The Witcher franchise took everybody by surprise when it reached its 3rd installment and became a top-selling game franchise. In the Witcher 3’s original release there are over 100 hours of game play and you can only reach level 35.  Now, 5 months after it’s initial release, The Witcher 3’s first expansion has launched adding 10+ hours of game time, a higher reachable level and quests to the massive world of Geralt and his friends. Hearts of Stone launched October 13 with a massive patch that has taken care of problems and has made the experience of the game much better. There is also a special physical edition available for purchase that includes two Gwent decks and a download code in a nice collectible package.

Hearts of Stone is the first, and from what we understand, smallest of the three expansions that CD Projekt RED is planning to release. There are no new areas added with this story expansion but it very much feels like there are new areas at the same time. The patch that was launched along with Hearts of Stone also helped the game by fixing most glitches that were holding it back and even gave improvements to the story’s dialogue choices, as well as adding some new textures. The combination of these two launches gave this expansion the important push it needed to make the game world feel different enough to overlook the lack of new locations.

In-game screenshot: The worlds steal darkly over toned. Source: Author In-Game

In-game screenshot: The worlds still darkly over toned.

This new expansion has a brand new story to draw you in for more time in the Witcher 3. Geralt starts out by finding a quest in a town near Novigrad that is being put up just as he is searching for work. Though the Quest and people involved aren’t all as they seem and Geralt ends up killing a very important man and is captured by an angry search party that arrived as he delivered the final blow. It then picks up where the trailer started with Geralt trapped in the barracks of a ship sailing to a far away land to be punished for his “crimes.” There, a mysterious man you met at the beginning of the game appears and offers Geralt a deal to escape which ends with an extra scar on his face and a shipwreck. Geralt then sets off to meet the man as promised in the deal and is told he must fulfill three wishes to a man who had betrayed both of them as payment.

There are tons of new characters introduced, new enemies and quests to keep you busy. New allies appear in the form of gymnasts, a love interest, and a quirky spirit who wants to have a good time. Some of the quests are a little bit silly this time around and have Geralt in more humorous situations than serious ones which really helps develop his character as a Witcher.  On top of the edition of more laid back quests, every location you go to in the game feels like a new place thanks to the events going on around it which change its appearance. A huge worry about this from most fans was if this was going to be like an expansion even without added map locations, and I can confidently say, along with most fellow reviewers, that yes it is and it’s an amazing one at that!

In-game Screenshot: Map to break into a vault. Source: Author In-Game

In-game Screenshot: Map to break into a vault.

There are also a lot of questions circling Hearts of Stone that I’d like to address for anyone curious. When you start-up the game you do not have to be level 30 or have beaten the story. There are three options when you load Hearts of Stone for you to choose from, you can load your current character, play with a character pre-designed for the expansion, or start a new game and lead up to it. If you are doing the main story, the Hearts of Stone Quests do show up with your other main quests but have special markers to keep the two separate. Hearts of Stone is also almost completely stand alone and your endings and quest choices will also not affect the expansion other than a few short lines of dialogue.

So should you get this expansion? If you have the Witcher 3 I encourage you to pick up Hearts of Stone for $9.99. It is a great price and will bring a lot of enjoyment to your game. If you’re still debating getting the Witcher 3 then this would also be a great time to jump in since the game has taken a price drop since its release in May. The only thing you should watch out for is a few progress halting bugs that can be easily overcome by saving regularly and is greatly out weighed just by the pure enjoyment of the Hearts of Stone main story.

Do you plan on picking up the expansion? Are you a fan of the Witcher games?