A New Hunt
Downloadable content is definitely a divisive topic amongst the gaming community. With season passes, big promises and some less than worth it content, it’s not hard to see why some people take issue with it. CD Projekt Red’s latest premium content for the Witcher not only proves to be one of the pinnacles of downloadable content in recent times, it also makes a case for high quality content at an affordable price.
Serving as a bit of a reminder that yes, Witcher 3 did in fact come out this year (*cough* Game of the Year contender, anyone? *cough*), Hearts of Stone is a full length expansion that aims to draw us all back into the vast world CD Projekt Red created. The lengthy expansion offers a tonne of new quests, locations and gear to gather; all with plenty of the detailed story fans know and love.
The expansion is made up of five main chapters, taking us on an adventure that crackles along at a fantastic pace. It’s not as epic a tale as the core story for the base game, but it works well on a local scale, bringing a more focussed story mostly east of Novigrad and Oxenfurt. This area has seen an expansion too to accommodate the new story alongside a whole slew of side missions.
These side missions are very similar to the usual Witcher games, taking the form of monster contracts, investigations and adventuring through the land in search of mercenaries to kill and treasure to gain. While not wholly anything new, they’re more than enough to give you something extra to do outside of the already fantastic story, jam packed with decisions once more.These decisions are at the heart of this DLC and Witcher as a game, usually playing out more rapidly in Hearts of Stone due to its shorter length. I definitely didn’t mind this – decisions and their consequences were always in the front of my mind and revealed themselves before too long, pulling you through the story. As always the choices you make directly impact those around you, giving you some seriously tricky decisions to make that rivalled those in the base game.
While there isn’t too many additional enemy types, you’ll be diving into battles with foes that give you quite a challenge, especially if you’re used to being able to quickly dispatch low leveled enemies in the base game. You’ll also face a few new bosses that are pretty memorable and challenging, definitely something the monster hunters out there will enjoy.
Throughout Hearts of Stone there’s plenty of chances to score a few new weapons and sets of armour for Geralt. Aside from the new runeword enchanting system this side of things didn’t get a lot of extras, but it all works very well as it did in the past. The runeword and glyphword systems basically allow you to buff gear and weapons by adding runes to items. You’ll need to visit the Runewright to activate these, giving abilities like never expiring grindstone bonuses or arrow deflection. They don’t change the game in a huge way but the new level of customisation definitely worked well to accommodate the desire for players to use and upgrade gear with the bonuses they want.In terms of presentation the game looks and sounds as good as ever, with some new music tracks thrown in the mix to keep the battles tense and atmosphere alive. The only issues I had while playing were in the form of bugs, occasionally halting a side quest or making NPC’s heads disappear. While they weren’t super common (and undoubtedly will be patched out very soon), it did occasionally detract from the overall experience.
The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone is a fantastic piece of DLC that really sets the standard for this sort of content. With a fantastic story, plenty of new things to do and some very difficult choices, it’s sure to draw players back in to the world and keep fans happy in the lead up to the second piece of premium DLC the developers have planned.
Developer: CD Projekt Red
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
A review code was provided by the publisher.