Monday, January 19, 2004

Darkstone (PSX)

Rating: 2 out of 5
Pros: Multiple character classes and a wide variety of equipment
Cons: A rather flawed game, Darkstone is riddled with programming errors

I originally bought Darkstone over a year ago. Every week when I got my pay check, I would go to Wal-Mart and search through the discounted Playstation games and buy a couple. I had never heard of Darkstone before, but I figured I would give it a try anyway. From the back of the case, it appeared to be similar to Diablo, which was a fun game.

I was a bit disappointed when I actually started playing Darkstone. The game is riddled with programming errors, making it almost unplayable sometimes. I later tried the PC version of the game, which was much better, but that's a whole other story.

Sometimes when you save your game, it returns a save error. This is the least troublesome of the bugs I have encountered, as it only requires you to save again. The game will also occasionally freeze up, requiring you to reset the Playstation and lose any data since your last save.

Then there are times when your magic door spell either moves, or disappears entirely. Or while playing the thief, and stealing from enemies; sometimes the item will get stolen but not fall on the ground. This wouldn't be so terrible I guess, except that you can't do anything except enter the menu while this bug is happening.

Thankfully it does nullify the bug to enter the menu and then exit again, and the stolen item falls on the ground, so that your other buttons work again.

Also, you need one of each crystal to form a time orb for the last level. In some quests, if you are not sure what to do, and happen to do it in the wrong order, you may lose out on getting that crystal forever, and thus have to restart your game. Also, while playing the thief, you can occasionally steal a crystal from a boss monster, then get a duplicate of the same crystal after you beat him.

Crystals are not the only one-of-a-kind item that you can steal duplicates of, you can also get more fire orbs, ice orbs, keys, and probably more that I just can't remember off hand.

All bugs aside, the load time in Darkstone is something awful, the storyline is pretty much non-existant, and there aren't really enough quests to keep the game interesting after you've beat it a few times.

The game utilizes a 3/4 perspective camera view, which can be rotated by pushing the right-hand analog stick horizontally. It can also be zoomed in or out a bit by pushing the right-hand analog stick vertically; though digital pad owners are stuck with the default zoom factor.

The sound effects are your average footsteps and slashing sounds, and the background music isn't a whole lot better. The noted exception being the bard's single. If you walk to the center of town, and throw coins into the bard's hat, you can listen to Audren. I don't really like that kind of music, but it wasn't too bad anyway.

As for the tiny bit of good that I can say about this game.. it is rather fun the first time through, if you don't get discouraged by the bugs.

There are 4 character classes to choose from, which provides a little bit of variation in the beginning; but you can increase whichever stats you feel like when you gain a level, so the difference between classes is pretty much non-existant after you've gained a few levels. To make it even less of a difference, every class can equip any weapon or piece of armor that you find.

Weapons and armor in Darkstone sometimes have special attributes. When equipped, most of these attributes directly effect your stats, like 'armor 20%' or '20% to hit'. Other attributes let you cast spells, such as 'fireball 200/200' allowing you to shoot 200 fireballs. Then my personal favorite, 'vampire 30% life points' takes 30% of the damage you do to the enemy and heals you with it.

The thief/assassin profession is by far the easiest to complete the game with, as you can steal items from the enemies and sell them. His main strength is dexterity. He also learns the 'Identify' skill, which allows you to identify a weapon's special attributes (if it has any) so that that weapon will sell for a better price. That is a super quick way to make money, and gain some pretty awesome equipment.

The warrior/amazon is second, in my opinion, as he can also learn 'Identify'. His main strength is his attack skill. He cannot steal any items, but enemies sometimes drop them anyway. What makes this nice for the warrior, is his 'Repair' skill. A weapon that has more durability will sell for more than a weapon that is almost broken.

The other two character professions include the wizard/sorceress, who's main strength is his magic, and the monk/priestess, who relies on vitality to give them lots of health.

The graphics are average for a Playstation game, could be a lot better though. Nothing compared to earlier titles such as Syphon Filter or Metal Gear Solid. The sound is, for lack of a better word, horrible. It sounds more like an old Nintendo game than a Playstation game. Gameplay is decent, if you can overlook the bugs; but replay value is minimal due to the small number of different quests.

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