Solasta: Crown of the Magister is a fairly average game with a few neat ideas that either make or break the game depending on your perspective. Being fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons, it feels about as simplistic and basic as one would expect, but does a good job of thematically capturing the feeling of tabletop gaming.
This is not a complex campaign, the story is standard fare and at the moment unfinished, dungeons are basically rows of encounters in a relatively linear path and it didn’t feel like there was much variation in what you could do with your skills. Yet, in a way the simplicity of the game is one of its best traits.
It starts out fine, with very minimalist customization from one of the six available classes and a few races, and feels more like picking an archetype than actually creating a character, I feel like if we were to look at how everyone plays their cleric, or rogue, or wizard you’ll see almost identical playstyles because there’s not many options to deviate. Once you’ve made your party, it starts you off with one of the better tutorials I’ve seen.
Aside from teaching you almost everything you’ll need to know, the tutorials take the shape of backstories for the characters you made, and due to being able to choose personality traits the initial banter and dialogue between them make them feel like real characters, instantly becoming one of the best parts of the game’s story.
The grid map feels very authentic, making it easy to utilize opportunity attacks, reactions and area spells, the game’s main gimmick though could use some work. Enemies climb, fly and utilize elevation with ease and frequency, making the game melee unfriendly, but it’s not so easy for players to use these the same way which makes this gimmick mechanic feel more annoying than fun. As well, feats, darkvision, skills don’t seem to work properly and your skill checks in conversations generally let you skip major battles, which can leave you in a situation where you miss all the good fights and only end up with the trash ones, not to mention missing most of the good loot and experience points.
The game has puzzles, but movement and map control is not fun and makes them more annoying than anything else, most puzzles are just walk around and try to find something to click. Despite the game being full of verticality, if a barrel is in your way in a one square wide path you’re forced to take a scenic route around it, there are only a few times you can utilize the environment to do something interesting like crushing a foe with a boulder. The map lacks a compass, and the minimap is a compass without a map, which is a decision I can’t understand.
It is encounter to encounter, and you’ll finish a fight or enter a room and suddenly be forced into conversation with foes that appear out of nothing- giving no option to sneak by or get a surprise round. Some conversations don’t even give a fight option, and I had to restart my save six times in a row to manage to fight the final boss in the game because all conversation options had a chance to successfully avoid the fight and I kept passing my skill checks. I don’t like being able to skip major fights to begin with, but in this case it’s not even an option it just forces you to skip it if you make a good roll.
The game’s story and mechanics are much like their visuals, from a distance looking intriguing and promising but up close it can be a bit unappealing. Still, it is decently enjoyable and with the promise of more content this could end up a good game, even in early access it is a solid twenty hours of decent content that may appeal to fifth edition fans, if you don’t mind the possibility of losing your save file when the game goes live.
This is a 6/10 but has the room to do a bit better if it fixes issues and the additional content tells a full story.