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by Alfred Giovetti
Genre: Role Playing Adventure
Released: November 8, 1995
Producer: Michael Quarles
Programmers: Michael Bernstein and Peter Oliphant
Designers: Chris Taylor and Scott La Rocca
Publisher: Interplay, 17922 Fitch Avenue, Irvine, CA 92714
Phone: 800-969-4263
Requirements: 486 DX, 33 MHz, DOS 5.0, Hard Disk drive, 2X CD ROM drive, 8 MB RAM, 256 color SVGA,

Released after five years in development on November 8, 1995, Stonekeep is one of those good old games from the good old days. Its roots go back to the original Wizardry Games that Robert Sirotech sold out of the back of his car in the days when all computer stores were individually owned and a small company did its own marketing and distribution that easily. These games were grid or step based games, where each space in the game was composed of a standard sized square grid that was 10 feet on a side loosely based on board games. skss17.jpg - 47.4 K

Within that ten foot square block in subsequent game offerings stood as many as ten adventurers and hundreds of monster antagonists. Of course in those days, monsters had to take their turn in turn-based combat sequences that could take hours, hours of figuring which weapon or spell would most easily beat the next one in line. Sonekeep reminds us of those bygone days, where stories ruled the game world and graphics were just a part of our greater imagination.

Characterizations: The dwarves, elves, fairies, and others are all beautifully done. Simply walk up to them and they start talking to you. Be careful though you could end up hitting someone and getting into a battle that you did not want, so it is wise to save prior to talking. An annoying interface blunder.

Interface: This is a very simple interface with full screen three-dimensional (3D) high-resolution graphics. The cursor is interactive and changes when it comes in contact with things. Swinging weapons and all access is with the mouse. An excellent automapping and autonotetaking system is also within the magic book you find on the first level of the castle early in the game. Each item found is identified and chronicled in the book which is divided by tabs into sections. An autotravel utility in the book would have been wonderful.

Combat: The real-time first-person perspective combat is great. When you pick up a weapon you see it on screen, and when you use it or throw it you will see it move. When dropped objects remain on the ground where they fell, including arrows, which are not destroyed by shooting into the enemy. Destroyed enemies disappear, which may disappoint some Doom players who are used to bodies littering the ground in the dungeons.

Cut scenes: Sometimes wonderful cut scenes replace the normal 3D action. For example a two headed troll in one of the earlier levels drops a rock on you when you fall into a pit. You climb on the rock to get out. All of this is done with seamless animation that is integrated into the story. Bravo!

Cheat: Take skull from inventory and hold it so that it is the cursor. Type left-shift, then f9. Drake’s hit points never drop below 1 after this point. Reset the cheat each time you boot the game or restore a saved game. skss24.jpg - 60.4 K

Voice actors and Musical score: But Stonekeep does not skimp on the graphics and sound department. Wahooka, a most dramatic and personality ridden character, and Fairy Players, who sing and dance a variety of performances, have to be seen to be believed. The voice actors are quite good, all parts are scripted to perfection and the humor is flawless.

Sound effects: Constant drippings and dungeon sounds echo creating an aura of suspense. You will literally be sitting on the edge of your seat.

Hint: In the first room save your game. Then go to the door out and move the door lever up and down three times. Go back around to the left and find the secret button on the wall. The button will open a secret cache with a magical dagger that is better than most of the weapons in the game.

Review References:
PC Gamer, February, 1996, page 147, 77%
Byte This, Graphics 85%, Sound 89%, Gameplay 95%, Overall 89%
Levi Fanning, PC Gamer, volume 3, number 9, September, 1996, pg. 96, Strategy.