Disclaimer: The opinions found of this article are first impressions on a preview demo, which may not represent the final quality of the game.
Cornerstone: The Song of Tyrim is an upcoming action adventure game where you play the eponymous Viking Boy, setting out on a quest to find out what happened to the men of the island. The left a long time ago on their usual rounds of pillaging and scavenging and haven’t made it home, leaving their village and island unprotected and their families fending for themselves with dwindling resources. On hearing from an Oracle that the men are in danger and unwittingly pulled into the role of saviour, Tyrim does the only thing he can, set off on a grand adventure!
I received a preview copy from Katie Hallahan from Phoenix Online Publishing on behalf of the developers, Overflow Studios and spent over an hour playing the demo, which covers the starting island and village and introduces you to the main mechanics, particularly the crafting that will be instantly familiar to Minecraft (and Terraria) players, and the beginnings of Cornerstone’s plot. By the end of the demo, I found a new organisation: mysterious robed sorcerers capable of controlling stone (aka Earthbenders). I found them in a crypt but I no explanation about what they were doing there in the first place, or the purpose of their ritual work. Is it related to what happened to the Island’s warriors? Or are they part of something else? I hate not knowing!
In Cornerstone: The Song of Tyrim, our hero can cobble up a ton of different items and repair broken ones with the right materials, blueprints and time. But it’s not just random items such as boxes and torches but also weaponry, something I quite like. The crafting system is simple but satisfying, though I had issues with how your equipment drops where you died, forcing you to re-craft it or look for and pick it up again. A particular and related annoyance was effects that made Tyrim collapse and ragdoll because you instantly drop everything you’re holding. Items in your main hand such as torches or weapons occupy the slot, so if you craft one you drop the other. Many times I had to drop the axe to bring the torch out, do what I had to and then pick my stuff up again. I would’ve preferred weapons to hold a defined slot, replaced only by other weapons, or perhaps an inventory.
I liked the visual style, how the characters look like action figures, with some of their features seemingly carved from wood. But while I liked the style, the environments were rather plain and lifeless. Games like Wind Waker—from where Cornerstone clearly draws inspiration—make sure to have their land covered in tiny details that bring their visual style to life. It can be the rustle of grass under your feet with little grassy sprites every time you step or an abundance of plants for you to hack and walk through. In Cornerstone: Song of Tyrim, I saw plain green ground and plants and other such details were scarce.
Another issue I had at many points in the demo was how inexpressive characters were. They’re talking about terrible things but don’t look invested in anything, though later on there is a greater display of emotions on their faces, which makes me hope this only affects the demo or the earlier stage of the game.
Combat is plain and slow, and it really drags the experience down. I avoided it at first and then when I had the hang of it, I wished for more. I wanted more fluid animations, faster attacks, greater challenge and rewards in parrying.
Lastly, while the music you hear is pretty damn cool it is largely absent for most of the demo. The starting area has no music whatsoever and barely any ambient sounds. The village then has a nice melody, very relaxing and chill, as you’d expect to hear in a village in this sort of game. But then you go on exploring the rest of the island there isn’t any music outdoors, leaving you with a sensation that something is missing.
Having said all this, I am intrigued. I want to know more. I want to see where the plot leads and how complex the crafting system will be. I built a raft and left the island but an NPC told me that someone out there would help me build ships that are more robust and I can’t wait to find out.
I am hoping that the issues I found were only in the demo and that these details have been polished and ironed out in the final version releasing at the end of April.