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Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone

Platform(s): Arcade, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSOne, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Action


PS2/Xbox Preview - 'Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone'

by Paul Reith on Aug. 16, 2004 @ 2:23 a.m. PDT

Genre: Action/RPG
Developer: Stormfront Studios
Publisher: Atari
Release Date: September 14, 2004

Pre-order 'FORGOTTEN REALMS: Demon Stone':
Xbox | PC | PlayStation 2

This Dungeons & Dragons title screams RPG. Don't be fooled by its title, or you may wonder how you ever overlooked this game. Stormfront Studios and Atari have teamed up for a new entry in the Dungeons & Dragons theme, and it is a bit of a departure from your normal RPG. Demon Stone is a tale of three socially sequestered twenty somethings who meet as Orcs battle for control of Gem Spark Mine, the richest mine on the world of Faerun.

The game begins right in the midst of this battle, and the only option is to button-mash out of the situation. Suddenly, play switches to another character, and then another. When ten minutes have expired, a good number of Orcs have been slain, and the three playable characters are united as they are forced into the mine by a dragon's fiery breath. All this, only to unlock a few doors and release the two greatest evils Faerun had ever seen.

These villains were locked away long ago in a Demon Stone only because they were too busy fighting each other to destroy the world. While they raged on in a seemingly endless battle to determine who would control Faerun, a sorcerer trapped them in the stone, hoping it would hold them for eternity. Sadly, the gems of the mine somehow enabled a telepathic channel through which our three sorry souls were brought here to break the spell.

What luck.

Gameplay in Demon Stone is essentially real-time action with a fixed camera angle progressing along a linear map. Each chapter contains brief episodes of overwhelming enemy numbers and the defeat of a boss at the end. In between each chapter, you can use experience and gold gained during battle to improve each character in preparation for stronger enemies the next time around. This simple operational construct resembles many not-so-good games of the past, so you have to wonder if this is another game that starts out fast and exciting only to fall flat on its face into boredom.

Thank your lucky dragons; this preview build of Demon Stone is far and away safe from being slogged into the hopper of marginal games. To begin with, Stormfront based this game on an excellent storyline courtesy of R.A. Salvatore, best-selling author of many D & D novels, and creator of Drizzt Do'Urden, a renegade Drow Ranger who has become one of the most popular icons in the D & D realm. The three characters he created and their development throughout the saga is what truly brings life into this game.

This trio is a weird lot, brought together in an odd place where none of them had ventured before. Rannek, a human warrior, was one of the Riders of Nesme, a band sworn to defend their people until their dying breath. Trolls attacked Nesme and all his comrades fulfilled their vow except Rannek; he was accidentally pinned under both a boulder and a dead body to watch the slaughter with his own eyes. Understandably, he assumed the guilt of the lone survivor, and left the surviving civilians in his self-imposed shame.

Next is a half-breed of Elf and Drow, which makes for a real identity crisis. Cross a strong sun-loving elf dude with a cunning vixen of the shadows, and what do you get? One dangerous woman. If she wasn't messed up enough from her mixed ancestry, add in the fact that she was raised with the Elves but never accepted, even after her mother gave her life defending the community. Zhai is swift, silent, and deadly, able to slit the throats of enemies without detection.

Illius is the final group member we meet in the first chapter, and the most critical to the progress of our story. Born to a great warrior of the Silver Guard of Silvery Moon, he was destined to be just like his brothers, the future of the Silver Guard. Unfortunately, the force of magic is strong in him; although he becomes a skillful warrior, the draw to sorcery is irresistible and he is shunned from yet another society that hasn't heard it's cool to celebrate diversity.

The fate of the world is left up to these three vagabonds, and it is your responsibility to guide them through an epic saga to gain a new Demon Stone and trap these two powerful villains once again before all is lost.

The world you are brought into is truly robust. Beginning with the characters and extending through the design of the enemies, foreground, backdrops, lighting, and attack animations, the detail is excellent, taking the PS2 platform to its upper limits. The graphics are so good that the cinematic elements between chapters are very near identical to gameplay. Combined with the creativity of the designers (see the concept art for a peek at their talent) in creating enemies and surroundings worthy of such detail, it appears Stormfront chose the fixed camera and the linear travel to maintain visual quality within the limits of the console.

Audibly, Demon Stone delivers with the voices of Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation, X-Men) and Michael Clarke Duncan (Planet of the Apes, The Green Mile). These castings are well complemented by the instrumental soundtrack mastered for Demon Stone, matching the rise and fall in the action.

Overall operation is very smooth, with transition at will from player to player occurring seamlessly. Combination attacks are really simple, but the different abilities of each player create a truly different gaming experience. On occasion, however, the camera angle holds too tight, and rest of the team moves off the screen while using Illius for ranged attacks.

In the end, with all the visual and audio effects, it is the captivating story that really proves this game to be surprisingly good. The increasing interdependence of these three strays is so integral in their growth as heroes, and it is cleverly woven into the story. Eventually all three must be sequentially involved in the destruction of the beast that first drove them together into the mine, and this is not even the finale of the game.

Before we ruin the story for you, we'll pause until it's time for a review. But one thing we can tell you is that Drizzt Do'Urden is making an appearance to guide our young heroes. Is he playable? Stay tuned.

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