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Red Stone (PC) artwork

Red Stone (PC) review

"Red Stone is the thousandth MMO the market doesn’t need, and it differentiates itself so little from others that only those who are already fans of the genre will appreciate it."

Red Stone is the thousandth MMO the market doesn’t need, and it differentiates itself so little from others that only those who are already fans of the genre will appreciate it.

Its selling point, as you may know by now, is that all character classes are dual. It's a gimmick, but it is a good one and it affects gameplay more than one would expect.

The way it works is that, upon creating a character, you don’t choose a class, you choose a class set. So your character will be a Magic Archer / Magic Lancer, a Necromancer / Demon, or a Wizard / Werewolf. That means that once you do get to play, you’ll be able to switch between either class with little or no cost. All classes have different abilities, and for the most part they complement each other very well. I have a Monk who is mostly predesigned to be a support character, but when I’m not in the mood to heal complete strangers (read: practically all the time) I kill monsters as a Fallen Angel, with a more aggressive skillset. If a Magic Archer runs out of arrows or is faced with close-quarters combat, she can switch instantly to using a spear. This alleviates the all-too-familiar feeling of creating a character and going through the trouble of getting a couple of levels only to find that you really don’t like the class you’ve chosen. Whatever class set you’ve picked, switching from one to the other should be a welcome break in the gameplay.

Not so welcome? The graphics, which are 2D and look lifted straight out of 1997’s Age of Empires. I don’t actually resent the cheap graphics at all, because that means the game’s easy to run on all systems, but they’re so low-cost that they allow for truly gigantic maps. The main city itself is so huge that it took me a quarter of an hour to see just one of its several gates. When I crossed it and saw the vast landscape of grassy plains on the other side, I just walked back into the city, knowing that I’d never get to the other end of that sea of green. I still haven’t, since I know that it would probably a journey without a return.

With this perspective, it should make sense that Red Stone relies so heavily on a mission system. A big game encourages exploration; a gargantuan game feels agoraphobic and inhibits poor, terrorised players into a small circle of familiar territory. Thus, the only reason to venture out into those strange, infinite areas is a specific quest. As you talk to the many NPCs you’ll find along your way, they will ask you to kill certain enemies or find certain items for them. This will be your excuse to venture out into the wild and start finding caves or secret sub-areas within the zones you already know.

The problem is that this system doesn’t work particularly well. Available quests appear in your minimap; this would be extremely helpful if it weren’t because all quests are theoretically available to you, except really only one out of any ten are. So your first ten minutes of playing will consist of walking up to quest-giving NPCs and being told “Come back when you’re more experienced”, “I can’t help you because you’re not a Warrior”, “I have nothing to say to you”, “I only seek help from Little Princesses”... Because, you know, the problems they have with murderous beasts kidnapping their loved ones? They can totally wait until they find a level 10 guy. Little Timmy is going to be so happy he got to spend that extra week with the kobolds to be rescued by a proper adventurer.

Of course, once you do find quests that suit you, you can only keep 5 at a time. I’m unsure of whether this is a good thing or not, since one single mission can make you walk around for hours (not kidding here – running is possible, but makes you lose valuable ability points reserved for use in battle).

Indeed, I’m unsure of whether many other things are good or not. I don’t feel particularly strongly about the complaints I’ve made here, but the thing is, we’re talking about a MMORPG. The genre is so saturated by almost literally indistinguishable titles that being free to play is not enough of a reason to play one of them. Red Stone doesn’t have much else going for it –it does offer almost any feature known to other MMOs, such as stores, party and friend systems, etc., but not enough to set it apart. If you’re a fan of MMOs in general, though, why?? the dual class system is a curious addition that will probably spark your interest.

MartinG's avatar
Freelance review by Martin G (December 07, 2007)

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