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Friday, November 2, 2012

Dark Stone - The Truth

So I've been playing Dark Stone in short stints over the past few nights, and I can't lie... I'm enjoying the shit outta' it.  When I had chosen to play this game as the next entry on my list I had done so with the preconceived notion that I would pop it in my Playstation, get about ten minutes into it, and then hit the eject button on a bland gaming experience to have it sit on my shelf, never touched again.  The honest to god truth though is that this game has been the biggest surprise in my recent gaming experience.

This actually was exactly what I was looking for when I began this entire quest.  Maybe not this game in particular, and maybe not even a game of this style or mechanic, but the experience of wandering into something unknown and being pleasantly surprised by its quality.

The game itself actually feels like a natural precursor to what we now consider the modern RPG.  A fairly customizable "tabula rasa" character creation template on which the player can project themselves, a fully explorable (albiet somewhat 'boxed off' due to system limitations of the time) overworld map with dungeons and quests littered throughout for you to discover and a non linear system of storytelling that allows the player to explore at their own pace (although, once you figure our the flow of the game its pretty easy to figure what they want you to do next).  All of these elements exist and are done pretty well in this game.

Don't get me wrong, some of the things are cheesy as shit, like how your character lets out an almost sexual "Yeeeeeah" whenever you level up, or how the dungeons are called "Level X" clearly signifying the progression the designers would like for you to take, but these items are fairly ignorable in my opinion.

Now, aside from my RPG Quest, I have been playing a fair number of modern games whenever I get the chance, and have been let down almost as many times.  This is especially true for franchise games, many of which began in the PS1 era, their quality overshadowing games like Dark Stone and forever relegating it to the recesses of pop culture history.  For all the innovations those games have gone through over the years, for all the graphical updates and play mechanic tweaks they've gone through, have they gotten any better?  At this moment in particular I have one such release sitting next to my console, begging for my attention amongst the throngs of other state of the art implementations of technological wonder, yet all I can think about is playing a game that its predecessors would have scoffed at in its day.

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