What You Need to Know About The Witcher 3's Hearts of Stone Expansion
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Now that all the free DLC for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been released, attention has turned towards the game's two upcoming expansions. The first of the two--called Hearts of Stone--is set to release next month, and the excitement behind it is already building up.
Recently, I got the chance to sit down with game director Konrad Tomaszkiewicz to talk about what players can expect from Hearts of Stone. In the discussion below, Tomaszkiewicz shed light on the expansion's plot, its accessibility, and the possibility of a a physical standalone version of Gwent.
Apart from some broad details about a Man of Glass that you'll encounter, we don't really know too much about Hearts of Stone. What can you tell us about the expansion's narrative?
Konrad Tomaszkiewicz: There's not much I can tell you at this point without spoiling the plot too much. Hearts of Stone is definitely on par with what Wild Hunt established in terms of the depth of characters and story. If you liked quests like the Bloody Baron one, you know what I mean. This time around Geralt gets mixed into dealing with a man who's...immortal. And ruthless. But, and this somewhat became The Witcher's calling card, things are not what they seem, and players will once again have to make some serious decisions and see the consequences play out.
Without going into too many spoilers, will Hearts of Stone continue Geralt's story and where he and other characters end up at the end of Witcher 3?
No, the story told in Hearts of Stone is pretty much standalone from the events that took place in Wild Hunt, so even players who have not finished the game can play.
Is Hearts of Stone providing only one, major narrative? Or have new sidequests, Witcher contracts, and other missions been included as well? Can you give us any examples?
Hearts of Stone consists of all those things packed together to give you 10 hours of new adventures. However, I'm pretty sure that we're a bit conservative with that number (remember the 100 hours needed to complete everything in Wild Hunt?) and you'll be able to have a lot more fun than that. In a nutshell, HoS features one major narrative that branches out to give gamers alternative ways of completing it; adds a few side-quests, random encounters, and monster hunts.
Can we expect a whole cast of new characters? Or will some old faces--including from previous Witcher games--make an appearance? Of course, we're asking specifically about Shani, who a lot of people are guessing will be in the game.
With HoS, we introduce a few new really powerful characters, but long-time fans should definitely be happy with one character in particular. I won't give you a more direct answer not to spoil the fun; gamers will have to see for themselves.
You've previously stated you can start Hearts of Stone without completing the game (in New Game or New Game Plus). Is it more beneficial to have actually completed the game's main narrative?
You don't have to finish the game to dive into Hearts of Stone since the plot is not connected to the main storyline of Wild Hunt. However, we do recommend to level up a bit before you embark on this adventure. A level 1 Geralt doesn't have the necessary tools to combat what's ahead.
Hearts of Stone is definitely on par with what Wild Hunt established in terms of the depth of characters and story.
What level should players ideally be before tackling this content?
I think 30+ is roughly what will give you the best experience, but lower level players can try to test their skill as well.
Apart from the narrative, will Hearts of Stone also bring about any other changes or fixes to the main game?
In terms of new mechanics, we're introducing something called Runewords. Runewords are created by combining glyphs and unlock special buffs for Geralt. These can vary from increased resistance to certain types of attacks, to enhancing Geralt's combat ability with an array of magical effects. We’re also introducing a new NPC that will help Geralt research Runewords--the Ofirian wizard.
You're releasing a physical retail version of the expansion with some Gwent decks. Does that mean you're finally releasing Gwent as a physical, standalone product?
Every day we are getting emails about a physical version of Gwent--and that is a pure joy to read. What we are doing now is trying to answer those requests, but this is not a standalone card game product. Gwent was created as a single-player minigame for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt specifically, but we understand that people would like to play against their friends--they know the game and they want it, so we tried to provide a solution.
That being said, we would have to change a lot in the game to make it a standalone physical card game and there are no plans for that in the near future.
So how many cards in each deck? 30? What's your plan with the physical version of the game?
We have 77 cards per faction so a total of 154 cards in this set.
Why release a physical, limited edition retail version of Hearts of Stone at all?
We strongly believe that RPG fans are collectors. Hearts of Stone is an old-school expansion and I think people will be happy to get a special, limited one time only boxed release. Also this was a cool way to do physical Gwent that is still a part of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.