The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone, Part One

By Bob Case Posted Friday Oct 26, 2018

Filed under: Video Games 39 comments

Back when CDPR first announced that there would be a pair of expansions – and even used the word “expansion” instead of “DLC” – I predicted to myself that one or both of them would be better than the base game. I personally feel that prediction has been borne out, though it’s an issue about which reasonable people can disagree. The prediction was based on my experience with RPGs, and specifically with RPG content made by a studio that already has a game or more’s worth of experience with its tools under its belt.

I have precisely zero experience with game development, but I have a wealth of experience with baseless speculation about game development. That wealth of experience has helped me notice a common pattern with RPGs: the sequel/expansion – provided it’s made with the same tools – will be better.

For those who aren’t conversant in the vocabulary of baseless game development speculation as I am, I’m using the word “tools” here to describe all of the various software used to make the game. To cite one example, Valve had something called the “Hammer” editor, which I used in the mid-late-2000s to make terrible attempts at Half-Life 2 levels. Most of the most commonly used game engines – say, Unity or Unreal – have comparable editors, along with ways to manage dialogue, combat, and everything else.

Olgierd von Everec. You can't tell at this resolution, but he has a heart of stone.
Olgierd von Everec. You can't tell at this resolution, but he has a heart of stone.

They’re the things at the end (or near the end) of the game development pipeline, and it stands to reason that as developers get more practice with them, they become more skilled with them. It can be something as simple and becoming fluent in all the hotkeys and shortcuts, to something as advanced as learning clever workarounds to get them to do things they’re not quite designed to do. To top it all off, I expect developers get just plain faster with them, and able to create and iterate more content in the same amount of time.

Two of the most obvious examples I can cite off the top of my head are the Baldur’s Gate series and the expansions for Fallout: New Vegas. Most people who have played both will agree that Baldur’s Gate 2 was better than the first, and most who have played the Throne of Bhaal expansion will say it’s at least equal to the base game. And for me personally, Fallout: New Vegas’ expansions (Dead Money, Honest Hearts, Old World Blues, and Lonesome Road) were overall better than the base game.

Other examples of this pattern are somewhat apples-and-oranges, like Fallouts 1 and 2. (You can tell they were more adept with the tools in the second, but there’s an argument that the first is the better game, with the more economically told story.) Either way, there’s always a part of me that gets suspicious when I learn that a studio has changed engines in a sequel, or is developing their own engine. I don’t know enough about game development and engine limitations to actually second-guess these decisions, but that doesn’t stop me from doing so anyway, even if only in my head.

However, I suspect that these improvements in quality aren’t only due to studios becoming more adept with their tools. I always get a palpable sense of freedom when playing expansions, like the developers have thrown off at least some of shackles binding them to AAA RPG convention. In an expansion or DLC, you don’t have to save the world, because presumably it was already saved in the base game. You don’t have to bow to pressure to make everything Big and Epic and Important, or spend time crafting set pieces designed to wow the E3 previewer crowd.

The final suspicion I have is that there’s less crunch when you’re putting out expansions, resulting in a higher-quality product. I can’t really substantiate that, but I suspect it anyway.

In any case, Hearts of Stone ticks all of the boxes I just described. It’s surprisingly big for an expansion that retails for ten bucks, having not only the main storyline (which is probably 8-10ish hours long), but also the Ofieri runewright quests, a fairly big new section of map in the northeast corner, and several new sidequests and Witcher contracts. It has a story that’s built around personal relationships rather than an impending magical apocalypse. Last of all, it lets its hair down more than the base game did. One quest in particular is practically an extended comedy routine.

There’s also Gaunter O’Dimm.

No one since the crones has made me this nervous for Geralt.
No one since the crones has made me this nervous for Geralt.

I know this guy is memorable because I actually remembered him. Geralt actually met him briefly in White Orchard during the game’s prologue, and I remember him being conspicuous and a bit unsettling even then. I went into the expansions as spoiler-free as I could manage, but I didn’t manage to not learn that O’Dimm was involved – that said, even when I saw the image that spoiled me, I recognized him right away: “that was that weird mirror guy from White Orchard!”

For those that haven’t played it, I should probably rewind a bit here. The expansion’s main questline starts with a suspicious fellow named Olgierd Von Everec putting up a contract to kill a giant frog monster in the Oxenfurt sewers. The frog is, of course, rumored to be a prince, a rumor that’s confirmed once Geralt kills it and soldiers from his home country of Ofieri show up to arrest him for murder.

The old “I thought he was just a normal frog monster” defense apparently doesn’t fly with them, and Geralt is put on a ship to be transported back to Ofieri for a public execution. Gaunter O’Dimm shows up outside Geralt’s cell, offers to set him free, burns a mysterious mark onto his face, and causes the ship to run aground, giving Geralt the chance to escape.

Ow! I thought we were friends!
Ow! I thought we were friends!

O’Dimm asks Geralt to meet him at a certain crossroads back in Velen, where we learn that he and Olgierd have some sort of deal, which has resulted in Olgierd being immortal. By this time the comparisons between Gaunter O’Dimm and folklore about the devil has been laid on pretty thick, but the game never (in my opinion) gets quite too on the nose with them. O’Dimm isnt just the devil showing up in the Witcher universe, he’s a Witcher-style take on the devil, with enough differences and ambiguity to keep him novel and mysterious.

He also speaks well of CDPR’s creativity and writing ability. Gaunter O’Dimm is, as far as I know, a completely new character who’s unique to the games. The Witcher series has generally had good writing, but it’s always been writing that’s piggybacked off the tone and worldbuilding of the Sapkowski world they’re adapting. I consider him to be an encouraging sign of the studio’s ability to tell interesting and affecting stories without using Sapkowski’s work as a jumping-off point.

I have another point I want to mention, and that’s the combat. I’ve often been critical of the game’s combat in this series, considering it to be competently enough done but rarely interesting. Hearts of Stone is a step up. For one, they noticeably tuned up the difficulty. Even with me slightly overleveled, the fights with the toad and the Ofieri sorcerer were pleasantly difficult without feeling punishing or unfair. They rewarded patience and positioning: the sorcerer has a tornado-like ability that can stunlock and two-shot you, and standing right in front of the frog at the wrong distance triggers a nearly telegraph-free tongue attack. What’s more, button-mashing is not rewarded during either – instead you have to defend, get a couple hits in, and reset. Without proper tuning, this would make the fights too long, but they didn’t feel that way to me.

In addition, the swarming tactics of the new “arachnomorph” enemy type were a welcome bit of variety. The other boss fights were not quite as good, but they featured health-regenerating gimmicks that kept them at least somewhat interested. In these fights the player can see a glimpse of what the combat of the base game could have been with a bit more tuning and variety.

I hardly got into the story at all this entry, but we’ll do that next time, including what I consider to be its weaker points.


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39 thoughts on “The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone, Part One

  1. Cyranor says:

    I agree that games made in the same engine tend to get better. That being said CD Projekt Red built the Red Engine and used it for the Witcher 2. Thus when they started on The Witcher 3 they were already familiar with the tools and just continued to get better with them.

  2. Droid says:

    I thoroughly disliked this expansion. I wanted to save my story gripes until we got to that part, but honestly, all the parts of HoS have the same problem in common for me, so I might as well bunch it all together:

    Hearts of Stone is basically the story of That One DM who thinks enacting their great tragic play in the game is going to keep their players entertained while they’re being railroaded to hell and back.

    What HoS offers is a boss fight lifted straight out of Dark Souls but without the interesting combat or the fine control over your character to go along with it, followed by a huge, big lump of Cutscene Incompetence where you Fail a Spot Check, subsequently get ambushed and then overwhelmed by no more than a dozen of the kind of mook you could fight with your silver sword (what was that about witchers being able to deflect bolts with their sword? never mind, a single crossbowman is enough to make Geralt sit down and cry, I guess), followed by 8-10 hours of constant boot-licking. Seriously, every single one of the main quests in the expansion is you doing something
    – deeply immoral (or worse)
    – against your will
    – for someone extremely unlikeable
    – without anything more than some implied unease about/resistance to the whole thing by the time we reach the halfway point.

    Of course, you can leave between quests and just stop doing the questline, but I just couldn’t believe there wasn’t more to the whole story than whatever happens to all the lovely boots after you finished licking them to their owners’ satisfaction.

    I know there’s a gripping story in there and I probably would have loved to read it, but playing it felt like playing Slave Simulator 2015.

    1. RoboticWater says:

      I can agree about the combat; I found the bosses tiresome. They hit has hard as a Souls boss, but there isn’t the precision controls to make me feel like every hit I take is actually my fault. The Mage’s defenses, teleportation, and tornado powers just prolonged the otherwise boring evasion of AoE attacks. I don’t even think that fight even had any stages to add variety. And the one that has copies of itself is just lame. I don’t know if there was a specific strategy I had to use, but the fight was just several minutes of me doing the same attack pattern until it died. Granted, I used some combat rebalancing mods, so it’s possible that might have caused some problems.

      Dark Souls works, in part, because if you’re good enough, you can beat the boss almost trivially, because very few have extended periods of invulnerability or other cheap fight-extending tactics.

      However, I’m not really buying the story critiques. IIRC, they establish that not only are you tired and wounded from the frog fight, you’re coated in its probably poisonous guts. That’s not to mention that you’re ambushed by 12 guys and the mage. There are many times to complain about Cutscene Incompetence (hell, the base game probably has more than a few), but I feel like the writers did more than enough to justify your failure there. It’s even justified mechanically: when you fight them later (after they’ve been decimated no less) they’re still quite tough.

      And I don’t understand why you think the boot-licking is bad. That’s literally the point of the narrative. From the story at large, to the three request missions that comprise it, to even minor players within those missions, they’re all about people who become enslaved to something or someone, often to their doom or enduring dissatisfaction.

      Frankly, there aren’t nearly enough games that so thoroughly disempower the player through the narrative. I feel like the base game never quite sells the blue collar edge to Geralt because almost everything he does seems to be (or eventually be) on his own terms, especially when it comes to his job. Crafting a story where he has to comply with the whims of some jerk because he has to (much like how a real 9 to 5-er has to work to make a living) actually gets across what his life must be like. And honestly, this story isn’t even that much of a disempowerment fantasy. If this is what you think “Slave Simulator 2015” would be like, then I strongly suggest you read more narratives about slavery, because the fairly large degree of autonomy that you’re allowed to have—despite being someone’s slave—is monumentally more than any real slave would have.

      “I just couldn’t believe there wasn’t more to the whole story than whatever happens to all the lovely boots after you finished licking them to their owners’ satisfaction.” This I really don’t understand. You have to know that if you’re this reductive, then every story is going to sound pointless and unsatisfactory. Clearly, you aren’t actually licking boots the entire time, so the “more to the story” is all the stuff you do besides that. That you can’t enjoy a heist, a goofy wedding crash, and a ghost mystery just because you’re doing them for jerks is astounding to me. You don’t have to like it, I suppose; I just don’t know why you can’t draw entertainment in the resolution of your servitude.

      1. Fon says:

        Boot-licking is bad for some of us, because some of us ARE looking for empowerment. While you might argue that it isn’t disempowering enough… it is for some of us. Everyone draws the line at different place, and for some people, they’ve crossed it.

        Seriously, I hope you aren’t looking down at people who don’t enjoy the same things as you do. People just like different stuff, you know? Sometimes boot-licking of any form is just what they hate. You just have to understand that people have very different standard when it comes to what they’re looking for in a game or story, and they’re using a standard different from you.

        Remember to think in scales instead of booleans: Some people reject boot-licking completely, some people can tolerate it if it is clearly justified, and some people can readily accept boot-licking as a way to survive or get out of trouble, and some people are just plain fine with it, and then there are people who do it on a daily basis because it is their modus operandi for everything.

        1. RoboticWater says:

          And some people have clown fetishes. I understand how opinions work, I just don’t sympathize with this person’s justification. Frankly, I don’t even know why you’re here; this entire series is a critique. If you believe that ‘people just have opinions, and they’re all equal,’ why would you care about Bob Case’s over anyone else’s? If critique can’t be disagreed with, what’s the point? What if I hold a standard which says that it’s perfectly reasonable to critique other people’s standards? How could you possibly disagree with me for having such a standard?

          Regardless, did you even read the part of my post that said “you don’t have to like it, I suppose”? I don’t look down on people for liking different things, I look down on people for not properly justifying their beliefs. I feel like the original commenter’s characterization of the DLC as being a “Slave Simulator” is hyperbolic. Frequently in the base game you’re doing things for jerks against your will. The DLC only has these jerks be jerks to your face. Do you think the Bloody Baron—domestic abuser and tyrannical governor that he is—is that much worse than the Everecs? You still have to work for him. You just never have to bear the brunt of the abuse. Hell, with the Everec quests, you’re actually given a lot more freedom to complete the quests in the way you want than the base game, finding autonomy despite the circumstances. And not once is your tongue particularly tied; you can raise as many moral objections as you want. Seriously, calling this boot-licking just seems like overkill.

          Furthermore, I just feel like this person is hamstringing their own enjoyment when they say “I just couldn’t believe there wasn’t more to the whole story than whatever happens to all the lovely boots after you finished licking them to their owners’ satisfaction.” Clearly, this is more story, so why needlessly ignore it? There’s nothing inherently wrong with hamstringing one’s own enjoyment. By all means do it; I can’t stop you, but I wonder why you would consciously have less enjoyment, when you could have so much more if you

          “They’re using a standard different from you.” Why can’t I critique standards? “I just don’t like black people” is a standard. Is that unassailable? Now I know you’re going to say “ah, but this is art; it’s subjective, it doesn’t have ramifications in real life,” but every standard is subjective, and just because your opinion isn’t likely to cause material harm, doesn’t mean it can’t be critiqued like anything else.

          I just find it amusing that you look down on me for believing that beliefs should be justified when the entire crux of your post seems to be that I shouldn’t look down on people.

        2. Vinsomer says:

          Here’s the thing: looking for empowerment is one thing, but expecting it, or devaluing the game because it doesn’t do that are another.

          Or, to put it another way, your comment is basically ‘This isn’t what I wanted’ style criticism, and that is neither a fair standard or an interesting contribution to discussion. Because I can just as easily say that I didn’t want empowerment and therefore the expansion is good. That’s the level of discussion that kind of point leads to: just tit-for-tat ‘I liked it’, ‘I didn’t like it’. All the while ignoring what the game set out to achieve and how well it accomplished that.

          I also think calling Geralt’s role ‘boot licking’ is downright silly. Is Frodo boot licking the White Council when he takes the ring to Mordor? Is the Dragonborn boot licking when he fights Alduin? In most fantasy stories protagonists have tasks that they must achieve, often against their will – to the point where the moment when he rejects the call and is forced into action is a key part of the monomyth. Yes, Geralt can do some awful things, but the player is often given a choice. Yes, Geralt is often put in situations where he has no good options, but choices like that make the game better, not worse: remember what a witcher is. An itinerant monster hunter who is also a mutant; a social outcast who is often only tolerated because his skills are needed. Not only is that a bad setup for a power fantasy (and Geralt banging a load of chicks really does undercut the premise), but it’s one where difficult decisions are going to be common.

          I also have to point out that Geralt wasn’t the main character, at least not in a sense. Geralt is the Obi-Wan to Ciri’s Luke, the Iroh to her Zuko, the Huntsman to her Snow White (the game even makes this allusion itself). If you want an empowerment fantasy, you should object to many of the main story’s quests and plot points.

          And empowerment fantasies are fine if you want them. But let’s not pretend that they’re not simplistic, and that in order for them to be any good they at least have to dress their worlds as somewhat plausible, i.e the presence of other powerful entities either as obstacles or simply as flavour.

          1. Droid says:

            I was expecting the expansion to be at least kinda, sorta similar to the main game, and in terms of combat, it definitely wasn’t. On top of that, something about its narrative really rubbed me the wrong way, such that I felt railroaded through the whole experience, with me disbelieving that this course of events was a natural result of the characters as presented interacting with each other. And not once or twice as may have happened in the main game, but constantly.
            There were moments when I forgot that and enjoyed the action, as for example during the setup and execution of the heist, but as a whole the DLC felt different enough in tone and gameplay that I think, without hyperbole, the criticism “it departed too much for the main game without much reason for or indication of that fact” still stands.
            I probably was too reductionist with regards to the main game as well, focussing on its empowerment aspect and not mentioning anything else.

          2. Droid says:

            I also think calling Geralt’s role ‘boot licking’ is downright silly. Is Frodo boot licking the White Council when he takes the ring to Mordor? Is the Dragonborn boot licking when he fights Alduin? In most fantasy stories protagonists have tasks that they must achieve, often against their will – to the point where the moment when he rejects the call and is forced into action is a key part of the monomyth.

            That’s the situation in most of the base game. That’s the status quo I’m fine with. The thing the DLC changes is that suddenly, it’s Elrond appearing at the council as Agent Smith and pointing a gun at Frodo’s head with the clear indication that no power in the world is able to stop the lethal shot unless Frodo accepts to take the ring in exchange for having his life saved by Elrond. Kinda sucks the heroism out of it, doesn’t it?

      2. Droid says:

        I will admit I was ranting aimlessly at a thing that, as a whole, did not feel rewarding or enjoyable to me, but rather like a long drag with some fun bits interspersed in it (the heist was great!), but only enough to make me push on and hope it would change to something that didn’t feel inexplicably terrible.

        I will admit, after a rewatch, that the Ofieri soldiers and mage were properly justified as a force too strong to overcome at a time when you were almost paralysed. The fact that you were is probably the part that annoyed me, but, I’ll accept that one as well.

        If this is what you think “Slave Simulator 2015” would be like, then I strongly suggest you read more narratives about slavery, because the fairly large degree of autonomy that you’re allowed to have—despite being someone’s slave—is monumentally more than any real slave would have.

        Of course, duress is an entirely different scenario than slavery, and considering the circumstances, Geralt got out of it all without too much misery, but I would argue that purely in terms of agency, you cannot get much lower than “you are possessed by a ghost and do not have any ability to move your own body (of your own volition)”.

        I just don’t know why you can’t draw entertainment in the resolution of your servitude.

        Because at that point all I could think of was “why did I pay money for that?”. The best thing I could say about my time with the DLC was that I was finally back where I would have been if I had just skipped the whole thing. I know that is a very specific mix of “I hate that Geralt has to wade through all this crap I got him into” and the very meta-thought “I could just not initiate that questline and get the ‘reward’ of not being part of that story for free”, but that’s just how I am.
        Come to think of it, that’s also why the expansion as a whole doesn’t work for me: The theme of “making decisions you come to deeply regret in the mindless pursuit of X” just doesn’t work at all with the premise that, as a video game with free save/load functionality, every decision you make, ever, is 100% reversible.
        I guess it sorta works on a much more mundane and trivial level with me mindlessly buying that DLC and coming to regret it.

        But self-indulgence aside: I do not know how to make this expansion work for me (or what exactly is the problem), I just know that it definitely doesn’t right now.

    2. Joe says:

      I agree, and actually go one step further. Cringe comedy is the worst form of comedy. When I first got to the wedding, I just thought I’d meditate and skip it. Oh no, I had to indulge in all the stupid activities. Once was enough, and in future playthroughs I’ll be skipping HOS.

    3. Darren says:

      I do agree with you somewhat, but at the end of the DLC you’re given the choice to save Olgierd or to let O’Dimm have him per their original agreement. And for all the story’s efforts to make you care about Olgierd, there was something deeply satisfying about saying, “Nah, dude, you’re an evil asshole and I’m giving you to the Devil.” It’s clearly not what the developers want you to pick, but it’s a valid choice.

  3. Redrock says:

    Ehh, I would argue that Pillars of Eternity is better than the sequel, as is KOTOR. Granted, KOTOR 2 would have probably surpassed the original if it was actually completed, but it is what it is. Dragon Age 2 also comes to mind.

    The trick with dlc, I think, is different. They benefit from being smaller, often self-contained stories. While in case of epic RPGs the base game is by necessity as vanilla as it gets, the dlcs are allowed to have more flavor. That’s what makes, say, Dead Money so memorable. And that’s exactly what makes the Witcher 3 expansions work so well.

    1. Cyranor says:

      To be fair Kotor 2 was a different studio ( obsidian) and Dragon age 2 was a rushed cash grab by EA. I didn’t play pillars of eternity 2 so can’t say there which was better.

      1. Thomas says:

        I don’t think we can say the rule is strict enough to cover all circumstances – if you’re told to make the game in half the time that’s going to matter a lot more.

        And sometimes you have to bite the bullet and change engine, otherwise you end in the Telltale situation where you’ve fallen behind the industry and can’t recover.

    2. John says:

      I am by no means a KoTOR 2 fan, but even I recognize that what Obsidian did (though it might be more accurate to say tried to do) with the game’s engine was in certain respects more ambitious than what Bioware did. For example, almost every named NPC in KoTOR 2 has a unique head, while the NPCs in KoTOR are all drawing from the same, small pool of heads. KoTOR 2 has more in-engine cutscenes than KoTOR. And I think though I can’t be sure that the levels are generally bigger and there may well be more of them too. I’ve always been under the impression that KoTOR’s limitations were due to the fact that it was an XBOX game, Bioware’s first if I’m not mistaken. How Obsidian fit or proposed to fit so much extra content in the same space is beyond me.

    3. BlueHorus says:

      While in case of epic RPGs the base game is by necessity as vanilla as it gets, the dlcs are allowed to have more flavor.

      For me the perfect example of this is Neverwinter Nights 2. That base game had all the cliches. Magic sword? Check. Boringly evil badguy with undead army of minions? Check. Hometown attacked and father figure dies at the end of the intro to motivate you? Check. Your character is somehow special or chosen? Check.
      I don’t care that it was done well – holy shit, I could see every story beat coming a mile off. (Apart from the ending. Obviously. That deviated from the cliches somewhat.)

      But then the followed it up with Mask of The Betrayer, which was fantastic and different.

    4. PPX14 says:

      The idea about expansions made me think about Lair of the Shadow Broker which felt like one side quest from a Mass Effect game, and not particularly special. But then I suppose that’s the difference between a DLC level, and an actual expansion. I think Forces of Corruption was possibly more interesting than Empire At War.

  4. Angelo says:

    Personally I didn’t find Gaunter O’Dimm interesting in any way, and my indifference towards him was aggravated by how many people seem to love him. There’s nothing to his mythology beyond “he’s ancient and very bad”, he just acts cruel with a jolly facade – and not in a particularly interesting way – and worst of all, his tricks are pathetic.
    I’m referring specifically to his “riddles” of sorts: the one about the moon I saw a mile coming away, but of course you’re forced to fall for it hook line and sinker, and the one about reflections is just an annoying TIMED section of “guess how the developer wants you to solve the riddle”.

    1. Vinsomer says:

      I dunno, the spoon trick was alright.

  5. Fon says:

    Question: Why would you take a contract to kill a giant frog monster that is suspected to be a prince? I guess you could be convinced that it is just a rumor, but what about people who aren’t convinced? My issue with quest lines that must be started with a questionable action is that you’re locked out of the whole thing if you don’t “fall for it” at the start. Sure, we can still do it anyway even knowing it is a bad idea, but we’d be doing something we don’t want to do just to get to more content. (Exceptions are given for stuff like thieves’ guild or assassin guild or other quest lines that are clearly made for non-good aligned characters.) I hope that they have given the players enough justifications or strong arguments to fall for it… Like, someone actually got killed by the giant frog monster or something. Or people have been pointing out how implausible that the whole frog as prince thing is. Or the reward is something that you MUST have.

    On the other hand, I think I might try this giant toad monster thing with my players in a D&D/tabletop game, and see if they actually fall for it or not.

    1. Fnord says:

      Both the posted notice that first gives you the quest and Olgierd in person when you discuss the contract tell you that the monster is killing people.

  6. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    I have precisely zero experience with game development, but I have a wealth of experience with baseless speculation about game development.

    There’s the Mr BTongue we know and love :D

    I’m among the fans of Gaunter O’Dimm, he scared the shit out of me during that wooden spoon scene, and his music is fantastic.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      For me he’s less scary than the Crones because he just looks like a dude, and the good ladies look like only-slightly-humanoid monsters that eat children. I also don’t know much (any) Polish folklore, so they were truly unknown and new to me.
      Meanwhile Gaunter O’Dimm grants wishes (with an evil ‘unintended consequences’ twist), is a stickler for the rules (though he tries to bend them), and turns up alongside the Arabian-nights inspired Ofieri…
      …he’s clearly an evil Djinn/Genie. Not sure where Bob got the devil idea from.

      I did like the fact that you’re obviously powerless against him – this is NOT a situation in which the silver sword alone is going to cut it*. I spent most of the story of HoS hoping that if I did what he wanted, he’d just leave me alone, ‘cos what the hell else am I gonna do?

      *pun intentional. Always.

      1. Henson says:

        There are many stories across cultures that draw from the “Devil’s Pact” trope; a deal with the devil. This DLC story shares some of those commonalities, such as meeting the devil at a crossroads. That’s not to say that Gaunter is the literal devil (as Bob notes), more that he serves that function as some devil-like creature.

      2. guy says:

        The Faustian Bargain runs along similar rules to Genie wishes, but its unexpected consequences and rule-bending tend to be a lot more vicious.

      3. unit3000-21 says:

        “Not sure where Bob got the devil idea from. ”
        Well the whole thing is based on a Polish legend ( about a nobleman (here Everec) making a deal with the devil (here O’Dimm), and then trying to weasel out of it. So Bob is definitely right.

        1. eVie says:

          Just to back this up, here’s a picture of said nobleman from a film adaptation of Pan Twardowski:

          The similarity to Olgierd von Everec is readily apparent.

          1. BlueHorus says:

            …up to and including the sword. Huh.
            You learn something new every day.

            1. unit3000-21 says:

              What’s interesting is that he’s usually depicted this way, as a stereotypical 17th century Polish nobleman, with this kinda oriental looking apparel, that hairdo and a sabre, but the legend says he lived in 16th century, so he should look like a regular Renaissance guy.

      4. Awetugiw says:

        I’d actually argue that a Dinn’s deal and a devil’s deal are different, and that O’Dimm’s offer is closer to the latter. A Djinn will (under certain circumstances) grant you your wish, but attempt to screw you over with technicalities. You get what you asked for, not what you wanted. A devil, on the other hand, is more likely to give you what you want, without much trickery. The only problem is that the devil demands a price that, in retrospect, is too high to pay.

        In short: if you deal with a Djinn you are likely to be dissatisfied with the way the Djinn carried out its side of the deal. If you deal with the devil you may be happy with how the devil carried out its side of the deal, the problem is that you dread having to fulfill your own side.

        It’s been a while since I played HoS, but my impression was that Olgierc was reasonably happy with O’Dimm’s side of the deal, he just didn’t want to pay up.

  7. DavidJCobb says:

    [Content creation tools are] the things at the end (or near the end) of the game development pipeline, and it stands to reason that as developers get more practice with them, they become more skilled with them.

    It’s worth stressing that “near the end” means that the developers are making content with these tools while also making the tools themselves. You can see this in the code comments in Skyrim’s various scripts. I remember one comment expressing the expectation that enumerated types would later be added to the script engine (they weren’t), and another comment — in the script for the attempted murder at the conclusion of “Blood on the Ice” — that had a frowny face in it, because the designer had cool ideas but couldn’t get them to work given the time and tools that they had.

    So the devs don’t just get better with the tools post-launch; the things the tools can do also solidify: they have a box to work in.

  8. Redrock says:

    O’Dimm is an interesting way to look at CDPR’s ability ro create compelling characters without relying too much on Sapkowski. On the one hand, he is intriguing enough to inspire confidence in the studio’s future. On the other hand, O’Dimm is basically every deal-making devil ever with few twists to the formula, once you really think about it. Yes, he is a very Witcher version of that formula, but still, that’s just applying Sapkowski’s process to another folklore figure. In the end, O’Dimm’s creation still hinged on using the Witcher framework created by Sapkowski. Like I said before, Cyberpunk 2077 will be very different. No Sapkowski, no Eastern European folklore that seems fresh to Western audiences, just pulpy tropes that have been done to death and underlying socio-political themes that draw a lot more toxically aggressive scrutiny than the studio probably anticipated when they took on the project. Trouble all around, in other words.

    1. Gwydden says:

      I’m a bit mystified by how many people give Sapkowski credit for TW games. By my reckoning, the series was at its best when CDPR were doing their own thing rather than sticking close to the source material. And, to be perfectly honest, while I liked Sapkowski’s short stories fine, I found his novels terribly dull, so while the games are far from perfect narrative masterpieces I still deem them an improvement over the source material.

      1. Redrock says:

        As far as I can tell, the novels lose a lot in translation, so that’s a factor. The consensus is that the third Witcher game is the best of the series, and it is the one that goes back to the books’ characters and arcs more than the first two games. But I can see your point. I imagine most people who prefer the first two games are also lukewarm towards Sapkowski’s writing.

  9. Christopher says:

    I’m definitely with you on the RPG DLC assessment. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but personally Lair of the Shadow Broker and the Citadel DLCs leapt immediately to mind. They’ve got way more interesting sceneries, fun banter, different sorts of content and tones and stories than the main game. Citadel in particular feels more like Saints Row 3 than Mass Effect 3. I liked both of those more than the main games.

  10. Vinsomer says:

    Gaunter O’ Dimm is pretty much polish folklore Doctor Faustus. The literary allusions are pretty interesting. Superbunnyhop did a video on it:

    1. Synapse says:

      Great vid of his, prob one of my favorites.

  11. Paul Spooner says:

    Typo alert: “at least some of shackles” misses its definite article.

  12. Coming Second says:

    Ah yes, arachnomorphs. I’ve often wondered why video games that use spiders as enemies remove what is one of the most troubling aspects of spiders in real life, which is to say their fast, jerky movement. As a rule, the generic spider mob moves towards you steadily or even slowly.

    HoS provides the reason: giant spiders that actually do move quickly and jerkily are so fucking repellent and nightmarish that you never want to fight them under any circumstances.

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