The original Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was no doubt an exceptional game, with content sprawling over 200 hours, the devs at CDPR made sure you get a bloody good time and if you prefer to go through the game again, you could always choose the New Game+ which bumped up your level and made sure the enemies are there to give you a harder time than they did the first time around. Despite all its excellence that we discussed in our review, the game lacked something that we didn’t pay much attention to the first time around; the human element. Yes, there were moments in the original Witcher that will make you feel for the damaged, but lethal Geralt, but we never got to see the humanely side of Geralt, or let’s just say he wasn’t good with all the emotions going on for him.
Hearts of Stone improves upon that and delivers a fantastic story-telling in just under 15 hours, the game revolves around 4 characters; Geralt, Shani, Olgierd von Everec and Gaunter O’Dimm. Folks already know Shani from the original Witcher, as for Gaunter, we have an encounter with him in an inn in White Orchard where he gives us some information about Yennefer. From the get-go, he posed as an interesting character and sadly we never got to see much of him during the 200 hours of the original game but he is back this time and he is one of the best characters the game has to offer.
Hearts of Stone is the prime example of DLCs should be done, nothing is overdone; it is simple and it is fun. But the story goes deeper than we initially thought, the expansion pack shows you a side of Geralt you haven’t seen before and it is an absolute delight to see our Witcher laughing and dancing around. In the other departments, Hearts of Stone doesn’t disappoint at all, the new enemy types known as the annoying Arachnomorphs that will keep their distance and attack you as soon as you are off-guard, this often ended up in frustration as they didn’t even think to fight.
Same goes for the grandiose boss fights in Hearts of Stone, the campaign sprawls around 10-15 hours but the boss fights are something that you won’t simply forget. You get to fight monsters such as a giant ‘prince’ toad, a sand mage who wants your head and a bloody caretaker who’ll conjure up… well let’s not go there. Needless to say, if the original Witcher didn’t satisfy your blood lust for ugly, horrible bosses, then you’re in for a treat.
Hearts of Stone doesn’t bring a new area on the map, however, northeastern part of Novigrad is now yours to explore with bunch of small towns and inns in between, oh, yes, you do get Witcher contracts and side quests too, they are not as ample as the original but good enough to salute the developers for putting them in. Needless to say, it only feels as if you are playing an entirely new game.
Speaking of how this feels an entirely new game, well, in ways it is. For instance, you will found a runewright he will enchant your swords and armour for a hefty but worthy price. The set I used was enchanted by something called ‘replenishment’, every time Geralt casted a sign after having an adrenaline point, the effects of the sign were enchanted on the sword, resulting in some fine gameplay elements coming out. Oh, there’s an enchantment for armours that will make all armours work like light armours, so those who had issues with the Ursine set can now fully use it without sacrificing the slow stamina regeneration.
Coming back to the story, the real star of Hearts of Stone is its epic story, a story that will show you a Geralt you haven’t seen before. From attending weddings and planning a heist which was one of the most beautifully done quests you can ever find in a role-playing game, the Hearts of Stone has it all. The characters introduced by the story weren’t a joke either, our personal favourite Olgierd von Everec is quite simply the most memorable characters in the video game history, oh, did we tell you he looks like David Beckham? Only more bad ass and deadly.
Even if you JUST consider the story in Hearts of Stone, the game is worth playing, however, knowing this is Witcher and the amount of ‘woah’ moments await you, it is definitely a worthy expansion that alone can give you hours of fun. We have locations that look beautiful as ever, enemies are tougher than before and boss fights are as memorable as ever and there is a lot of human element going around in every facet of the game. In short — Hearts of Stone is the prime example of how expansions should be done.
- Brilliant characters.
- Human element is top-notch.
- Fights are somewhat enjoyable as compared to last time.
- Runewords make the combat all the more epic.
- A fitting end to Von Everec’s story.
- Short 🙁