reviews\ Feb 9, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Black Stone: Magic & Steel - XB - Review

The introductory cut scenes are some of the most incredible seen in a fantasy game. Warriors gather, then face an onrushing horde of goblin-esque monsters. Using swords and staves, the few fell the onrushing mass, until only one remains ­ the boss. High above, a solitary figure watches. When the field is clear, he reaches for the massive weapon strapped to his back, then launches himself into the air. Down he flies, toward the creature, his sword raising up and back.
He delivers the blow as he lands; cleaving the beast’s head in two and cutting the creature’s right shoulder and arm from the body. The foes are vanquished; time to pose for the group picture.

Black Stone: Steel & Magic, a Xbox release from Xicat, does indeed feature one of the most compelling opening cut scenes of late. Then the game itself reduces itself into an upgraded version of Gauntlet Dark Legacy.

The story for Black Stone is rather simple: it has been a thousand years since the dark mages were defeated at Zedan, and instead of vanishing completely from the land, they lay hidden in the Tower of Babylon. It may have taken a century, but for the dark mages, that was not a time spent idle. Their powers have grown and finally they have been able to awaken the ancient volcano known as Moon-eye. Moon-eye has weakened the powers of the Holy Light, which was protecting the land.

Without that protection, the dark mages were able to steal the souls of the people of Zedan and turn them into slaves. And the leader of the group, Xylon, has managed to secure many pieces of the Black Stone, which has fed his power and led him to challenge for control of the world.

As one of five character classes, your job is to stop him. This game is basically a dungeon crawl through 26 levels. As you move along, you collect Black Stones hidden in the level. Monsters drop gold and spells and keys. The keys open a chest holding other treasure, as well as food to help heal health-point loss.

While this game bears a striking resemblance to Gauntlet, Black Stone does have some features that will lure players to its arcade-like game play. You can actually find creatures to ride, which will attack for you. They are on a timer though, and after a certain amount of time, they will disappear.

The game also features a different array of moves, and even melee combatants can carry and use missile weapons.

The camera angle, though it does follow the action, is fixed on one side of the dungeon, which doesn’t afford the best view of all that was happening.

Black Stone Magic & Steel is, more or less, a Gauntlet clone. It does have some improved graphical attributes, the action is a little more fluid, but this game borrows from the style of gaming, sound and set-up that made Gauntlet Dark Legacy so popular. If you have played Gauntlet and are looking for more of the same style of gaming experience, you will enjoy Black Stone.

This game contains blood and violence, and rated T (teen).


Gameplay: 7
The mapboards are big, but linear in nature. This is a maze, with a pop-up map that will help you thread your way through from the start to the finish. Collecting power-ups along the way is part of the key of the game.

Graphics: 7.9
Walls are not necessarily impenetrable. You can stand on one side and hack the mobs on the other to death. The animation and special effects are improved over Gauntlet, and you have to be careful what you target. You can do damage to fellow players in the multiplayer setting.

Sound: 7
This is average, all the way.

Difficulty: Medium
The game’s challenge is tied to working through the monsters from one end of the level to the next. The control elements have a short learning curve, and this is a dungeon crawl, with simple puzzles, but a lot of enemies to work through.

Concept: 6.5
This may have some new and/or improved elements, but this is a clone, nonetheless.

Multiplayer: 7.5
Much like Gauntlet, this game is locked so that multiple gamers cannot get too far from one another. However, this game is more fun when playing in a group.

Overall: 7.2
This is the same score Gauntlet Dark Legacy received. This may have slightly better graphics, and some new elements, but this game is virtually a clone arcade role-playing game. That is not a bad thing, though, if you like Gauntlet.


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