Ravenloft: Stone Prophet
Well, hardly any time at all has passed since I played Menzoberranzan, and the Dreamforge team is back with this, the second chapter in the Ravenloft saga. It seemed to me that the dust had hardly time to settle on my spell book and my blade had barely dulled when I was dragged 'kicking and screaming' into this new adventure.
Like its predecessor, Stone Prophet is a game in which you are offered the choice of two characters to take on your quest, and you pick up other characters on the way as you see fit. As with the first game I selected a Mage and a Paladin for my primary party. A Mage because with his or her spell casting ability, they are always very handy persons to have around but, of course, it is extremely useful to supplement their skills with those of a fighter of some sort. A Paladin is the perfect choice, because they are also endowed with divine healing powers. Quite portentous really, I knew even before I started out that I was going to weather this adventure very well. Because, as always, I imagined my Paladin was in the service of the Egyptian Goddess Isis, and Ravenloft: Stone Prophet has a distinct Egyptian flavour so I was certain to be showered with blessings.
After loading the game select the introduction icon to view the intro sequence and learn that you are again called into the service of Lord Dhelt of Elturel. That disaster prone land is once more under threat, and this time the threat comes in the form of a wall of terrifying light. You immediately don your hero's cap and embark upon your quest. You set out towards the light only to find yourself somehow transported into a vast desert where a wretched woman lies dying of some fearful wasting disease. She is the first of many characters you will meet on your journey and delivers the first instalment in the story of the forsaken land of Har' Akir which you will gradually fit together as you come across more pieces of the puzzle.
Half the fun in this game is learning what has gone before so I won't elaborate too much here. Suffice to say Har' Akir is part of an ancient Egyptian-type kingdom that is suffering the eternal wrath of the very displeased Sun God, Ra, all because Anhktepot, an ancient Pharaoh, meddled in the affairs of gods in his search for divinity. As a result the desert land of Har' Akir is cursed -- beset with disease and overrun with crazed monsters -- and you have landed yourself in the midst of it all.
Before you leave you must lift the curse, and the only way to achieve this is to explore the land in minute detail and follow the clues that await. You must chat to everyone you meet (if they're so inclined, that is), listen carefully to their good advice, and take care of the favours they ask of you in order to progress in this game. Along the way you will find numerous scraps of information, some of it recited to you by the Har' Akir walls that have mouths rather than ears, and other tidbits you will find in scrolls and parchments that litter the land. Take note of everything you hear and read and the story will be filled in for you, and you will be pointed in the right direction to solve the various puzzles to ultimately return the land to its former glory. There is a huge expanse of desert that must be explored and the village of Muhar, plus a number of labyrinth like dungeons inhabited by all sorts of very unfriendly creatures.
There are plenty of riddles to ponder, clues to collect, secret walls to locate and buttons to press, not to mention trapdoors and teleporters and all kinds of objects that function as keys. Some of the dungeons in Har' Akir are filled with poisoned air and you'll need to work out how to survive them, in others you must dodge fire balls whilst searching for clues. There is a wall of hieroglyphics to translate and you will need to find many items to solve the puzzles and get past the barriers that block your way.
In all there are around 10 different labyrinth-like locations to explore and scores of objects to find. And practically nothing is lying right where you need it. At the very least that all important key is likely to be down two levels and behind a secret door, or through a red transporter in another part of the dungeon. Although it's just as likely to be in some other completely separate dungeon that you haven't as yet discovered, let alone found a way to enter.
As well as plenty of varied characters to engage in conversation, including a couple of creatures and a timid ghost, there are a number of characters who will be only too pleased to join your party -- some maybe are a little too pleased. A word of warning here, and especially for those of you who have a soft spot for little cuddly things. If you are kind-hearted and take pity on the 'lonely young troll' and ask him to join your party, then be prepared to put up with him for the remainder of your quest if you don't want to break his heart. I took him along for a while then tried to dismiss him when I found a cleric whose skills I thought would be of more use to my party, but when he wailed "nobody loves me, nobody wants me" (or words to that effect), I didn't have the heart to drop him off. (Eventually, though, he just had to go!)
If you are like me and enjoy games with lots of exploring to do, lots of objects to collect, lots of secret rooms and buttons to uncover, sprinkled with a liberal amount of puzzles, and a liberal amount of weapon wielding and spell concocting, then you too will enjoy Ravenloft: Stone Prophet.
As with Strahd's Possession and Menzoberranzan, you can manipulate the statistics of your characters and make them stronger in order to adjust the difficulty of the battles you face in the course of your travels. But, in any event, the fighting component of Stone Prophet isn't too harrowing as the experience level of your characters seems to increase relatively quickly. It is a game where there are lots of good deeds to do, (and you'll be rewarded for doing them), and a reasonable amount of smaller quests to take care of. In fact, you need to follow up on almost every clue, and fulfil almost all the quests in this game because there are only the odd one or two that won't have some impact on the final outcome.
Like Strahd's Possession, Ravenloft Stone Prophet is a very enjoyable Role-Playing game though there is a lot of open desert to traverse. It is not so difficult that you will spend days bashing your head against the dungeon walls, but there is enough depth in it to keep the RPG fan well and truly entertained. And I would recommend it for newer players as well as it will simply take the RPG novices amongst you a little longer to complete, and that can't be bad because you'll enjoy it for even longer.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 1995.
All rights reserved.
386/33 (486/33 recommended), 4MB RAM (8MB recommended), Dos 5.0 or higher, CD-ROM, VGA