The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Hearts of Stone (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 25.10.2015

Review for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Hearts of Stone on PlayStation 4

After already giving away quite a bit of free DLC for The Witcher 3, developer CD Projekt Red said when bringing out DLC that the team expects its audience to actually pay for, it would be a return to the old form of DLC. Much like the expansion packs of PC games of old, the DLC would be worth the price tag, with numerous hours' worth of content. Now, with the first paid DLC finally released for Wild Hunt, it's time to see if they can live up to that promise with Hearts of Stone.

The primary story of the DLC finds Geralt playing the genie to quite a dark Aladdin, required to grant three wishes to a seemingly immortal mercenary leader with a twisted past. It all starts innocently enough. Geralt finds himself in a familiar situation, hired to kill a strange beast lurking in the sewers, but that act is the first step on a long path filled with some of the best storytelling the series has seen. The act of killing the beast has unexpected repercussions that result in Geralt being indebted to the same character who led him to Yennefer back in the prologue of Wild Hunt. Gaunter O'Dimm returns and is much more than he seems. In recompense for his assistance, he tasks Geralt with becoming his champion in a quest to complete three tasks for the leader of the mercenary band "The Wild Ones," Olgierd Von Everec.

The story and the cast make up the greatest strength of Hearts of Stone, with the antagonists, in particular, standing out as something quite special. Von Everec is a fantastically crafted character. A charming rogue swinging for the "Chaotic Neutral" team, his actions, at times, paint him as quite the villain, but there seems to be something redeemable in him; something that is explored throughout the DLC. Gaunter O'Dimm ,too, is a fascinating character, showing nigh-omnipotent powers at times, but the truth of the character is never really entirely explained. Unlike Von Everec, however, he seems to have no redeeming qualities. Cruel, arrogant and twisted, this "Master Mirror" is a great addition to The Witcher's universe of characters.

Finally, rounding out the cast of main characters is a familiar love interest for players of the original Witcher game. Shani the medic returns once more and is romance-able again. Geralt really does seem to have a thing for redheads… While the story of Hearts of Stone is based very much around these three major characters, each with superb character arcs, development and interactions with Geralt, the supporting cast does not disappoint either. In particular, there is a fantastic side character in the form of Olgierd's brother that makes for some of the best and funniest moments in not just the DLC, but in all of The Witcher 3.

Screenshot for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Hearts of Stone on PlayStation 4

The DLC is made exclusively for those who have invested a decent amount of time into the full game, and requires at least level 30, with at least level 60 in NG+. Each of the three tasks make for significant set pieces; they are fantastic, and without spoiling anything, they consist of a heist, a raucous wedding party filled with truly funny moments, and a trip into the past to battle the spectres of a dark history. These major set pieces are the core of the DLC, but there are also plenty of side-quests and activities. One of the main side plots to the DLC involves the faraway land of Ofir. There is an armour set to collect, side-quests to accomplish and a new type of craftsman known as a Runewright that brings with him new enhancements known as Runewords and Glyphwords, if Geralt has managed to save a very considerable amount of coin.

The Runewords and Glyphwords put a new spin on combat. The lower level upgrades only offer small changes, such as extra stamina or adrenaline recovery, but the higher levels offer some major impacts to combat. Making enemies affected by Igni explode when they die, automatically granting a Quen shield upon entering combat, or making Yrden traps appear as enemies trigger an existing trap, adding an extra layer to the combat. It's not enough to change the minds of those who had issues with the combat system, as the core mechanics are the same, but it makes for some more fun.

When it comes to the actual content within Hearts of Stone, there is a considerable amount for the price tag. Along with the primary story quests and the side-quests, there is a newly populated area of Novigrad added, filled with the usual activities: Bandit Camps, Monster Nests and more. There are new Gwent cards to collect and play with, along with the usual new achievements to attempt. All in all, there are around 10 hours to complete the story and the majority of the side-quests, plus around another three hours or so for completionists to achieve everything.

Screenshot for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Hearts of Stone on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

CD Projekt Red has lived up to its word and, apparently, this is just a taster of what is yet to come. The next DLC, Blood and Wine, will come in at double the cost, but promises double the content and a whole new land to explore. Admittedly, Hearts of Stone's content is very much focused on the story it is telling, resulting in a very narrative-focused final product with lots of dialogue and cut-scenes, but that is not much of a negative considering the quality of the story that is told. It's a truly original and fantastic piece of storytelling, filled with great moments and set pieces that any fan of the series truly needs to experience.

Developer

CD Projekt Red

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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