Solasta: Crown of the Magister
The physical tabletop version of Dungeons & Dragons has seen a huge resurgence in popularity in recent times, as evidenced by its high ranking Twitch.TV presence, among other things. And that’s a great thing, as it gives people an alternative to the ubiquitous and frankly more wargame’y Warhammer franchise. More options are always a good thing.
So, it’s only natural that Dungeons & Dragons video games would once again become more popular. Larian Studios’ Baldur’s Gate 3 is probably the highest-profile Dungeons & Dragons offering right now. However, a lesser-marketed (although no less important) game called Solasta: Crown of the Magister has also been making some waves as well. There are a few big differences between the two.
First of all, while Baldur’s Gate 3 is based on an officially licensed world called the Forgotten Realms and uses the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition rules. Solasta: Crown of the Magister is an original world created by Tactical Adventures and utilizes the 5.1 Edition rules. Baldur’s Gate 3 also features prettier visuals although, to hardcore Dungeons & Dragons geeks, that facet really doesn’t matter much.
In Solasta: Crown of the Magister, your adventures begin with the game’s character creator, and it’s a pretty good one. In this game, you design up to four characters that you’ll have in your party, and pick from all of the standard things such as each character’s race, class, background, abilities, and the like.
Once you have your ideal party set up, you begin the game in a city tavern where they all reveal how they got there. This functions as the game’s tutorial and you get to learn (through trial and error) about most of the main game mechanics. From there, you’ll take on your first mission—and you’re off to the races.
While each character’s physical customization options are a little on the limited side, what I really liked about Solasta: Crown of the Magister, is its writing. You’ll see and hear them talking among themselves and even cracking a few jokes here and there. It all seems organic and makes you feel immersed in their little digital personalities, as well as the world around them.
Another great thing about the game is that once you get into your first couple of battles (they’re all turn-based), you can discover how their individual abilities synergize with each other. For instance, my first party consisted of an elven wizard who could cast devastating spells on initial ranged targets; my rouge would then attack individual enemies. As the two sides closed the distance, my burly fighters could move in and clean up the leftovers. With the number of classes, abilities, spells, and abilities to choose from, you can come up with all kinds of fun and effective strategies.
Enemy AI is quite good, so you’ll see them set up traps (or won’t if you’re too late), use elevated positions to attack from, and the like. If there’s one thing that peeves me it’s a game’s terrible combat AI where enemies will just throw themselves at you blindly, so this was all refreshing.
Combat is tactical and meaty; you’ll roll a lot of dice and leverage their results with Insights and various skill checks. This also transfers over to detecting things within the environments as well as modifying the various conversations you’ll engage in with NPCs. I managed to avoid a number of battles simply by talking my way out of them in the first place. Surprisingly, I even gained a few experience points from this conversational/diplomatic approach, which is something that other recent Dungeons & Dragons games have dropped the ball on.
The exploration portion of the game is pretty well done, but as this is an Early Access title, there isn’t a ton of content yet. In fact, the game’s ending (as of now) ends on a cliffhanger that had me yearning for more. As it stands, however, Solasta: Crown of the Magister is a very fun and intricately-designed Dungeons & Dragons experience that I could see potentially surpassing Baldur’s Gate 3 in the future. I’ll be back later in its development cycle for an updated review.
Solasta: Crown of the Magister has some pretty good looking graphics that make its fantasy gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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