I’m playing this infuriating little Roguelike right now, and it’s making me really fall in love. Stoneshard is the name, and it’s from developer Ink Stain Games and publisher HypeTrain Digital. This is high challenge gameplay that requires careful management of several aspects of a character, and that complexity is a massive strength for the game. I honestly am still struggling to make much of the game several hours in, but this scratch and scramble for survival has made for several excellent and naturally occuring RPG gameplay moments. Once I figure out my way around the difficulty curve, this could be in the runnings for an all time favorite.
I got my rear end handed to me in combat quickly, and often. It took some time and doing, but I managed to figure out a good way to struggle through with a heavily range-based character. He’s got a real shitty bow and isn’t very good at hitting his targets. But it usually works to whittle them down before they enter knife range anyway. Then me and old ‘dull & rusty’ get to work and hope to survive. Combat encounters become a lot of first aid for me, and making sure to take the time to approach them correctly is often the difference between success and loot, or starting the day over from my save point. The application of a couple key skills can really save my buns.
Once I figured out the best gameplay loop for my style, I was able to garner some success. Buying armor upgrades and weapons feels great. It feels earned. I’m having to employ smart tactics even in my shopping. I bought a pair of bracers instead of that fancy new belt quiver I wanted, because I just don’t lose enough arrows to warrant a quiver yet. Gold is scarce, and even small advantages can make or break the next mission attempt. The first time I upgraded my bow, it was an exciting event with real gravitas. Immediately after, I took down three wolves and barely even almost died. This game makes you manage so many intricate little details, it makes the role play really come alive.
Managing your adventurer is a huge part of the game. Keeping their morale high leads to very helpful buffs. Same with physical health. I try to keep my character’s immune system high by eating plenty and supplementing onions and other root vegetables when I can. It helps me recover from injury too. Fascinating game mechanics. There’s even a buff/debuff for eating too much in too short a period of time.
My last run went so poorly so suddenly that it made my head spin. I was heading off to some old cemetery to secure the town’s sacred good luck relic, because apparently a pervert moved in and is likely doing very bad things that will make the town feel even more cursed than it already does. There’s a hardscrabble feel to this first place you start off in. Works amazingly well with the unforgiving gameplay to set the stage for some very grim and dark worldbuilding. Again, I’m in love with what I’ve experienced so far. So anyway, I head out to shoo a pervert away from the graveyard. It is quickly revealed that this pervert is a dangerous dark wizard, and his skeletal minions don’t really mind being peppered with arrows or poked with rusty daggers. Doesn’t do all that much to mess up their day, but they’re quite skilled at messing up mine. I barely scraped my character out of there, and with three injured limbs I began dragging my poor guy back to town. The pain from his wounds couldn’t be ignored, those undead guards were jerks. Each step was agony, and only the occasional sanity-destroying,mostly poisonous mushroom kept him going. This game is nuts. I can’t get enough.
There are many systems at play here, but one of my favorites so far is the first aid mechanics. I’m learning what to use, when, for what injuries. What level of wounds I can survive easily, with hard effort, or not at all. It’s a complex and fascinating gameplay element and it feels highly rewarding as I unravel its secrets.
This entire game gives me that delightful feeling of dangerous adventure, coupled with the thrill of exploration while managing several difficult mechanics. Moody music meets nostalgic graphics, and the game mechanics all seem to shine. This one stands out among roguelikes. I find it exemplary so far. If I can manage to learn its unforgiving systems better, a part two for this review may be warranted. There’s a really interesting story and world being built here, and if I could just suck at this game a little less…well. We’ll see. Until next time.
When he isn’t playing video games he also write books. Come check them out! https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09B3DCJZ3/