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Hearts of Stone is the first paid DLC for The Witcher 3. CD Projekt RED has been generous with free DLC thus far, but this is the first, true story expansion. The Witcher 3 has already established itself as one of the best RPG’s available with its solid groundwork and Hearts of Stone builds upon that. All the content that is included here feels like a natural extension of the previous game whilst taking Geralt to new and wonderful places.
New areas, side quests, monsters, and abilities; Hearts of Stone has it all. The Witcher 3 delivered a perfectly balanced, dark fantasy theme and here you will see a more varied affair. Humor, tragedy and tense moments are littered throughout and I consistently found myself caught off guard. Side missions are diverse and enjoyable. You will find yourself delivering a speech at a wedding with the nerves and awkwardness that comes with it to devising a major heist job. All of these outings, which there are many, relate to the main storyline. The central narrative is less dire than in The Witcher 3 which allows you to remain guilt free when embarking on these excursions.
The expansion will see you heading north of Novigrad. I had hoped that Hearts of Stone would transport me to a whole new location, but the care and detail that has been injected into the environments had me more than satisfied with the surroundings. You can see that Hearts of Stone has been created by the core team who devised the main game as the same stunning landscapes welcome you. The Witcher 3 looked exquisite and Hearts of Stone is no different.
The expansion will last around 20 hours depending on how you spend your time and Geralt’s interactions are the main focus here. I will not go into any story details here but as you can imagine, it is thoroughly engrossing. You will find yourself in the company of Shani, who some may remember from the original Witcher, and it is great to have her return. Geralt is an intelligent man and can hold his own in most conversations, even against the feisty Yennefer. Shani, however, is even smarter than Geralt and I love seeing a strong female presence in games. When speaking to her, you always feel under pressure and you will notice you have a lot more time sensitive moments when conversing with Shani. Another returning character from the original is Gaunter O’Dimm. He is not the antagonist as such but you never truly feel safe around him. The power he possesses is intimidating and all the scenes with him are tense affairs. The Witcher 3 delivered some truly memorable characters and that is once again the case here.
The majority of the added content is story based, but you will encounter new enemies too. You can approach the expansion at any level, but it is best suited for players who have finished the previous tale. A new common enemy is the Arachnomorphs and they fight differently to the regular foes you will remember. Instead of rushing you, they will evade you and fight by numbers. By throwing web like projectiles at you, they will attempt to pin you down and when they succeed, they will dash forward as a unit to kill you. The larger enemies featured here are tough battles who come equipped with their own, unique fighting tactics. In The Witcher 3, I found myself repeating my fighting style, but here I was forced to adapt to the new enemies. The monsters look great in a disturbing way. The headless warrior looks intimidating and deadly whereas a monster you will fight near the end of the game looks like something straight out of the grotesque Bloodborne.
There are no new magic spells here which felt slightly disappointing, but you do have more armor customization at hand. Runewords allow you to combine the excess runes you will have acquired and combine them with your armor to create unique perks. Although new signs are not available, the perks attained can affect how previous spells work. Axii, for example, can automatically target the next opponent once the current enemy has been slain. You can pay the Runewright to add slots to your existing load out which results in you being able to keep your favorite gear without missing out on these new abilities.
If you loved The Witcher 3 and want more, Hearts of Stone is a no-brainer. I could not wait to jump back into the world of Tamriel and the content here feels refreshing and unique. Seeing Geralt adapt to new situations is always amusing and the care and attention put into the standalone game are evidently present here too. Unlike other DLC content which may include a new storyline, Hearts of Stone feels like an extension of the world and my map now feels whole with this included.
An Englishman living in Australia. I edit and provide video/written reviews for all of the latest games.