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Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone Review

GAME INFO
publisher: Atari
developer: Stormfront Studios
genre: Action Adventure

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
PIII 1000, 256MB RAM, 2.8GB HDD, 64MB video card
ESRB rating: T
homepage:
www.atari.com/demonstone/

release date: Dec 09, 04
» All About Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone on ActionTrip


January 06, 2005
Branka "Nikerym" Todorovic

Quite frankly, I am no good in making or understanding definitions or classifications. Lately I discovered that my inability to cope with the black & white side of the world has deteriorated over the years. Either that or maybe the definitions are getting worse all the time. Who knows? In that sense, I find it almost impossible to classify modern games. Many of them just don't fit into a single category anymore, now the games possess elements of several different (and sometimes seemingly non-complementary) genres.

But Stormfront's Demon Stone isn't that hard to define. It's a classic hack-and-slash action RPG with one simple premise. If it moves, kill it. Of course, there is even a background story to the game, but is that really important? I mean in a game, do we really need the motivation to deal massive amounts of decapitations of your less worthy enemies? (Ed. - Nope, I decapitated a guy yesterday on general principles.) But, for those of you interested... it's a typical D&D story that features the three basic characters, the warrior, the rogue and the sorcerer. These guys are on a quest (naturally) to find two evil lords and imprison them in the Demon Stone. Should I mention the two were imprisoned there for many years thanks to another wizard, but somehow got restless and decided to stretch their bony arms for a while? Oh wait, you already guessed that, right? Of course you did. While the story isn't exactly original, it does keep the game going and develops in a satisfactory manner. The three characters are exactly what you would expect of them, each having their own special abilities that make them more suitable for certain actions. While it is possible to change your character at will during the game, there will be some instances where using a certain character won't be a question of choice but rather a necessity. You see, only the rogue can jump, while the warrior smashes big obstacles really hard and the sorcerer makes some neat explosions, and also needs no ammunition for ranged attacks. That makes each character special, different and best suited for certain actions.

Apart from smashing things really hard (which is an ability he gets rather early in the game), Rannek the warrior is the best-balanced character. With the fairly good defense and high sword proficiency, he is also tough and resistant when it comes to receiving a large amount of violent blows. The other two characters are naturally a lot easier to kill, so take extra care when you're playing with Zhie (the rogue) or Illius (the sorcerer).

Although she is weaker than Rannek, Zhie has an ace or two up her sleeve - for example, she can sneak past the enemies unnoticed if she takes care to step on particular 'magical areas' that grant her temporary invisibility. But the invisibility doesn't last long, so she has one or two other cool abilities. What abilities you ask? Well, how about this one, because she isn't a strong fighter, she can avoid fighting completely... by sneaking up behind her enemies and slashing their throat. Zhie does this nicely, climbing up the filthy monster from the back and slaying the surprised beast with her knives. If she does this properly, she can kill the enemy instantly. She can also jump, which is an ability much needed for performing certain actions in the game.

Unfortunately, jumping around in game isn't very enjoyable, nor does it look good. It's pretty obvious that Demon Stone is a typical PS2 port, with console-like controls and interface. The controls are fairly awkward, which makes jumping and movement in general rather frustrating at times. What really unnerved me at one point was the fact it took me less time to kill one of the game's bosses than perform a jump on a certain platform. There was a voice in my head telling me it shouldn't be so, especially because you aren't able to make any progress until you perform a certain jump. Zhie can also reach some platforms with hidden bonuses, so there's another reason to become a skilled jumper.

Finally, the third character is the sorcerer Illius, who is the most difficult one to handle. Fortunately, apart from spells he has some nice melee moves and a good ranged attack. As characters gain experience and advance levels, you will be able to upgrade them and make them significantly stronger, so after you get the hang of it you'll have no trouble playing with all three of them.

The battles themselves are rather nice, and your enemies display a decent amount of intelligence. As you can lead only one character at a time, the computer-generated AI takes care that your teammates don't get the pointy end of the stick. Or, put simply your teammates cannot be labeled as 'stupid', but they do tend to play defense so you will have to pay extra attention to them. Your characters employ several basic moves in battle, from attacking to blocking opponent's blows. There are also ranged attacks and several basic combos, but as your characters gain more experience they will be able to get more combos and spells. After a while I discovered I really enjoyed playing with Zhie as she was moving rather fast and was able to perform a neat jumping attack. She actually does a lot of kicking and stabbing which proved to be rather effective against most enemies.

There are some particularly effective moves such as the coup the grace used to finish off the fallen enemies and the special ability that each character possesses. Super attacks are performed when your hero meter is full, so if all three of your characters have their hero meters full you can even perform a team super attack. After one highly powerful blow from all team members, not much will be left from your enemies. Another thing you can do is push the monsters off ledges, into fires, or any other lethal locale. Heck, as long as it promises a sudden and painful death, shove your foes any old place you feel like. Killing enemies and smashing evil-looking barrels will result in a certain amount of gold coins and different bonuses like healing scrolls and such. Some will be used on pick up, while others will go to your 'inventory'.

Apart from doing what you're told, i.e. killing everything that crosses your path, there is not much left to the game. There is of course the RPG segment, where it is possible to spend the experience and money you've gained in the battle. Experience buys you special abilities and lets you advance in level, while money, as in real life, buys you... stuff. If you fancy a better sword, a new robe or some finely crafted elven daggers, money will get that for you. Bear in mind those improvements aren't cosmetic, they are improvements to your character, you can get better protection or offensive powers. Upgrading your characters is a vital necessity, as they are sometimes surrounded by dozens of enemies. Remember, it's not easy to stay in one piece when ten enraged beasties are walloping your head with sledgehammers. So whatever you do, take care you're not mobbed, level up and get better shit, otherwise you won't be able to tell where that last, cowardly, deadly blow will come from.

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6.8   Above Average 


HIGHS
Somewhat addictive, with simple yet rather engaging combat; great visuals and animation, superb sound and voice-acting, some boss fights are really challenging;

LOWS
Poor character development, the game is too short and too linear, no multiplayer, camera angles and controls.

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