After being glued to my screen for the past week and finally completing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt it was time to check out the expansions “Hearts of Stone” and “Blood and Wine”. The game is very user friendly when it comes to these with players given the option to play them as if integrated into the existing game or treat them as stand alone experiences (with a prepackaged character). Seeing as both do require level 30+ characters for you to have a fair chance it’s likely you’ll have either completed the game once already or simply choose to play them in parallel to the main story.
“Hearts of Stone” was my first stop and for what seems like a straightforward monster hunt becomes a long quest to pay off a debt that Geralt was tricked into making. With a wedding, a bank heist and a haunted house it’s full of fascinating characters… especially the main antagonist Gaunter O’Dimm who spins a long and varied adventure for Geralt. Going up against a character who seems like a murder happy version of Star Trek’s Q character is a unique challenge and adds some darker undertones for the overall story. I also think what worked was that O’Dimm was used sparingly to either push the story along or to remind everyone just the kind of character they are. As the truth is revealed it makes the final confrontation and victory all the better.
This expansion has perhaps one of the most dialogue heavy quests I’ve seen which is a different turn for any players who previously preferred the “stab first, ask questions later” approach. But as it unfolds the reasoning for it makes a lot of sense. The story itself turns out to be a good one with characters that are easy to dislike at first but have potential to change your perspective as the truth is revealed. And it’s nice to see at least one wedding in a fantasy story that doesn’t end up with everyone murdered at the end. 😉
“Blood and Wine” takes you to a whole new region that’s very fairy tale (in more ways than one) in its presentation with its gorgeous green hills and inhabitants that sound scarily like the French from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Geralt takes on a job for the Duchess of Toussaint, the ruler of the region, to hunt down a killer responsible for a number of murders. As with all Witcher stories in the game it’s never black and white and plenty of truths to be revealed the further you’re willing to dive in.
This expansion gives players the chance to add a couple of major bonuses to their Geralt. The first is in the form of enhanced mutations that can further boost your red, green and blue mutagen related skills. I’m finding that the expansions more than the rest of the game have pushed me to use a greater variety of the Witcher skills than before as many opponents you face force you to change your tactics to counter their particular abilities. For me these enhanced mutations are make me want to switch skills more often just for the bonuses. Being able to have the right abilities in boss fights is key to victory and being willing to respec your character when you find flaws will help you often. The second is the addition of a home for Geralt to settle down in. Since the addition of a stash chest in an early patch for the game players would have accumulated a lot of items if they got attached to any gear so the house is a great place to show off your favourite weapons and armour. It also provides that fairy tale ending for our favourite Witcher too.
There’s been some frustrations with the expansions. In “Hearts of Stone” one of the early quests was buggy – considering it rewarded you with diagrams for high spec gear it was a shame. Apparently it’s an old bug that’s been around for years now so I’m not happy to see it so early into my game. In “Blood and Wine” Roach had far more trouble navigating the world, especially many of the bridges. But the truth is with games as complex as this I’m surprised to have not seen these problems happen sooner in my game but it’s sad to see the expansions finally expose them.
Both expansions have given me plenty to keep me occupied over the hours played this week… thinking about 20-30 hours on these. I still have plenty of quests left to complete from both expansions and the original game too and can see myself wanting to tie up a few more loose ends but it does feel great to have closed out the way it did. And through visiting these new places in the continent that dramatically changed the tone of the world we could how Geralt handles things one more time.
There’s some talk of there being another Witcher game in the future after developer CDPR get their Keanu on with Cyberpunk 2077 but they’ll have a hard mountain to climb to overshadow this. But they seem to have a talent for taking amazing steps forward with their abilities in creating.content and the technology to service it so you never know. It might up being five or more years away but there’ll still be people playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and having the time of their lives. It may not seem like much of a wait then in that case. 🙂