Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
It’s always a fun day when something that you have been looking forward to in Early Access hits that 1.0 version. It’s kind of like rolling a 20 on something that actually matters instead of rolling a 1 and hoping no one saw you faceplant while “trying” to do something cool. So on that subject, having sat down to Tactical Adventure’s Solasta: Crown of the Magister earlier this year when the cold winds of January were still upon us, I can say with certainty that I have not been disappointed with the recently released final version of this computerized table top experience.
Again, starting off like any good old fashioned Dungeons & Dragons player, I made a couple of my own characters instead of going with the system generated ones for those that want to simply dive into the action. Creating a half-elf Rogue, Dwarven Cleric, Human Fighter and Elven Wizard, I rolled the dice on all four instead of seeing what I could do with the point by system. Scoring some rather decent numbers for each (there was a LOT of rerolling and apparently steam achievement for such action) I was ready to take on the not so quite unknown as I re-entered the darkened caverns with at least three of my four members having low-light to darkvision. I swear that wasn’t on purpose…
Now for character creation, as a good deal of it is based on stats and what a character can or cannot do, there were a few aspects that I want to highlight in a good light. One of the first of these is that some abilities or languages are told upfront that they will be useless to you if you take them for the main campaign. Could they be useful later? Yes, but for right now, they aren’t so if there are other things that you want to take instead you probably should and then just make another character down the line to supplement what’s missing at that point in time. The other, while perhaps seemingly minor to some but will be huge to others, is the ability to choose not only your binary gender of Male or Female which affects the default appearances, but also your pronoun. He, She, They. I was pleasantly surprised to see this added in as Solasta is the emulation of a table top experience and if someone wants to play outside the “norm” then they should be able to. That’s the entire point of Dungeons & Dragons!
Once your party of four is in order, you’ll once again dive through the tutorial in order to get a handle on things. Split between your four characters, you’ll quickly get an idea of how each character type works from the rogues and stealthy actions like lockpicking and sneak attacks to warriors dropping boulders on wolves. Once that’s over and you’re into the first city to gear up, there are a few things to check out but one thing that I greatly want to highlight and that I didn’t pay enough attention to the first time around is the following. DO NOT LOOT EVERYTHING. Well… loot everything, just don’t pick it all up, it’s not at least in the beginning worth it as there’s a crew designed to come up behind you and do it for you for a percentage. So why slow down your characters in battle when the most it’s going to cost is a few GP for super convenience? The only tradeoff to be aware of is if you do end up doing this, it could be a few in-game days until you get paid if you really need the cash? Carry the stash.
In the field, things will work just as they would with papers spread out on a table alongside pizza boxes, beer and pop on a friday or Saturday night with friends. Character sheets, check. Dice, check. Lines of sight and fields of vision depending on ambient lighting? Check. Each of these comes together in order to bring about a single player tabletop campaign that makes you feel like you’re at a table with others which is huge especially since we haven’t been able to actually do that over the past year and a half. That’s really what drew me to Solasta as it wasn’t just another computerized D&D adventure. Like Pillars of Eternity 2, like Divinity: Original Sin 2, like the upcoming Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, these are crafted experiences to bring you into the adventure and not simply have you sit on the sidelines for yet another dungeon crawl that you hit the spacebar to pause and decide who to magic missile next. There’s nothing wrong with this as it’s a solid genre of gaming, but sometimes, you need something more and the twist in direction of Solasta is a good start.
Mixing exploration, dialog and combat though, scenarios will have you moving through environments as you see fit. Do you want to go all out from the beginning? Do you want to be rude to someone who may be able to help you out? Do you want to try a secret code that the rogue says that they know that could trigger something from the person standing behind the door if you’re lucky enough. How you go through is up to you but like any good table top, only the dice will be able to tell you if you’ve succeeded, failed, or failed miserably by rolling a 1 and fumbling hard.
This leads me to perhaps one of the more interesting elements, the showcasing of your rolls. The best example and I HATE (and love) how they do it, is take a combat scenario for example. You get your wizard to prep a firebolt as a cantrip, they cast it, you see it fly out across the distance to the enemy and while it’s flying out you see the dice hit the table and you notice that it’s a low number. You’ve missed, the firebolt moves past the target and hits the wall, you groan, the enemy chuckles to themselves, the battle continues. The interactiveness and seeing how your dicerolls affect certain of your actions but not until the action is in play is rather neat as you inch that much closer to your screen and wonder, did I do it?
Otherwise, everything really plays out like a D&D on a table top surface. You can move “X” distance based on your physique and how much you’re carrying. Stealth checks are constantly made against those you are trying to hide against making their own Perception checks. You can try to hit enemies off in the distance if you can make them out but sometimes you’ll want a cleric or a wizard to make some light or ignite sconces to provide additional light to see. You’ll need to take short and long breaks which consume supplies to get back into tip top shape. And sometimes you’ll have to think on your feet and realize that the environment can both help and kill you all at the same time by being able to push enemies off and be pushed off yourself.
Now is Solasta perfect? No as there are a few details here and there that could have easily been approved upon but what is there is pretty awesome. If there are small things that I would have liked to see more of it would have been in the cosmetics of your character because I found that the options for both facial hair and head hair to be a bit lacking. Another category that I think could use a little bit of work is to have more voice options for your characters is three per binary gender is definitely not enough to fully differentiate your characters.
The other perhaps small detail is that the dialog while all voiced and having options is rather limited. A lot of it felt like all options would lead to the same thing, the only difference though between the options would be as to how sarcastic or gentle you would be if you decided to say something. I hadn’t really noticed it the first time, but the second time around it was a bit more noticeable and in some ways it’s not a bad thing as this campaign is on rails and you’ll go where the “Dungeon Master” wants you to go. Like I said, it’s not the end of the world, but sometimes I would have preferred a few more options.
So overall, Solasta: Crown of the Magister does an excellent job at bringing a tabletop experience over to the digital realm. While it may not be perfect, that’s more of a detail as it’s still being worked on with new features to come down the line such as the Dungeon Maker and a Sorcerer class to add to the already existing six available. Will more come? That’s to see down the line but for now? Solasta offers hours of brilliant tabletop goodness all from the comfort of your chair.Score: 8.5 / 10