From the creators of The Two Towers CVG comes Forgotten Realms Demon Stone, another game in the Dungeons and Dragons franchise.
Atari and Stormfront Studios enlisted the help of cult novelist R.A. Salvatore to give depth to this franchise. When coupled with the impressive cut scenes, the story really holds the attention. Excellent animation is balanced with some good interaction between characters and backgrounds.
The game uses a Golden Axe-style three way character choice: man (-is that Aragorn?), sorcerer or the girly, yet surprisingly handy, elf. The man is your best bet for close up hacking and slashing. The sorcerer is less use in a fight, but great for dispensing a can of whoop-ass from a distance. All round, we favour the elf. Particularly good for the stealthier moments, she can disappear for short periods in the shadows and is exceedingly nimble.
Whatever your choice of RPG archetype, each character is pleasingly different. What remains constant is the annoying camera. It's a third person slasher, but the camera flicks automatically, as does the players involvement with the game. When used to a free roaming view, it becomes annoying. On the other hand, the omnipresent control lends the game some direction that is lost in the free wandering of say, Grand Theft Auto.
While the standard enemies give up the ghost without much drama, the more superior baddies are more animated and thanks to a variety of moves and a better learning curve, not as easy to dispense with.
As well as hacking, slapping and using mystical forces to dispense with rocs and other ogres, the interactive backdrops allow the more violent gamer to throw opponents from cliffs, or invite an enemy to an impromptu barbecue where they are themselves the main course.
Difficulty wise, the bosses can be tough, but varying approaches pay dividends and the range of moves expounded by the larger fiends is impressive. It complements the size and stature of the game as a whole. So too does the collect ability of special moves and the combination of stealth and arcade action.
The result is a fantastical RPG, heavy on the action, but not just a button pressing frenzy. By the end of level four, the option to switch between your three characters is there on tap, save some special scenes where the character is pre-selected. By the same adage, there are some aspects of the virtual world you can dodge (avoid those unnecessary skirmishes to conserve energy on the way to a bigger battle) and some you cannot. With a wealth of involving characters and scenes in this Dungeons and Dragons adventure to meet, greet and maim, this should keep most punters happy for a good couple of weeks.
Overall, this is more of the same, without the Lord of the Rings license. Using the same engine, FRDS follows the same mixture of RPG, stealth and action. Although without the attached value of Tolkien's magical myth, the game itself plays better than original. While the recognisable favourites are replaced with nameless drones, the graphics, playability and cut scenes blow TTT away. The strength of FRDS is the ability to transcend these associations and really involve the player.
While unoriginal in terms of its predecessor and the market at large, this is, nevertheless an involving saga. As good to watch and share as to play alone- important really, as it is sadly lacking the multiplayer option that fuelled the slashing, hacking and magic of the Lord of the Rings console efforts. All in all, it's great fun, if a tad repetitive. There may be more to it then we saw, but we were left with the feeling we'd seen it all before.