By Tom Tolios / November 24th, 2015
|Title||The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Hearts of Stone|
|Developer||CD Projekt Red|
|Publisher||CD Projekt Red|
|Release Date||October 12, 2015|
|Genre||Role Playing, Action Adventure|
|Platform||Windows, PS4, Xbox One|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Mature|
CD Projekt Red has this DLC thing on lockdown, folks. This is all the more impressive when you consider their long-held pro-consumer stance against the idea of charging for content which, sadly, is all too often anti-consumer in conception and execution. Some questioned CDPR’s integrity when they announced that there would be a season pass for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The scrutiny isn’t surprising, considering the kneejerk culture of internet outrage, which sometimes, I will grant, does result in a valid complaint. But I never pointed the finger in this case. I’m here to tell you that they’re still looking out for the player because this DLC is worth your time and there’s a lot to like here. At $10 and somewhere between 12 to 15 hours for an exhaustive playthrough, fans of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt expecting meaningful content are most certainly getting their money’s worth here.
To start off, you will need to own The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to play the Hearts of Stone expansion, which requires you to at least be level 30 to tackle the content. If your Geralt isn’t that strong yet (and, if he isn’t, shame on you), you can explore Hearts of Stone separately with a starting build of level 30. Or you can continue with your existing game if you like and go into the new material, added to the northeast area on the map, as part of your ongoing exploration of the game’s world. It’s nice to see CDPR enable instant access, because paying for content you can’t experience until you’ve played more of the main game would be counterproductive in this reviewer’s opinion.
Fans that bought The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on Day One know that some aspects of the game’s inventory management, crafting and potion usage systems needed some tweaking. CD Projekt Red has listened to the complaints and suggestions and implemented a bunch of new features that make things more manageable. These changes were made in a separate patch that was released prior to the DLC launch, so people returning after the update to try out Hearts of Stone will appreciate the tweaks. Every adjustment has made the gamplay more natural and better paced, resulting in an improved interactive experience. The game was already the best release of the year before these modifications and it’s only gotten better.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Hearts of Stone’s main focus is the intrigue between two men that Geralt gets caught up in when he’s tricked by one of them, the charismatic bandit Olgierd Von Everec, into doing something he really shouldn’t have done and then bailed out of the subsequent consequences by the other one, the mysterious and powerful Gaunter O’Dimm. The timely aid comes with its own price and, as it turns out, Gaunter and Olgierd had a deal between them that’s currently at an impasse. O’Dimm has faith that Geralt will settle the matter and help him achieve a favorable outcome. The White Wolf’s participation isn’t voluntary, as he’s branded and will remain so until he fulfills his obligation. And, if he doesn’t repay O’Dimm for his aid, there will be consequences. All in a day’s work for a Witcher.
If you were to just read that summary, you’d assume Olgierd screwed Geralt over and that Gaunter is doing him a favor by rescuing him from a grim fate at a cost. But this is the world of Geralt of Rivia, dear friends, and things are never what they seem in this place. Men are monsters, monsters are men, morality is gray and blurred and resolutions are never as black and white as all too often occur in more traditional fantasy. The dispute between Olgierd and Gaunter is complicated, older than you might think and mired in intrigues, politics, tragedy and dark mysticism. As you experience the events that led to the current stalemate between them, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a story that is rich with surprises, double and triple turns, melancholy and dark developments around every corner. I am very happy to report that the Hearts of Stone narrative is as good as anything you’ll find in both the core game of The Witcher 3 and pretty much in any other video game you’re likely to play this year. I will only add one more thing: October was the PERFECT month for this expansion to be released.
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