The sun drenched and untouched by war duchy of Toussaint, a place straight out of a fairy tale with a Franco-Italian feel to the countryside is the setting for this second and final expansion for The Witcher 3. It is a truly beautiful virtual world to explore and is vastly different from the often stormy and windy forests of Velen and the shores of Skellige that you spend much of your time in during the base game. The overrarching theme in this expansion is one of retirement and of rest, for Geralt, for developer CD Projekt and for the player who, ideally if you’re like me, has been with the series since at least the original game.
The expansion is both substantial and one of reunion. Not only is the landmass of Toussaint quite large, there’s a bevy of side quests and witcher contracts, most of which follow the usual formula established in the main game, but they are still fun none the less. There are also new monsters, some of which, like Barghests and Archespores making a return appearance as they were in the first game but not the rest, up until now. Some characters from the book series, such as the Duchess Anna Henrietta return, being the one who requested Geralt come to Toussaint to help investigate the murders of knights and others who I won’t spoil. Geralt is also given his own home, which can be upgraded, some of which provide benefits, such as a stable which gives Roach higher stamina or even just extra armour racks which allow you to display your favourite looking, but not currently in use armours. There is also a new Gwent deck, fist fighting quest chain, treasures, a new set of scavenger hunt quests that allow one to upgrade their witcher armour sets to grandmaster. It’s a fully fledged expansion and not light on content.
In terms of narrative and voice performance, the quality is high as one would expect from this series. Here, the bread and butter of the Witcher saga, which is the re framing and sometimes parody of classic European fables, folklore and fairytales is on full display throughout the main quest, both in dialogues and visuals, as well as many of the side quests. There is still also a suitable amount of choice and consequence, particularly towards the end, which alters the outcome of the narrative, perhaps quite drastically ( I will have to play the expansion again at some point to verify this).
Mechanically, the addition added in this expansion are an extra mutation which can be fitted in it’s own tree with one sign, alchemic or combat ability at a time, which then opens up the ability to unlock four extra slots which can be used for the normal abilities from the base game that match up with the mutations.
Interestingly, the performance in the Blood and Wine expansion is greatly improved from the base game. This is particularly noticeable in cities, where in Novigrad and Oxenfurt, the framerate can drop quite noticeably, whereas in the sunny streets of Beauclair, there is hardly ever any drops quite as drastic, even with a comparable amount of NPCs and other performance chewing things occurring in a given scene.
It’s a great expansion, go get it. And if you haven’t played the Witcher 3 yet, buy it with all the expansions included. As of this publication, it’s about $68 AUD on GOG so it’s excellent value for money.