Hearts of Stone
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was a gaming milestone in many ways and was by far the best game I played in 2015. For me an RPG is all about character and plot first, followed by gaming mechanics. The Witcher 3 has a rich and varied narrative that doesn’t shy away from difficult issues. The plot is nuanced and doesn’t offer glib binary dialogue options. I actually cared about the characters and was moved by the tragedy of some storylines. It’s the nearest I’ve come to an interactive novel. The open world is enthralling and combat is accommodating of different play styles. Overall I feel that the £27.48 I spent on the base game and season pass has been incredible value.
I returned to The Witcher 3 last week as I had time in my schedule to tackle the first expansion, Hearts of Stone that was released last October. As the benchmark for story telling had been set so high with the initial game, I was somewhat sceptical if CD Projekt Red could maintain the standard with this standalone tale. However my concerns were misplaced and Hearts of Stone has proved to be another intelligent, thought provoking, bittersweet tale. The expansion also strives to add more variety to the questline and I found such events as the wedding celebration to be a particularly different. Interacting with guests, playing party games and dancing make a pleasant change from the usual carnage. The vault break in was also a departure from the norm and I liked the way I got to choose my crew. I purposely antagonised the Dwarf Cassimir Bassi so he blew himself up.
There is naturally new armour and weapons available if you need to upgrade. I still find the Superior Wolven Witcher Gear to be a good set, even at level 39. The only change I’ve made is with my primary weapon. After defeating The Caretaker, I looted his spade which is an unusual weapon that heals you for 10% of all damage inflicted on enemies. I’m still experimenting with Runewords and Glyphwords system. They give large bonuses to weapons and armour but destroy the slots that they’re applied to. It’s something I want to ensure that I get right so a little more research is required before I’ll commit to a specific build. I recently started using bombs in combat, especially when fighting large groups of bandits or pirates. The Superior Grapeshot really does cause a lot of carnage if used pre-emptively.
As Hearts of stone have proven to be such a good expansion, I am now very optimistic regarding the next content update Blood and Wine. It allegedly offers twenty hours plus of narrative set in the all-new in-game region of Toussaint. I’m therefore looking forward to another involving tale and the pleasure of exploring a new part of “The Continent”. As plaudits continue to be heaped upon The Witcher 3, perhaps a few more game developers will take note of all the things that CD Projekt Red seem to be getting right. Commercial success does not have to be at the expense of creativity, quality or priced prohibitively.