Which Witcher 3 Expansion Should You Buy?

The Witcher 3 has been out for quite a long time now, and often goes on sale on Steam and GOG, along with its expansions. If you are itching to dive back in but not sure which Witcher 3 expansion to pick up, have both and want to know which one to start with, or want to know if they are even worth it, here’s the breakdown.

Touissant - Witcher 3 Expansion

There are two main expansions for The Witcher 3; Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine. They are both good expansions although neither are necessary for a complete Witcher 3 experience. The base game offers plenty of quests, items, and content and very little of it is adjusted or changed in the expansions. Instead, these two expansions just add more.

However, there are 2 changes each expansion brings to the game. Hearts of Stone adds a new vendor which lets you craft special mods (Runewords) onto your weapons and armour. Blood and Wine adds new skills that you can get with mutagens after you have dumped a bunch of points into the base skill tree. Both of these systems could have been more interesting than they were, and both require a fair bit of grinding – especially the special vendor in Hearts of Stone. The benefits of exploring these are also pretty weak if you have gone through the main game already. The new runewords take a lot of work to unlock but didn’t feel much better than some of the magical weapons you find. The mutagen skill system also has a few interesting pieces, but again costed too much and gave so little to really invest in.

Because of this, I did not engage with these systems all that much.

The Hearts of Stone Expansion

Between the two expansions, this one is the smallest in the amount of content it adds, but we are talking Witcher 3 here and the smaller expansion is still substantial. The story is based on the Polish folk tale of Pan Twardowski, which shares many similarities with the Germanic folk tale Faust.

In Hearts of Stone, Geralt faces more fairy tale tropes, make morally ambiguous choices, and maybe help a demon? Witcher 3 is really good at engaging players with meaningful and memorable quests, and Heart of Stone delivers more. The usual “sniff out the trail and find the monster” quests are here too, but we also get some more variety in how Geralt interacts with the world. Shani, a character and love interest from the first Witcher, also makes an appearance.

Hearts of Stone is a very story focused game with some great characters and quests. It does not add a lot of new map locations or fluff, but is a solid ten to fifteen hours of great story telling. For this alone, it is the best of the two expansions. Unless you just want more.

Geralt and Rainbow - Touissant

The Blood and Wine Expansion

If you are still itching for more Witcher 3 after 70+ logged hours and want to go for 70 more, then Blood and Wine is for you. This expansion opens up a whole new map location, full of its own towns, side quests, monster nests, and more. Blood and Wine takes Geralt to the country of Touissant, the “French” part of the Witcher world.

In Touissant, Geralt will go on a main quest in a hunt for a serial murderer, fight vampires, and even go adventuring in a twisted fairy tale theme park. Want to fight the big bad wolf as Geralt? Then this is for you.

Whereas Hearts of Stone is story focused and does quality over quantity, Blood and Wine is all about quantity. More quests, more map locations, more hidden treasures. This expansion also adds a house for Geralt to upgrade and decorate, more Witcher gear to find, an a new Gwent faction.

The Gwent faction and the gear are fine, if those are things you are interested in, but the house I felt came too late. By the time I started Blood and Wine, I had already beaten the main quest (something which I recommend doing before finishing this expansion – for the ending) and Hearts of Stone. While I was happy to beat up vampires, the house felt unnecessary. Attached to the house is a garden for herbs (I had already crafted every potion and deconcoction I could), a bed for sleeping to get a small boost (which wasn’t noticeable) and a lab for creating mutagens to help you explore the added skill tree (I already had more than enough of all mutagens.) Thanks to being thorough in the game, the house offered me no real value at this point in the game and is something I would have appreciated a lot more if it was available from the very beginning of the game. I suppose if you start the game with the expansions and unlock it early, it will be.

Touissant is beautiful though, a land of colour as opposed to the drab or cold places in the base game. The sun sets are stunning, the landscape feels much more alive; it’s just a joy.

It’s also too big. Some side quests have you travelling across the map killing monsters and it really feels empty compared to Skellige, Velen, or Novigrad. It could definitely have been smaller without sacrificing much of the experience.

Which Witcher 3 Expansion Is Best?

Both are good but satisfy different aspects of the main game. Touissant is great, and has a few great moments that tie into the main storyline of Witcher 3 but playing through it became an endurance test. Hearts of Stone adds less, but makes up for it in quality.

At this point, picking up both in the next seasonal sale should be pretty cheap and easy. However, if you only can get one, Hearts of Stone is you like story, and Blood and Wine for more basic Witcher 3 goodness, without as much depth. Both are good, and you really can’t go wrong no matter which Witcher 3 expansion you get.

Review: Stories Untold – Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid

Stories Untold is an anthology of 4 small games that draw on 80s nostalgia and technology. That, and old computer interfaces. Each vignette tells a small snack of a story, with the final one closing the thread by combining the previous three into a cohesive narrative. Sort of.

stories untold banner

The first story is a republishing of previous free interactive fiction game The House Abandon. Stories Untold is often described as a text based game, but it is only in this first vignette where that really is true. Modeled after 1980s interactive fiction, like an Infocom or Magic scrolls game, it sets the stage. The game has been made immersive by having you “play” it on a computer, with keyboard clicks and flickering lights. Naturally, you are naturally playing it in the dark with your desk lamp on. Its more creepy that way.

And Stories Untold is a creepy and unsettling game. There are a few jump scares but the creepiness comes through as you slowly reveal what is happening in each vignette. Halfway through each of these stories, the game will shift and uncover something unexpected. I tried to anticipate these little surprises but I was unable to at least half the time. When I was playing the third vignette, I had given up speculating what was to come and was just enjoying the wait for the reveal.

You won’t be able to “die” in these games, so in a way it is more of an experience, an interactive story. Each story bit has its own puzzles and its own old technology you need to interact with. The worst that can happen (and it can be immersion breaking) is not knowing what to do next while some character off screen is telling you to hurry.

The puzzles aren’t really difficult, but some are tedious. In the first segment, The House Abandon, NoCode used their own text parser which didn’t include common commands in text based interactive fiction. Commands such as N,S, UP, X THE CAR did not work, but these are standard shorthand even for text games in the 80s. It took me a bit to unlearn what I was used to and learn how this game’s commands worked.

Other moments of tedium come not necessarily from the game itself, but from wrestling with the old technology which the game depicts. When I say old, I mean old within the context of technological development. I was young, but alive, when these machines were in daily use.

Most of the time, this just adds to the immersion, drawing you into these bite size pocket worlds. Each stage is better than the last, introducing some new creepy and unexpected piece to play with.

Except the last game.

(Spoilers ahead)

The Fourth Chapter: Better Untold

Throughout these four vignettes, Stories Untold is trying to tell a singular story. It isn’t until you get to the fourth part where that clicks into place, at least it didn’t for me. The fourth game has you go through all three previous games but this time, you are doing what “actually” happened.

Each of the first three games are actually a combination of events that really happened and episodes of a television show called Stories Untold. You are actually in hospital, with what appears to be severe head trauma, and the doctors have been trying to get you to remember what happened on one fateful night.

Problem is, you spend most of your waking hours in a wheel chair watching one VHS tape of this Twilight Zone inspired show, so when you try to remember things, its a bit messy.

The reason I didn’t like this last game very much is not because it re-contextualizes everything you have gone through up to that point – that was pretty clever despite being superfluous. I didn’t like it because the heart of the story is a drunk driving accident that you were allegedly involved in and that got your best friend/crush and a former police officer killed.

This premise just feels, cliche. I don’t mean to be dismissive of drunk driving accidents (many of us know people who have died in those, I have lost classmates to such accidents) but that it is such a common tragedy in media. Perhaps its because it is kind of common in daily life, or at least comomon in teenagers, or maybe its just an easy way to write something tragic. Whatever the case, I found the rest of these games so creative, that the finisher would be something so … common?

And it’s not very necessary. I enjoyed each of the previous games much more when I could speculate on what happened, imagine what it meant, what it could be. This made the experience creepier than any jump scare. With the last game tying everything together, that feeling is robbed. Scary stories around campfires work because they are small, they give a glimpse into something scary.

Have you heard the scary story about the hook man who escaped from prison? It’s a trope, yes, but works because we know so little and our imagination fills in the rest, which means we use what we are scared of and imprint it into the story.

We can do the same in Stories Untold as long as we do not play the fourth chapter.

By the end of the game, the police and doctors get you to remember and admit your crime of driving drunk and trying to frame the former police officer.

Unless…unless the untold story is what really happened.

What Really Happened in Stories Untold

What if the story is not someone trying to escape what they have done, and instead is about the doctors and police “adjusting” your memories to clear the former police officer’s name? Your family doesn’t want to see you in the hospital, but yet play number games around you as you lie there in a coma.

Why did we hit a former police officer? That was a deliberate story beat and I do not believe NoCode chose that without purpose. Is it because it would then be convenient for the police to know that this persons was not a drinker, or because the police cover up their member’s crimes? The first two games in the anthology deal with a kind of disassociate self, as if a guilty part of the character is looking inwards. Could these instead be nefarious sources trying to insert a false narrative on our guilty selves?

I am not sure this reading holds up under close scrutiny , but it would have made the last chapter more interesting. Instead what we have is an anthology with three great entries and a final one which tries to tie it all together – perhaps unnecessarily. As usual, the less we are told, the greater the mystery, and there is value in that.

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