Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone is a game that can boast a pretty rich fantasy pedigree. Developer Stormfront has taken the relentless hack 'n' slash action of its previous adventure, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and plunged it into the D&D universe. It's a move that makes perfect sense, especially when spiced up with R.A. Salvatore's popular drow ranger Drizzt amongst other well-known characters.
It comes as no surprise that the control system is identical to ROTK's. There are two attack buttons, one for specials and another to block - refreshingly uncomplicated. Also, the levels follow the same linear pattern with invisible walls keeping you hemmed in on the path to glory.
Being able to switch between three controllable heroes on the fly is a major enhancement, though. Rannek the fighter carves up enemies first and asks questions later, while Illus the sorcerer uses ranged spells because he's so weak and frail. The real badass of the group though is the half-drow vixen, Zhai. Her stealth ability means that passing through a veil of shadows makes you temporarily invisible and able to perform stealth kills.
Although the characters' abilities are obviously specifically tailored for certain setpieces, the great thing about Demon Stone is that it rarely forces you to do things the 'right' way. If you want to make things tougher and batter an orc to death with your spindly spell caster, you can. Likewise, Zhai's stealth can get you through entire sections unnoticed but you can still scrap instead if you've got a bit of a thirst for blood.
Perhaps just because of the fantasy setting, the usual range of RPG-style character upgrades have been included. The armour enchantments, new attacks and abilities are all fairly self-explanatory and the menus are nice and simple to run through. If you hate stats though, and once shaved off your beard to prove it, you will be pleased to hear that an auto-upgrade option is there to let you skip it.
Hack 'n' slash games have a deserved reputation for being repetitive but Demon Stone escapes this trap for two reasons. Firstly, there's plenty of variety in the mission objectives, from rescuing trembling villagers to defending a Helm's Deep-style battlement from ice trolls. The second and more obvious reason is that the game is only around six hours long, barely giving you time to grow bored.
When all three characters are jammed onto the same screen it defies logic that there's no multiplayer co-operative mode. This could have added some serious replay value to Demon Stone and is sorely missed.