In the late 90’s and early 2000’s RPGs were pouring onto the gaming market at an amazing rate. The SNES boom of RPGs was over and the original Sony Playstation had taken that crown, offering developers more space to create more epic adventures. The RPG market was rife with great titles such as Breath of Fire III and IV, Dragon Quest VII, an endless supply of Final Fantasies and FF remasters, Xenogears, Vagrant Story, Vandal Hearts, the start of the Suikoden series, Azure Dreams, The Legend of Dragoon, the list could go on nearly forever.
Among the sea of those memorable RPGs there was one by the name of Darkstone (Darkstone: Evil Reigns everywhere else in the world) that crept into the ranks and sat there, quietly and seemingly became forgotten without much notice at all. Released for both the PC and Playstation, Darkstone is considered an Action Adventure RPG, but I personally feel it adds some quality dungeon crawling into the mix as well.
In Darkstone you’ll be choosing one of four classes, which offer both male and female avatars, to seek out and collect the seven crystals which will form the Time Orb to defeat the evil Lord Draak, who has just awoken from a previous attempt to snuff out his existence. Since Lord Draak is now awake many of his minions inhabit the world of Uma now, bringing chaos and despair to many across the lands. Yeah, the story sounds cheesy, but every good RPG needs something to get players motivated.
Choose your class, and gender, name your character and begin the adventure! You’ll start out in the main town where you can learn spells, buy, sell, repair and even upgrade equipment and do all the normal things RPGs offer. The first thing you may notice is there are only three camera angles and none of them are particularly good, but that’s just the way many games were back in that era, so it’s not just this game it was just ignorance of the technology. Also, remember when I said you can upgrade equipment? Well there are limits to that, because the more powerful any given piece of equipment becomes the weaker it’s durability is, just something to be aware of.
Once you’re ready you’ll exit the town and be welcomed to the Land of Ardyl, in which you’ll begin battling many of Lord Draak’s minions, both above ground and while adventuring deep into loot filled dungeons. As you kill, you’ll gain experience and sometimes you’ll obtain loot such as articles of armor and weapons, potions, food, gold among other items. Some of this loot will need to be taken back to town and be identified by Madame Irma before it’s full potential is revealed. Once you’ve obtained enough experience you’ll gain a new level and be allowed to set skill points into four different attributes: Strength, Health, Magic and Agility.
To keep your adventures going you can purchase potions to replenish your health and your magic, as well as spells to regain health. Should you get into a battle and run out of magic or potions to keep yourself alive, don’t worry, you’ll just respawn minus some of your items and durability of your equipment. In Darkstone death is not the end, but it is a bit frustrating.
Some things I find surprising about Darkstone are, firstly, that the maps seem to be fairly good sizes and, since this is the beginning of disc based video games, the loading times that do exist don’t seem to take all that long. Also there is a rest feature, which can only be used when minions are not around, that allows you to recuperate health and magic. One of my favorite features is the fast travel system that allows you to fast travel to the entrance of places you’ve previously visited, making getting around much quicker and easier.
While not the most complex RPG, Darkstone is still quite an enjoyable RPG. There are plenty of dungeons and quests to do, but it may feel a bit much of the same eventually, it really depends on the person playing. My only real complaint would be how I felt the UI was a bit clunky until I became more familiar with it. Almost immediately after booting up my nearly 16 year old saves for this game the nostalgia came rushing back. I ended up playing for quite some time before I remembered I needed to buckle down and start writing the review. Darkstone is just a good old RPG that not many people seem to have tried.
About the author
Samuel Floyd first fell into video gaming with the Atari 2600...in the mid-90s! Always late into the system wars, Samuel enjoys that as he acquires them when they're cheap and the hot titles of yesteryear are bountiful. Samuel loves RPGs, his favorite being Crystalis for the NES.
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