by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
I recently had a chance to play the hour-long Solasta: Crown of the Magister demo, with their Kickstarter starting shortly. It’s a free demo, but I got to try it just a little early to see what I think about it. For the most part, my impressions are very positive. You get a feel for the characters, you get to make a few choices about dialogue, and there is plenty of time to get adjusted to the game’s movement, combat, and stealth systems. The game channels previous CRPGs, like Baldur’s Gate without directly ripping it off. The game uses a tabletop RPG style ruleset, but I’m not 100% certain what system it uses. If you’re at all familiar with tabletop D&D or Pathfinder, you will understand what you’re doing.
The Demo is brief, but it really packs a lot into that one hour. Your team of heroes shows up, and gets thrust right into the middle of one of the most D&D conflicts of all time: People have been kidnapped by Orcs. So what are we going to do? We’re going to kick the stuffing out of those axe-wielding jerks, of course! As in the way of all things tabletop RPG, what you see at first is never really the true threat. We wound up doing battle with/trying to escape a ravening horde of giant spiders, and I’m sad to say I could not figure out how to get away from them. Instead, I was surrounded and consumed by about eight giant spiders. I believe I was going up the wrong part of the map. There is definitely plenty of challenge to be had in Solasta.
You have a sturdy, armor-clad knight, a sneaky rogue, a battle-cleric, and a wizard to see you through this quest safely. Each character can be moved one at a time across the map, or in groups by dragging the mouse. I’d give a great deal to be able to rotate the map though. In these incredibly dark areas, not being able to see what’s next is a great tool to add suspense and danger, but it was a bit frustrating. You can set your characters to sneak, to have less of a chance to be caught by enemies, and help with trap detection, which is incredibly important. There are platforms that break, chests that are trapped, and more! If enemies spot you, battle begins, and characters roll Initiative. They can move and act within their set parameters, and you can’t just act recklessly. Your spells can hurt your allies, and moving within the threat range of enemy units can cause attacks of opportunity. You can block attacks for your allies, and also get the same attack of opportunity chances, thankfully.
Combat is awesome, but man is it dangerous! It feels very much like real D&D where every threat is a major one. You can rest in safe places (if you can find one) thankfully, to recover spell slots and HP. This was the best part of the game for me, this and combat. It felt so good, except for setting equipment. Picking up loot and swapping gear felt incredibly cumbersome. The game said I could set gear to be quickly swapped back and forth, but in my first playthrough it wasn’t altogether clear how. So when I needed to light a patch of tar or something on fire to have more vision (awesome, by the by), I would go to my rogue’s inventory, equip the torch, then re-equip their bow. There is a lot of joy in sneaking around in the dark, using your parties abilities, and defeating the bad guys. Your characters can die, but thankfully your Battle-Cleric can try and resuscitate and heal them. You have cantrips and more powerful spells on both casters too. It’s got a lot on the ball, and I really, genuinely enjoyed playing it.
I’m very curious about the overarching story, and if there will be more character customization available in Solasta: Crown of the Magister. My biggest complaint so far was the dub. Not the actual voice actors, because they were fine. Many character lines ran together with almost no break between them. One character would speak, and immediately, without pause, the next character would go. It felt like a high school presentation where everyone memorized their lines and had no idea when to speak. It’s an easy fix, assuredly, but it was very distracting (and honestly, pretty damn funny too). It’s a game that’s still in development, so issues are bound to pop up. The Kickstarter for Solasta starts today, and you can find a link to it here. The above video also discusses the game’s development, and I highly recommend watching it. There’s a lot going here that’s positive, and if you’re a fan of the classic CRPGs, this is right up your alley.