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Fun, winnable but light on story
Published on February 21, 2007 By warreni In Action

I just finished Demon Stone from Atari a few days ago. The unusual thing about that being that I "finished" and didn't abandon it as tedious and pointless, which I have a tendency to do with action-oriented games. While I'm still not entirely convinced that "winnable" is actually a word, I did apply it in this instance. I generally play shooters on the easiest setting, because I lack the console- and really good PC-player's ability to repeatedly press buttons in various awkward configurations in a very short time frame; even so, I frequently find myself getting somewhere between 50-75% of the way through before the sheer tedium of jumping puzzles or the illogic or simple irritation of having to backtrack to manipulate some object three levels back in order to open a door on the present level causes me to just say to myself , "Well, this isn't 'fun' anymore, so I'm quitting."

This is an "old" game by today's standards, having been published in 2004, which is probably why I was able to pick it up on the cheap at EB a few years back. I have a tremendous backlog of games I've picked up over the course of the last six or seven years that look entertaining but that I don't have time to play. Oddly, despite statements made on game review sites at the time of its release, I find that the opening and closing cutscenes don't even match 2004 standards; in point of fact, the in-engine cutscenes are considerably more attractive than the "bookends." The game boasts the voice talents of Patrick "Captain Picard" Stewart as Khelben Blackstaff, one of Faerun's most powerful wizards, and Michael Clarke "Kingpin" Duncan as Ygorl, a slaad and the game's main antagonist. Mind you, each of these characters speaks mainly at the beginning and end of the game, with more emphasis on Khelben in Chapter 4 and Ygorl in Chapter 10.

The story was written by famed author R.A. Salvatore, although he didn't script the game. I found a number of story-based peculiarities. Khelben Arunsun is depicted as a powerful but solitary wizard, and no mention is made of his homeland and what, if any, connection he has with Silverymoon. It is surprising that a Chosen of Mystra would have so much to fear from a Slaad Lord and more so, even if one grants that Ygorl has the power to do so, why a Slaad Lord who is purportedly already master of Limbo would have any interest in conquering Faerun. The story seems more than a little reminiscent of Salvatore's Crystal Shard cycle, involving as it does a powerful demon who is imprisoned, but who has the ability to manipulate others and a powerful mystical artifact in the form of a gemstone. Drizzt Do'Urden and Thibbledorf Pwent appear briefly, the former as a playable character.

The game's protagonists are not exceedingly well-developed, but given the general thinness of the plot, that's not too surprising. Rannek is a human fighter, Ilius a human sorceror protege of Khelben's, and Zhai, a half-drow rogue. Each has a small backstory that can be unlocked and viewed after the game is completed. These character models are well-done, with kudos going to the art team that designed Zhai; drow are rarely depicted as having violet eyes in media, which is one of a few colors natural to the drow. Even Drizzt's eyes in this same game, appear blue. The game was designed by the same studio that developed the Two Towers game, and while I haven't played that, the game feels very similar to Return of the King, where several characters fight side by side against a legion of foes and there are various "checkpoint" areas that break up a given level, in this case denoted by the presence of an in-engine cutscene. Also like RotK, between chapters, the player can use gold and experience points earned to purchase better equipment and abilities for the different characters; unlike that game, however, characters can generally be swapped out via hotkeys at any time to better suit one's play style (I ususally played as Zhai), and the AI does a decent job of controlling the other two, although there are some sections where the game forces you to use a particular character. The game can only be saved at the beginning or the end of a chapter. The game includes an entry from Drizzt's journal as an unlockable, which is also highly reminiscent of Salvatore's books, which usually feature multiple journal entries.

The final levels were odd in that Chapter 9 was very long and includes an arduous battle with a red dragon. Chapter 10, on the other hand, is mostly a boss battle with Ygorl, who is, himself, much easier to kill than the dragon. So it took me about 90 minutes to finish Chapter 9 and about 30 minutes to finish Chapter 10. Go figure.

All in all, it was an enjoyable experience that I would recommend to fans of the Forgotten Realms and/or hack-n-slash-type gameplay.


Comments
on Apr 11, 2007
I enjoyed it , but it has no replay qualities - I much prefer the Baldur's Gate PS2 games for h&s rpg stuff .




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