Red Stone: Isometric rogue-likes aren’t dead

January 3, 2009

FROM JASON’S AND ANDREW’S DIGITAL SWORDS — I can tell you this: After a fairly obsessive 10-day frenzy, we are pretty much done playing Red Stone.

We’ve been at the boiling point waiting for Diablo III, eager to click on a new brood of monsters in sprawling isometric dungeons, all in the hopes of picking up a Gut Siphon Demon Crossbow with +160 to 220 percent enhanced damage, or a MetalGrid Amulet with +400 to 450 to attack rating.

There are some sinners out there who hate the Diablo franchise, saying they are simple games of endless mouse-clicking with no skill or merit. Critics say that such rogue-likes are just elaborate fantasy-themed dress-up dolls.

Well, our dealers over at Blizzard keep teasing us with screens and trailers of the new game, but they aren’t giving up a release date or any system specs yet. In the meantime, we’ve been forced to find another way to get our fix.

We weren’t about to play World of Warcraft, so we went looking for online MMOs to vet and found Red Stone. The 2D online adventure looks like it was was designed in Caligari’s trueSpace, and plays almost exactly like Diablo II, albeit not nearly as gothic and spooky.

There are a couple of things that set K2 Network’s MMO apart from Blizzard’s best-seller. First, there are droves of monsters to fight, and while there are a few pallet swaps the makers impress by giving us a huge variety of creatures to fight.

There are the cliche kobolds, turtles, leeches, trolls, and wolves, of course. Then there are chicken fighters, octopuss tongues, lizardmen, nix warriors, zombies, axe skeletons, giant crabs, vampires, tree men, highway thieves, conjurers, halberdiers, evil mantises, and iron golems.

And those are just within spitting distance of your hometown.

Red Stone‘s other strength lies in its class sets. There are 12 to choose from, and each has the ability to transform into another character type to keep you from getting bored.

For instance, the shield-handling squire can at any time transform into the heavy-damage dealing warrior. The magician (see Andrew in the video above) can transform into a physical-damage-dealing werewolf. The necromancer can transform into a demon. The priest can transform into a fallen angel.

There are also princesses, tamers, summers, monks, and thieves.

Each transformation opens up its own slew of skills, and the trees are impressively concocted. Levels (with strength, magic, etc. attributes) are gained separately from skill points, which go toward gaining and empowering new techniques and abilities.

And insanely, the skill cap is set at 999. I hit 45 with my warrior, while Andrew hit 25 with his magician, and that was far enough. There were ridiculous people running around at level 160 and 240 the last time I logged in.

Cooperating over Skype, we let the MMO fever run its course without needing to log that many hours. And now we’re done. At least until Diablo III hits shelves. Then it’s back to happily exploring and grinding.