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Stonekeep: Bones of the Ancestors Review

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On 01/29/2012 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola

A brand new first person dungeon crawler – I know, I was surprised too.

Not Recommended.

Going into Stonekeep, I was fully aware it was a budget priced WiiWare release, but still, I was excited. It’s not very often you see a company willing to revive an extremely old and niche series, much less one that’s a first person RPG dungeon crawler. While a big deal back on the PC two decades ago, these days you just don’t see many of these types of RPGs. But alas, Stonekeep quickly and effectively dashed my excitement after just a few short minutes.

You begin your quest in a nondescript dungeon that looks like something out of Doom II. While low tech and low budget, I found the retro style inviting and interesting. Choosing from three doors, I was able to find myself a companion who would follow me through the dungeon and help protect me from the monsters within. Conveniently, they also offered up my first tutorial. "Looks like I get to swing a sword… with waggle. Alright, well I can get into that, it’s been overdone and I’ll probably get sick of it quickly, but it works." As it turns out, no, no it doesn’t work.

Somehow Alpine Studios managed to screw up waggle sword swinging. I’ll wait while you collect your jaw from the floor.

Unlike every other Wii game with a sword, you can’t simply wave the Wii Remote to swing it. You must first hold the A Button, then swing the remote, and then release at the right moment and maybe, just maybe, if you got the timing exactly right for all three steps, your sword will swing.

Your other major ability, spellcasting might just be even worse. The steps are mostly the same, but for each different spell, your gesture is unique. Typically it’s something complicated like holding the Wii Remote vertically and spinning it. You’ll also hold different button combinations so that you don’t activate the wrong spell by mis-gesturing – but it happens anyway.

Despite the convoluted controls, I managed to get a grasp on at least the sword swinging and one of the simpler spells. Now equipped, I began my quest through the dungeon. At first, I struggled to navigate. Each of the corridors looked mostly the same, the draw distance was extremely low, and there was no map to chart where I had gone and where I was going. Or so I thought. After I had nearly completed the first dungeon, they showed me how to bring up my map. How novel.

After that everything became a bit easier and I was able to work my way through the rest of the dungeon. I was mostly looking for chests with keys or buttons on far away walls to open doorways to progress. The tasks were simple, but still inviting and a nice change of pace from the typical games of this generation.

Then I got to the second dungeon. The enemies were more challenging and more abundant and the awkward controls started to get the best of me. Because all of the attack gestures are done with the Wii Remote, it can’t be used as a pointer for the typical first person controls. As such, strafing is awkward and requires holding another button because the analog stick merely turns you. As you might expect, this makes it tough to line up to attack enemies. Also, it doesn’t help when three are coming at you from all angles and your supposed companion is nowhere to be found.

Your life quickly depletes and in the heat of the battle it becomes very hard to pull off a sword swing. Every time an enemy hits you, you have to restart the attack input. When multiple enemies are hitting you, it’s basically impossible. If you're unfortunate enough to get hit by an enemy and can’t quickly evade the next attack, it can be lethal. Once enemies with projectiles are thrown into the mix, the game becomes unbearable. The controls act as a huge barrier to your success and it’s frustrating to do anything. The mundane objectives don’t help matters any either, despite being refreshing in the first dungeon.

I eventually gave up on Stonekeep because I was sick of dying. Sure there are frequent save points so you never lose tons of progress, but playing the game just wasn’t fun upon realizing how much of an impediment the controls become. I would’ve much rather seen Alpine Studios focus on the RPG elements and make more interesting quests, rather than work in the convoluted and awkward gesture system for attacking and spell casting. While you may be eager to jump back into a game that conjures memories of your youth, Stonekeep is not the way to do it.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Lukasz Balicki Staff Alumnus

01/29/2012 at 12:23 PM

Nick, I'm not sure you're aware of this but Stonekeep is based off of a 1995 game that was released for DOS bearing the same name.

Nick DiMola Director

01/29/2012 at 12:28 PM

I am, but this is actually an original production, merely based loosely on the original.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

01/29/2012 at 09:47 PM

So... WiiWare Etrian Odyssey this clearly is not.  That's sad.  I wouldn't mind a console take on that genre.  I swear asside from the previoius mentioned DS game the last one really remember playing was Eye of the Beholder.


02/22/2012 at 12:18 AM

Bummer. I guess I will be avoiding this game


07/15/2012 at 12:07 PM

The controls are so bad that this game in unplayable.

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