It's probably going to be a long time before The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is dethroned as the king of modern role-playing games. The open world title is one of the very best releases of the past decade, and has essentially set the bar for similar games going forward. But it's not just the base release that should be swamped in praise, for developer CD Projekt Red launched one of the greatest expansions that we've ever played midway through 2016. More than a year after the third instalment hit the market, the Polish studio saw fit to fully wrap things up with The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine – and for our money, it's quite easily the best slice of downloadable content that we played this year.
Sweeping us off to the stunning Duchy of Toussaint – a vibrant and rich land filled with booze, laughter, and pompous nobility – Blood and Wine sets a unique tone for itself early on. Compared to the war-torn realms that Geralt navigates during the main game, Toussaint is basically a holiday destination. It's untouched by battle, and its people are generally carefree, many of them dedicating their time to the arts and the fanciful lifestyle that comes with owning their own estate. Right from the off, Blood and Wine is like a breathe of fresh air after spending potentially hundreds of hours roaming the muddy countrysides of the North.
Toussaint is also rather large, offering up a whole new map to explore – and this is really where you start to realise that Blood and Wine's greatness doesn't just stem from its overall quality. Indeed, this is an expansion that houses 40 or so hours of content, and it's going for less than half the price of your usual retail title. Bargain, anyone?
This isn't just a new map stuffed with throwaway quests for the sake of padding, either. A tale of intrigue and ugly vampires sews the whole expansion together as our white-haired hero attempts to uncover Toussaint's most sinister secrets. The main story is unsurprisingly shorter than the one found in the base game, but it's arguably more refined. There's no filler here, meaning that player choice and consequence play a more immediate role. Naturally, this allows for several different endings depending on your actions – some of which are downright heartbreaking.
When we reviewed Blood and Wine back in May, we gave it a 10/10, and claimed that CD Projekt Red had "released three masterpieces within the space of a year", and we still stand by that statement. Geralt's last hurrah is DLC done absolutely right; it's less icing on the cake and more... Well, it's basically a whole new cake – and an equally delicious one at that. It stands tall and proud next to the likes of Red Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion's Shivering Isles. It's one of those depressingly rare expansions that sweeps aside most full games and utterly shames those stingy DLC packs that many titles crank out just days after release.
We could go on and on for hours about the glory of Blood and Wine, but we've been heaping praise on The Witcher 3 for what feels like an age. The bottom line is that the White Wolf's final adventure is the developer's crowning achievement.
What do you think of Blood and Wine? Is it 2016's best DLC? Does anything else come close? Grin like Geralt in the comments section below.