some fine artist’s paint palate, and really lends to it a sense of character and charm.
Which brings us to Blood and Wine’s graphics. Straight away I’ll let you all know that they are phenomenal. I mean, I really didn’t think that this DLC’s visuals could be that touched up so soon after the release of the original game, Wild Hunt, but somehow they did just that. It just goes to show you how quickly technology, specifically gaming technology, is advancing these days. The character and creature models are pure eye candy and the combat and spell effects are also well done. The equally impressive sound effects and score are also of Hollywood blockbuster quality, and really help to pull you into Blood and Wine’s narrative-drenched and fascinating world.
I’d say that purchasing Blood and Wine would be a no-brainer for pretty much any gamer out there, certainly ones who love exploration, some great comic relief moments here and there, gorgeous graphics, a peppy pace, and an intriguing plotline. It delves into Geralt’s history a little more, revealing why he does what he does as well as how he views ending his last days. Blood and Wine’s final wrap up has some real teeth to it and shows you how your journey (through Geralt) has so fundamentally impacted this meticulously-crafted world.
I guess the parting metaphor here would be akin to comparing Blood and Wine to a fine, aged wine—you want to take your time sipping it and appreciating all of its complexities and nuances, but it’s so delicious that you end up guzzling it down and are sad to finally see it all end/go.
Saying that the The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine’s graphics are some of the finest to behold in any game out there right now would be an understatement. However, in order to play it with a decent framerate and on higher settings, you’re going to need a powerful gaming PC or gaming laptop, such as:
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