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Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone (Xbox) artwork

Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone (Xbox) review

"Demon Stone drops you into an interesting predicament. Instead of the typical fantasy romp, which puts you in a quest to defeat some evil Dark Lord ģ it throws you in the middle of a war between two beastly tyrants, who wish to wipe each other out before they can claim the world as their own. It also takes three warriors with their own secret tragedy that has banished them from their differing societies, intertwining their paths. Itís too bad that barely a few hours after the three heroes are ..."

Demon Stone drops you into an interesting predicament. Instead of the typical fantasy romp, which puts you in a quest to defeat some evil Dark Lord ģ it throws you in the middle of a war between two beastly tyrants, who wish to wipe each other out before they can claim the world as their own. It also takes three warriors with their own secret tragedy that has banished them from their differing societies, intertwining their paths. Itís too bad that barely a few hours after the three heroes are introduced to each other, they accidentally release the previously mentioned tyrants who were trapped within the magical Demon Stone. So, in an act of good will, the three unite and leave on a journey to fix what they have done wrong.

The core of the game is deeply flawed from the start: itís a modern hack and slash title, like an updated version of Golden Axe. You hack and you slash for ten levels, cutting down countless enemies and duelling with an array of typical fantasy bosses. Itís immensely enjoyable at the beginning but the monotony of fights gets so brain-numbing and tiresome that youíll find yourself incredibly bored as early as level four. Thankfully, various features stop Demon Stone from becoming a complete mind-fryer such as the ability to switch between three characters instantaneously and the option to purchase new upgrades and usable items. However, this merely cushions the blow rather than skilfully blocking it. We also have the unforgivable absence of a two-player co-op mode, something that would have probably given us a thicker cushion to block the impact of the repetitive action, not that even this would have stopped us from eventually being struck with boredom.

Each of the three outcasts has their own special skills and fighting styles. Illius the sorcerer has the ability to launch streams of magic from his wooden staff, a power that can ďsnipeĒ enemies from a safe distance. He can also plant bomb-like devices during the battle and detonate them at will, destroying a handful of foes at once. Unfortunately, Rannek is a little less invigorating as he uses a sword to slash creatures; but the stealth skills of Zhai, a half-breed elf, are far more interesting. She can use her mysterious powers to become invisible (if she finds certain purple gems on the ground.) Donít get excited yet though, Zhai can also perform one hit KOís with her dual set of knives, laying waste to armies in seconds and sheís the only member who can actually jump.

Apart from their own basic moves, each character can perform a special combo that destroys multiple beasts in one shot. Every time you kill an opponent, the small circle at the bottom left of the screen will fill with a white glow. When this reaches the top, it allows a character to pull off his or her special move; manage to get all three characters to this status and you're able to pull off a triple attack, causeing MAXIMUM DESTRUCTION on the battlefield. Rannek can be a bit of a bastard for this as his meter takes a while to charge but the other two will shoot up like an old man on viagra.

Come the end of each level, you will be able to use your collected points to purchase character upgrades. Here you can buy some classy new weapons such as a fire-coated sword for Rannek, or a new set of daggers for Zhai. As well as new weapons, you can also take your pick from a selection of armours and clothing along with new attacks and combos. You can take your time tailoring your trio to create the ultimate team, or, if you find all of this stuff boring, you can be lazy and get it automatically done for you. It doesnít make an important difference because by the end of your adventure you will have three tanked up warriors under your control. However, during the battles, youíll barely notice the difference in the way each character plays, only by his or her new and revamped appearance.

This may sound exciting but the fact is that all of these good qualities are brutally dragged down by the gameís awfully repetitive nature. You are attacked by a shit load of monsters at once and you use your three fighters to eliminate them all. Doing this will throw you into another fight with another shit load of monsters and after youíve killed them, youíll be thrown into a... well, you get the idea. Itís not exactly something that you can play for hours on end but it can be digested pleasantly in small chunks. Also, as you play you will notice that your tactics and skilful attacks will disintegrate into mindless button bashing. When surrounded by countless foes, youíll feel astoundingly claustrophobic, not only in sympathy for your character, but also a player can feel squashed in too. Which may ultimately deter you from playing.

The same cannot be said about the visual aspects: Demon Stone certainly looks very magical and mysterious, capturing the eye and the imagination of every fan of fantasy. The beauty and darkness of the Gemstone Mines are enough to engross anyone, as are the snow-capped mountain ranges. Every environment has its own outstanding features such as the threatening volcano stage or the tranquil yet deadly woodland that you trek through. All of the characters have been elegantly crafted, each member of the cast erupt with personality. From the frisky and sneaky Zhai to the demonic and ambitious Vrorl, the Slaad tyrant, they all find a way to stand out.

This is even accented with a few celebrity voices speaking for its cast. Patrick Stewart and Michael Clark Duncan do a fantastic job at their respective roles and help give their characters a real edge. All of the voice acting is near perfect, with each voice offering each of the cast a distinct personality. The gameís selection of tunes are rather good as well, offering dramatic fantasy music that really entices you into the story. You might find yourself humming them in the shower the next day, but they do work well with the theme.

Demon Stone might be something that is worth getting cheap, but isnít really something youíd want to shell out for. If youíve played and enjoyed any of the hack and slash Lord of the Rings titles, then you may very well love this, but the chances are that youíll want more bang for your buck. The repetitive nature of Demon Stone is this gameís cancer and will bring it down, slowly but surely. Drag yourself through one successful completion, the fire will die out immediately and the chances are youíll not even give it another look. Itís worth a cheap purchase for hardcore fans or for generic action gamers but don't expect anything more than a repetitive action title that quickly wanes.

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Community review by goldenvortex (July 26, 2005)

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