I don’t think it’s an overstatement to call CD Projekt Red the savior of the AAA industry. At a time when big publishers are taking every possible measure to deceive their customers with absurd fees and cut content, CD Projekt Red has taken the opposite approach, and as a result, created a title that yielded more success than most of the derivative big budget shovelware from the past few years. The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone once again proves that these guys mean business. This isn’t some half-arsed slogfest like other so called “expansions” these days. Hearts of Stone is an expansive and rich experience enveloped in a superb storyline and colorful new characters.
I’m going to do everyone a favor here and refrain from discussing the expansion’s narrative too much. Revealing details, big or small, about this stunning new chapter in the Witcher universe would do the excellent writers and artists at CD Projekt Red injustice. Hearts of Stone is best experienced with fresh eyes and ears. In its simplest form, the new storyline revolves around Geralt completing a contract for a mysterious man that calls himself Man of Glass. But as with all things in the Witcher universe, nothing is as simple as it seems. Through his journey, Gerald attends a hilarious wedding, engages in a GTA-style heist and enters a new dimension that completely changes the game’s aesthetic.
"Much like the original release, The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone is a masterpiece. It’s an absolute must-have for any Witcher fan, and it’s one of the best expansions I’ve played in years."
I think that’s as much info as I’m willing to share without revealing details of how everything plays out. Let’s just say Hearts of Stone manages to be both more humorous and dramatic than the Wild Hunt narrative, and it’s all presented within a satisfying 10-15 hours of playtime. There’s also a ton of new gear, and new ways of modifying that gear. Ofieri characters from Witcher 2 make a comeback, and their merchant introduces new ways of modifying your weapons. Unless you are playing on the highest difficulty, the new gear tweaks aren’t as imperative as they seem, although I have to compliment the developer for continuing to introduce new gameplay elements.
If there’s one thing I have an issue with, it’s the unbalanced difficulty. Hearts of Stone jumps from being a walk in the park to being absolutely relentless. This is particularly troublesome during boss battles, which are sometimes borderline annoying. CD Projekt Red has announced they’ll release a patch to fix the balancing issues, so you may want to hold off on the official purchase until the game is patched up.
Much like the original release, The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone is a masterpiece. It’s an absolute must-have for any Witcher fan, and it’s one of the best expansions I’ve played in years. CD Projekt Red is one of the most committed and dedicated AAA developers in the industry, and I really hope publishers like Ubisoft and EA take a hint from these guys next time they decide to annualize yet another franchise. If you haven’t purchased The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone, then what are you waiting for?
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC