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Demon Stone
Developer:Stormfront Studios
Platform:PC; PS2; Xbox
Release Date:December 2004
Article Posted:July 2006

A lone and weary warrior treads down the winding path leading to Damara. Rannek did not travel in search of reaches or glory. He carried with him the burden of guilt. He had failed in his task. He had been unable to prevent the slaughter. Now he traveled on his own, seemingly lost and without purpose. But a strange force called to him, inexplicably drawing him closer to Damara. As he approached a series of mines, he saw a battle raging in the distance. Innocent villagers seemed to be in danger. Rannek drew his sword and charged into battle.

Zhai was a stranger her entire life. Her mixed heritage meant that she would have a hard time fitting in no matter where she went. She was half wood elf and half drow. She did not belong among the wood elves in their peaceful village within the beautiful forest. But she would be out of place in the twisted and evil underground city of the drow as well. Zhai sought a way to change all of that. She wanted to undo the prejudice against her drow heritage. Yet ill fortune had her captured by the orcs. Now in the middle of a battlefield she waited for an opportunity to escape. And the nearby mines inexplicably called her.

The sorcerer Illius never felt like he belonged in his own family. They could never appreciate his remarkable talent for magic. Thus, the young sorcerer had set off alone to seek training and learn how to use his power. He found a mentor in none other than the famous mage Khelben Arunsun. Yet as Illius continued to develop his skills, he felt an irresistible pull towards Damara. Something beckoned him to travel across the lands and the sorcerer obeyed. He arrived through a portal to find himself in the midst of a battle. Whatever destiny awaited him, before he could find it, Illius would have to fight for his life first.

Three strangers, three lost souls, all drawn to the same place by a strange force… Rannek, Zhai, and Illius could have lived for decades without ever running into each other. But a strange force brought them together. Someone had plans for them. Whether they liked it or not, the trio was going to have to learn to work together. Only by learning to trust each other could the three vagrant souls undo the will of the dark conspiracy that brought them together.

Stormfront Studios and Atari bring an engaging third-person party-based action game with Demon Stone. Set in the well-known Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms universe, Demon Stone combines a compelling storyline and solid action mechanics to offer an entertaining experience. The game may not be perfect, but especially players familiar with the Forgotten Realms setting can expect to find a lot to enjoy.

The story behind Demon Stone comes from the best-selling author R. A. Salvatore. The author of many novels that take place within the Forgotten Realms setting Salvatore is perhaps best known as the creator of the famous drow or dark elf character Drizzt Do’Urden. In Demon Stone, Salvatore brings together an unlikely trio and pits them against two extremely powerful adversaries. The story takes players to a number of different locations across Faerun, or the world of Forgotten Realms as the three heroes look for a way to undo the harm they inadvertently cause.

Meeting in the middle of a battle, Rannek, Zhai, and Illius are forced to work together. Trying to stay alive against hordes of orcs, the three heroes chased into the Gemspark Mine. Just when they reach safety, Rannek, Zhai, and Illius discover mysterious symbols. Each with a special meaning for one of the characters, these runes block the entrance into the heart of the mines. Without understanding what awaits them behind the runes, the trio foolishly opens the pathway to discover a truly remarkable gem. Within moments, the two spirits trapped inside the gem are released. As terrible evil forces once again begin to dwell upon Faerun, the heroes realize their terrible mistake. Now, it is up to them to find a way to set things right.

While the story behind Demon Stone may not exactly be on par with Salvatore’s work in his best-known novels such as the Icewind Dale Trilogy or the Cleric Quintet, the game still presents an interesting plot with twists and turns along the way to keep things interesting. In addition to the core storyline revealed through the game’s ten levels, players can unlock extra features to learn additional details about each of the main characters. The distinct characters and the engaging plot should keep players interested throughout the course of the game.

The best aspect of Demon Stone is the ability to control all three of the main characters in the battlefield. At the beginning of the game, players will go through small sequences where they get to control each character separately. After the introductory sequence however, Rannek, Zhai, and Illius join their forces. As soon as the party is united, you will become able to change the character you are controlling on the fly.

Each character has unique strengths and weaknesses based on their profession. The warrior Rannek is skilled with his sword. He is very effective in melee combat and he can take on a large number of opponents at the same time. Serving as the powerhouse of the group, Rannek also has the greatest amount of health. With his formidable combo attacks, Rannek can destroys his enemies with great efficiency.

The rogue Zhai is the fastest character. Carrying an inherent grace from her elven and drow heritage, Zhai rapidly moves through the battlefield bringing death to her opponents with her daggers. Yet her greatest asset is her ability to hide in shadows. Whenever you are controlling Zhai, shadowed areas of the level will be displayed with special silver sparkles. When you move Zhai into one of these areas, she automatically covers herself, turning completely invisible. The invisibility does not immediately go away when you step away from the shadows. Zhai can avoid being detected for a precious few seconds. During this time, it is possible to move behind enemies and execute a sneak attack. Zhai strikes a critical part of her opponent’s body, killing him or her instantly. Especially when you are overwhelmed with a large number of tough opponents, Zhai’s sneak attacks can become indispensable.

While Illius is a talented fighter with his staff, his true strength comes from his sorcery. His ranged spells can be extremely useful when you are facing enemies at a great distance. While Rannek and Zhai do have ranged weapons, they have very limited ammunition. Illius on the other hand can cast his spells indefinitely. Players do not have to worry about having enough mana to power the spell. Unlike the Dungeons & Dragons pen and paper RPG, they are not restricted by a certain number of spells per day either. As such, Illius can easily use his spells to defeat opponents unreachable by melee attacks. He also has access to spells that give the party extra protection against the enemies. Finally, Illius has the ability to cast charm spells on the monsters, making them much easier to defeat.

The ability to switch the character you are controlling with the touch of a button makes it possible to take full advantage of each character’s talents. If a large group of enemies are surrounding the party, Rannek might be able to defeat them easily with his strong sword attacks. If a group of archers suddenly appear in the distance, you can switch to Illius and unleash powerful ranged magic attacks to defeat them. If there are shadowy corners nearby, you can switch to Zhai to take advantage of her ability to unleash sneak attacks. The characters you are not actively controlling still remain on the battlefield and greatly assist you in combat. Having all three of the characters fight against the enemy at the same time brings a much welcome intensity to the fighting.

Switching characters is also extremely useful in staying alive. You lose the game if any of the characters die. However, the characters you are not actively controlling are extremely good at keeping themselves alive. As such, the active character is starting to run low in health, you can try using a different character and keep yourself from losing the level. The transition is always instant and very smooth. It is possible to rapidly go back and forth between active characters without disrupting the intensity of the battle.

Between each character’s specialized attacks and the ability to switch characters, you might think that controlling the game would be challenging. However, Demon Stone features a fairly simple interface that should not be difficult to master. Each character has a primary and a secondary attack. With the tap of a button, you will execute a simple melee strike. Simple combos can be executed by hitting the primary or secondary attack buttons multiple times. The heroes are also have access to super attacks. Each of the characters has a hero meter. As you successfully hit your enemies and defeat opponents, you will see the hero meter fill up with energy. When the meter is completely full, you will be able to execute a super attack with the active character. These super attacks hit a number of opponents, knocking them back to make it easier for you to repel their assault. When all three of the heroes have their hero meters charged, it is possible to execute a team super attack. Rannek, Zhai, and Illius will unleash their super attacks at the same time, inflicting massive damage on nearby enemies

A block button is available to defend against enemy attacks. While holding down the button will protect the active character, it is worth noting that each character cannot block all types of incoming attacks. A finishing move button is available to finish off enemies that are knocked down on the floor. In order to use a ranged attack, players have to hold down the targeting button to lock onto an enemy. Once you have a target, all you have to do is to tap on the primary attack button.

In addition to their regular attacks and special skills, each of the characters have access to special actions. Early in the game, players will discover three key items that will unlock these special actions. Zhai will acquire the ability to jump. In quite a number of areas, having the ability to jump gives Zhai access to otherwise unreachable areas. Sometimes reaching these areas are essential in advancing through the game. At other times, Zhai will discover a secret treasure chest containing gold, a healing item, or an experience tome. Rannek on the other hand gains the ability to execute an extremely powerful charged attack. This move is highly useful in destroying obstacles that might be blocking your path. Similarly, Illius gains access to magical items known as Beads of Force. The sorcerer can drop these magical beads and make them explode, inflicting significant amounts of damage to obstacles.

The combat interface is very nicely implemented in Demon Stone. The scenery is depicted through beautiful and often richly detailed visuals. The controls are very smooth and the battles are often very intense without being overly chaotic. During many parts of the game, the developers have managed to create a great atmosphere. Occasionally, you will truly feel as though you are in the middle of a large conflict. You will be able to tackle large numbers of enemies with great ease. Yet at the same time, the game does offer a pretty decent challenge at the normal difficulty level. Hordes of tough enemies will occasionally threaten to overwhelm you. Some creative boss fights may also really put your action gaming skills to test. It also greatly helps that the fighting is not completely mindless. You will have to vary your tactics against different kinds of opponents. You will have to learn to utilize each character’s skills effectively in order to complete the levels. Thankfully, individual levels are divided into smaller sections to make things a little easier. If you happen to fail an objective or if one of the three characters dies, you are simply taken back to the last checkpoint.

The game is divided into ten levels. At the end of each level, players are given a chance to upgrade their characters with experience points. As they defeat enemies, each character will gain experience points. No matter who you are controlling, each character gains the same amount of experience. In general, the upgrades are designed to assist each character in their profession. For instance, Rannek will be able to increase his maximum health level quite a few times. He can also buy a number of powerful combos to assist him in combat. Illius on the other hands will be able to acquire more powerful spells. Dungeons & Dragons players will probably appreciate seeing many familiar spells as available upgrades for Illius. From everyone’s favorite simple level one spell magic missile, Illius will eventually be able to move onto far more powerful spells such as cone of cold or power word kill. Zhai also has access to plenty of combos to use in battle. However, she also has upgrades that noticeably improve her ability to sneak or increase the effectiveness of her special jump attacks.

In addition to improving the skills of your characters, you can also buy them equipment to make them more effective in battle. Just like experience, gold is shared across the party. Each character earns the same amount of gold during each level. The gold can be used to purchase different types of items. You can equip your characters with better armor or better melee weapons. It is also possible to add enchantments to armor and weapons. Once again, Dungeons & Dragons players should appreciate the available options. Many popular items from the pen and paper are available such as a ring of protection or a belt of giant strength along with familiar weapon enchantments like shocking burst or flaming burst. During the early levels, you will have a limited amount of gold allowing you to only buy less powerful items. However, Demon Stone has a nice feature that keeps you from wasting your gold. When you buy a weaker item such as a ring of protection +1, when you have some more gold, you can trade the first item in for a more powerful version of the item. You do not lose gold for selling back the original item you purchased. As long as you are buying a more powerful version of the same item, all you have to pay for is the difference in price. When you do have a powerful item, it is also possible to downgrade your equipment. This allows you to get your fold back so you can use it towards different items. Once you do decide to buy any version of an item however, it is not possible to completely return it and get all of your gold back.

The biggest complaint against Demon Stone is that the game is far too short. Even though parts of the game can be fairly challenging, players can expect to finish the game in about eight to ten hours. Experienced action gamers may even take less time to beat the game. To make matters worse, once you do complete the game, there is not that much of an incentive to go back and play through the levels again. Some effort to introduce replay value would have been welcome.

Since it has a Forgotten Realms setting and features familiar items, skills and spells from the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing system, Demon Stone could have also benefited from featuring some additional RPG elements. Having a few optional side quests or some opportunity to actively interact with non-player characters to advance the storyline could have been interesting. Yet at the same time, focusing purely on action does allow Demon Stone to maintain its intensity throughout the game.

Demon Stone is a greatly entertaining action game with many high production values. R. A. Salvatore tells a fairly engaging story that should keep players interested. The three main characters are quite likeable with their colorful background stories. The visuals are very pleasant and it is a great deal of fun to explore different parts of Faerun. The voice acting is good throughout the game. It is especially great to have Patrick Stewart voice Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunsun. Switching between the three characters in the heat of battle makes for very interesting game play mechanics. The action remains very smooth and exciting throughout the game. Had it featured a few more levels and offered a few more hours of game play time, Demon Stone would have been a great hit. As it is, the game’s relatively short length makes it difficult to recommend it at full retail price. Fortunately, if you have not played it yet, since Demon Stone was a 2004 release, it should not be too difficult to find it for a reasonable price. If you are looking for a solid action game to keep you occupied for a few hours, do not miss Demon Stone. Especially fans of the Dungeons & Dragons RPG system or Forgotten Realms novels may have a great deal of fun playing the game.