The Witcher 3 is one of my favorite games of the year, so it was with a great amount of happiness and pleasure that I reloaded into the beautiful, yet dark world, of The Wild Hunt and return to the Witcher’s shoes. It didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things, but the world definitely felt less alive than I remembered. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of life going on in Hearts of Stone, that isn’t the problem. But after the fantastic finale that was The Wild Hunt, Geralt is alone, making his way across the world once more as a Witcher does. Having spent so much time rekindling old friendships through the base game, Hearts of Stone felt quite empty. A feeling that CD Projekt Red must have known we’d feel, because shortly after making headway into the first part of the new questline, we’re reintroduced to one of Geralt’s oldest female friends, Shani. One person isn’t enough to fill the void left by the game’s ending, however, but maybe that’s just me.
The story begins with Geralt being hired by Olgierd von Everec to dispose of a beast lurking in the sewers under Oxenfurt. It isn’t until the deed is done, and Geralt is taken prisoner by a foreign country, that you really start to realize how deep a hole you’ve gotten the Witcher into. Of course, it wouldn’t be the Witcher without some magical way out, and that comes in the form of Master Mirror. Freed from the Olfieri ship, Geralt is tasked with helping the mage/demon/traveling merchant (to be honest Geralt isn’t even sure what the guy is) to complete a set of wishes for von Everec. And so the story continues with Geralt running here to there and back again.
Sometimes More of the Same is Nice
Being a fan of the Witcher, more of the same was more than enough for me. Sure there were some annoying quests that felt mundane, but overall, each quest had the same amount of story and character-driven background that the base game did. For some, however, they already have more than enough to complete in the base game, and wonder what makes Hearts of Stone worth purchasing. To be honest, there isn’t much there that’s different. Sure, the added Runewright Merchant is nice for new gear and the sort, but it doesn’t really add much to the game for those who don’t even have the time to get the hidden gear throughout the base game.
There aren’t any big technical issues in the DLC. However, Roach is still a bit wonky to control at times, and Geralt’s large steps make it tough to move with grace and finesse. This isn’t a problem in most cases, but it made the heist questline feel a bit redundant, and is probably part of the reason why CDPR made the quest so cutscene heavy. The boss fight mechanics were fairly simple. Much more simple than those of the base game, and while I sometimes struggled with the base game bosses, I never had much of a problem cutting down my enemies in Hearts of Stone.
Other Times It's Not
Overall, Hearts of Stone is a great addition to The Witcher 3 if all you’re looking for is more of the same. If you’re expecting something game changing or different, then this isn’t a DLC worth your time. I enjoyed my time back in the Northernlands, roaming the wild and decapitating monsters, but when you get down to it, Hearts of Stone feels like it could easily have been included in the base game, although that isn't necessarily a bad thing.