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The Additions In 'Hearts Of Stone' Make 'The Witcher 3' An Even Better Game

22 October 2015, 10:21 am EDT By Robin Burks Tech Times
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Last week, CD Projekt Red released its first paid DLC for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, "Hearts of Stone."

"Hearts of Stone" adds about 10 hours of gameplay to the story in The Witcher 3, which includes an overall new quest, some new areas to explore and more Gwent players to challenge.

So is "Hearts of Stone" worth it's low $9.99 price tag? The answer is, of course, yes, because this piece of DLC adds quite a bit to the story of Geralt of Rivia as a whole and even opens up an entirely new romance option.

Please note that the following contains spoilers for The Witcher 3 and "Hearts of Stone."

However, let's start with the downside of playing this DLC: like most DLC, it takes place before the ending of the game, at least if you've received the ending where pretty much everyone suffers and dies. So it feels weird to go back into The Witcher 3 where Geralt isn't mourning the loss of Ciri and everything he holds dear, but at the same time, it's also kind of nice remembering the character in his better days. So if you've received the bad ending, you'll just have to pretend it didn't happen.

New undiscovered locations and treasure hunts

"Hearts of Stone" doesn't offer just a new big mission for Geralt, it also offers a chance to explore the worlds of The Witcher 3 in more detail. There are many new areas to discover, including new monster nests that need destroying, as well as new bandit camps that need raiding and new abandoned towns that need monsters killed so that their citizens can return home.

There are also new treasure hunts to find diagrams for new weapons and armor, and the good news is that most of these weapons and armor are probably better than what players currently have on hand. All too often, DLC offers up inferior gear and players end up just keeping what they were already using. That's not the case here (the level 39 Viper gear looks especially enticing).

This also means new loot, particularly from a group of fallen knights from the Order of the Rose: their weapons and armor are generally better than what players ended The Witcher 3 with, so don't forget to loot those bodies and score these new goodies.

Finally, new locations mean that players get new signposts added to the map, making travel even easier and faster than before.

New characters

Of course, what makes The Witcher 3 interesting is its characters, and "Hearts of Stone" introduces some interesting new ones. The main mission of the DLC is to help out Olgierd von Everec, who unwittingly made a deal with the devil, or something very much like it, and is now immortal, but lacking all emotion that allows one to enjoy life. Although at first Olgierd seems like a complete jerk, soon Geralt learns that not only does he have a literal heart of stone, but that he also has a lot of backstory that led him to become the way he appears when Geralt first meets him.

There's also Shani, who isn't a new character to The Witcher franchise, but makes her first appearance in this title. She's the additional romance option for Geralt: the two already have a history together.

Geralt also meets Olgierd's brother, Vlodomir, who is now a ghost, but somehow sort of befriends the witcher, enough that Geralt allows Vlodomir to possess his body while attending a wedding with Shani.

Finally, perhaps the most interesting new character is that of Gaunter O'Dimm, a mysterious man who helps Geralt escape from a jail cell aboard an Olfieri ship in exchange for Geralt assisting him with granting wishes for Olgierd. This character is so mysterious that Geralt never truly figures out who or what he is, but it becomes clear quickly that O'Dimm is up to no good.

There are also new enemies that Geralt must face in his journey to grant Olgierd's wishes, including monsters previously unseen in the game. These monsters put up quite the fight and offer a challenge for those growing bored with combat in the base version of the game.

New romance option

Shani and Geralt get a chance to reunite in "Hearts of Stone," but their coming together is a rather bizarre tale, although probably more interesting than the other romance options in The Witcher 3. Geralt attends a wedding with Shani, while possessed by Vlodomir, who spends most of his time sweet-talking, dancing and making Shani wish that Geralt was a little more like the ghost inside him.

Of course, if Geralt takes the hint, once Vlodomir is gone, he can continue to romance Shani with some flowers, the right dialogue and a walk by a beautiful moonlit lake. If all goes well, Geralt and Shani end up in a Cinemax-worthy scene on a rowboat (don't question the realism here).

Perhaps most interesting about the romance between Shani and Geralt, though, is that Shani has no illusions about what's going on: she knows that her job as a medic for the Redanian army and Geralt's job as a witcher will never allow them to really become a couple, and she tells Geralt as much.

A new side of Geralt

"Hearts of Stone" also delivers a version of Geralt players haven't seen yet: this version seems more sensitive, more human, and although the plural "Hearts" in the title of the DLC probably includes him, it seems that this piece of content makes him more human than ever before. Here, Geralt loses his stoic side and becomes warmer, giving players a much more sympathetic view of the character.

This is especially noticeable if the player makes certain choices throughout the gameplay. At some point, it becomes noticeable that Geralt actually feels sympathy for Olgierd and what he's been through, and at the end, Geralt can even choose to help save him by outwitting O'Dimm.

Geralt also seems affected by the time he was possessed by Vlodomir, which determines how his relationship with Shani progresses in the DLC. Geralt gets a choice of picking flowers for Shani to cheer her up, as well as dialogue options that show off his more sensitive nature: this is definitely not a side of the character players have seen before.

"Hearts of Stone" is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

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