Hearts of Stone is the first of two planned expansions for the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. At around 10 hours worth of content, it’s a hefty chunk of gameplay with all of the Witcher’s staple elements we’ve come to know and love. Expect intrigue, scheming, monster-slaying, multiple story-affecting decisions and of course romance with the redhead du jour. It is also completely self-contained and runs parallel to the main story, making it enjoyable even by those who took a break from playing the The Witcher 3 and are looking for something new to draw them back in.
Hearts of Stone begins like any other day in a witcher’s life – with a mission to slay a monster. To really slather on the cliché, the monster lives in the sewer, because if there’s one thing Geralt doesn’t do enough of is slogging knee-high in muck playing whack-a-Drowner. Of course, nothing is really that simple at first and things quickly spiral out of control until somewhere along the line you find yourself willingly possessed by an alcoholic, whore-mongering spirit… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
As you’ll quickly learn as you start playing the expansion, your mission is three-fold: like Hercules and his mighty dozen labors, Geralt must perform but three tasks. At first, they all seem quite innocuous – make sure someone has the night of their lives, deliver a small knick-knack and wrap things up with a floral delivery. Of course, the person you’re supposed to entertain is dead, the knick-knack is inside a heavily guarded vault and the flower isn’t even on this plane of existence. Rest assured, there is no shortage of twists and turns in this story – but I won’t spoil them for you.
What really drives Hearts of Stone is the characters and the writing, which is once again absolutely superb. The expansion introduces but a handful of new characters to your already bulging glossary and even reuses a couple you’ve already met, like Gaunter O’Dimm who helped Geralt find Yennefer early on in White Orchard, or Shani who played an important part in the original Witcher. As you progress through the expansion you’ll learn a great deal about all of them, with key characters like Olgierd von Everec and O’Dimm himself having a good share of the spotlight to help you form an opinion on the former and a healthy fear from the latter.
Outside the main story, Hearts of Stone offers very little else. There are a couple of new side-quests of the “fetch this” variety and one new craftsman but that’s all. The new craftsman, a Runewright from the distant lands of the Ofieri, offers a very small selection of upgrades only few of which are really useful. Likewise, the game world hasn’t been artificially expended, with only several new locations added to the map – the really exciting ones are only accessible once as part of the story, but they are unique and rewarding in their own way.
Hearts of Stone is an excellent expansion, driven by its story and characters. The missions are strung together logically, most offering something unique and new to the series – from a merry celebration to a high-stakes heist, it all feels new and fresh. What it lacks in breadth it more than makes up for with well-crafted areas and encounters, excellent dialog and the unique opportunity to make every food taste like Pierogi. If you want another spoonful of Witcher, you’re going to enjoy Hearts of Ston. But mark my words – never, ever interrupt a man who has a wooden spoon in his hand; trust me on this.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.