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5 Things That Will Make Blood and Wine Great
The Bringer of Lists is back with a vengeance. Jacob Smith shares his hopes, fears, and dreams - in numerical format - for Witcher 3's upcoming expansion, Blood and Wine.
Although originally given a tentative release for the first quarter of 2016, like all good ambiguously dated things Witcher 3’s second and more sizable expansion, Blood and Wine, has been pushed back to the first half of 2016. Which does technically still include the first quarter, but come on. They wouldn’t be giving themselves those extra three months of leeway if they didn’t think they needed it.
So while we may have to wait a bit longer for our next and seemingly final foray in to the life of Geralt of Rivia, we’ve still got enough nuggets of information to dive in, Scrooge McDuck style, and swim on the oceans of speculation until CD Projekt Red lock down dates, deadlines, and details for us all. To that end, and knowing what we know, here are five things that could be done in Blood and Wine that would make it great.
A Narrative Driven by Politics and Intrigue
Between Wild Hunt and Hearts of Stone we’ve had a nice variety in our styles of story from the Witcher 3. Wild Hunt gave us the sprawling epic with bloody twists and brutal moments we’ve all come to expect from modern fantasy, while Hearts of Stone delved eye-deep in to the dark, macabre, and downright weird side of the genre that suited the smaller expansion. To keep our pallets fresh, Blood and Wine should focus itself on politics, intrigue and espionage.
Shows like Game of Thrones have made this type of fantasy narrative very popular in recent years, but there’s a rich history of it in Witcher lore too; Sapkowski’s novels often give great focus to the politics of the realm and Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings was lauded for it’s complex and mature politically driven narrative. It seems highly likely that this is what we’ll be getting as the title of the expansion oozes with the kind of backstabbing courtly drama we can hope for, and the developers have even stated that our new location, the realm of Toussaint, is “a land untainted by war, where an atmosphere of carefree indulgence and knightly ritual masks an ancient, bloody secret.”
If we get anything less than a cult of demon worshipping nobles engaging in human sacrifice, I will be very surprised.
Returning Characters from the Games and Novels
For a lot of people, Shani’s involvement in Hearts of Stone was executed perfectly. Those familiar with the character from her role in prior games and the novels got all the nods to her and Geralt’s torrid past they need, but these same nods were done well enough that those unfamiliar were not left out to sea, and her character was built by her presence in that game, and given her own agency and issues. This precedent leaves a lot of room for series favourites that didn’t make the Wild Hunt cut, or were underutilised in the game itself, to make a return.
With the game set in Toussaint, a duchy within Nilfgaard, Fringilla Vigo could easily pop in to the courtly narrative and her romantic history with Geralt could even be brought up, certainly enough to make up for her fleeting and inconsequential presence in Wild Hunt. Another character a lot of people would be happy to see is Iorveth, a Scoia’tael commander created exclusively for the Witcher 2 who was only seen in the Witcher 3 through Gwent cards. A well-known hater of humans, he could provide a volatile presence in Toussaint to ramp up the action. Personally, I’m hoping for the first video game appearance of Borkh Three Jackdaws, who also calls himself Villentretenmerth. He’s not the best at names.
Fresh and Innovative Gameplay Features
This one’s something of a stretch, or at the very least a point so wide open it may have been put forward at the House of Commons (haha, political satire). The main force behind this is that we don’t want the crisp and unblemished gameplay of the Witcher 3 to be brought down by the risk of repetition and grinding. Runewrighting was a relatively nothing addition to the game to the majority of its audience, and was expensive to get working in the first place even for those who wanted to, quite literally, get invested in it.
Since we’re getting a nice big location shift, the opportunity is there to freshen up and expand on features we already have. New transport options to traverse Toussaint could be introduced, and we could even see the option to purchase better horses since not everyone may have got Roach 2.0 during Wild Hunt (or may just fancy a different looking steed). How about herb gardens to streamline alchemy, or even a permanent set of lodgings for all manner of storing, feasting and bedding? If deposit boxes can be introduced as part of a free update, the developers at CD Projekt Red have a lot of room to do some truly game-shifting things with their largest paid expansion.
Big Gwent Expansion
This one is more an indulgence on my part, but any one who has played the Witcher 3 will agree that Gwent is one of the most addictive and well constructed mini-games we have been blessed enough to encounter. Hearts of Stone was good enough to throw in a scintillating slew of additional cards that had small but profound effects on players’ decks. Blood and Wine, with it’s calmer and more refined setting, gives Gwent a good chance to step up in to the limelight a bit more. Some more tournaments and high-stakes games like what we found at times in the main game could happily crop up and give us more focused and rewarding chances to play everyone’s new favourite collectable card game.
Another option is for CD Projekt Red to throw in a whole new deck to the existing four and flip the game on its head. In-game lore states that Gwent was only recently brought over to the Skellige Isles and characters from that Nordic setting are left out of the current card set. Giving them, or even the new realm of Toussaint, a whole deck alongside a couple of fresh pickings for the other four could give this stellar side attraction a fun final burst for the final chapter.
A Killer Collector’s Edition
Hearts of Stone caught the gaming world’s attention long before release when a Collector’s Edition was announced. It is not the first time additional digital content has popped up with a physical presence in shops, but doing so at release equipped with some goodies for salivating fans is a fresh idea. It stands to reason that CD Projekt Red might try it again with their larger second expansion and the floor is open as to what we could get.
The Gwent themed accessories of the first expansion are a solid and desirable option. The Northern Realms and Nilfgaard decks have only been available in the Xbox One collector’s edition up to now and this is a prime time to make them available to the world, adding in all the new cards Hearts of Stone introduced. Any other cards Blood and Wine brings with it (including my previously suggested Skellige deck) could also be added to the offer. Alternatively or even additionally some more run of the mill loot could be thrown in, such as a Witcher wolf pendant, character posters or sticker sheets. Blood and Wine itself may even throw up some trophy and trinket so alluring that we’ll be happy to splash out and buy it before we play it. But really, we all want Gwent. A lot more Gwent. Forever.