Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Gaming Preview: Get Your Digital D&D Fix With Solasta: Crown of the Magister

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Gen Con is a convention that is primarily about physical games. Board games, tabletop RPGs, TCGs, etc. However, there was one booth there that was showing off a video game in this case, new-to-Kickstarter game known as Solasta: Crown of the Magister, from brand new studio Tactical Adventures.

One of the representatives at the booth gave me the elevator pitch as I stood behind a congoer playing the alpha. He informed me that it’s intended to be as close of an approximation to Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition in digital form as they are capable of achieving. The base game centers around five heroes: a fighter, a thief, a cleric, and a mage (however, character creation is one of their stretch goals). These five form the party that the player controls as they embark on an epic fantasy adventure that will have the players exploring a vast world, delving deep into dungeons, and battling foes of a fantastical nature.

They’re fine

Given that this is intended to be a digital experience of D&D 5E, I of course had to ask about the possibility of  a “Dungeon Master Mode.” He explained that creating a true, live play DM mode is extremely difficult and not currently in their scope, but that a tool that allows for the creation your own campaign is another stretch goal, similar to the one used in Divinity: Original Sin 2. This system would allow players to use a campaign creation tool to craft an original adventure for other players to experience. Once his explanation was over, it was time for me to take the hot seat.

Alpha version of the combat UI

I sat down in front of the alpha they had with them, chose one of two missions to experience, and loaded into the game. I was greeted by a forested area and no tutorial. Movement was easy, as the game is an isometric 3D adventure, so you just point and click and your party will move automatically. One of the big selling points behind Solasta is the “dynamic world,” where everything matters down to the size of an enemy (big enemies can be avoided, for instance, if they don’t fit down the passage). You can also choose to control each character individually, which I assume will come into play with certain dungeon puzzles and such. Inventory was a bit clunky at first, as I didn’t realize it wasn’t shared between characters as is common in other games, and I found myself fumbling with it at first. After a few lootings, I had it down to a science and was rather efficiently sorting my inventory.

An example of Solasta’s dynamic terrain, where this portion f the dungeon has multiple levels to traverse

As I manoeuvred my party through the brush, I encountered a camp that appeared to have been ransacked. Upon speaking with a pair of NPCs that were present, I learned that the culprits were hiding in some nearby ruins. When conversing with NPCs, your dialogue options are actually selected by character. The fighter had something more straightforward and aggressive, the cleric had a similarly aggressive, albeit kinder, option, the mage had a neutral option, and the rogue had a snarky, rude option. This set the tone for each of the respective characters’ personalities. Long story short, this encounter results in delving deep into the ruins in search of the bandits.

As I maneuvered the dark, dank twists and turns of a pretty classic dungeon crawl, I was met with several combats. These consisted of turn based combat that played exactly the way I would expect digital D&D to feel. It consisted of two actions that could be movement and an additional action, which is how D&D 5th Edition works, so that was accurate to what Solasta is trying to emulate.

What’s a good dungeon crawl with a horrific number of spiders?

I don’t want to get into too much detail because I would rather you seek out the game and play it yourself when it’s released, but for myself, I loved what I saw. It’s a great game that deserves your attention. It played smoothly, felt very much like a digital translation of 5th Edition, and yet was incredibly ambitious while sticking with a “classic” formula. If you love D&D, you’ll love this game. Go check out their Kickstarter that just started here (20 days left as of this writing), give their website a look over here, and go play it when it comes out. And if you can’t wait that long, there’s a demo available on Steam.

All Images via Tactical Adventures.


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