Game: The Dark Stone from Mebara
Platform: PC
Genre: turn-based RPG
Style: heavy Lovecraft influences
Verdict: Not Recommended

The Dark Stone from Mebara starts out strong.

It follows a detective whose current investigation brings him into possession of a strange dark stone. He and two other detectives soon find their lives turned upside down, as the stone summons a monster from another world and a mysterious cult is intent on taking the stone from them.

The writing took a little bit of getting used to, because narration is presented within character’s dialogue boxes, but once I adjusted to the style, that increased the sense that I was reading a Lovecraftian story. The premise and storytelling, especially early on, are Lovecraftian through and through.

It does falter a little bit later on, as some confusing parts of the story are never fully explained. However, that isn’t the biggest issue with The Dark Stone from Mebara.

The Dark Stone from Mebara is a turn-based RPG, and it is brutal. After the first half hour, I had to restart my game since I hadn’t stocked up on healing items at the very beginning, which as far as I could tell is the only chance you get to buy items.

The first gameplay sections put you up against enemies that can kill you in a couple of hits, your health doesn’t replenish when you level up or between scenes, and healing doesn’t come easily. Your healing options are the consumable items mentioned above, a spell that costs sanity (which in turn requires a consumable item to restore), and a technique you can use in battle after building up a gauge.

Grinding several levels while using the in-battle healing mitigates the difficulty enough to make it playable, but low accuracy from your party and devastating abilities from enemies means you might find yourself dying repeatedly due to bad luck.

Maybe this level of difficulty is fitting for a cosmic horror game. Even so, the combat never lived up to its potential. Characters can learn spells from reading books and use them by spending sanity points, which is a fantastic system in concept, but the spells are so weak and sanity so hard to replenish that (with the exception of healing) the spell system felt almost useless.

Add in sections that force pixel-hunting as you search for the exact spot you need to interact with, strange glitches like extra copies of the party members’ character models stuck on the map, and a late-game section so dark I thought it was a glitch, and my early enthusiasm for the game faded over the next 3 hours until I was relieved to see the credits.

The Dark Stone from Mebara has a solid premise, but its gameplay and presentation suffer too much to be enjoyable. If you’re desperate for a new Lovecraft-inspired game, it’s not the worst choice, but otherwise it’s hard to recommend.