The Witcher III: Hearts of Stone Expansion Review
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s first paid expansion, Hearts of Stone, promised 10-hours of new content for Geralt, but is that promise delivered in full?
At its core, Hearts of Stone is a batch of new content that plays like everything else you’ve done before in The Witcher 3 which is great.
Somewhere around 100 hours into the game, I started Hearts of Stone and immediately felt at home as I ventured toward the classic gold circles on the map to start new quests. Nothing in the way things play out has changed here. Quickly, however, it’s apparent the story in Hearts of Stone is much more thoughtful and fleshed out than simply adding a couple of contracts and some alternate character skins.
Without spoiling too much, Geralt quickly finds himself wrapped up in a three-way contract of sorts between the mysterious “Man of Mirrors” and a rough and tumble new character and star of the show, Olgierd von Everec. In order to repay a debt to the Man of Mirrors, Geralt must fulfill three conditions for Olgierd; it’s here that things get interesting.
What follows are some of the most varied situations Geralt has been in. I had a blast as I planned a heist, explored the dark recesses of Olgierd’s mysterious past and even attended a wedding.There are a few moments in Hearts of Stone where Geralt becomes a bit more transparent than we are used to seeing- likely a deliberate, and wise choice. Geralt explores some of his long locked away feelings with a returning character from the series and even seems to be so deeply affected by unraveling Olgierd’s story, that he begins to question his own decisions.
Even beyond quests, Hearts of Stone is made interesting because Olgierd is a legitimately brilliant character with a legitimately interesting, and quite dark past. The Man of Mirrors is an unfortunately typical mysterious, dangerous rogue, but Olgierd steals the show with his balance of danger, regret and compassion.
As you unravel Olgierd’s past and perform the necessary favors for him, you’ll experience a few laughs, but things take some dark turns. The Witcher 3 was never a game about happiness and cheer, but there are some legitimately dark and somber moments throughout Hearts of Stone that make some of the core content look tame by comparison.
While everything feels familiar about gameplay in Hearts of Stone (you’ll be back to playing Gwent the same way, swinging your blades and casting signs just as before), some of the encounters within the expansion’s 10 hours are some of the hardest in the game. Quests in Hearts of Stone typically recommend a level somewhere between 32 and 35. I started the expansion as a 36 and still found some frustrating moments, particularly against some of the pack’s nastier bosses. Odds are never insurmountable, though. A level head and a few well placed signs, just as in the core game, and you will push through.
A good expansion isn’t a simple level pack or re-skinning of characters and Hearts of Stone is far from either. What is here is a legitimately well fleshed out side story for the Geralt you’ve spent so much time with and for around $10, the experience is a steal.
If you have spent significant time with The Witcher 3 prior to the pack’s release, your mind is likely already made up about the purchase. Rest assured, Hearts of Stone is more of what you love peppered with challenging but satisfying gameplay, complete with a story full of mystery, action, regret, heartbreak and intrigue that you likely won’t soon forget.
Final Say: Play it