Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Witcher 3: Blood & Wine - Review

Blood & Wine is the second expansion for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and the last bit of content that will ever be produced in The Witcher series. With no plans for any future games in the series, developer CD Projekt designed Blood & Wine to serve as a final farewell tour for Geralt, sending him on one last adventure in a new land before he puts up his swords and retires from his life as a monster-hunter-for-hire. For that reason alone, Blood & Wine is a special, magical experience that serves as a fine coda for one of the best open-world games -- and one of the best video games in general -- ever created, but there's a lot more to appreciate about Blood & Wine than its sentimental value.

Whereas Hearts of Stone felt like it was, essentially, just a new story set within the confines of TW3, Blood & Wine is a full-fledged expansion fully deserving of its $20 price tag. Blood & Wine offers upwards of 30 hours of extra content with an all-new main story in a brand new region, Toussaint, complete with dozens of new quests, tons of new weapons and armor, new enemies, a new system for improving Geralt's witcher abilities with skill points and mutagens, and a player home that you can upgrade to give you extra benefits as a base of operations. There's enough original content in Blood & Wine that it could have been sold as its own stand-alone game, and the majesty of its presentation is simply breath-taking.

Unfortunately, nothing in Blood & Wine is much of a game-changer, with the exception of the new mutations and possibly the player home -- otherwise, it's all basically just more of the same from a game that was already a little too long and bloated to begin with, and at least in my opinion, nothing in Blood & Wine really outshines anything that's been done previously in either the base game or Hearts of Stone. That's not much of a criticism, mind you; CD Projekt set the bar so high with its previous efforts that coming up a little short still puts Blood & Wine well beyond other game experiences from other developers. But if you're someone like me who's feeling a little burned out from playing the same game for so long, then Blood & Wine will only give you so much of a spark before it settles back into routine.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone - Review

Hearts of Stone -- the first DLC pack for The Witcher 3 -- adds about 15-20 hours of new content to the game, extending the northeastern region of the map, near Oxenfurt, with new points of interest, side-quests, and treasure hunts, in addition to other expansion essentials like all-new enemies, new equipment sets, a new system for crafting and buying unique runes and glyphs, and a main storyline that goes toe-to-toe with and even exceeds the best quests in the base game. Hearts of Stone is, at its heart, a fairly typical DLC expansion that simply takes the familiar formula of the base game and adds more content to it, but it improves upon the experience by directly addressing some of the core issues of the base game, such as combat, economy, and pacing. The mechanical improvements are reason enough to give Hearts of Stone a solid recommendation, but the main quest-line and all of its great characters, stories, and gameplay sequences push it well above the base game and make it one of the best $10 DLC packs I've ever played.