It should have stayed in the dark.
Take 2 Interactive has set an excellent example of why some games should stay on the PC and never, ever, be ported to a console. Not that Darkstone was a particularly thrilling PC game, mind you. But at least it could have been ported with some degree of care and quality. As it stands, the PSX version of Darkstone is as forgettable as they come.
Being an RPG, Darkstone has somewhat of a story line. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A thousand years ago, a great war between good and evil tormented the land. The forces of good finally overcame the dark horde when the goddess of light created a special weapon to drive the evil ones away. Years later, a follower of the bad guys has taken the form of a powerful dragon and has started the war anew. And yes, it is up to one person to stop evil from sprouting up in the land of peace.
Yeah, that’s about as original as a Michael Bolton song. Unfortunately, a lack of originality is only the beginning of Darkstone‘s problems.
The game is essentially a generic dungeon crawl. You roam back and forth from dungeon to town, hacking away monsters and upgrading your little hero along the way. Standard fare…though they barely got any of it right.
Before the so-called adventure begins, you chooses one of several characters from four classes: Warrior, Wizard, Thief, or Priest. And of course each character has his/her own strengths and weaknesses.
Speaking of weaknesses, staring at the graphics in Darkstone is like gazing upon Yukk’s mug without the doghouse helmut. There should be a disclaimer: Warning: Prolonged exposure to Darkstone will lead to optical implosion! Almost every graphical detail hurts – the backdrops, character models, enemies and environments are all horrible. While this kind of garbage might have narrowly gotten by in the early Playstation days, they are no means acceptable by today’s standards.
You know you’ve encountered bad programming when you can see parts of a character emerge from the other side of a wall. Nothing assaults your senses more and reminds you that you’re only playing a game like bad collision detection. Boo!
You would hope that a game with such limited graphical abilities would at least have decent loading times since there isn’t much to process as far as eye candy. In this aspect, however, Darkstone takes another sip from the fountain of suck. Saving my game takes more than half a minute each time. I can barely hold my breath that long.
The controls are as reliable as Robert Downey Jr. in rehab. Darkstone features real time combat; in theory, you hit a button and your pixilated counterpart swings his axe. So I become confused when I hit the button and I don’t see any axe swingin’. Sluggish.
Fortunately, it doesn’t matter too much because the AI is a horror story all its own. As I’m dispatching a group of giant wasps, a goblin steps into the fray. He gets a couple of lucky shots in and then – get this – starts walking away, turns around and stops. I walk over and give him a taste of my steel. No response. So I cut him down and he dies without any retaliation whatsoever. Like shooting dead fish in a barrel with an uzi.
In perhaps the game’s only saving grace, it costs an amazingly affordable 10 bucks. Of course, there’s a good reason why they priced it so cheap. Compared to the wealth of other RPGs on the PSX market, this one can’t hold a candle. If you’re losing sleep at night and are in need of some real-time combat, get Vagrant Story. If it’s too late and you already own this atrocity, just break it up and try to feed it to ducks or something.