The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone

Developer: CD Projekt RED | Released: 2015 | Genre: RPG, Third Person

It took me almost 17 hours to get through the first expansion pack – main quest, secondary quests, treasure hunts, question marks and all. Again the writing of the story and quests was of a very high quality, and there was a lot of both awe and humor to behold. If anything, some of the tasks fulfilling the three wishes of Olgierd von Everec were quite arduous and that actually held me back a few times.

“Should I play some more today? Urggh, that wedding/heist… I think I’ll watch some Netflix instead.”

I was also slightly disappointed at the generally higher difficulty. The last half of the vanilla game had lulled me into a great feeling of superiority, defeating monsters with ease, but in this expansion pack I constantly had to be on my toes. I reckon most players like that, but I’ve always liked having it a little easier. And it was not just the bosses. A giant toad and a mage with crazy tornado skills were tough, but as bosses that was kind of expected. The new enemies like boars and spiders ran all over the place and it was hard to get close to them without using freezing bombs. Even old vanilla enemies were not easily defeated.

Screenshot
Geralt of Rivia, Gaunter O’Dimm and Olgierd von Everec – the three main characters of the expansion.

There was also a new “temporary” love interest in the expansion in the form of the red-headed medic Shani, which unfortunately I couldn’t remember at all from the previous games. She reminded me a whole lot of a younger version of Catherine Willows in CSI.

The expansion didn’t have any new zone, instead it just took up a bit of the upper right corner of Velen. New question marks and quest targets popped up not only there, but also in the town of Oxenfurt. This is where Shani lived, where a heist took place, and Olgierd later spent time in the local inn. In the corner area of the map, a foreign craftsman could have his gear upgraded in very expensive steps, after which he could runecraft my armor and weapons. The standard gem sockets were then replaced with all new and special enchantments, most of which actually weren’t all that impressive.

But I sure was glad I had saved up a lot of money during the vanilla game.

There were also a couple of new armor sets to get in this expansion. One was a level 40 set that I didn’t get to try out this time as I finished at level 39, but it has a lot of resistances and I look forward to wear it in the second expansion. I did find all four relic versions of the New Moon set, all black and leathery.

Spoiler: Click

The big bad of the game was not Olgierd von Everec, it was some kind of powerful djinn in a human appearance as Gaunter O’Dimm. Both had marvelous voices and a solid personality. Gaunter made Gerard a proxy for fulfilling three wishes for Olgierd, and all of them were long and laborious.

The first was to summon the ghost of his dead brother and let him possess Gerard so he could have a good time at a wedding together with Shani. That was actually quite funny and entertaining. I was chasing pigs, holding a weird speech and fighting bullies with boards. Arriving at the wedding and seeing all those quest markers pop up everywhere was a little daunting, though.

The second wish was even more daunting. After visiting an auction, Gerard got involved in a heist right out of Hollywood movies. First a few experts had to be hired, then the break had to be executed, and of course a lot went totally wrong in the end. I ended up killing Ewald (taking hostages is absolutely not okay in my book) and I only took the shell of the miniature house.

Screenshot
The painted mansion sequence also had a black cat and dog that could talk.

At least the third wish sounded refreshingly simple to begin with. Get a purple rose from his deceased love. It then turned out to be quite a ghost story in a big mansion. It even passed through a painting to the mansion now painted with brush strokes. Bethesda had that idea first in Oblivion but it was still a nice touch. The poltergeist effects and the atmosphere reminded me of the haunted hotel in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. And the set pieces about getting items and placing them in the right place to make a scene come alive reminded me of a similar idea in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

What else? I shagged Shani in a boat on a lake. Took way too long defeating the wraiths out of paintings on the walls before I finally figured out that I had to smack those paintings to prevent the wraith from healing itself. I first let O’Dimm take Olgierd’s soul, then regretted it and reloaded to solve O’Dimm’s mirror riddle. This gave me two good swords and that was way better than O’Dimm’s weak rewards for not intervening.

I felt drained by Geralt’s world in the end. Better take a big break this time before the next expansion.

Version: Steam | Length: 16 hours 53 minutes

Leave a Reply