I’ve always been a fan of tactics-based games. This is that subgenre that turns turn-based strategy into an art form. I love having a squad that I can upgrade any way I want before fielding them in combat against foes often far bigger and nastier than me. It’s all a bit like chess on steroids and I’m 100% here for that. This brings us to Stones Keeper: King Aurelius. This title isn’t out yet but I’ve been given the chance to get an early feel for what’s going on and a taste of what we can expect. Put very simply it’s currently a case of so far so good.
Stones Keeper: King Aurelius has a very board game feel to it. I’m not saying this in any way to disparage the game, but rather to give you an idea of what you’re going to be in for. Characters also feel very much like pieces being moved around a board as opposed to fully animated ones. I think this is very much a deliberate choice as it feels more like you’re involved in a great big game of something like D&D than some of the more RPG-based tactics affairs we’ve indulged in recently. I absolutely love the aesthetic and felt instantly at home in the world that was being presented to me.
Your base. You’ll have a fair bit of planning to do here if you’re going to succeed.
Storywise, you begin the game trying to save an outpost from a hoard of undead. The preview build of the game that I played encompassed the entirety of the prologue which sees you battling zombies, banshees, and other creatures of the night in a series of locations and ends with a battle that’s deliberately unwinnable, seeing you have to hold out beyond a certain point to succeed. I’d like to tell you where the stones part of the story comes into play but I can’t unfortunately because the story hasn’t revealed that much yet. A Stoneof Water is tantalizingly mentioned but we have absolutely no idea what it does. At the moment I can only surmise that the stones are a plot device as opposed to a mechanic in the game but I genuinely don’t know so it’s a case of wait and see.
In Stones Keeper: King Aurelius you take your base with you as you travel. You have a floating castle which you can move about the world map. This is great because you don’t have to lug loot back to where you’re based or travel miles before you can heal. As you find and collect items they automatically go to the castle so resource management is only really an issue when you’re spending them. You don’t need to worry about encumbrance or anything statistically awkward like that. All the shops are in your base so between missions you can gear up your squad at the cost of gold and materials. You can also revive fallen heroes here. Your castle is upgradable too but that’s outside the realm of this exercise for the moment. I think it’s quite cool that when you move you move everything and I feel that this is a note that could be taken by other devs.
Battles are diverse and enemies are many.
The map is a sort of level selection screen. As you move about the place you’ll find collectible materials and gold which you’ll acquire automatically. You’ll also see your battles listed here. These range from main story battles which you’ll need to complete to further the plot to side quests that will enable you to obtain more items upon completion. I like the fact that even right at the very beginning of the game I wasn’t just up against the same army over and over again. I was introduced to elven forces and elemental ones as well.
Building your characters is simple and feels rewarding.
This brings me neatly to my next point. The enemies you face are varied enough to make you switch your strategy up depending on what’s being presented to you. An enemy army of undead will contain both melee and ranged units, each with their own set of skills. Banshees for example can make themselves much more difficult to hit by boosting their evasion ratings, on the other hand, vampires can and will steal your blood to bolster themselves. You won’t get caught in the rut of repeating the same tried and tested methods because what works well for one won’t be ideal for all. This is just a note about the troops in one army. The elves I faced trounced me the first time round because I wasn’t expecting their speed and the accuracy of their archers. This wasn’t a problem, I just had to have a rethink and try again.
In Stones Keeper: King Aurelius leveling and skill-ing up your units couldn’t be easier. Each unit type has three skill trees. All you need to do is decide which set of skills will suit your needs for the battles ahead. Something that’s really cool here is that when you start down a tree you don’t just lock everything else out. If you want to start adding other abilities you have the choice to do so which leads to a move varied build in the long run. Something really important to note, (and something I kept forgetting,) is that this game doesn’t have units for melee and others for ranged combat, each unit can do both. This is great because if you can’t get one of your knights into swinging range you still have a chance at hitting something.
Stones Keeper has simple, intuitive controls, a great look, and some really addicting gameplay. I just wish I’d been able to play a little bit more of this title than I was; just enough to really get what was going on. This isn’t knocking what’s already there of course but it’s like putting a book down before finishing the first chapter. This being said I can’t wait to see what happens next and will absolutely be coming back with a full review as soon as I’m able. Fans of fantasy games and those that love a good bit of tactical play really need to take note. Stones Keeper: King Aurelius is going to be a massive amount of fun if things keep going the way they are.
If you fancy having a little look at what Stones Keeper: King Aurelius currently has to offer you can’t find the prologue for free here. That’ll give you a better idea of what I’ve been rambling on about and allow you to decide whether this game is for you. Personally, I strongly recommend giving it a whirl, you won’t be losing anything but a small amount of your time.
This preview is based on an early build of the game provided by the publisher.
Hailing from Southport England, Alex started his gaming career in the late 80s on a Commodore 64. Since that time he's either owned or played on virtually every console released. Alex happens to...