The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone is at its best when providing a fantasy fairy-tale world while delivering a range of unexpected moments featuring a vibrant and colorful cast of characters. CD Projekt Red have demonstrated plenty of times their ability to create narratives ranging from stories of abusive spouses to much more lengthy and complicated sequences, such as staging a play to lure out a character in the hiding.
Hearts of Stone weaves together several really intriguing stories that stand out, and it feels less like a reiteration of what we saw in the prior games. The main character, Geralt, is ready to begin his new journey in this sad tale of immortality, regret, and apathy. The plot is centered around Gaunter O’Dimm, known as Man of Glass, who happens to be a most menacing villain. Geralt meets him very briefly at an inn in the beginning of the series, so he is technically not a completely new character. O’Dimm is the highlight of the story – he always sneaks in and out the plot mostly in unnoticed and unexpected ways, switching between his aliases and making the game so much more exciting.
The more Geralt learns about O’Dimm and the role he plays in the world, the more twists and turns the expansion takes, more than enough to keep you playing until the climax. There are plenty of scenes that are pretty dark and unexpected.
Hearts of Stone introduces some familiar faces and some new ones as well. Shani is back, and CD Projekt Red really do a great job of stating how these two people feel about each other. They show the passion Shani and Geralt have and the whole complexity of their situation without forcing you to read into things more. The developers let you decide how things will go with these two, while throwing you some curveballs along the way.
A significant part of the gameplay is quite familiar: conversations, tracking monsters with your Witcher senses, plenty of challenging sword combats, and more. However, you will also be able to attend a local wedding while being drunk. There are many things that will really keep you on the edge of your seat.
There is also a one-of-a-kind take on the princess and the frog tale, and after that you will plan a heist to steal someone’s riches, manipulate other characters, and deal with the consequences when things do not go according to the plan.
Hearts of Stone moves quickly. It feels like Wild Hunt in a lot of aspects, but it is condensed into a shorter running time with less distractions that pull you in different directions. Having less to do is not exactly a bad thing, and this story is more focused and well-paced as an overall result. Without adding a new continent to explore, which will be introduced in the next expansion, Blood and Wine, CD Projekt Red still managed to ensure that the world remains interesting, the characters remain compelling, and the characteristically intricate stories are something that you would want to remember.