Ravenloft: Stone Prophet

Stone Prophet represents the best of what the old guard of AD&D computer role-playing games. In it, the first-person gaming pioneered in such hits as Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder has been honed to a killing edge, so it’s probably the best deal you’ll get if you’re after that sort of experience – albeit it looks more than a little archaic when compared to games released in the same time period. It’s a classic case of gameplay over graphics.

4Combat, spellcasting, character creation and movement are all top of line, thanks to the talented developers at DreamForge. That we can be blasé about such achievements shows how much the large technical leaps of the CD-ROM revolution have spoiled us. This type of game has never run so smoothly and efficiently, from fully animated character creation scenes, to single-click combat and simple spell management and inventory systems. All of it is brought to life with moody graphics, dense sound effects and music.

But strangely, all of that doesn’t add up to something greater than the sum of its parts. Maybe this is because the story is thin and the unique elements of the Ravenloft game world – TSR’s “horror” milieu – remain largely untapped. While Strahd’s Possession (the previous Ravenloft game) had gamers fighting werewolves, ghouls, vampires, and such in a struggle with the vampire lord Strahd, Stone Prophet turns instead to a mummy/ancient Egypt theme, which winds up feeling more like a traditional fantasy world than a horror world. Thus, a lot of what makes Ravenloft special is not adequately exploited.

There is a lot of potential for drama in the story, which takes place in the land of Har’Akir. This desert wasteland is encircled by a ring of fire, and its people live in fear of the ruler, Anhktepot. A mummy who lies entombed in an ancient temple, Anhktepot nonetheless still exerts power over the people through magic. Other forces also vie for power, and it may indeed be they who have cursed Har’Akir. Another mummy, Senmet, has forged an alliance with the undead priestess Isu Rehkotep, while another of Anhktepot’s old foes, the Hierophant, also seeks control.

All of these forces come into play slowly throughout the game, and at different times the gamer will have to perform services for each. Who will work in the best interests of the land? Who can be trusted? Who can be manipulated for the benefit of all? These are some of the questions gamers will have to consider when playing Stone Prophet.

In the end, though, things never break free of established roleplaying game patterns. When asked to perform a task, the player will inevitably do it, resulting in numerous subquests to move the story along. These quests are, inevitably, of the “find-it-and-bring-it-back” variety, and there are seals, magic jewels, scrolls, and other items littering the many levels for you to find. In this respect, Stone Prophet is still a very business as usual type of role-playing experience with more action thrown into the mix.

10 Combat-intensive RPGs like Ravenloft: Stone Prophet are simply dungeon crawls with several elements: combat, puzzles, and story. The puzzles in Stone Prophet are the same as they’ve always been: hidden doors, levers, switches, and so on, all of which we’re seen before. The story is largely sporadic, since so much emphasis is put on combat. This will, therefore, suit players who enjoy more action and character management in their AD&D games.

System Requirements: 386/33 MHz, 4 MB RAM, Win95

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