Solasta: Crown of the Magister Review
A Party-Based Party
Over the years, RPGamers have received a stream of computer role-playing games featuring various versions of the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset. However, very few of those games focused on a turn-based combat system. Solasta: Crown of the Magister addresses this shortcoming and features a full campaign set in a new world. Utilizing the fifth edition ruleset, Solasta provides a refreshing experience, even while falling short in a few key areas.
The main story driving the adventure forward feels a bit cliché. Many years ago, a great cataclysmic event took place and most of the races (elves, humans, dwarves, etc) of the world fled through a portal to a fresh land to begin anew. This peace does not last, as trouble brews in one of the outposts causing the rulers to send a group to investigate as tensions rise. This leads to larger problems and a quest to save the people. To make the adventure more exciting the main enemy can disguise themselves, making one question who is a friend and who is a foe. Unfortunately, the latter half of the story feels rushed and never fully explores some intriguing premises it sets up in the first half.
While the story misses opportunities to create a memorable experience, the character interactions do not. RPGamers will create a party of four characters who each have their own personality. In prior games of this type, players often had to choose between pre-made party members with voice-acted interaction or silent, player-created teammates. Solasta breaks the mold by giving player-created parties full voice acting and interesting personalities. Some of the best interactions of the game happen when various party members begin to joke around with each other during the adventure. In this, Solasta sets a bar for all other computer-style role-playing games.
Solasta: Crown of the Magister succeeds in large part in recreating the tabletop experience of a fifth-edition adventure. Many strengths and weaknesses come directly from that system, as Solasta does a good job implementing the rules of the tabletop game. Players start by choosing from seven classes and five races. Unfortunately, the game does not include some of the classic choices such as barbarian and Half-Orc. Thankfully, each of the classes offers sub-class options, which gives some much-needed depth and choice to the character creation process.
The characters are then introduced in a tutorial that integrates them into the story based on customizable background choices. This does a great job of teaching players the rules of fighting, solving problems, and spell-casting in a way that contributes to the overall experience. By the end, players will understand the finer points of fifth edition combat, even if they never played the pen-and-paper version. As an added bonus, they will understand their own characters better.
This helps as players spend the majority of their time in the game’s turn-based combat. The computer rolls for characters’ and monsters’ initiative and the highest number goes first. Whenever a character or monster attacks, at least one 20-sided die is cast. In a very nice touch, the game shows the dice rolled on the screen, really drawing the player into the experience. Furthermore, players can even choose from a variety of dice for added customization.
Along those lines, the game allows much customization regarding the difficulty of combat. Players may modify everything from enemy damage to player defense values, which prevents too much frustration when hitting a difficulty spike. For the most part, the computer plays enemies competently, and bosses put up quite a fight. Both allies and enemies use auto-pathing, with combatants avoiding the detrimental areas of the battlefield rather than rushing through them, forcing players to plan tactfully. This provides the combat with many satisfying and enjoyable outcomes that are sure to impress.
Following Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition rules, leveling up feels simplistic and offers little in the way of choice. Some additional decisions at certain levels introduced by the sub-class system help here. However, caster classes have a distinct lack of choices compared to prior iterations of the ruleset. This is partly due to Dungeons & Dragons‘ prohibitive concentration rule. Many spells require concentration, and a caster can only maintain one such spell at a time. Therefore, learning various spells that require concentration feels like a waste. A few other spells were omitted likely due to design limitations. This combination takes away from the joy of leveling the weaker caster classes from delicate adventurers to absolute powerhouses.
Solasta does finally add wall-climbing and flying, a feature lacking in many computer adaptations of this venerable pen-and-paper game. Many fights feature substantial elevation in the terrain, as well as enemies who will attack from above and below the party. While interesting to see done well, the novelty of this wears off as the mechanic is overused and slows combat too much.
The game does allow for some item creation, though the system may also be ignored as the loot dropped from monsters and found in treasure chests is of the same or better quality. A guild reputation system also exists in the game. Earning favors with the various guilds may unlock discounts and a larger variety of services and goods for sale. However, it feels a bit tacked on and lacking. This would have been a great way to add more needed depth to the overall experience.
There are numerous interactions between the party and various NPCs in the game. Oftentimes, the game prompts a party member to respond from among the four. These conversations, despite having a bit of flair added to them, have no consequences on the story as a whole. This approach still feels refreshing compared to most party-based tabletop RPGs where only the party leader handles interactions and decisions. Unfortunately, each character can only grow so far within a plot that misses many opportunities to delve deeper.
The graphics and design do a decent job of drawing players into the experience. Adventurers visit a variety of environments that keep things fresh. Occasionally, new armor brings a fresh look to a party member, though a larger selection would help. Character models appear stiff and poorly animated, while monsters and spell effects look fine. The music and sound are standard fare. The sound effects themselves fit during fights, and voice acting is a nice touch when present. While both lack consistency, it’s not enough to detract from the experience.
Overall, Solasta faithfully recreates much of the experience of a fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure with a focus on satisfying combat. It also takes a fresh approach to some of the common tropes, though most of them clearly needed more time and focus to reach their full potential. The game provides an excellent introduction to not only its pen-and-paper counterpart but computer-style role-playing games as well. In the end, Solasta provides a fun, if somewhat short, ride that most will enjoy.
A faithful adaptation of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition rules
Tactical combat is satisfying and rewards planning
The interactions between party members keep things interesting
Low variety of feats and spells
Missing key classes and races from the source material
Overall plot misses some clear opportunities
>Missing key classes from the source material
That’s because the game is based on the free SRD, not the full ruleset. To criticise it for this but not mention why it is that way is disingenuous.
Ummm…those classes are from the SRD, IIRC. (see https://www.5esrd.com/ ) And there’s nothing stopping them adding their own homebrew classes, their own take on traditional classes not in SRD, or even some of the others currently in the SRD. In fact, they are doing now as DLC. So to imply that the only reason they did not add these classes was that they wanted to stick to free SRD is ‘disingenuous.’ 🙂
I never presume to know WHY a developer does or does not do something. The game is clearly designed to bring the table top experience of 5e to computers (to a fault at times). And, in that, it largely succeeds. However, this is one area where it certainly feels lacking.
Ultimately, my main point here… is it is my opinion that there should have been more classes, and the example I gave would be a good starting point (which, again, they are doing anyway as part of DLC). Compared to any other similar CRPG, the selection of classes and races feels on the low side. For example, Divinity Original Sin 2 has 14. Pillars of Eternity has 11. 5e has a ton and SRD has 12. Regardless of the reason, I would have enjoyed a larger selection available with the base game.
Originality 2, Interaction 3? After the guy wastes 2000 words giving us a laundry list of the innovations from the ways PCs interact to the 3D combat system. I get the Story 2 despite inventing an entirely new game world because it is a bit cliché, but the story blows away ToEE, PoR:RMD, or the OC of NWN.
Remember, the guy’s opinion of too much 3D combat is just that – an opinion. I love the depth 3D brings to combat. 3D reminds me of playing real D&D when I was a kid with my friends (and THAC0!). There are no shortage of fast paced no depth action RPGs out there if you want fast.
I question the research the author actually did before labeling this game slightly better than mediocre. I am amused that the Barbarian and Half-Orc he complains are lacking were added in DLC two weeks ago with another full campaign for only $10
He also fails to discuss the toolset and this is where Solasta really shines. The toolset is still limited and in beta, but Solasta has the potential to become the Nwn for the next generation. There are already dozens of player made campaigns. The toolset is what I am most excited about.
And the story sure beats the heck out of the NWN OC…
I’m not sure why you’re so upset about my opinion. It’s just that. An opinion. And you’re welcome to your opinion of my opinion 🙂 But please use facts in your assertions. For example, the review is not 2,000 words. It clocks in under 1,200. Gross exaggeration is not necessary to express an opinion. I do not agree this is a waste, either. After all, you took the time to read it (or, at least parts of it) and brought up some points of your own. And I, personally, appreciate that.
As far as research, all RPGamer staff are required to play games completely from beginning to end for reviews. That should be all that’s required. What a company plans to do with the game in the future, how they got there, etc do not factor in. The game stands or falls on its own merits at the time of review (usually around release). But, for what its worth, I do have a deep background here. I have played CRPGs since the 80’s, with a focus on D&D games – from the Gold Box to Baldur’s Gate, to Neverwinter to Temple of Elemental Evil to Pathfinder, and a few others in between. I know a thing or two about CRPGs and Pen & Paper conversions. It does not mean my opinion is better than yours, but yes, I do have plenty of experience in this arena.
I appreciate what they were trying to accomplish with the climbing/flying mechanic. While we’ve seen it as a ‘status’ in many simpler RPGs (i.e. a monster with the ‘flying’ condition can only be hit by ranged weapons), I cannot think of any other grid-based game attempting it. Unfortunately, for me, it did not add much actual tactical depth. It did result in some fights taking longer to resolve. And, my opinion is that the trade-off isn’t worth it. Again, it is just my opinion. I’m happy you found it more engaging.
Yes, I did notice the new expansion announcement and picked those two examples on purpose (Half-orc and barbarian). As you can see from a comment above, someone argued that there were ‘reasons’ they could not add more classes. These examples pretty much debunk that idea since clearly they can (and could have). Remember, I review the base game as originally bought. My point is simple…in my opinion, the game as reviewed would have been more enjoyable with more classes from the get-go. Other, similar CRPGs have twice as many choices (Pathfinder has nearly 4x classes). See my comment on the post above for more specific details from similar CRPGs. You have to go back to the earliest of Gold box games to find a D&D/SRD conversion that offered so few choices. Or, I suppose you can point to the indy game, Knights of the Chalice…but I feel that’s hardly fair given the asking price, size of the teams, etc. Thankfully, many like you feel that the handful they offered is sufficient.
I am happy people are excited about the toolset. However, as you point out, it’s in beta. I review the game, itself, at the time of release. Toolsets, mods, etc are great ways to extend the value of a game. However, at the time of release, I have the campaign only to really focus on, so I did that in the review. I did not want to waste time working with, testing, and writing about a feature that is clearly unfinished.
And, I agree with your sentiment about the story. It is better than NWN OC. In fact, I’d give NWN OC a 1/5 in story because it’s painfully vanilla. Solasta is better, but still below average in my humble opinion, so the story scores a 2/5. It’s a great premise and had the potential to be a lot higher, but the developers just leave so much on the table, so to speak. Despite story being such an important part of any RPG experience, I still scored the game 3.5/5… “Good” by RPGamer standards and certainly higher than 3/5 or “average.” (BTW, medicore < Average .. a mediocre game would likely get a 2.5 which means 'below average' in our system). Because I do agree with you that the game has many well-done elements and, ultimately, I did enjoy my time with it overall. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I hope my reply provides some clarification. Feel free to stop by our Discord server (rpgamer.com/discord) and talk about this some more with me and others if you like 🙂 Everyone has opinions about this and other RPGs and we enjoy having lively, respectful discussions about them.
This is a God-tier review. Would read again. Thank you for the insight!
Yep, great review. And the responses to criticism are also world class. Everybody is allowed to like a game more or less than a reviewer does. Their opinion doesn’t have to be yours, and vice versa. As it is, I’m more interested in Solasta now than I was before.
World Class? Wow. I dunno about that, but thank you! Better be careful! You might give me a bigger head than I already have 😀