Every now and then there are titles that simply blow you away with ideas they are made with and starting up I was immediately hit with two in particular. The first is how much I have missed the Nintendo 64 and the second would be The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. Cornerstone: The Song of Tyrim is a young man’s quest to save the Viking men who have set out from their village but have yet to come home. Taking the ideas of crafting and sailing with exploration and combat, I almost wished that I could have plugged in my N64 controller into my PC to play this almost Wind Waker inspired title.
From the starting island and then on, exploration is a lot of fun as there are several varied environments to explore. A grassland island with high rock purchases, underground caves, sandy islands, and a vast ocean that our young Viking Tyrim sets out upon with nothing more than his first motorized raft to carry him over the waves. What most of these locations have in common are light puzzle elements to bar the ways forward. In certain cases these could be locked in regards to the actual story progression but in others it is a simple matter of finding another way up and / or around. What can take a bit of adjustment to moving forward at times is not the environment itself but remembering that Tyrim can craft items and some of these will come in use on more than a single occasion.
Exploring the ocean compared to land is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time with the knowledge that there are sharks in the waters. Not getting off of the raft would be a good enough way to keep yourself safe but sometimes in order to explore another vessel floating adrift diving into these waters is going to be necessary. Hitting the water and swimming to your destination is easy enough but it becomes increasingly more terrifying as the music stops creating a forbidden sense of impending doom. Once your feet hit the deck of the vessel however the cheerful lightheartedness resumes until you have to jump back into the water to get back to your raft.
As mentioned Tyrim can craft items in order to help himself out. If anything, crafting items is almost the secondary core of Cornerstone as nothing is really permanent. Boxes, swords, shields, axes, torches, parachuting hang gliders, all of these have a durability or length of time that they can be used before crumbling and requiring a new one. All costing a set amount of resources, a close eye at times will be required in order to make sure that there is still enough to make something like a bomb while still being able to build a torch.
With all the exploration comes the beating up of people and creatures that lie in your way. Thieves, Skeletons, Spiders, Venomous Evil Plants of Doom (I really did not get along with these guys), and more will all stand either between Tyrim and his goal or just simply want to kill you because you walked onto their turf. Engaging with these foes comes across as a simplified Legend of Zelda style. Shield up and wait for the right moment to strike. With all of the options that Tyrim has to craft there will be plenty of options for light to heavy hitting weapons. If some of these don’t quite do it there are still plenty of things lying around such as a skeletal rib cage on a stick. I didn’t ask…
In other cases there will be some thought that needs to be put into combating foes such as engaging against Will-o-Wisps. Only capable of hitting them with fire these battles become a bit more of a race against time a torch will only last for so long. With the ability to lock onto a target for an easier time, finding the right moments becomes less of a challenge as your foes is constantly kept in your sights. If they do however get the better of you don’t worry. If Tyrim falls in battle he will simply be brought back to the last checkpoint that was passed by. Actual checkpoint locations are not all that common so sometimes avoiding death is beneficial especially with how far it can be to run back to where you fell.
Like any good adventurer, Tyrim can pick up quests from the locals either to advance his progress or to simply reap awesome rewards like a house. Because every viking no matter how young needs his own fort. Quests themselves are simple enough but like exploration these may not always be completed right away depending upon progression as a whole. Generally though these are great to complete as Side Quests are an adventurer's raison d’être. Other times the rewards will unknowingly set you up for completing another objective down the line. Overall with the acquisition of your own house? It’s a win win.
Cornerstone: The Song of Tyrim for everything it does right does have several technical issues. When jumping up against a wall it can sometimes take a while in order to come back down as Tyrim stays hovering there in limbo for several seconds before coming back down. This can especially be a nuisance when having tried to make a jump and getting stuck between two objects. Another large issue is that at this moment in time the Microsoft Xbox One controller cannot be used in order to play as simply moving or touching any on the controller will make Tyrim automatically run to the left. Permanently. Finally I had the game freeze on several occasions as it crashed my video drivers. They did come back online without requiring a reboot but once or twice it did cost me having to restart from a checkpoint because I had died in the meantime. This was really not cool on boss fights and I have yet to find a way to prevent them on an AMD card.
Overall Cornerstone is a great experience even with its issues. The crafting of both tools and weapons on the spot was a very different approach compared to a lot of other titles which either replace equipment or make the older pieces obsolete. Combined with a massive world to explore over some very dangerous seas and with a few patches this great experience could become even greater.
Phoenix Online Publishing
Article by Pierre-Yves