Preview: Solasta: Crown of the Magister
While I’m not an avid in-person roleplayer (current state of the world not withstanding), I have had a fondness over the years for PC-based North American RPGs based on Dungeons & Dragons. These games tend to take a turn-based tactical approach, as does pen-and-paper gaming, and I also have a similar fondness for tactical games. Some of my favorites in that category are the Fire Emblem franchise, as well as the Advance Wars franchise (Really wish they’d make another one of those….). Additionally, several of those classic PC RPGs have seen a recent revival with re-releases on almost every platform – great for D&D fans who have not been able to have in-person game nights with their friends amidst the pandemic.
I felt a sense of excitement, thus, when I learned about Solasta: Crown of the Magister. It is currently in Early Access and, in addition to having the opportunity to give it a play, I was also able to virtually sit down with some of the development team at Tactical Adventures, who demonstrated the progress they’ve been making toward their upcoming full release.
As I alluded at the beginning, this game gives off a strong Neverwinter Nights or Baldur’s Gate feeling. The classic isometric-ish (but fully 3D) style, the D&D-style character and party creation (I was told that they have the license to the D&D SRD 5.1 ruleset, though not the lore/world), and the combat (obviously) are all here and really take me back to what some would consider the golden age of PC RPGs. Your typical races like elves and dwarves are here, with world-unique variants. One could spend a fair bit of time on character creation alone (I know I did!)
Particularly impressive was the full voiceovers. While the number of voice options appear limited, there’s actually a lot to them. You have a choice of personality traits based on your party members’ alignments and other factors, and they will respond to the same situations differently depending on their personality attributes, giving the cutscenes and NPC interactions an element of depth I find atypical of most other games I’ve played. Also, the game world itself has more depth, literally; unlike the other games I’ve mentioned, the environments have verticality to them, and this is a factor in the gameplay. Characters have the ability to climb or jump up and down from varying heights, and this can be used greatly in combat to gain advantages if you plan ahead.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a tactical RPG without combat. Most D&D-based games I played in the past used a real-time system with pausing to let you plan your move, but Solasta opts for a turn-based style, more like the Final Fantasy Tactics series, where a turn order is determined per character (unlike, say, Fire Emblem where you perform all of your actions and then the enemy performs all of theirs). It feels good.
All of the dice rolls you would expect to make in a D&D experience are shown. It’s all automatic, but you get to see everything. While I always found D&D to be rather complicated, Solasta manages to make it feel more approachable without holding your hand too much. Most battles are a straightforward affair, but in my chat with the devs, I was shown an example of a battle later in the game (the Early Access version does not have the entire campaign) which is more elaborate, where you need to disable some devices on the battlefield while contenting with regular enemies in order to be able to hurt a boss.
If the main campaign leaves you wanting more, Solasta offers a Dungeon Maker system in-game to create your own scenarios. While this feature was already available to me in the Early Access version, I was given a demonstration of its use and even given an example creation from the community to show off what can be done with it. There are different environments, each with their own style of rooms and paths, plenty of objects, and the full compliment of enemies from the game to work with. While it has some limitations, it’s impressive that this was all built into the game and remarkably easy to use. Games like this in the past have often had mod tools, and they might be capable of more than Solasta‘s Dungeon Maker, but generally they required the use of difficult, external tools. Making this available to all players in-game means that the experience can easily be extended. The game will support Steam Workshop to share Dungeon Maker creations at launch.
While I couldn’t experience the complete game with the Early Access version, the launch is slated for May 26, 2021 on Steam. Solasta: Crown of the Magister is shaping up to be a solid follow-up to the classic PC RPGs of the past, and I encourage Western RPG fans to give it a look. Look forward to our complete review at launch!
Preview access and images provided by Tactical Adventures. Additional screenshots taken by author.