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Posted May 11, 2016 by Adam Ghiggino in Feature
 
 

First In-Depth Look at The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine


While CD Projekt Red stated last year that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was the end of Geralt’s journey, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re finished with him yet. A few months ago we were treated to the Faustian expansion Hearts of Stone, which provided a surprisingly fresh adventure for Geralt to undertake, and now we have the upcoming Blood and Wine on the horizon, which promises to not only expand Geralt’s story once more, but bring a host of gameplay improvements and fixes.

“A lot of the stuff is based on feedback and things fans wanted to see, “ Jamie Bury, Senior Animator on The Witcher 3 explains.

Speaking to Jamie and Fabian Doehla, the PR Representative at the event, it’s clear that CD Projekt Red had been very self-reflective and critical in the months that followed The Witcher 3’s release, examining almost every comment and complaint players had in their playthroughs. While I felt the need to remind them to buck up a little, as The Witcher 3 was still one of the Games of the Year, Fabian insisted that listening and directly responding to the fans was extremely important for them as developers, and what separates them from some other companies. Being able to set their own deadlines a developer and publisher of a sort, they’re chasing the ultimate Witcher experience with this second expansion pack.

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“There’s something like 20 new creatures, we’ve got some new systems like dying armor.” Jamie Bury

“Obviously in Hearts of Stone we had all the new quests and things taking place in the regular landmass of The Witcher 3. [Blood and Wine] is writing a whole new landmass. We have Toussaint and Beauclair the city, and over 90 new quests.”

I played through the opening hours of Blood & Wine, which have more or less been locked apart from some small issues as CD Projekt Red tidies up the game for release. Once again initiating your adventure from a new notice on a quest board, Geralt gets into a tangle with some bandits and a couple of old friends from Toussaint, a location previously only featured in the books preceding the games. Summoned by the Duchess, a very comely monarch hosting a grand tournament in Beauclair, Geralt travels to the new country and is tasked with finding and stopping a beast that has been picking off certain citizens one by one. Of course, things are rarely so simple in a Witcher quest, as more old friends reveal themselves and the ambiguous nature of the ‘beast’ is slowly uncovered.

Toussaint itself feels a different beast in its own right to the rest of the world. Clearly influenced by French architecture and fashion, there are Mont Saint-Michel-esque castles, Parisian dresses and umbrellas, fields of grapevines, overly fancy armor on the knights… It’s a stark contrast to the mud and grit players are used to. The land is also more interactive than before – with your actions having consequences around the map. For instance, killing bandits in their main hideout will weaken surrounding camps.

“I think we included 6,000 new lines of dialogue in Hearts of Stone and we have like 14,000 in this expansion, so it’s significantly bigger.” Jamie says, listing off the slew of additions the team has been working on.

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Early on in the expansion, Geralt is gifted a vineyard by the Duchess as payment for his services. Not only is this intended to become a place for Geralt to finally settle down, as the player improves it and makes it more of a home, but it operates as a ‘hub’ that fans have been requesting for a while now.

Jamie details, “We have the vineyard that you can own, which adds buffs and things for your character. Very simple things like being able to take the armor sets you’ve owned and put them on display so you can actually see them, or put your weapons on display. If you build a nicer bed and sleep in it, you get a stamina buff… We have things like a garden where you can plant some things to give you alchemy ingredients, and a stable where you can upgrade the stamina of your horse.”

The developers also indicated that should you fix up the guestroom of the vineyard, you may even have a few familiar faces from the main game drop by, to resolve any lingering threads their storylines may have had by its conclusion.

Fan feedback has driven some overall improvements to the game as well, including a completely new inventory management system, that does away with the Resident Evil-esque box jumble, and instead separates your gear into individual categories, making it easier to find what you need and equip it. The level cap has been raised to 100, even though the recommended level for playing Blood and Wine is in the mid-30s, to give players more freedom to grow their character. In this vein, the mutagen system has also been upgraded, to include four extra slots which are slowly unlocked as players level up, and a new modifier mutagen slot to allow players to further their abilities in a specific direction (such as combat or signs).

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In Jamie’s words, “It’s basically a more higher level way of customizing your character. So you have your normal mutagens which you’ll be able to use with Geralt but these ones you get are for more higher level players, the abilities they give you are very very different from what you’ve seen in The Witcher before and very very powerful. I think it’s something that it’s not really something you could unlock all of them on a single playthrough, so they’re more based around a new game plus mode.”

“My favourite moment in Blood and Wine?… The fairytale quest… Is that vague enough?” Jamie Bury

I don’t want to spoil too much story-wise of what I saw during my playthrough, as so much of the pleasure in The Witcher comes from discovering secrets, quests and storylines for yourself, but I will say there’s a great variation in your tasks, and there are many very cool tips of the hat to the books, to past games, to other gaming franchises and to some of the pop and fan culture that surrounds The Witcher.

The saying ‘this one’s for the fans’ comes to mind when playing through Blood and Wine. There’s been a definite effort not only to tie up loose ends from the main Witcher 3 game, but to improve the overall gameplay experience to fix what complaints players had last year. While Blood and Wine doesn’t have a set release date as of yet, as CD Projekt Red are hard at work mixing the audio and bugfixing, look for it when it releases on May 31st.


Adam Ghiggino

 
Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.


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