Preview: The Stone – The Beginnings of a Sci-Fi Space Opera

A promising start but it needs more finesse.

The short virtual reality (VR) experiences that dominated head-mounted displays (HMDs) are slowly giving way to larger story driven videogames that provide hours of content. Role playing games (RPGs) like The Mage’s Tale are becoming more common place – with Fallout 4 and Skyrim on the way – offering fantasy worlds for players to get engrossed in. If you prefer your sci-fi over magical fantasy realms then soon to released is The Stone, a kind of space opera from developer Bornteks Entertainment for HTC Vive (previewed) and Oculus Rift.

The story of The Stone begins as a classic tale, boy and girl fall for each other but her father is the domineering sort, so the lad must prove his worth. As this is sci-fi there’s no dragon to defeat, instead the protagonist signs himself up to some weird gene-therapy experiment that the father is running.

As the title is so heavily story driven, The Stone takes its time, building up some back ground while slowly introducing controls. These are the standard affair, the trigger grips items or fires your guns, the touchpad deals with teleportation while the grip buttons switch between weapons. Bornteks Entertainment has added some further gesture controls, so that in an early section of the videogame crossing your arms on your chest activates a shield.

The Stone mixes up puzzle solving, first-person shooting (FPS), and surreal elements into a story that from early impressions seems like it flits about rather than forming a cohesive whole. The puzzle section that introduces you to teleportation and shield activation takes place inside a some sort of alien computer. The title then goes back to normality for a moment before heading in a world filled with oversized cakes, where you need to shoot through ten waves of robots to proceed.

Up until this point The Stone worked reasonably well, however this first shooting section just doesn’t seem very well put together – which doesn’t bode well for the other parts of the videogame. Supplied with two assault rifle style plasma guns, there were three types of flying drone to shoot, either darting about or rushing straight ahead. There are no cross-hairs to speak of, just a sight on the gun if you really need it – you don’t. Both the guns and the projectiles they fire feel very flimsy, it never seems like your doing any damage until the drones explode. Even after completing that particular section there’s no feeling of enjoyment from blasting a few robots, more of a relief it’s over.

This continues in the next segment of shooting where you have to take on hostile forces situated on the broken platforms of a relic drifting through space. Just as with any teleportation movement system, engaging in hectic fire fights can feel clumsy as you move out of cover to get a better shot. While some titles have more success than others, The Stone doesn’t, at points shoots from enemies seem to squeeze through the smallest gaps, gaps which won’t let your return fire through.

Certainly at the moment The Stone‘s biggest draw will be its storyline, offering a rich sci-fi universe. Unfortunately, interacting with said universe maybe more problematic than most will care for. It’s certainly commendable that …… has chosen to undertake such a lofty experience, whether that proves to be the right course of action remeains to be seen.

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