Whitestone by Hailstorm Games
Whitestone starts off with our protagonist, Jack arriving at a state-of-the-art airship, which serves as something like a mini-town hub that’s home to many.
Jack is quickly assigned to the archaeology department, but not long after arriving, he starts to experience weird occurrences: a mysterious man has gone missing, and Jack starts seeing ghost-like figures and even incidents of spontaneous combustion! On top of all that, he also has to fight off weird creatures. It’s a very strange and compelling set-up.
I like how fully realized this game is, from the many interactable NPCs and dialogue options to the ship’s expansive layout. It’s clear that Hailstorm Games put a lot of work into this game to make it feel like a fully realized, fleshed-out world. Whitestone is an ambitious game that takes a lot of inspiration from the Persona franchise.
All You Do to Me Is Talk Talk
If you’ve played a Persona game, you’ll know what to expect: a life simulator RPG about fighting monsters and building relationships. As time passes, you can choose different activities to mold your experiences, whether that’s building a stronger relationship with a particular NPC or pursuing activities to level up and build up stats.
There is a good amount of freedom of choice, and I think it nails that Persona formula pretty well. Whitestone engaged me throughout, and I wanted to learn more about the game’s overarching, mystery-filled plot threads. Even the act of building relationships with NPCs was enjoyable. This side of the game was a lot of fun.
Much like the games that inspired it, Whitestone is heavily focused on dialogue. Most of the game is talking to NPCs, building relationships with them, and learning more about people and the plot through conversations and dialogue options.
Thankfully the dialogue is superb, with many well-developed, believable characters and a narrative full of mystery and intrigue, making for an enjoyable ride to find out more. I enjoyed the writing in Whitestone and would say it’s on the same level as a modern Persona game.
When Dialogue Fails, Fight through Things
Unfortunately, I do wish the combat side of things was better. Besides running around the airship and talking to people, there are specific times when you have to fight grotesque creatures.
Combat is in real-time – akin to a Diablo-style game – and it feels a little undercooked and lacking in polish. Enemies clip through the floor. Sometimes swinging a weapon freezes your character in place for a couple of seconds.
Shooting and locking onto enemies has some major hit-detection issues. It really brings down the whole combat experience when your bullets pass right through your enemies…really frustrating.
These glaring issues aside, the combat overall feels serviceable but not great.
There is plenty to like when it comes to the overall art style. Whitestone implements a cel-shaded style that fits its anime-inspired dark fantasy tone. Character portraits are lovingly drawn, while grimy areas and lively locales alike are nicely detailed.
Character over Combat
The only issue comes from the game’s frame rate. I experienced a number of slow-downs, particularly during combat when a lot of particle effects were onscreen. These incidents weren’t terribly common, as these instances weren’t very frequent, but it was definitely noticeable.
Whitestone really shines in its commitment to an RPG sim experience where choices seem to matter. Choosing to talk to certain NPCs over others feels organic and by design.
Familiar systems like crafting, leveling up, and exploration are solidly executed. I really enjoyed these systems; I wish combat was equally enjoyable.
Overall, Whitestone feels uneven game at times because of its flaws, but as someone who enjoys the RPG sim aspects, its combat issues are a bit easier to overlook. I’d recommend this game to those looking for a Persona-style game but who are willing to look past its subpar combat.
Whitestone is available via the Nintendo Store, the Sony PlayStation Store, the Microsoft Store, and Steam.
Check out the official trailer for Whitestone below: