|The player is then ushered into the
character creation section. Here's one thing that differentiates
Darkstone from Diablo ... in the single player mode, you get to play TWO
In the pure brawn section we have the trusty Warrior (read: Arnold
Schwarzeneggar in Conan the Barbarian) with a very impressive
upper body and the Amazon (with an equally impressive upper body). In
the sorcery category we have the Wizard (no, he does NOT look like Harry
Potter or Merlin the Magician) and of course the Sorceress. In the
clerical department we have the Monk, who is supposed to be like one of
those militant order types (looks like a Shaolin monk), and the
Priestess (who looks jolly good). Lastly in the field of stealth we have
the Assassin and the Thief (Darkstone's answer to Diablo's
Rogue). Choose any two and you are ready to roll.
With your champions, you are duly charged with locating seven
crystals, which are to be combined to form a potent weapon against Draak.
You get to explore four main regions (which cover both outdoors and
underground) over some 30-odd dungeons, solving quests which one way or
the other leads to the discovery of a crystal. Once you form the
artifact, the Darkstone, with the crystals, you meet the final boss and
try hard to thrash him. Simple, no?
What you need
According to the developers, you need a computer with the following
minimum specifications to run Darkstone: Pentium (or equivalent)
233 MMX, 4MB 3D AGP video card or 8 MB PCI compatible accelerator card
(uses Direct 3D), 170MB hard drive space, 32MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM drive,
keyboard, and mouse.
Enjoy the Scenery
There is a reason why a 3D graphics accelerator is highly
recommended for playing Darkstone. Trying the game first on a
computer with 8MB video RAM (AGP, but no hardware acceleration) made the
gameplay somewhat tedious and jerky. But on a system with a 3D
accelerator and 32MB of video RAM, Darkstone was simply
The Darkstone game engine allows the player nearly complete
control over camera angles (zoom in, zoom out, pan to the left, right,
etc). And lots of effort must have gone into the graphics, because they
are awe-inspiring. Imagine having the freedom to zoom in and out and pan
the camera view while taking on the enemy. Granted, you might not have
the time to enjoy the scenery while you at it, but once the coast is
The music, too
The sound effects are okay, the music is fine ... nothing
particularly impressive, but there is a bonus of sorts. In town are a
couple of minstrel. Drop some coins into their bowl and the game
launches into music video-like mode, with the woman entertainer
performing the "theme song". Cute.
It takes two to tango
Although you get to play two champions, you are in control of only
one at any one time (your pick). What happens is that the computer takes
over the other champion, who will follow your champion around, attacking
enemies, etc. The sidekick's AI (artificial intelligence) isn't too
stupid either, which means he or she won't be standing around doing
nothing while the monsters do a hasty makeover of the champion's
physical well-being. The sidekick won't be able to perform actions like
drinking potions, switch spells, etc ... instead he or she performs the
default actions (which you should have selected before relinquishing
control). These include attacking, casting the chosen spell, etc.
One problem, though. Because the computer's reactions are faster than
yours, the sidekick may well end up getting more experience points than
Defeating monsters and completing quests gains your champions
experience points, which in turn allows you to beef up their attribute
scores (Strength, Dexterity, etc). Depending on your champions' levels,
you can also have them visit the town sage and learn skills appropriate
to the champions' classes, which is more like Diablo II than Diablo.
The Random Factor
Like Diablo, Darkstone randomises itself from session
to session ... the mix of monsters that throw themselves at your
champions, traps (especially the spike traps - urghh!) and quests differ
each time. The four main areas are the same in shape and size but the
buildings and people who populate them (except for the main town) change
depending on the quests you receive. Although there may be some
repetition, each game can be wildly different. That surely adds to the
What about multiplayer version?
As in the case of Diablo II, I did not get the chance to try
out Darkstone's multiplayer game. However, several visits to
websites with Internet reviews of Darkstone reveal that Darkstone's
single player game is much, much better than the multiplayer game.
Issues like game instability (especially over the Internet) were cited
reasons for this.
Between Diablo II and Darkstone, I prefer Darkstone,
but that could be because the computer system used could run the game
just fine. Without a decent 3D accelerator, stick with Diablo II.
Publisher: Gathering of Developers
Developer: Delphine Software International
The finest warriors are born in the heart of Ardyl's forests. From
their earliest years, they have to become tough and develop absolute
physical strength to be able to confront the dangers lurking in their
region. As children, they learnt to survive in the most hostile of
environments, to overwhelm wild beasts with their bare hands and, above
all, to fight the goblins and skeletons, which abound in their land.
Their strength fills their enemies with dread and there are very few
that would dare challenge them in single combat. They stalk their
enemies with the patience of a hunting cat, and can swoop down on them
with the speed of a hawk. They do have once weakness, however: they
dislike magic because they consider it a demeaning means of combat. They
prefer by far the incisive cut and hard steel of the sword to the use of
Amazons are fierce horsewomen who live in the region of Ardyl. They
are entrusted at a young age to a Mother and soon become formidable
warriors, showing no fear of either physical strength or magic powers.
They learn as a group to compensate for their lack of physical strength
through their agility and flexibility. Guided by their Mother, they must
continually undergo a serious of stern trials with the aim of
strengthening their spirit and making them a match for any warrior. The
worst of these "character-building" trials involves them
venturing into the goblins' den and bringing back the skull of their
The Amazons gain the upper hand in direct combat thanks to their agility
and ability to anticipate their opponent's blows. Their enemies describe
it as being involved in a relentless dance of death. Similarly to the
warriors, the Amazons have mastered the use of the sword, demonstrating
impressive accuracy. It is, indeed, very rare for them to use magic.
The greatest wizards come from the region of Marghor. Tradition has
it that the ancient wizards always come to Marghor to choose those who
have the Gift to become apprentice wizards. This happens when candidates
are in their adolescence. Their whole life is then turned upside down.
They return with their master to his tower, a solitary place conducive
to reading and learning. These young wizards spend most of their time
immersed in the spell books of the ancient wizards. For years on end
they wear their eyesight out poring over scrolls, spending endless
nights in their master's library. And then gradually, they begin to
master increasingly difficult and complex spells.
Unfortunately, however, the wizards' towers have now disappeared since
the lizard and rat men invaded the region. They carried out attacks on
the towers, killing may apprentices in the process....
The young wizards have now been left with no alternative other than to
fight for survival. But as they have never handled weapons they can only
rely on their magic powers to defend themselves, as they have always
preferred to concentrate on developing their minds, rather than their
bodies. But, despite their lack of any physical strength, they have
managed to impress their enemies with the intensity of their spells.
Very little is known about the sorceresses' early years. Rumour has
it that they learnt their magic by themselves in the shady clearings of
Marghor's forests. Others allege that the goddess Kaliba, herself, took
them under her wing. The source of the sorceresses' power is Nature
itself. And indeed, they have no match when it comes to knowing the
right plants to combine in order to create terrible spells.
But their most terrifying power, which may be seen as either a gift or a
curse, is lycanthropy, which transforms them into a beast, half woman,
half wolf. The sorceresses are universally feared on account of their
potent magic. However, for some time now, the ingredients that make up
their strange concoctions have become more difficult to find. Worse
still, the rat and lizard men have overrun their territory. The
Sorceresses realised that they wouldn't be strong enough to confront
them, so they had to leave the safe cover of the trees and venture
further out towards the villages.
The village inhabitants still eye them with mistrust, even today, but
the sorceresses pay little heed to this as it is vital for them to keep
on the move, roaming the land of Uma in search of new ingredients that
will enhance their magic powers.
In the past, before the darkness descended, many monasteries were
established in the region of Ormar. The prospective monks were sent to
these monasteries where they became good men, enjoying the respect of
all. The monks spent many years in this place of prayer, learning
various combat techniques and spells. Although less accomplished than
wizards or warriors in these respective arts, the monks have the
advantage of being highly competent in the complementary disciplines of
war and magic. Isolated from the rest of the world in their peaceful
haven, they have had years to master the use of blunt weapons (i.e.
those weapons other than swords). The staff has become their favourite
They have also studied white magic, so that they can use it to help
their neighbour and conquer Evil. There are now far fewer monks than
there were in the past. Nearly all of the monasteries have fallen under
attacks from the wyverns sweeping across the region.
Monks now represent good, as well as life and its combat. They are still
held in high regard because of both their skills with a staff and their
ability to heal wounds.
As with the monks, the priestesses have divided their lives between
religious devotion and learning the arts of combat and magic. The source
of their strength is their faith and they fight in the name of the gods.
In a world increasingly threatened every day by the Darkness, they stand
out as beacons of Good and Life. During their travels they offer
assistance to beggars, and they are quite prepared to take on thieves in
direct combat, or use their magic to alleviate the suffering of the
In order to survive, assassins often begin their careers by
relieving merchants of their purses. From their youth, they know how to
move around in the dark without making a single sound and steal from
sleeping travellers. Their exploits always end up attracting the
attention of the Thieves Guild in Serkesh. The assassins have settled in
this region, so that they can benefit from the lessons of more
accomplished exponents than themselves. In time, the most able of the
young apprentices can even surpass their masters. As they are cunning
and nimble, assassins often use projectile weapons when attacking their
opponents in combat.
The thieves' reputation precedes them in the region of Serkesh. All
of these women have demonstrated at one time or other that they have the
stuff of which thieves are made. Thus, they became members of the
renowned Thieves Guild, where they could develop their natural talents
further. Within the guild they learnt to use their skills to break into
merchants' lavish residences to steal gold and precious jewels. They
also learnt how to kill sentries using projectile weapons and to set
traps for travellers at nightfall. Their skill set is considerable and
makes them very dangerous opponents, both in direct combat and when
using long range weapons.