Hearts of Stone is the first of several planned expansions to this year's phenomenal RPG, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. We reached out to CDProjektRed with some questions about what we can expect from the add-on, and we were not disappointed with the answers.
MMORPG: Can you give us a brief synopsis of the story for Hearts of Stone? Where does it see things pick up?
Jakub Szamalek, Senior Writer: Of course, I can't tell you too much, lest I spoil the story, so please excuse if I sound a bit vague! Here we go... Unexpectedly, Geralt ends up in a really tight spot. He is saved by no other than Gaunter o'Dim, the mysterious traveller he had encountered in White Orchard. He does not offer his help out of kindness, however, he demands something in return. Thus begins an epic adventure, which will see the player battling an immortal man, spending a night partying with a ghost and outsmarting the most bizarre creatures Geralt has ever faced.
MMORPG: Who is the Man of Glass? I know we don't want to spoil anything for players, but a few hints?
Jakub Szamalek, Senior Writer: Again, I can't go into too much detail... Let me just say that there's more than meets the eye to him. At first, he seems to be a regular guy, simple travelling merchant -- but in truth he's anything but. He might initially strike you as helpful, maybe even warm-hearted. But in time you'll get to know his darker side. So, be wary. And if you ever want to ask him for something -- make sure you phrase your request very clearly.
MMORPG: You mentioned that Hearts of Stone is a standalone story from the main events of Witcher 3. So you can play this even if you haven't finished the main campaign?
Jakub Szamalek, Senior Writer: Yes, but you might find yourself under-levelled. Even though the Hearts of Stone expansion is a stand-alone adventure, it is aimed at players who already feel comfortable in Geralt's skin and know all witchers' tricks. However, if you haven't progressed far in the main story of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt or lost your saves and are impatient to dive into the Hearts of Stone, you'll be able to start the expansion right away, with a predetermined character.
MMORPG: How is that handled within the game? Do you just pick to play Hearts of Stone from the main menu, or...?
Alexandre Boiret, Junior Quest Designer: You can trigger Hearts of Stone while adventuring in the world of The Witcher 3, or alternatively you can simply play it as a standalone adventure by picking Hearts of Stone from the main menu if it’s what you’d rather do. The experience while be the same apart from the fact than in stand-alone mode, you’ll start automatically with a character meeting the recommended level.
MMORPG: Will there be new hunts to go along with the main narrative? Those offered some of the most memorable fights in W3 for me.
Alexandre Boiret, Junior Quest Designer: You’re a witcher and you’re going to have to do witcher’s work, yes. This will indeed involve tracking new monsters and preparing yourself adequately for epic battles. If you thought you’d seen it all in The Witcher 3, well, think again… ;-)
MMORPG: One thing that got people all hot and bothered was the physical edition of the expansion including a real life Gwent deck of cards. Is this a sign that you'll be actually producing gwent as a card game?
Damien Monnier, Senior Gameplay Designer: We basically did it for the fans and people who were unable to grab a copy of the original decks in the Xbox One collector’s edition. This time however we’ve produced the Monster faction and Scoia’tael faction (my favourite!). Both have neutral and new cards (which you can also find in Hearts of Stone) as well as a counter to help people keep track of the points on the table. It all comes in a really nice box so you can carry both decks around and all your pieces are safe.
MMORPG: Will there be any new music recorded for the expansion? Can players download the songs?
Marcin Przybylowicz, Music Director: Of course. Hearts of Stone has it’s own story to tell, so it was obvious it will need its own soundtrack. There’s a new theme coming for one of the expansion’s key characters. You can also expect more of what you’re already familiar with after playing the base game. And as for future downloads of the expansion’s soundtrack - hard to tell right now.
MMORPG: Is there a level requirement for the expansion then, if you don't have to finish the main game first?
Konrad Tomaszkiewicz, Game Director: It’s not a requirement per se, i.e. the game will not kick you out saying that you don’t have the required revel, however, it will be extremely difficult below a certain level. If your Geralt is somewhere around level 30, you’re in the green. We’re also introducing a special Hearts of Stone New Game mode for gamers who just bought both the game along with the expansion, and want to start by playing the expansion first. In this mode, players will be given a level 30 Geralt with a lot of unallocated skill points so they can tailor him to their liking. I think we have all bases covered.
MMORPG: Will there be any new features or changes to the base game along with the expansion's story and quest content?
Konrad Tomaszkiewicz, Game Director: Hearts of Stone introduces a new Runeword mechanic. Runewords are powerful enchantments players can craft from glyphs. Each runeword can significantly affect gameplay by increasing protection against certain types of attacks, alternating the range of witcher Signs, and many more. I’m really curious what monster slaying character builds gamers will come up with once they get their hands on this.
MMORPG: How about crafting recipes and gear for Geralt? We want more!
Konrad Tomaszkiewicz, Game Director: We’ve prepared some new and cool items for Geralt to craft, too! We obviously won’t have as much content as in the base game, but players can expect some cool armors and swords, and some witcher-dedicated stuff -- yeah, I’m thinking a new set.