Game review: The Witcher goes out on a high with third instalment
Monster-slaying brute Geralt shows us a softer side as he hacks his way through his final quest
CD Projekt RED
Since The Witcher series for the PlayStation is one of my all-time favourite video game trilogies, it was with great sadness that I went into Blood and Wine. I wasn’t sad because I thought the expansion would be terrible – quite the opposite in fact; I was sad because this means we’ve come to the end of Geralt’s storyline. Though he may be a brutal, emotionless, monster-slaying machine, he’s also one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing as in a video game. Thankfully, CD Projekt RED has not disappointed, and Geralt’s final adventure is one of his most intriguing and exciting yet.
The story begins like any: it’s another day in the war-torn Northern Realms, and Geralt’s out looking for work. The noticeboards have never let him down before, so we ride into a village and check out the notice pinned to the board. One happens to catch his eye, so he scoops it up, and heads to meet the men who left it behind. What follows is a quick reminder of just how brutal the Northern Realms can be. It’s a good way to introduce the upcoming story, because it helps to remind players of where they’re coming from, which makes Toussaint’s reveal that much more intriguing. It isn’t long before Geralt and his old friends are headed off to the land of love and wine.
Toussaint is more than just another addition to the base game’s world. The people there, the land surrounding their cities, and even the dialogue used is vastly different from the Northern Realms. Honour, valour, compassion and virtue are important in this new land, and that’s painfully clear from Geralt’s first encounter. After a brief fight with a monster, Geralt gets straight to work. A beast has been killing in the land, and its newest victim has just been found on the bank of a nearby river.
It doesn’t take long to get back into the swing of things. Geralt’s Witcher Sense is still an essential tool that you’ll be making use of quite a lot, and it works as well as could be expected. Alongside the main quest, there are plenty of optional quests to complete, including several new Scavenger Hunts which feature some new Witcher armour pieces. Many of the quests are intriguing, spilling out their own little stories as they did in the base game and Hearts of Stone expansion.
I was once tasked with exploring an old mansion, which was said to be haunted. During my investigation of the area, I learned that a rare spotted wight had taken up residence within the old house. My goal, to acquire some of the wight’s spittle, was clear but I was also given a chance to break the curse that afflicted the poor creature. Deciding to follow my heart, I tried to cure the beast. I failed the first time around, but after a brief bout with a bug that somehow kept my choices from displaying, I was finally able to cure the creature, proving to myself that all Witchers aren’t just heartless monster killers. It was a huge win for my vision of Geralt, and I felt like it really helped to prove how deeply your choices affect the world around you.
One of Blood and Wine’s biggest draws is the addition of over 20 new enemies to face off against. Many of these are just new types of old enemies; however, they offer new challenges for the Witcher to face. Their designs are interesting, and while I often found myself struggling to take on some of the new enemies, it wasn’t that hard to take them down after a few tries. The main quest’s enemy is also very intriguing, and all throughout the experience I found myself wishing I could learn more about the beast that I had been sent to destroy.
Of course, like any good Witcher tale, choice is a vital part of the story, and your own choices can often determine who and what become your enemies. This is still the case in Blood and Wine, and I often found myself having to think for several moments before coming to a decision on some of the things that I was faced with. It’s a feeling that I haven’t experienced with many other games, and I believe it’s a vital part of what makes the Witcher series feel so alive.