By William Haderlie / June 11th, 2016
Along with Grandmaster versions of the previous armor sets, there is another huge change to special armor sets, including Witcher armor, and that is the addition of armor and weapon set bonuses. Some rare armor sets have a 6 piece bonus for using them, including the new Vampire armor that looks very wicked, but Witcher sets have both a 3 piece set bonus and a 6 piece set bonus to make them even more valuable. For the Grandmaster Bear set I ended up settling on just the 3 piece bonus, though, because I found two weapons that were significantly better than the 2 Bear swords. Even then, the 3 piece bonus for the set was rather good, giving a very high percentage chance to develop another Quen shield as soon as the previous one breaks, with no Stamina cost. Along with these highest sets and the Vampire armor, there is also a new Witcher armor school set, much like there was in Hearts of Stone. This time it is the Manticore Set, and it specializes in Potions builds. That will make a lot of people happy with how popular and OP those builds can be.
Not only do you gain extra powers with set armor pieces, but there is also a new mutagen skill system to make you even more deadly. You unlock skills by investing skill points and mutagens and together they will make you a much more powerful Witcher. Not only do they give you special abilities, but the more of them you learn, the more additional skills slots will open up for active skills (up to a maximum of 4). Those final skills at the edges of that new skill tree especially are extremely powerful. The one that you can see above which I’m trying for next will add an extra potion or mutagen on to you at random after each critical hit, with no cost to Toxicity, up to a certain maximum to have at once. This is the final content, so they obviously aren’t nearly as concerned over balancing the difficulty. One thing, though; these mutagen skills require a lot of skill points to craft, so more than likely you will not have access to many until after you go into New Game+.
That isn’t the only reason you will have to go back through the game again. This expansion improves so much from what was already an amazing game. They made some graphical tweaks to make it look better on all the systems, even the consoles. Even the main game now looks even better on PS4, just not quite as drastic as how Toussaint itself looks. Another wonderful addition is changing all the menus. The inventory menus are much better and the crafting menus are far better as well. I already didn’t mind the menu system before, but this makes the previous format look dated. Not only that, but this is all included within patch 1.20, so even if you didn’t purchase the expansion, you will still get these upgrades for free. And when it comes to free content, CD Projekt RED has been owning every other gaming company out there throughout this entire game’s release.
That being said, there is still more reason to get the expansion than just the story and new armor recipes. That vineyard home you see above? That is mine. And not only is it beautiful, but it provides a large number of benefits beyond storage. As you upgrade your house with investment cash, it will become more beautiful and it will also start providing you various buffs. The following picture will provide you a handy reference to all the buffs that your house can provide at its highest level.
The house buffs only require you to sleep on your bed for at least an hour, and then you will get their full effect. It’s like having an extra 4 mutagens that don’t cost you any toxicity. In fact, they are so good, that I was upset with myself that I spent so much time doing every side quest before I touched the main quest. They would have been so nice for some of them. That is one part about this expansion that you should be warned of. The enemies are at quite high levels compared to where you would finish the main story at, so I would really recommend that you finish Hearts of Stone before you enter Blood and Wine. They do, thankfully, lift the normal 40 level cap for the first playthrough, because many of the creatures you fight will be levels 40-46. But that isn’t the only thing that makes this expansion more challenging. The monsters in this land are used to fighting full knights, and their patterns and intelligence are more advanced than any creatures in the main game, but I never found it to be frustrating on the Normal difficulty level. On Hard or Brutal this expansion could end up being very tough, though.
So are there any complaints to be had here? Frankly, no. The music is still great, there were no bugs, and the visuals are even more amazing, as I stated several times now. Even the new Skellige Gwent deck is amazing, and I’m sure that there will be plenty of people who switch over to it as their primary deck. It even makes use of some interesting new mechanics, such as changing your troops into their berserker modes and using weather cards to greater effect. There is even an all new Gwent tournament that you must win using only the new Skellige deck. There is just so much new that this expansion adds to the main game that not only makes the end better, but it also makes the entirety of the previous content even better. And so for the end, this is truly the way to go out. I cannot praise this company enough for their work with this game. Not only did they provide us with a ton of great free content, but the two expansions that we had to pay for ended up being truly amazing. This specific content, Blood and Wine, is my vote for the greatest single piece of DLC content in the history of video games. This, folks, this is how you do it.
Review Copy Self Purchased
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