+Beautiful top down cRPG that follows a play style close to Baulders Gate
+Class system is very much along the lines of pen and paper DnD in real time
+Character creation is in-depth, intuitive and does require attention to stats
–Extremely Limited Dungeon Master Mode
–Character classes at start are limited as are race selections
–Horrific quest markers that seem out-of-place and rather misleading
A lot has happened since Sword Coast Legends launched on PC earlier this year. Thanks to our friends at Digital Extremes I was able to get my hand on the original PC release. A lot has honestly changed since then thanks to the DLC content, but also some fine tuning that the game needed rather badly. In my previous review, I also stated I’ve experienced some in real life hysterical moments with my friends Matt and Ben when we sat at a table to play Dungeons & Dragons on weekends.
For this review, we’ll once more pretend I didn’t play with my friends, that I don’t know what D&D is, and I certainly don’t know the legendary Gary Gygax. In this review I’m also pushing to the side I have previous experience of the game and approaching it from a new view all together thanks to Digital Extremes and my friend as well as colleague Christopher Adee. So let us get this underway.
Sword Coast Legends Keeps the D&D Fans Know Alive
When it comes to D&D we’ve all had that feeling that we’ve walked in circles many-a-times. We’ve seen games such as Baldurs Gate, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, Neverwinter Nights, and even an MMO-version of Neverwinter release across all platforms. Among these many titles we now have Sword Coast Legends, which is oddly familiar in many ways. Much like Neverwinter Nights, Sword Coast Legends fills a much needed gap when it comes to D&D Games, unlike the publishers game Warframe, it doesn’t sate a deeply hungering desire that players have.
As one would expect, Dungeon Master is something that’d be rather important within the game and honestly it is one that should have performed the best. Unfortunately, this isn’t where the game shines in all unfortunate circumstances. Much like any game, D&D titles survive based on story, which is where Sword Coast Legends shines the best out of it all. Much like any D&D title, players begin the game as a part of a mercenary band, a member of the Burning Dawn guild, and one that must guide their caravan to the pirate city of Luskan. Being attacked by a group of mercenaries being led by a Knight of Helm, players finds their guild is being condemned by him for possibly being composed of demon worshipers.
By the end of this beginning sequence players find themselves investing the city of Luskan around the Sword Coast and looking for answers to what is happening to them. While the opening cut scene was one players will be rather familiar with, it’s an issue that this game comes across besides the fact it had a chance to be intriguing, albeit difficult at the same time. The game comes out with a default “defend the caravan” scenario where players will get acquainted with combat by fighting rats, goblins, and the infamous mercenaries we discussed.
While the game grabs our attention by killing off a caravan member early on, players could easily cringe if they’ve played Pillars of Eternity since both games begin almost on the same note. If you’re like myself, don’t equip all your party members with the best gear you find, there is a chance you will lose them and the gear itself won’t remain permanent. Once getting this out of the way, the game effectively joins the collective of games that Bioware has inspired after the release of their Knights of the Old Republic titles. Players will find themselves growing accustomed to wandering around multiple landscapes such as sewers, woodlands, abandoned castles, dungeons, caves, and the likes. Sadly, this is something that remains rather common within Sword Coast Legends.
It Gets a Bit Weirder for Sword Coast Legends
While one would assume enjoying a game wouldn’t be a common occurrence, it’s something that does tend to happen quite often, which makes it odd to the games pacing. Players will find themselves doing it quite often to level up their party members, choosing items, placing points into spells, and even itemizing themselves properly so that they may become insanely overpowered. This all, of course, requires a bit of Dungeons and Dragons know-how players may be unfamiliar with at first. Trust me, it happened to me to, and I know D&D somewhat well as long as it sat within the 2.5 guidelines.
While the A.I. knew what it was doing, I did find myself swapping to my healer, more-so to ensure healing would be done properly, and would provide proper buffs needed to complete each battle. Trust me, it worked, and quite a bit. One thing that players will find problematic isn’t that the difficulty isn’t there, but it’s the fact it isn’t there when it should be and is there when it shouldn’t be. A few rats or a few goblins? No problem. Have your caster blind them, freeze them, and annihilate them with their most powerful AoE spell.
While Chris and I did take time to notice the difficulty didn’t scale in our favor, we wiped a few times, picked up the pieces and tried once more. With the few kinks in our mistakes cleared out, we ran off, grabbed our objective, and were on our merry ways due to our excessive amounts of healing items and defensive potions. Not that this is problematic at all, but the reviving friendlies without a spell doesn’t help to alleviate this issue. The only time I found a real problem was when Chris took over the tank only to have our cleric waste a healing spell that wasn’t needing to be used a few times. The other issue? The AI loved to use our healing kits, potions, and resources without really needing them, which left us in fear of never having them when they are truly need in things such as a boss fight.
With that aside, the game is quite enjoyable thanks to the character classes that are in play, which puts each character uniquely crafted as you start recruiting your party. With the new leveling system, players will be able to build the characters they want through these rather in-depth skill trees. For those unfamiliar to D&D, these may be a bit dumbfounding at first, but once figured out, they’re quite fun. Want a battle caster? That’s fine, craft your caster to do so based on the large array of skill trees to do so. My fire mage? He quickly went battle mage, which isn’t uncommon in the game. I made him good for close range combat while wearing light armor. I’m sure Hommet was calling me dirty things in the background. It happens, but he’ll fight through the storm. Our rogue? I made her more useful at picking locks, revealing secrets, and dealing delicious amounts of damage without being spotted.
Our little elf friend cleric? She quickly became our dedicated healer. While many would frown upon my choices, it’s because this game easily made this capable of happening as characters level up, and offer players a chance to designate characters to how they want them. If you are out adventuring and have a class missing from your party that synergies with your build? You could find yourself troubled, but thanks to the class system that shouldn’t happen, and won’t if you prepare properly. The only thing dumbfounding is that characters can communicate from camp by the means of magic. Wait, dwarves can’t use magic can they?
Oh, Dungeon Master… You Need Some Upgrades
While finding people to play with on Sword Coast Legends was enjoyable, I found myself cringing on several instances, but not because of the multiplayer. The game honestly has one of the most solid netcodes I’ve experienced to date, but the fact the game goes beyond the campaign and leaves players to an opportunity to play the Dungeon Master mode, which is troubled due to its rather lacking amount of content.
Just like in tabletop D&D, players are given a chance to allow players to build their own dungeons and play them shortly after. Sound familiar to anyone? We did this in Neverwinter Nights also. Players can select from traps, monsters, and loot tables for players to enjoy. While it could be heavily edited, it’d have been nice to see more complex codes so that players could add in interactive NPC’s, secret rooms, and even special loot sets for players to discover.
Sword Coast Legends – PC, PlayStation 4 (PlayStation 4), Xbox One
Publisher: Digital Extremes
Release Date: Now Available
Much as you’d expect, once your dungeon is build, you can take your friends or internet friends on an enjoyable spin through your carefully crafted world. Players can directly manage the party so as to make the progression of their friends even more challenging and unpredictable. Of course, this can be done without intentionally making them fail like I did a few times to show what DMs are capable of. The Dungeon Maser can openly place new traps, new missions, and spend resources (threat) to provide an elevated sense of difficulty to their dungeons.
Unlike my chances at home, Sword Coast Legends’ difficulties have proven true as to what I had expected. While some could harp on the game for such a lacking feature, it’s one that the publisher Digital Extremes could have had developer n-Space improve upon post launch. The downside to this is even more painful – n-Space has closed, which means no new content will be headed this way. We can only hope that Sword Coast Legends gets improved upon by famed publisher Digital Extremes by providing some of the love they’ve shown to Warframe.
Our review is based upon the final version that the publisher provided us with. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 6 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter, Google+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.