Warning before you continue reading this, take note this article contains spoilers for the Heart of Stone DLC for The Witcher 3. And yes I realize it has been out for a few years now, but I only recently decided to buy the GOTY edition which was a perfect excuse to jump back into the world of Geralt and company. So I managed to complete it yesterday just short of 20 hours on “Death March” difficulty. And I absolutely loved every minute of it! What impressed me most was CD Projekt Red’s ability to make you feel sorry for, and sometimes even characters who were just complete pieces of shit. Like the Baron (Which I wrote about in a previous article) and Olgierd. I absolutely detested Olgierd at the start of the game, but after hearing and seeing everything he went through, I could not help but feel sorry for him. I grew to like him, despite everything that he did wrong.
Interestingly enough Heart of Stone closely follows the polish folk lore story of Pan Twardowski, who sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for special powers, wealth, and fame. But he eventually met a tragic fate at the end of the story. And I have to say there aren’t many evil protagonists in video games that give me the “chills” but Gaunter O’Dimm is definitely the one that stood head and shoulders above the rest for me. He was more terrifying to me than the Wild Hunt, seeing what he did to professor Shakeslock at the university and how he so nonchalantly killed the beggar with the spoon in the tavern. He also looks deceptively ordinary, which lends even more to his level of creepiness. But not surprising considering the character of Gaunter O’Dimm is portraying the role of the ultimate evil.
To put it simply, in the Witcher universe Gaunter O’Dimm is the Devil, but not necessarily the one we come to know from Christianities perspective. Clearly CD Projekt Red go plenty of inspiration from Stephen King’s series of novels, mainly that of The Dark Tower, The Stand, and The Eyes of the Dragon. The villain in many of those novels is a pseudo-satanic dimension hopping evil guy who goes by many names but behaves very similarly to Gaunter O’Dimm. And the grand irony surrounding his existence in The Witchers universe? The fact that he isn’t the root of all evil. He is only a mirror that reflects man’s evil deeds back at them, hence he uses the nickname “The Mirror Man” he gives people what they ask for, and then watches as it destroys them and the people around them. And this what he ultimately finds entertaining.
He is merely reflecting humanities own greed, hatred, and lust back at them. Then there was Olgeird. Who basically was a bandit with a moral code, but that did not make him any less a douchebag. He left his wife and cursed her to internal damnation leaving her to wander the ruins of their home for all eternity. He cursed a prince turning him into a frog which Geralt accidentally kills at the start of the game. Not forgetting he signed his own brother’s death warrant. This made him the perfect target for Gaunter O’Dimm’s aka the devil. And like I stated earlier even though I hated Olgeird as a human being and for what he did to his wife and brother. I love how they turned Olgierd from a villain into a sympathetic victim. Something that only CD Projekt Red could achieve with their story telling and narrative crafting skills.
During the later parts of the game, you literally take a walk through an oil painting experiencing first hand the collapse of Olgeird and Iris’marriage, which is one of the saddest most haunting experiences I have had in a video game. Not forgetting exploring the haunted house, and fighting that fucken creepy caretaker. But Heart of Stone was not all doom and gloom, I absolutely loved the entire wedding sub quest (Dead Man’s Party) where you were tasked with entertaining the ghost of Vlodimir the dead brother of Olgeird. I have literally never laughed so much in a video game before. Geralt and Vlodomir have the perfect synergy. My favorite moment must have been when Geralt was lying on the grass, waiting for Shani and Vlod’s all like: ‘This is very romantic’ and Geralt responds with his perfect monotone voice: “Fuck off.”
The Dead Man’s Party sub quest only further highlighted the wit and quality of The Witchers writing and voice acting. In summary, I absolutely loved how the first two acts were fairly light hearted. But when the third act hits, the game suddenly switches to perhaps the darkest line of quests in a role playing game ever or at least equal to the Bloody Baron’s quest line in the original game. The boss fights were extremely intense on higher difficulties not to mention extremely creative. The mystery set pieces were fantastic. And the choices I made during the course of Heart of Stone was perhaps the hardest I made in any game including the original game. Heart of Stone was everything great about the original game compacted into a small but extremely deep questline.