08 September 2010

Demon Stone

I draw inspiration from only two places: Books and Video Games. Movies aren't really my thing. You see, I tend to talk straight through them constantly, not in the irritatingly loud voice, but in whispers to whoever else is there. I'm not good at passively absorbing media, I'm really not, and in fact, I think that's one of the biggest problems with people today.

But that's a subject for another day. 

Today I want to talk about Demon Stone. 

A Playstation 2 game released in 2003, it's essentially a hack-and-slash brawler, a formula as old as video games themselves. Remember Battletoads, or Double Dragon, or Streets of Rage, or any of those games? It's the same concept, beating the shit out of hordes of similar-looking enemies and trying to get past them to whatever your destination is. 

There are a couple of welcome twists, in that you can change to any of your party members at any time (chosen from warrior, wizard, and thief), you can upgrade your equipment using the piles of gold dropped from dead enemies, and you can string together nifty little combos from the attack buttons.

The game itself is pretty varied, always having you fight different types of enemies using different combinations, and it has interesting and ever-changing landscapes. In the game, you'll fight slaad and orcs in a forest, and some sort of robot in a wizard's tower where the tower itself is fighting off the invaders, and you'll fight a giant spider on top of a flowing raft. The enemies avoid your front, instead opting to leap at you from out of melee range, or circle around you and try and stab your back. They block your attacks, and will counterattack when they're able. It's not the most excellent AI, but it's certainly serviceable, and it makes the swift and leaping orcs feel different than the slow and cludgy slaad mallot-warriors.

Demon Stone reminds me of the best parts of actually roleplaying- there are cool locations to explore, cool things to fight, and plenty of neat loot to find. It's D&D stripped down to its most basic form, and it's still eniminently playable due to the excellent presentation. The graphics are good by early PS2 standards, and they're at the very least serviceable. There aren't any big hitches, and the players swing their swords and staves and daggers pretty fluidly. Everything just kind of works, which is awesome. A game like this lives and dies on its fighting system, and this one doesn't disappoint.

In fact, the fighting system is so good I've been trying to think of ways to include combination-type moves into a game's fighting system. For example, in Demon Stone you can hit X-O-X to perform a trip move, where X is the basic attack and O is the shove/kick move. You smack them with your sword, shove them back, and then sweep your leg underneath them, where you can subsequently jam your sword into their newly-prone form. Or you could hit X-O-L2 and impale your foe on your sword. Or daggers, if you're playing the rogue for some reason. It's really a pretty cool mechanic that adds a bit to the game. Do I need to just shove him back? Should I try and stab him and risk missing? It's these sorts of moves that add a taste of tactics to the game, which is welcome in a genre that mostly promotes endlessly jamming on a single button in hopes they get into your swinging range.

It's probably possible, and there's got to be an elegant way to express this sort of thing. In the meantime, this is going to get tied into my houserule that "On a natural 20, in addition to dealing maximum damage, you get an additional non-weapon attack", which means that every now and again, you get to smack some dude with your sword, and then turn around and wail on his buddy with your shield, or slash the guy and then shove him off a wall, or trip him, or punch him in the face, or whatever it is that floats your boat. But it doesn't have the same feel as Demon Stone, much to my distaste. It might just be simple enough to work, however.

Sorry about the less-than-interesting post, but you gotta write about what you're thinking about, right? If you're at all interested in fantasy-themed PS2 games, especially ones at bargain bin prices, you gotta check it out. I got my copy for $5 from Gamestop, which is usually criminally overpriced. I heartily recommend it, especially if you still have your old PS2 kicking around somewhere.

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