Whatsoever a Man Soweth…

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

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From battling the likes of every known species of monster in the world to fighting otherworldly threats such as the Wild Hunt, Geralt of Rivia tends to have his hands full with these matters, especially when it comes to searching for Ciri. One day, an inspection of the local message board about potential jobs leads Geralt into speaking with Olgierd von Everec, the leader of a band of particularly vicious mercenaries called the Wild Ones. He gives a contract to Geralt to slay a monster within the sewers of Oxenford, but things go wrong when the witcher is knocked unconscious after slaying the beast, only to see that it was a man cursed into becoming a giant toad. Taken by the furious Ofieri people sent to find that man, their very own prince, Geralt is thrown into the brig of their ship to await his execution. The White Wolf has been in some pretty impossible situations before, but this one seemed especially hopeless, with no way to contact any of his allies or a means of escape. Luckily, or unluckily as most would think, he is saved by Gaunter O’Dimm, a certain “vagrant” from White Orchard, who helps Geralt escape on the condition that he repays the favor. Branded by the merchant and forced to work for him against Olgierd, who knew very well about the Ofieri prince’s condition and was actually responsible for the curse, Geralt must complete von Everec’s tasks, uncover the mystery to his powers, and free himself from O’Dimm’s control. Well, when trying to break out of the employment of a man that is the Witcherverse equivalent to Satan or Nyarlathotep, that is easier said than done.

The first of the two major expansions for The Witcher III: Wild Hunt and released in October of 2015, Hearts of Stone sees Geralt of Rivia experiencing another Worst Day Ever™ as he has to deal with both an unfeeling. immortal mercenary and a man (?) that has Evil Incarnate as the most consistent of his various other names. Still taking place within the region of Novigrad and Velen, the DLC adds a couple of dozen more hours of content to the game, providing more equipment, side quests, and other challenges to tackle in the eastern quadrant of the region. The expansion is very much intended to be done after the main story due to the increased difficulty and level requirements, so players can expect tougher fights throughout, especially when under leveled.

As this is a smaller, self-contained adventure compared to the sprawling epic of the main game, there are not as many people for Geralt to interact with, but the cast involved is some of the most compelling and fascinating of the game, which is impressive considering how memorable many of the characters in the base game are. Gaunter O’Dimm, the curious merchant from the beginning of the game that pointed Geralt to where Yennefer was last seen, returns as the man ultimately responsible for the events of the DLC. Hardly human in any sense of the word and something more powerful than Geralt has ever faced before, he delights in striking up Faustian deals with people, returning to take their souls once their end of the bargain is up, usually through exact wording. Here, he employs Geralt in order to collect the debt that Olgierd von Everac owes him, something that the bandit leader is very much opposed to and has come up with three impossible wishes that must be fulfilled before he gives himself up. Olgierd himself is the charming and roguish leader of the Wild Ones, but the deal he made with O’Dimm resulted in him becoming both immortal, healing from the most grievous of wounds, and an unfeeling, uncaring husk, incapable of taking much pleasure from anything anymore. As Geralt goes through these different tasks, he begins to unravel the circumstances that drove Olgierd to make a pact with Gaunter and how much he has changed to become the cold and bitter shell he is now. In the end, Geralt must decide if Olgierd is worthy of salvation or if he should let O’Dimm collect what is his. Along the way, Geralt reconnects with Shani, an old paramour of his, who diligently continues her work as a medic and is willing to help him with his tasks and, maybe, try to rekindle what they had before.

While not much has changed from the base game, Hearts of Stone does present a number of new additions to play around with, such as a side plot involving the return of the Order of the Flaming Rose, helping some Ofieri travelers to unlock their equipment and the Rune merchant, a new set of powerful witcher gear, new equipment to craft and collect, and the unique and exciting challenges of Olgierd’s tasks. Here, the player needs to become pretty clever about how they fulfill his wishes, more often than not resorting to loophole abuse or just an unorthodox solution. The tasks themselves are perhaps some of the most interesting quests in the game, ranging from taking Olgierd’s brother to the finest party he ever experienced, arranging a heist to steal a house, and obtaining the rose he gave to his wife. As he did design them to try and make any attempt to solve them impossible, it will take some guesswork and investigation to find the solution. Usually, doing the maximum effort on sleuthing will reveal important information that is vital to von Everec’s past and his motivations, along with figuring how just how dangerous Gaunter O’Dimm can be, though he is all too happy to demonstrate that himself if given the chance.

CD Projekt Red is pretty beloved for their DLC practice, having put out 16 bits of free content for players in the form of alternate costumes for Triss, Yennefer, and Ciri, bonus quests, New Game Plus, more beard and hair options, and other fun additions. When Hearts of Stone was given a price, people were a bit worried and concerned that there would not be enough content to justify the ten dollar price. Naturally, CDPR went above and beyond in their delivery, providing players several dozen more hours of gameplay and a story that is on par with the rest of the game, with many lauding Olgierd as a fascinating and sympathetic character and Gaunter O’Dimm gaining universal praise as perhaps one of the most endearing and sinister antagonists in the series. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt is already one of the best RPGs of the modern console era, and Hearts of Stone continues to add on to the quality of the product. For owners of the game, the DLC is certainly one to get and the amount of content and quality present is definitely worth the price.

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