Platforms PlayStation 4/Xbox One/PC
Developer/Publisher CD Projekt RED
Genre RPG Platform Played PlayStation 4
Hearts of Stone is the first major expansion for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and it is an impressive addition to an already expansive package. Hearts of Stone is an excellent expansion, offering a brilliant cast of intriguing characters and a refreshing range of activities.
The Hearts of Stone story is truly separate from the main campaign and revolves around a new character, Everec. Everec has been given the power (or curse) of immortality, and after a series of events, Geralt of Rivia finds himself tangled up in unfriendly situation between Everec and a man known as Master Mirror. Hearts of Stone has a central focus on the main cast of characters. During the campaign each individual gets their chance to evolve and leave their mark on the story, which is something I loved. None of the main cast is forgotten and each character benefits from these extended moments, allowing me to form genuine relationships with each character. Though some individuals you meet may originally seem black and white, when their mysterious past is further explored their depth becomes obvious. Hearts of Stone never asks you to care for any of these characters, but their stories are so heartfelt that it becomes difficult not to form a strong connection with each and every one.
I did find myself losing interest in the overall storyline. Though I adored the characters and the stories I experienced throughout the campaign, I never found much interest from the actual main plot. This is only a slight bump on the road, as the unique quests that are delivered along the way offer an impressive amount of variety. Each mission during the Hearts of Stone story provides an interesting and unique concept, rather than simply focusing on extended combat situations. Geralt will be involved in creating a team to perform a high-risk heist, spend time at a wedding, and explore an alternate ghostly world. Hearts of Stone excels at delivering diverse missions, and although the overall plot is not perfect, the range of entertaining moments on hand easily makes up for it.
Though the main campaign clearly focus less on extended combat situations, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a large selection of new boss encounters and enemies to defeat. Hearts of Stone has some of the most challenging boss encounters I have faced in The Witcher 3. I found these new boss battles required more strategy than those included in the original game. Those thinking brute force will guarantee them victory will easily fall to the new foes. These battles require impeccable combat abilities and the skills to deliver physical and magical damage to their foes. Even the additional enemies in Hearts of Stone offer some added challenge. New enemies include huge spiders and boars, both of which are extremely agile and can overwhelm you in an instant if you’re unprepared. For example, the new spider enemies will wait to attack on their terms, shooting webs at Geralt to hold him in place before attacking in groups. Learning how to separate and cut them down one at a time is a satisfying challenge.
The Hearts of Stone expands on the Novigrad map in The Witcher 3, adding new towns, hidden locations, Gwent competitors, armour sets and weapons. Though the DLC teases the fact that Geralt will travel to a new land, it never delivers. The fact that Hearts of Stone only expands on areas we have already visited means there isn’t a large amount of visual variety to be found. This isn’t a huge downside, but I was a little disappointed that Hearts of Stone clearly teases new areas before quickly closing down the idea. Here’s hoping the next DLC allows us to explore some of these teases locations.
Hearts of Stone also contains new upgrades known as Runewords and Glyphwords. These new enhancements can be found at a new merchant. These new additions can bring a new variety of upgrades to your existing or new weapons, which can include making blacksmith upgrades permanent, stamina buffs from defeating enemies, increased damage and many more. Getting the most out of the new enhancements will inquire a lot of financial investment, as the new merchant requires a large sum of coin in order to set up shop. However, the large investment is certainly worth it as these new upgrades have a great impact on battles. These additions can also be changed at any time, meaning that players can mix and match to see which upgrades work with their battle style helping diversify individual tactics.
The Witcher 3 Hearts of Stone expansion is a must buy for those looking for any excuse to return to one of the best games of 2015. Hearts of Stone offers a lot more of what made The Witcher 3 so impressive originally, including an outstanding cast of character, challenging boss encounters, and a diverse range of missions. Though the overall plot is on the weak side and the fact new areas are only teased is a shame, these are only minor blemishes on what is an impressive expansion.
Hearts of Stone reminded me why I fell in love with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in the first place, and has further emphasised why it is my Game of the Year for 2015.
- Brilliant cast of characters.
- Diverse range of entertaining missions.
- Challenging boss encounters.
- Runewords and Glyphwords. The Bad
- Similar environments.
- Uninteresting overall plot.