The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Hearts of Stone

Game review by
Marc Saltzman, Common Sense Media
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Hearts of Stone Game Poster Image
Free expansion adds violence, deduction to great adventure.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The game doesn’t contain a positive message.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Geralt wrestles with deceit, but players can choose how to react at times (with no negative repercussions for being cutthroat); he relies mostly on bloody combat to achieve goals.

Ease of Play

Simple controls; easy to learn.

Violence

Lots of bloody, gory combat. Geralt wields might, magic to defeat human, animal, supernatural enemies. Non-interactive cut scenes are quite violent. Not unusual to see beheading, dismemberment, impalement.

Sex

Some female nudity, including exposed breasts, buttocks, scenes of sexuality -- including option to take women to bed. Some women are prostitutes. Sexual groans can be heard, but nothing graphic is shown.

Language

Strong profanity including "f--k," "c--t," "s--t."

Consumerism

This expansion pack is free, unlike most downloadable content (DLC) packs.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Optional side quests include consuming large amounts of alcohol in a drinking game. Some characters are inebriated -- slurred words, off-balance movements -- while others are passed out.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Hearts of Stone is a downloadable expansion to the role-playing adventure The Witcher 3. It's chock-full of combat; the player can use a sword or other weapons to kill, main, dismember, and disembowel enemies. Players also can witness violent actions performed by other characters, and you can see the bloody result of battles in some cinematic sequences. The game also contains nudity and sexual situations where your character takes women to bed; some of the women are prostitutes. Nothing is shown, although plenty of sexual sounds are heard. There's also strong profanity, including "f--k," "c--t," and "s--t" and large amounts of alcohol consumption in both mini-games and by other characters, who actively demonstrate inebriation.

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What's it about?

HEARTS OF STONE continues the adventures of Geralt of Rivia with an epic mission, a new story arc, and new characters, monsters, and environments. This 10-hour tale starts with accepting a contract to defeat a ruthless bandit captain, Olgierd von Everec -- an ambitious task, given that this mysterious figure is rumored to possess the gift of immortality. Throughout the story, you’ll make decisions that shape the plot -- whom you recruit to help with your task, your involvement with certain characters, and more. This first of two planned expansions (Blood and Wine is slated for a 2016 release) also introduces a brand-new system of Runewords that affects gameplay, allowing you to play around with varying strategies and tactics.

Is it any good?

This expansion pack manages to add a ton of gameplay to an already hefty role-playing game. So long as you've installed the latest patch, which address more than 600 fixes to the core game -- ranging from performance enhancements and quest corrections to additional conversation trees with key characters -- this expansion further delves into Geralt's work as a monster hunter, explores a new love interest, unlocks new areas of the kingdom, and lets your hero master improved weapons against new creatures. Along with many mini-games and some memorable characters, a welcomed horror element and atmosphere (including a graveyard and haunted mansion) adds a twist, and the new quests and plot twists make this an adventure worth playing.

There isn't much to complain about with this hearty expansion, but be sure you've patched the game to optimize performance or you could experience choppiness or even a crash. Also, though not a major issue, the detective work in the game, such as hunting for clues and some deduction work, wasn't as strong as the other gameplay mechanics. Perhaps CD Projekt Red was trying to be all things to all people. For those who haven't yet purchased The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, this free DLC makes the overall package that much more tempting, while owners of the game shouldn't hesitate to grab this free and exhilarating new 10-hour bonus ride.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in games such as Hearts of Stone. This expansion is very violent, but should parents be OK with that because it's only a fantasy game? Or do the realistic graphics cause concern?

  • Talk about downloadable content. Should other game publishers follow suit and offer downloadable content (DLC) for free, perhaps as a thank-you to those who purchased the full game?

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