The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone DLC for PS4, Xbox One and PC
In any year that didn’t contain Bloodborne, The Witcher 3 would be my game of the year. Open world fantasy games are my heroin and The Witcher 3 may be the best ever made. Elder Scrolls have wonderful exploration but lesser story and Dragon Age has wonderful story and less exploration. The Witcher 3 had the best of both worlds. I waited until both DLCs were out to play them back to back and have now finished the first; the smaller, more focused, Hearts of Stone.
Hearts of Stone throws Geralt into the path of Olgierd von Everec, a cruel and capricious nobleman who seeks Geralt’s aid for a contract and also happens to be immortal. After fulfilling his request, Geralt is aided by Gaunter O’Dimm, the mysterious merchant who set Geralt on Yennefer’s path right at the beginning of the main game, who brands Geralt with a strange symbol and uses him as a tool of vengeance against an earlier slight against him by von Everec.
The Witcher 3 did a wonderful job of spending extended moments exploring individual figures. The most lauded of these has been the Bloody Baron, but I also loved Sigismund Dijkstra and the Skellige royal family. Some of these characters were shockingly nuanced and revealed just how superior the writing in these games is to other RPGs out there. I love many of a characters in Dragon Age and Elder Scrolls, but is there a single character there as interesting and well developed as the Bloody Baron? Von Everec joins the ranks of these characters and this DLC is really about him. It’s a relatively focused, character driven story which is where much of the writing for these games is at its best.
There isn’t much new from a gameplay point of view and Hearts of Stone is literally just more Witcher 3. This isn’t a problem with me as the talk/examine/fight structure of this game never really grew stale in my opinion. The focus is on Oxenfurt, the college town in Velen which was perhaps a little underused in the main game. There are some really interesting missions, such as one which riffs on GTAVs heists and one which sees us exploring the memories of a trapped wraith. Hearts of Stone feels like The Witcher in microcosm and I couldn’t really ask anything else of it.
Hearts of Stone is a small, focused slice of Witcher goodness. It may not be as grand as Blood and Wine (review following soon), but it perhaps tells the slightly better story. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of stepping into the shoes of Geralt of Rivia, although those days are soon to be over.