Cornerstone: The Song of Tyrim is being billed as a cross between The Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls. If that sentence excites you than perhaps you’ll want to check out their as yet unfunded Kickstarter page. Currently sitting at about $8,000 under their $30,000 goal, Ascension Games have about 3 days left in their 2nd crowdfunding attempt. There is a pre-alpha demo available which shows off their ambitions for Cornerstone.
Built in Unity 3D, the team is attempting a more open ended Wind Waker style action adventure game. Cornerstone has a Wind Waker aesthetic and includes the boat faring island hopping nature as its structure. They however want a non-linear path in both the order of islands, as well as the way in which you tackle them. The boat promises to feature a harpoon, garden, and bank to make it more interactive than just a way between two different points.
Another feature is the crafting system. Gathering four basic ingredients allows player to construct creates, bombs (sorry, exploding barrels), torches, and more. I’m personally a little conflicted on this idea. When playing through the demo I found a recipe for a parachute but accidentally threw it away and didn’t have enough material to make another. I’m worried that this will cause some amount of ingredient grinding as opposed to just having the items. With the multiple pathways this could force you to find a different route, which is fine as long as there are few moments where you can ever get stuck.
The combat that is in place feels a bit like Zelda game’s, target an enemy, roll out of an attack, and counter. It is pretty basic right now but the focus will be more on creative ways to avoid or dispatch enemies. There is basic stealth system and even a Metal Gear style box to hide under.
There is no narration in the demo but the planned story is about a viking boy setting off on a journey to find his father. Not a groundbreaking narrative but the cast of characters to along the way will hopefully compliment the adventure.
Anyone looking to play the demo should be warned, it is in pre-alpha so don’t expect too much. The core of the game is certainly there and once you learn some of the quirks it becomes much more playable. You first explore a bit and break people’s furniture for crafting supplies. Then there is a bit of transversal to get your hammer and shield. It does a nice job of showing a rough physics engine and basic puzzles (craft a torch, light it, burn a rope).
After learning the basics, you than go towards a fort with guards and shooty plant things in your way. Combat is incomplete but you can understand the intention. The first enemy you encounter is a knight who really doesn’t want you to complete your journey. Aside from fighting him I learned that you can just use the harpoon on your boat to dispatch him from afar. This little bit of experimentation is a rewarding example of the open ended nature of the design.
Traveling through the forest finds you dealing with plants that shoot purple stuff at you. This situation feels a little bit like a puzzle in the sense that you must face an enemy to block their shot with your shield. It involves picking the right plant to go after so you don’t get attacked on your flank by another.
A few more guards await you that you can deal with in several ways. I found stealth the easiest, following a small hidden path. You can also lay out mines or drop objects on them from above. Combat seems to discourage fighting multiple opponents at once. Providing players with multiple ways to overcome challenges is one of the core ideas and while the play area is small, the team does a good job encouraging some exploration and thought.
Eventually you reach a fort that you can sneak into or glide over the walls if you find the recipe for the parachute. There seems to be multiple ways in but I just went for a small side door that avoided the guards. Once inside there is a simple puzzle to light a torch and burn a rope which breaks open a wall. This situation reminds me of Half-Life, where you have to place boxes in water and cross them so the torch stays lit. Afterwards there is a small boss which involves killing the dudes keeping a whirlwind alive that is throwing stuff at you. The boss goes down really easy and then the demo ends.
The buggy and incomplete state of the pre-alpha demo aside, the ideas on offer are certainly interesting. Combining Zelda’s aesthetic and parts of its structure but with a more emergent open-ended nature seems like a good idea. I’m not fully sure where the Dark Soul’s reference comes in, I’m getting more of an early Source Engine vibe (I’m sorry Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, I wish you had worked out).
Of course with any crowdfunded game there are risks involved but this team has at least produced some work showing off that they have a foundation to build upon. With less than a week left, they have some progress to make but it is certainly within their grasp. So go take a look.