It took over 25 years for me to have a chance to play Dungeons and Dragons. Always hearing about it or seeing it in media it looked like a lot of fun but in the meantime, there were a lot of DnD-like games to play. While a lot of these have combat and mechanics inspired by or close to true DnD you could tell you were never getting the full experience. Solasta: Crown of the Magister, while set in a completely original world, uses the full DnD 5e ruleset. Seeking to close that gap between what can get done in-game vs the tabletop experience. But do they pull it off?
The Steam demo gives players access to a New Adventure that has players controlling four pre-made characters. There is a character creator included but for the short dungeon, you need to use the pre-made ones. These characters are Garrad the Human Fighter, Rhuad the Sylvan Elf Rogue, Vigdis the Snow Dwarf Cleric, and Violet the Marsh Halfling Wizard. It's a shame you can't bring your own characters but this balanced mix serves to gives you a taste of everything. You'll have a good chance at experiencing close-range combat, ranged attacks, and magic, as well as healing and buffing party members.
The story of the adventure is very basic, you're sent to help out another party who lost a member in the Orc riddled Ruins of Telema. A brief chat beforehand shows that dialog options are what each party member would say in a situation. This gets based on their personality flags and alignments. Solasta will generate a single line for each character and you can pick your favorite. In the case, there's a chance to persuade or deceive you'll also get your success percentages. It's always going to be impossible to get conversation and roleplay aspects of a tabletop RPG to video games. This is an acceptable workaround and hopefully in any situation, one of your characters says something that you'd like. To have the true randomness of pen and paper RPG dialogue is just not something that you can expect.
You move your party according to a global grid system in Solasta. This grid, much like in the source material will dictate a lot. Moving into the dark mines your vision is immediately restricted, forcing you to bring out your characters torches or case light. I did spend some time looking for a brightness slider but so that the player can only see as far as their character this option seems to have been omitted. After the first few traps that my party got sent to it became apparent that the best way to move through the dungeon is a few blocks at a time.
The ruins that developers Tactical Adventures created were wonderful to explore. It wasn't the flat mines or ruins that you'd expect for a TT adventure but was intricate and set up on many layers. One chest in a secret room required my party to leap across a ledge and shimmy down a dark one-person wide path revealing a secret door. Where Solasta falls short in terms of dialogue and conversation it more than makes up for in dungeon intricacies.
The most faithful aspect of Solasta is in combat. The UI is laid out so clearly that once Initiative starts new or old to DnD you will understand your options. You can make an action, move, and perform bonus actions. Any time it would be possible for your character to react the game will prompt the player to make sure nothing gets forgotten. Solasta also has a focus on making sure you can get as much information about anything as you want. You'll understand exactly what you're doing before you make your decision.
To make sure you know the system is staying honest each roll is even called out with any bonuses added. While letting an arrow loose at a spider you'll know that your ranger rolled an 8 and that only with the +7 that your bow gives you did you manage to make that hit. Just as in the tabletop game rolling dice you'll get excited about the big hits and hang your head on a crit fail. By default, a creature has its own initiative, and all monsters can also move on the same initiative. The most difficult part of the Solasta demo was playing not just one character I'd never seen, but four of them. Obviously this will be less of a problem when you're able to bring your own characters in.
The character creation process is again familiar to 5e players. While the demo only has access to 5 races and 6 classes it's likely the full release will include the regular playable races. At each step of the way, you'll get shown every detail about a new character you're creating. In a single screen when picking your race you'll see stat modifiers, movement, proficient, and race features. It's clear and concise, and with how much you need to keep track of rolling a character it's appreciated. Options for ability scores are also extremely flexible. They can get rolled for randomness, you can pick from the standard array of scores, or you can use the point buy system. If you want to sit there are keep rolling for the highest possible scores you can, but you can also play a more honest game if you want.
Solasta Preview | Final Thoughts
For any DnD fans, Solasta is a demo worth checking out. With such a one to one system players will likely be able to take their existing characters and pull them into the world of Solasta. With only a few dialogue choices seen in the demo, it will be interesting to see how much more they're able to do with it in the full release. Will there be times we can talk our way out of a fight? or enrage a whole town against us? The faithfulness and easy of the combat system is something to be applauded. Any potential question about an unfamiliar action or spell was immediately answered and allows for more time playing the game instead of reading rules. I look forward to the types of adventures that will take place in this game.
TechRaptor previewed Solasta: Crown of the Magister on PC during the Steam Game Festival.