Shani > Triss > Yennefer. Amirite?
Praise The Maker for CDProjekt RED. Oh. Wait, wrong universe. I mean, praise Melitele, for these guys are so frickin’ awesome. First, they give us sixteen free DLCs, all of which are meaningful. And then they drop Hearts of Stone on us, which is the first of two paid DLCs. This is the smaller of the two DLCs, which is set in Velen and Novigrad.
Starting at level thirty, Geralt can take on the Hearts of Stone quests, which are signified by blue markers, as opposed to the vanilla game’s yellow ones. The DLC begins innocuously enough, by taking a contract posted on a village noticeboard. Your job, given by Olgierd von Everec, is to find and kill a big poison toad in the Oxenfurt sewers. Lovely.
So lovely, that many ladies have come looking for the toad, with the rumours that kissing the thing will turn it into a prince. The ladies do not have a good fate.
In the sewers, you meet Shani, a minor character in The Witcher books and a major one in the first game. She’s investigating the monster lurking in the Oxenfurt sewers, who has poisoned a lot of soldiers. She accompanies Geralt in his hunt, but is kept away at the confrontation.
Of course, it’s not so simple as killing a giant cane toad. The toad is in fact a cursed prince, and the Ofieri are not happy their prince has been killed. Funny that. After escaping from the very angry Ofieri, Geralt goes back to Olgierd to find out just what the flying fook he’s stepped into. Turns out there are some pretty kooky happenings surrounding Olgierd and you have to help sort it out.
Hearts of Stone is basically more (much more) of the vanilla game. CDProjekt RED even gives you the option of starting a new playthrough with a level thirty character specifically for the DLC. You can start it any time you like, of course, if you have a current playthrough and you haven’t finished it, and at or are above the recommended level. However, I must warn you that some of the bosses in this DLC are frickin’ insanely cheap. Even worse than Imlerith the Wild Hunt dude. The storyline is similar in length and breadth to the Bloody Baron quest of the vanilla game, and you also get to have some fun catching up with Shani. How much fun is up to you.
There are also a couple of extra side quests built into the DLC, monster contracts and treasure hunts. There is also a new armour set (a new, more deadly version of the early game Viper gear), and the ability to add runewords to your gear. The runewords themselves are tiered and will cost you a lot of money to unlock the respective levels. It depends on whether you believe the benefits outweigh the cost of gold, and change in stats to your weapons and armour.
Like the vanilla game, Hearts of Stone tells a dark story. Andrzej Sapkowski’s world is very morally grey, perhaps even more so when you interact with it in the way you must in a computer game. You experience the hatred, and racism and other silly irrational acts. But this grey and dark tone is punctuated by the goodness in people, generosity, love and family, such as at the wedding you attend with Shani.
Hearts of Stone is the sort of DLC you can do when you’ve got a lot of source material, a great deal of space and a fantasticly open and interactive world. Without having to compare it to anything else, it feels exactly like what it is, a seamlessly integrated additional storyline in the game that is optional. But if you ignore it, you are missing out on a cool adventure. After all, isn’t Witcher 3 all about cool adventures?
A fine addition to a fine game.
Play this if you…
Enjoyed the many varied storylines in the Witcher 3 and are looking for more.
Skip this if you…
I’m not sure I can find a reason to dislike this.