In 2000, I had six CD’s shoved into my hands. Each one marked with black marker, scrawled with ‘Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn’ on them. I had no idea what I was getting into at the time, even though I was familiar with Dungeons and Dragons. The scope and size of the game, the sweeping story and memorable characters. Then, a few years later, Neverwinter Nights came out. While BG2 was epic, NWN gave me the tools I needed to make my own stories and share them with others. If Baldur’s Gate had depth, Neverwinter had breadth. Releasing soon is Sword Coast Legends and it’s looking like if you wanted to scratch that Neverwinter itch, then you’ll soon be given those tools all over again.
Set in the same Forgotten Realms as nearly all existing Dungeons and Dragons video games, it has the familiar isometric viewpoint excepting that the game is full 3d. This means you can pan around, rotate and zoom in and out around your character. The main story has been pretty standard so far, with the sorts of characters you’d expect in a game like this. In fact, if this were the pen and paper version of Dungeons and Dragons, I’d have as much fun playing it. The music from the game comes from Inon Zur, who did the music for Dragon Age: Origins and Fallout 3 and it’s similarly atmospheric.
Where this game shines is the multiplayer. Asymmetric gameplay is nothing new with colossal games like Evolve and Crawl giving us two very different sides to play with in multiplayer battles. Sword Coast Legends bases itself in the pen and paper origins placing the sides less at odds and more playing tug of war. The people playing the adventure goes through dungeons and wilds, killing monsters and solving puzzles and having fun. The ‘Dungeon Master’ earns threat points that can be spent upgrading encounters with better equipped baddies, tougher puzzles and even rearranging some of the dungeon.
Something cool related to the meta of the game: the story ties into the greater ‘season’ that Wizards of the Coast (the company that makes Dungeons and Dragons) has set up across all it’s product lines. That means players playing the tabletop game can find their story intertwined with Sword Coast Legends (as well as their free to play MMO Neverwinter) and their Miniatures product line. Presumably, when Wizards forwards the story (or moves onto their next Season of storytelling), Sword Coast will get updates to maintain parity.
Now nothing is perfect. In this game, the DLC for the game has me concerned. Some monsters are listed as DLC in tiers for pre-ordering and if you’re giving someone a toolbox, it sucks if you removed the only hammer in the box. Multiplayer (both the main campaign and cooperative gameplay) removes the tactical ‘pausing’ ability. This is more an issue with the main game where some points are quite difficult while playing with friends, as it’s obvious you should be able to pause the action. Also people wanting the depth found in RPGs of the 90’s and 2000’s are going to find it lacking.
All that being said, with what content exists in the pre-release build I’ve been playing has been fantastic. There is lots of fun to be had and judging from the community surrounding the game before it’s even out, there’s going to be lots of people having a lot of fun with it. You can pre-order the game right now via Steam in single packs and four packs. Players wanting to Dungeon Master more should probably pick up one of the higher tiers.