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  PlayStation 2
  Release Date:
  September 14, 2004
  Stormfront Studios



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Demon Stone
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One could make the case that Lord of the Rings inspired nearly every RPG of the modern era, including Dungeons and Dragons, and much of the entire sword and sorcery genre in general. So it comes as little surprise that Stormfront Studios followed its previously successful Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers with a Dungeons and Dragons themed effort that feels eerily similar to its predecessor. Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone simultaneously builds on LOTR: TT as well as actually offering fewer bangs for the proverbial buck.

You're thrust into a world wherein your characters have unknowingly freed two warring individuals (Ygorl, the Slaad Lord and Sereka, of the Githylanki) that were entrapped in a Demon Stone. Your characters range from the typical brutish fighter (Rannek), frail sorcerer (Illius) and the rogue/thief (Zhai). Rannek is the character that you'll most often find yourself using to hack and slash your various enemies with his sword and throwing axes. He's early on bestowed with Ogre Power gloves and is clearly the best choice to hack through various elements that fall before you. Zhai is a half drow, half wood elf female character that can use stealthy attacks, hide in various places and is also the only character capable of jumping in the game. Finally, Illius is your frail but powerful sorcerer who will be mandatory in many boss battles. In an interesting Madden-esque manner, you can switch via the characters in real time via the d-pad and the success of various scenarios depends on your ability to use/choose the right character. In one early scenario, you'll have to use the sorcerer to stop Sereka from opening a portal that spells certain doom for a village of Wood Elves via spells cast from his staff.

Demon Stone has some roots in traditional RPG's in that the characters gain experience levels and can choose particular upgrade paths for various skill sets that you determine. You can choose different combos, both defensive and offensive, using a point system that's determined by experience levels. The most daunting problem here is that, invariably, you're better of using the traditional "X, X, X" button mashing method than any of the power-ups that are available to you via experience progression. The items that can be used, however, are typical of most D&D adventures in that you can purchase more/better weapons and armor via the gold that you accumulate. Gone is the traditional merchant interface where you have to sell the stuff that you don't need to buy the stuff that you do. At the end of each level here, the old is credited immediately towards the purchase of the new.

Cinematically, the game shines with incredible cut scenes that are gorgeously rendered. The narration is done by Patrick Stewart (of X-Men and Star Trek: TNG fame) and the tale told is authored by R.A. Salvatore, who has inked over a dozen Dungeon and Dragons novels. Needless to say, the story and delivery are immersing and highly engaging. The musical score accompanying the title are also of unmistakable quality. Perhaps there are a few too many clichés that are delivered banally by the main three characters, but it's easy to overlook in the grand scheme of things.

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