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- Interplay
thumb1.jpg (5913 bytes)   Fun Factor 8
  Addiction Factor 8
  Interface/Gameplay 9
  Graphics 7
  Sound 9
  Multi-Player N/A
  Bonus/Penalty 7
  Overall Score 8
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 it’s time, and still makes it a worthwhile look even today...

Game Setting:

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 doesn’t 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 Stonekeep’s 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 Drake’s persona as I played the game.

Game Engine:

One aspect of Stonekeep that made it’s game engine unique is the manner in which NPCs join and fight within the party. All of Drake’s 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… are all 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.

Game Environment:

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 won’t 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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