Sword Coast Legends - Review  

The Road is Lined with Peril
by Scott Wachter

20-40 Hours
+ Great for quick dungeon crawls with pals.
- Lame Story
- Lame Characters
- Lame Gameplay
- Lame Visuals
- Lame Module Building
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   Two thousand years ago, a rather nice fellow noted that "No man can serve two masters." Today, a grumpy games reviewer notes that "No game can serve three purposes." Or at the very least that Dungeon & Dragons: Sword Coast Legends is an example of how such a multi-faceted game ought not work. SCL attempts to have a robust single player campaign — with an option to invite friends for co-op play, a suite of creation tools to generate new campaigns, and multiplayer dungeon crawls. All of this is supposed to feel like the tabletop version of Dungeons & Dragons. It’s got its moments where it emulates that, but the overall experience is messy and unpleasant.

   The single player campaign follows a rookie adventurer in a big name mercenary company finding himself or herself hunted by an order of paladins. All of this has something to do with a long-lost MacGuffin and a demon lord messing with the heads of an order of holy warriors. The player is left to unravel the mystery, beat up all manner of a corrupt individuals and then slay said demon lord — along with the usual unrelated side-questing and looting that goes with the experience. The plot is fine, but it falls flat in its delivery. Nothing in terms of characters or locations really pops as they fail to engage interest beyond the question of which tasks the player must complete before they are permitted to proceed. Companion characters are the blandest adventurers in Blandtown (a suburb of Blandtropolis), and the short hook of each one of them is interesting, but it never coheres into anything worthwhile. Curious about a teen necromancer trying to duck a deal with the devil? Too bad; he issues the same tired combat barks and hackneyed exposition like everyone else in the game.


   The combat side of things is a repetitive slog. Stepping away from most versions of D&D combat in favour of an MMO-styled hotbar system for all classes. No one fight is exactly hard, but they take forever because of the inflated hit point totals of every single enemy. The average combat encounter devolves into watching each character's hotbars until everything on the screen is dead. Boss fights shake this formula up by giving major NPCs large area of effect powers that inevitably kill or otherwise incapacitate any player character caught in the blast, adding positional babysitting to the list of fight chores for each player, plus endless hordes of mooks that spawn from nowhere during these encounters.

   SCL’s much-vaunted multiplayer modes don’t fare much better. The pre-planned campaign modes lack tools for anything other than a sequence of combat encounters. Any and all plot comes from text crawls and placed documents. Potential scenario creators will find themselves frustrated to move beyond “kill all the guys and get the stuff” without any real options to flesh out all the aspects of a ‘proper’ Dungeons & Dragons session. Meanwhile, the pickup and play version of multiplayer with its asymmetric player/DM mode is a lighthearted evening of fun. It is reminiscent of late-night, junk food-fueled dungeon crawls, right down to random encounters and oddball details happily creeping into events for no reason other than that’s what the DM rolled on the table.

Either the 'Sword' part was a metaphor, or we took a wrong turn. Either the 'Sword' part was a metaphor, or we took a wrong turn.

   The game is not much to look at, with blocky character models, repeated art assets, and lacklustre aesthetic design making up the entirety of what fills the monitors of gamers. Audio fares about the same, with a few unmemorable repeating themes throughout, and the voice acting is mediocre, mostly by dint of lacking anything interesting to say. There is some terrible grating accent work for any player created characters, though.

   Sword Coast Legends has overreached far beyond its abilities. What might have been a fine successor to Neverwinter Nights is instead a playable, but dull experience for every playstyle it offers. Dungeons & Dragons brand name represents a long lineage of CRPGs. Some excellent, some considerably less so. I, personally, had hoped that this entry could have been the former, given its ambitions to the Neverwinter Nights lineage, but ultimately this game fails to interest for any length of time.

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