Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone A-
A must have for any Witcher fan.
Hearts of Stone is a fantastic DLC for the Witcher 3 game. It has an excellent story, engaging characters, and improvements to the gameplay.
The story begins with the introduction of a new character, Olgierd von Everec. Olgierd tasks Geralt with slaying a monster, but there’s a catch. The slain monster becomes human, and Geralt is arrested for murder. While on his prisoner ship, Geralt is rescued by a supernatural man called Gaunter O’Dimm. He promises to free Geralt in exchange for Geralt’s help with an unspecified task. Geralt is forced to accept and the ship promptly crashes and Geralt escapes.
The story revolves around Geralt helping Gaunter O’Dimm grant Olgierd von Everec three wishes. Olgierd has made a Faustian bargain with O’Dimm and O’Dimm tasks Geralt with granting those wishes. The story is much more interesting than main plot in Witcher 3. Olgierd and O’Dimm are fascinating characters. The game does a great job of showing rather than telling. Instead of just explaining Olgierd’s background and motivations, the game reveals it through the three wishes. And despite Olgierd’s terrible deeds, by the end you feel sorry for him and his plight. The story also doesn’t require you to know the full backstory of Geralt like Witcher 3 did. Hearts of Stone is easily accessible to new players unfamiliar with Witcher lore.
The only weak part of the plot is the romantic subplot. The female character, Shani, feels shoe-horned into the story. She’s underdeveloped and only seems to be there to fulfill the romance check box the game requires. It’s diametrically opposed to the romance in Witcher 3. In Witcher 3, it was clear that Geralt had a rich backstory and relationship with Yennefer and Triss. Hearts of Stone fails to have that same connection between Geralt and Shani.
The gameplay remains largely the same, with some improvements. New enemies, called Arachnomorphs, add a nice challenge. As opposed to most enemies, Arachnomorphs work together against Geralt. They shoot webs that trap Geralt, allowing the other Arachnomorphs to swarm and attack. Individual Arachnomorphs retreat away from Geralt into the safety of the large pack. These fights forced me to have a better plan than spamming the quick attack button and quen sign.
The bosses are incredibly easy, except for one frustrating boss called The Caretaker. I felt like I’d been transported to Bloodborne. He has a gigantic scythe and a powerful area of effect attack. But that’s not the problem. The problem is he heals with every successful attack. And if he’s not hitting you, he’ll summon corpses and hit them to heal himself. It took a solid ten minutes of fighting to defeat him, which is significantly longer than any other fight in the game.
There’s new gear and runes to unlock. The highlight of the new gear is the Viper Witcher Set, which makes you immune to poison. A new merchant will take your runes and combine them into runewords than enhance your weapons or overall sets.
Overall, Hearts of Stone is an excellent DLC. It adds a fantastic story and doesn’t deviate too far from the solid gameplay that made Witcher 3 one of the best games of the year.