Stoneshard is a challenging, open-world, turn-based RPG developed by Ink Stains Games whose only other work on Steam is “12 is Better Than 6”. Set as a combination of old school games like Diablo and Adam to more modern games like The Banner Saga and Darkest Dungeon, Stoneshard seemingly tries to both pull off a nostalgic resemblance to the past while updating it for newer players. Releasing into early access after a successful Kickstarter campaign that gained $101,186 against their $30,000 goal, Stoneshard is now able to be played with a prologue and sandbox mode, though it is far from complete.
For the smidgen of the story we get a sight of, we start in control of an old man by the name of Verren who is currently imprisoned by the undead and vampires. As a trader, arcanologist, and sorcerer, Verren is well equipped to fight against the undead and eventually escape the church he is imprisoned beneath, not before he vanquishes a major boss and obtaining the first of many stone shards.
With his escape and a combination of grave wounds and old age, Verren passes the torch to our own character from a choice of 3. While we cannot make our own character that is on offer much later in development as sometime in 2021. From selecting our character we are then tasked with undertaking 3 quests to acquire a caravan to take us across the world. At the time of writing, these 3 quests are just some of the randomly generated ones currently in the game and don’t have much bearing on the overall plot. After completing those 3 quests we are done with all the story at this time, sitting at a few hours long.
The gameplay of Stoneshard is very straightforward, the world is set up into a grid for you to walk around on by clicking with the left mouse button and when you move the world also moves similar to a turn-based game. Exploring, interacting with objects or people and attacking are the 3 main mechanics of the game, which change slightly between playthrough as the map is randomly generated alongside encounters and quests.
As you move outside of the 2 villages currently in the game you will be within dangerous forests and plains. If you keep to the roads you will be ambushed by bandits, but if you stray from the roads you will be faced with poachers, wolves and bears, oh my. Depending on your character selection, as well as your general preparation in town, you can play in one of several styles. You can go full-on 2-handed weapons, sword and shield, dual wield, bow and arrow, Pyromancy, geomancy and more. There are several skill trees to improve each aspect with more on the way.
Currently, the balance of the game is quite skewed in favour of ranged character, though only after a few levels are invested into it, and geomancy. The aim of combat is to stop enemies from getting their own turns and actions, either from using skills that allow you to move more than 1 space or to block the movement with totems from geomancy. Right now a full geomancy build is the strongest, though other builds can still be viable if you plan your actions ahead of time and don’t rush.
As you defeat enemies you will gain experience, gaining levels at certain amounts to increase your attributes and learn new skills. Attributes are a slow gain, especially if you look at the accuracy increase to ranged attacks with perception, though skills are the main thing you’re aiming for. Plenty of skills are new forms of attacks, with statuses like bleed, higher accuracy and critical damage as well as spells that affect the terrain in your favour. You will need to find treatise first to be able to learn these skills, being an expensive purchase at a shop or random spawn inside of bookshelves.
The graphic and movement style of Stoneshard reminds me heavily of old paper animation, even more so when the characters hop around to move as if it was an old-time puppet show. The drastic shift in story and dark tones to the happy-go-lucky feeling of the visuals can be off-putting for the first few hours of gameplay, but can be ignored later on when you’re more focused on survival.
The difficulty within Stoneshard is paramount, as the end result is a permadeath character swap out, akin to games like Rogue Legacy with upgrades to a caravan that has not been developed yet to improve new characters to replace the dead ones. In its current state, there is no real permadeath or swap out, simply allowing you to experiment and travel. With only a single save it can be hard to test out new builds unless you want to restart again. As it stands, I have died about 10 or so times with my character, learning the best way to play and it is truly rewarding when you find new strategies or unlock new gear to improve yourself.
In its current state, Stoneshard is really barebones. You only really have the prologue and introduction dialogue for story content, the rest is randomly generated and seemingly meaningless in the grand scheme of things. With character wipes on the horizon, I am also not too excited to delve too deep with most of my progress being deleted. Though I am interested to see as new updates go live, from the March update to the character creator.
Stoneshard is one to watch, as it has plenty of potential but requires a lot of work before it can be considered complete, and with a timeline reaching into 2022 it definitely seems like it’ll be getting that time.
Stoneshard is currently on early access on Steam for £10.99.
The game is coming to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Macintosh operating systems
The game is Developed by Ink Stains Games and Published by HypeTrain Digital
This Review is based on the PC Version of the game
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Stoneshard is challenging turn-based RPG where your tactical skills will be tested in battles with enemies, diseases and injuries alike. In the world of Aldor you’ll go on the adventure across medieval lands where you’ll decide how to approach each battle and situation. With unrestricted character development you’ll be able to wear any equipment, combine skills and invest in chosen stats to create a truly unique experience.
Product Currency: GBP
Product Price: 10.99