|At a Glance:
Stonekeep is a real-time fantasy
role-playing game. The game engine is similar to other titles in this genre that include
4-face turning, and a point and click interface. You wander dank, dreary corridors in a
classic dungeon crawl, both alone and with the aid of NPCs. Though this is now an older
title, released at the end of 1995, the quality of the product was spectacular for
its time, and still makes it a worthwhile look even today...
Stonekeep opens with a well-crafted movie sequence in which the town of
Stonekeep is destroyed and Drake, the main character in the story, is removed to safety.
The game actually begins when you (playing as Drake) return to Stonekeep to exact revenge
for those who were murdered. There, you are greeted by Thera, a spirit that guides you
below to the sunken city of Stonekeep.
Character Creation and Development:
Stonekeep doesnt really have a character creation system. Rather, your character
develops in the game depending on what you do and how often you do it. For instance, if
Drake draws his sword and jumps heartily into every fray, his sword skill gradually
increases. If you like customizing your character in the manner of more
"traditional" RPGs, you may be a bit disappointed by Stonekeeps character
creation and development system. However, I found this to be a unique and innovative way
of handling a character, and was quite drawn into Drakes persona as I played the
One aspect of Stonekeep that made its game engine unique is the manner in which
NPCs join and fight within the party. All of Drakes fighting is handled by you,
while control of the NPCs is handled by the computer. This makes for less confusing
battles (important in a real-time RPG), so that your effectiveness is not limited by your
ability to click a mouse. Graphics are bit on the grainy side where monsters are
concerned, but digitized sound and speech are well utilized, and the spectacular magical
effects more than make up for this handicap.
Stonekeep uses both the mouse and keyboard, and is not configurable. While movement is
primarily handled using the direction keys on the keyboard, most other tasks are
accomplished by simple mouse clicks. Weapons, inventory, maps, journals, etc
intuitively designed and easy to learn.
Another area wherein Stonekeep is refreshingly different is its magic system. In order
to cast spells, you must find specific runes throughout the dungeon and engrave them upon
staves called Runecasters (which can also be found in the dungeons). Runes may be combined
together in various ways to form different spells. Runecasters can hold only a certain
number of spells, and each contain their own mana. Once exhausted, these staves must be
recharged at areas within the dungeon called Runecircles. The entire rune system is highly
detailed and includes special meta runes that can enhance the power of other runes. All in
all, I found this system very refreshing and unique to the fantasy RPG world.
Stonekeep is played entirely underground. Some elements, like trading in cities and
traveling across a world above ground are not present and certainly could have improved
this already-impressive title. The dungeon, however, is very well done, with many unique
sites, secrets, and puzzles to be solved. In addition to these features, the designers of
Stonekeep have succeeded in creating an immersive atmosphere which captures the look,
sound and feel of creeping through dank, dark corridors making this title a good
cut above average.
The Good In Summary:
Stonekeep is overall an excellent game, one certainly worth buying at the time of its
release, and a steal now because you can find it at your local store for less than twenty
dollars. The magic system is unique and well done, and the sound and magical effects
wont disappoint you.
The Bad In Summary:
Monster graphics are a bit wanting. Depending upon your hardware configuration, you
might have a bit of difficulty with the DOS-centric installation procedures.
Tips for Beginners:
Be sure to clear out the first two levels thoroughly before continuing. There are a few
items you do not want to miss, particularly the Runecasters you find. Also, you need the
experience, both statistical and practical, later in the game.
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