Graphics:
9.2
Gameplay:
9.4
Sound:
9.7
Control:
9.6
Replay Value:
9.0
Overall Rating:
9.5
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer:
CD Projekt Red
Number Of Players:
1
Genre:
Action/RPG
Release Date:
October 13, 2015


I’m not sure what more you could want out of a single-player expansion.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was already a massive game when it launched back in May, but developer CD Projekt Red wasn’t about to rest on their laurels. In addition to 16 free pieces of downloadable content, they promised to deliver two hefty expansion packs, the combination of which would offer over 30 hours of additional entertainment. That’s well worth the $25 cost of admission for the expansion pass, I think. The first pack, Hearts of Stone, released on October 13 and gives fans in excess of 10 extra hours, and it’s hardly comprised of a few boring tacked-on missions. No, it really seems like the team worked hard on this and on top of which, I’ve encountered no major glitches.

There isn’t much point in talking about the graphics and sound again, as we’re still talking about the same game. However, I will reiterate that the character design and voice performances are better than ever, despite Geralt’s difficulty in sounding like a raucous bounder (explanation coming soon). It’s also important to note that as CD Projekt Red opened up a new portion of the world map for this expansion, there are new sights to see, and they’re plenty attractive. Furthermore, with the ongoing string of patches and updates, the game performs better than ever, and you’re not constantly seeing comical technical missteps. Of course, a few still remain but this production is a lot cleaner now than it was in May.

There’s no doubt that this is one hefty expansion. It really has it all, from intrigue to romance to mystery and magic; my only complaint is a distinct lack of new Witcher Contracts. That aside, we get everything the fan could desire: There are lengthy, involving, and exceedingly well-presented main missions, in which we meet bunches of new characters, face new foes, and learn more about Geralt’s history. Even aside from the main missions are new random enemies, such as the wild boars that are fierce and fast, and a giant toad of a boss (after you beat it, you earn the Trophy, “I’m Not Kissing That!”). There’s even an entirely new race of people, the Ofieri, who were clearly designed with an Arabic influence and come from a distant land.

Perhaps the most significant addition from a role-playing perspective is the new enchantment feature. If you do a few small tasks for a certain Ofieri and give him a good chunk of change (30,000 gold in all), he will be able to enchant your weapons and equipment with various boosts. The only caveat is that the item you wish to enchant must have three open rune slots; any less and the enchantment can’t be performed, and imbuing your weapon or piece of armor that holds attached runes will result in the loss of those runes. So, it’s a balancing question: Is the enchantment worth the trade-off, or would you rather keep your attached runes? Combining runes via formula gets you new enchantments and there are three tiers to unlock. One of my favorites is an enchantment that means the bonuses you get at the grinding wheel and armor table never wear off.

This being said, it’s really the expansion’s variety that will make you grin. In one mission, Geralt is captured and on his way to certain death, when a mysterious man – the one who pointed you in Yennefer’s direction way back in White Orchard – saves your hide. This man is clearly powerful and as time goes on, it seems he might be a djinn (genie). In another mission, the ghost of a dead raider inhabits Geralt’s body, taking over his voice and actions, and it’s quite the contrast. It’s all the more interesting because this ghost attends a wedding reception in Geralt’s body, all the while accompanying the game’s new romantic interest, Shani. Geralt is gruff and reserved; the ghost is audacious and cocky and none too shy around women, and the contrast is pretty funny. I do think that particular segment dragged on a bit too long, though.