Gemstone IV by Simutronics is an ancient MMO. I've tried to review it a couple of times, but each time out, I failed to capture the essence or appeal of the game. At age 23, the game has changed both a lot and very little in its life.
This time, I'm taking a different tact. I will be reviewing this from the perspective of a new player in 2021 as a Free to Play player. It it a value investment in time? We'll see shortly.
I have also decided to break this review up into many pieces, between 3-5. This is part one for character creation and first experiences.
Title: Gemstone IV (GSIV)
Platform: Windows, Mac, Others
Gemstone IV is a text based open sandbox high fantasy gamed based in the world of Elanthia. It is heavy on the role play as much as the rolling of dice. In fact, there is a criterial that you not break character in game. In recent years, this standard has slacked off a bit but it is there.
At first glance, it appears to be a clone of D&D, but that's not a fair assessment. It was based off of Rolemaster by Iron Crown Enterprises, the Shadow World campaign setting in particular. Although the contract lapsed decades ago, if you've played Rolemaster, you'll feel it's impact in the current game.
|Step one of the Mangler|
Characters are generated in a system called "the Character Manager" or "The Mangler" by players. It's a points buy system. First you select a gender and move on to a class. There are 10 classes.
Ten is a lot, so let's break them down to function. Melee based characters are the Monk, the Rogue and the Warrior. Spellslingers are Clerics, Empaths, Sorcerers and Wizards. Then there is a hybrid of the two in the form of Bards, Paladins and Rangers. Whole books have probably been written on these 10 types, so I am going to skip it until the next post.
Once you have a class, you pick a culture and race. Just like D&D, you have elves, humans and dwarves plus 10 others. There is a mechanical advantage to picking a race as giantkin are strong, dwarves hardy, elves dexterous and so on. Other races are a little more complicated.
Virtually all characters races have a selection of cultures to choose from. Unfortunately, a new player does not know any of this background, therefore can't sanely pick a culture.
Mechanically speaking, culture doesn't really matter at all. But it does matter when you interact with others.
Up until recently, there was an imposed system of racial tolerances build right in. That, for the most part has been kick to the dust bin post 2020.
Next up is a textual description of you character. You looks, for a text based game. Mechanically, this does nothing, but remember anyone who types "LOOK at" you will see this text.
Next up are attributes. Again, there are 10 attributes ranked 1-100. You can't have an attribute under 20 and only one over 90. Race adds or subtracts from these limits. Note that two of the stats below are in red. That is your class's prime requisites, which general receive a bonus of 5-10. As you progress through the game, your stats go up.
You could do a lot of research on what your scores should be, or you can hit the Auto button to have the game assign them for you. New characters get 5 chances to reset their skills in the first 30 days or 20th level. Yes, some people get hooked and can get a fifth of a way through the game in 30 days.
Next are your skills. There are dozens of them.
And like your attributes, there is an auto-generate button. The autogenerate button does build a playable character but after level 20, you'll see problems with these builds.
Finally. It's time to name your character. Remember what I mentioned about staying in character, this is your first chance to blow it. They won't let you in with a name like "Ford Prefect" or "Yo Mamma" or "Dethsl4y3r". Deathslayer might have gotten a pass in the 1990s, so you've missed your chance. Don't do it now.
And we're in!
GSIV has many towns and nations. As a F2P account, you can random land in one of 3: Icemule Trace, Ta'Vaalor and Wehnimer's Landing. As a historical note, Wehnimer's Landing was the first city in the game and is the most populous in terms of players running around. Icemule Trace has an arctic theme, Ta'Vaalor is elven and the Landing is a human centric colonial boomtown.
As you can see from the image above, you start of in a place. Each location in the game has a description and is generally called "a room" by players even though they might represent open spaces like a courtyard or a path by a stream.
Also, each new character has a chance to experience an automated quest based on their class. These are called Sprite Quests and there are 5 of them. You can only do one and it will raise you from level 0 to 1 or 2 by the end.
Loot and Prizes! In your first moments in the game, you will realize that you have some equipment. Clothes, weapons or a runestaff, armor, backpack, etc. You will also owe about 1000 silver to the town you are in. Typically, by the end of the Sprite Quest, this will be paid off.
During your adventures with the Sprite, you will notice there are lot of key places in your town to explore and make use of. As a F2P character, you can keep a modest bank account in one town and one town only. Consider this choice carefully because if you move towns, you won't have the bank at your disposal.
Next time we'll look at the various character choices and different play areas available.