Stoneshard review – PC

March 14, 2020


10 word description (from official site): Challenging turn-based RPG where your tactical skills will be tested.

Every action is turn-based, including all out-of-combat movement and interactions

10 word review: Rogue-like medieval fantasy romp versus agonising start-again deaths.

Body parts can bleed, or sustain injuries requiring medical assistance. Leaving them untended will wreck your ‘pain’ statistic and possibly have long-term repercussions, for example dying and re-loading.

You will like this if you enjoy: Rogue-like games where permadeath is an option. Identikit fantasy medieval-looking environments, weapons, and skill-sets. Re-loading after losing a considerable amount of progress, over and over again. Survival games where you have to manage hunger, thirst, bleeding, broken limbs, pain, intoxication, sanity, all while doing your best to level up high enough to even consider attempting the first quest.

Selecting a skill with a ranged effect draws a functional, if rather clunky looking, box to show the enemies you can hit with it

The good news: Stoneshard is currently in beta (or ‘early access’ to use Steam terminology) so a lot of the issues might possibly be dealt with when (if) it comes out of early access. Right now, it often feels unbalanced and unfair, although the heightened challenge is also a big positive for players looking for this type of die-restart-die-restart game. Getting to the actual ‘good’ part of the good news section, the game does look quite nice, the interface is generic but almost instantly intuitive, weapon choice and skill customisation let you play pretty much any type of generic medieval fantasy class you want to play. Combat doesn’t feel unfair all the time, just when you, for example, get ganked by a virtually unkillable bear after a good run of kills and pelt-collecting.

Here, I am tactically waiting at a safe distance while the totally overpowered bear kills those two ruffians

The bad news: Due to its ‘early access’ status, the game isn’t complete. The option to create your own character isn’t available yet, although the menu option is there so it’s definitely a feature they’re likely to be adding at some point. The game can only be saved at the pub in the starter town, and at various locations out in the wilderness after you discover the locations by heading towards ‘points of interest’ on the map. I didn’t find this as bad as I thought it was going to be, and once you unlock a few of the camps (extra save locations), the fear of wandering far from town is significantly reduced.

Enchanting items is random. Buy an enchant scroll, use it on an item, receive a random enchantment that should, just about, match the item you’re putting it on. Fingers crossed, and I got a fairly decent upgrade on this axe

Permanent turn-based movement adds a veneer of tedium to out-of-combat wandering. You can’t just hold down the left mouse button and have your character follow the cursor around, you have to keep clicking to make the character move. Also, every other character only moves when you move, so it does look a bit weird in town at times.

Animal pelts sell for a decent amount, but they take up a lot of inventory space. The wolf pet takes up six slots, but the moose pelt takes up even more

The inventory fills up very fast, some items take up a massive 3×3 grid of slots, and nothing stacks. Some food and medicine sort of stacks, for example you can get cooked meat with more than one use, so it’s a bit like having it stack but not really. One final bit of bad news, there aren’t multiple character/save slots, so if you want to try a different character you’re going to have to lose your current one. Hopefully that will be sorted out during the early access period.

Arcadelife verdict: Taking into consideration the early access status of the game, and a few moderately frustrating features, I do like Stoneshard and I keep going back to it because I’ve figured out a couple of ways to make money, how to avoid or escape from most certain-death encounters, and I like games with constant incentives to level up and dump points into cool-sounding skills. One thing about the skills – you learn basic skill unlocks and skill trees by buying (possibly finding, although I haven’t yet) skill books and reading them. This isn’t a minor skill-boost type of book, like in Skyrim for example, this is where you can have a sword-and-shield dude buy a magic book, read it, and get a specific school of magic added to their skill-tree choices. That’s pretty cool.

Don’t have natural bow skills on your character? Buy a book and learn!

Overall, playing the ass-hat’s advocate card, I could say there’s absolutely nothing in Stoneshard that we haven’t seen before in one or more fantasy-themed role-playing games. Does Stoneshard present these tropes in a stunningly new and exciting way? Nope, it doesn’t. Does it feel old and tired? No, not really. In fact, it feels like it could end up being a compulsive little time-sink if they polish it a bit, maybe let some items stack in the inventory (or give us more inventory pages to unlock), and turn off turn-based out-of-combat movement and actions.

Lots and lots of skill trees. This is the axe skill tree, see the list of others on the left…that’s some character customisation right there. Note the grey ones – read books to unlock those, or don’t. It’s up to you.

As it is, Stoneshard is well worth picking up while it’s in early access, but don’t expect an easy time!

Arcadelife rating

Presentation – 7/10
Visuals – 7.5/10
Controls – 9/10
Content – 6/10
Fun – 6/10
Final rating – 7.5/10



This review was written on a dasKeyboard Model S Professional.
I also write novels – JW Tapper website

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