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February 8, 2002
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 Overall Score: *85*ESRB Rating: Teen (T)

DarkStone 

by Gathering of Developers & Delphine Software  Reviewed by: Shaffer Buttars  


ScreenshotOverview

The world is in despair as an evil magician threatens to usher in a new order of chaos. The only glimmer of hope in this dark time is an ancient weapon hidden beneath the earth. It can only be recovered by a hero of pure heart and true courage. Will this hero of prophecy be you? Only many hours of engaging game play and mighty left-clicking will tell.

Note to purveyors of fantasy everywhere: please produce a new story; this one is a little worn. Thank you.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

The worn storyline aside, DarkStone is a lot of fun to play. To cut to the chase, DarkStone plays almost exactly like Diablo, which is not a bad thing. For the uninitiated, both games play something like this: You wander through dungeons hacking up everything that moves, doing good to NPCs (Non-Player Characters) along the way by solving their problems. Periodically, you haul all your booty back up to the surface where you sell it for gold, saving up for that perfect item at the shop. Once you've purchased that item you've saved so much for, however, one will appear on the next level of the dungeon. Oh, well. The more you kill the more experience you get and the buffer you become, until one day you are tough enough to take on the antagonist, whom you defeat after several reloads and you get to watch the closing cinematic. Yeah!

Now, this is a very tongue-in-cheek description, but in reality it is good, mindless fun. It's fun to see what the next monsters will look like, what swords they will cough up when they die, and just what lies in store next. That's the beauty of these games: the mystery of what is just beyond the next level. It can be very engaging; just ask my wife. She's a player too.

Which brings up some of the unique things that DarkStone has brought to the Diablo-esque genre. First off, it is much less dismal. Diablo is so dark and so evil-feeling my wife hated playing it. It was too "spooky," for lack of a better word. In DarkStone everything is much brighter, monsters are more cartoonish, and the entire tone of the game is more pleasant.

DarkStone also lets you control two characters at a time, and it's pretty easy to do. You just click on which character you want to actively control and the other one follows his lead, backing him up. You can switch back and forth as you feel necessary.

ScreenshotGraphics

Another new feature of the game is that you are playing in a fully three-dimensional environment. You can rotate around your character to see into those difficult corners. This is very handy. You can also zoom in to get a close look at that new monster or examine the battle more freely, or you can zoom out to get a good look at what's around you.

The graphics are somewhat simplistic and cartoonish (vaguely reminiscent of Final Fantasy VII if you ask me) to allow for several characters to be on the screen at once. Despite their simplicity, most of the items look complete, not half-baked. I got a kick out of zooming in on new creatures to see what they looked like and what they were wearing. It's kind of fun.

Audio

Audio is adequate. I'm a firm believer that good sound effects are not noticed. I heard nothing out of place in DarkStone. I liked how each character (four classes with male and female versions of each) has his or her own distinctive voice. As for music, it is not earth-shattering, but it is adequate. It creates mood and keeps your feet tapping during level changes.

System Requirements

Pentium (or equivalent) 233 MMX, 4 MB 3D AGP video card or 8 MB PCI compatible accelerator card -- uses Direct 3D, 170 MB hard drive space, 32 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM drive, keyboard, and mouse.

ScreenshotDocumentation

The game gets very good marks for documentation -- one of the first for me in a long time. Every feature is documented in a logical, straightforward manner, but everybody does that. Well, some do, anyway. DarkStone, however, has background stories, pictures, hints, charts, and even a glossary all bound up in an attractive cover (not stuffed into the CD jewel case). I actually had a question about how to do something and the manual had me straightened away in just a few page flips. Hooray! Good job, Delphine.

Bottom Line

Fantasy hack-and-slash just can't be beat for relaxed recreation. However, the game does get dull after so many levels of the same thing over and over. Yes, the levels and quests are randomly generated each new game, but the manner of play gets old after 20 levels or so. I find myself playing this game bulimically. I binge on it for several days, enjoying myself thoroughly, then I have to lay it aside because I've gotten bored. But my cravings bring me back after a while.

Pick this game up if you like Diablo, mindless slaying of orcs, or just can't wait to wield that magic left mouse button in battle. You won't be sorry.

Review Posted On 4 October 1999.

 
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