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The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine review: Farewell, old friend

Hayden Dingman | June 3, 2016
Old witchers never die, they just fade away.

Last night I saved and exited from The Witcher 3 for perhaps the last time. I left Geralt of Rivia standing on the front porch of his vineyard Corvo Bianco, staring out across the rolling hills of Toussaint with his customary two swords strapped to his back and a friend’s words ringing in his ears: “We have witnessed—and, in fact, on several occasions incited—many great and weighty events. After all that toil, I believe we deserve a bit of a rest.”

The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine

It seemed like a fitting place for him. And a fitting place to say goodbye.

Je ne regrette rien

The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine ($20 expansion on Steam or GOG) isn’t so much an expansion pack as it is The Witcher 3.5, “The Continuing Adventures of Geralt of Rivia.” It’s an RPG the size of some other standalone games, a twenty-or-so hour distillation of The Witcher 3 proper set in a fairytale-esque kingdom. Whisked away to the not-so-vaguely-French land of Toussaint, Geralt is tasked with tracking down “The Beast of Beauclaire,” a serial killer with a grudge against older knights-errant.

Blood and Wine consists of a new main quest, new secondary quests, new Witcher Contracts, a whole damn map to explore. It’s enormous, and that alone would probably be enough to entice people.

The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine

But I find myself uninterested in writing the standard breakdown of component parts for Blood and Wine. On some level, it’s because I expected nothing less—surely, at this point, an “It’s quite good” review for The Witcher 3 is rote. Saying Blood and Wine never quite lives up to its predecessor, Hearts of Stone, is like complaining your second-favorite meal didn’t live up to the first. The writing is still excellent. The quests are creative. The new user interface is a relief.

More important, I think, is what Blood and Wine means for Geralt and for longtime fans. This is it. It’s ostensibly the end of Geralt’s tale, his last outing before he hangs up his silver and steel swords and retires, his “I’m too old for this” moment. It’s Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” coming on the radio, or maybe Springsteen’s “Glory Days.”

I’m crushed—not because of anything in particular during Blood and Wine, mind you. Just the idea of saying farewell to Geralt after hundreds of hours across three games.

The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine

It calls into question, as The Witcher has since the start, whether we’re really better off with the RPG-Character-As-Player-Cipher school of design. You know, the type where you play as a mostly blank slate. It’s certainly appropriate in some cases—Elder Scrolls and what have you.

 

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