In the absence of Minecraft on Nintendo platforms, many developers have opted to try to recapture the legendary game's magical gameplay in their own knockoff attempts. These have, by and large, fallen short of the high standard that's been set and failed to present any meaningful contributions to the popular formula. Stone Shire is a perfect example of this, presenting an extremely barebones, unimpressive sandbox-style experience. While it's not entirely irredeemable, a plethora of technical or gameplay shortcomings drag down the whole experience.

Upon booting up and opening a new save, there are three biomes that can be used for building the randomly-generated world: Grassland, Tundra, and Desert. While these do present decently diverse environments, there isn't really any difference between the three aside from the cosmetic and thematic changes. After a considerable amount of time is taken loading the world, you're immediately faced with arguably the biggest of Stone Shire's many flaws: the draw distance. It's unfortunately not an exaggeration to say that the considerable presence of gray fog brings to mind early N64 games - and not in a good way, either. Taking into account that part of the appeal of this type of game is to evoke a feeling of adventure by standing atop a hill and looking out across a vast and unexplored expanse, it's rather deflating that all that's visible here is ugly fog and a sparse collection of trees or hills within the short field of vision.

It's not like the fog is obscuring a considerable expanse, either; the whole map can be traversed in a couple minutes. Along the way, there are no other races, animals, or enemies of any kind, making the world feel hollow and lifeless. Combining this with the fact that there's no health system, hunger system or danger of any kind, one would think that this is primarily meant to be a 'Creative' type game as opposed to 'Survival'. However, there's no option to fly or to use an infinite number of materials, making a sort of hybrid of the two game types that drops the benefits of both. There's nothing to actually struggle against to survive, and building large structures is a tedious process when supplies are constantly running out.

Gameplay has glimpses of potential, but ultimately follows the presentation in delivering a half-baked product. The idea of allowing the player to dual-wield is novel, but there's not a ton to actually wield. Pickaxes and blocks of mined materials are the only things that can be crafted, making the crafting system seem like an afterthought. There are no weapons or armour sets to make as there's nothing to fight, and tools such as axes and shovels are mysteriously absent. On top of this, the pickaxes have an infinite number of uses, meaning that only one of each ore tier needs to be made.

Conclusion

The absence of features such as an acceptable draw distance, NPCs, a useful crafting system - and much more besides - makes Stone Shire feel like a rushed and unfinished demo of a better game. While the developers have made big promises for what'll be added in future updates, the game that's live on the eShop today is a proof-of-concept at best. Some may have fun chopping down trees with pickaxes and throwing together structures with the limited number of blocks, but this is really a title that can only be recommended to the most blindly devoted fans of this genre.