Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Sword Coast Legends

This decade hasn't seen many takers in video games for the Dungeons & Dragons license. And the few new titles that have come out haven't been on the same level as the games of old. The 4th edition didn't inspire developers and the 5th seems to have a similar problem. Or at least that's my impression.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale (2011) looks so bad that I haven't even considered buying it. Neverwinter (2013) might be good but I don't feel like playing MMOs. Then there's the clicker game abomination called Idle Champions of Forgotten Realms (2017) which oddly enough is pretty high on Steam's currently most played games list.

The very definition of a mediocre RPG

Sword Coast Legends was released in 2015. Developed by n-Space and published by Digital Extremes, it set out to create an experience similar to Neverwinter Nights - a D&D video game that allows custom campaigns led by a dungeon master, a human mind, there to breathe life into every aspect of your unfolding tale . . .  They even had the veteran D&D game composer Inon Zur to create a soundtrack for the game.

Anyway, the task proved to be a tad too much for the developer. The DM tools weren't as powerful as in NWN and the game in general was lacking. N-Space closed down in 2016 and Sword Coast Legends was pulled off the Steam store at the end of 2017 due to the game's license expiring. I had had it on my wishlist since its release and the final sale pushed me to buy it.

Disregarding the DM mode, the big problems of SCL include a completely uninspired story in its campaign. You can find a more interesting plot in about any other RPG out there. Just riding on the well-established Forgotten Realms setting, dropping known names and places is not enough as it turns out.

The implementation of the D&D leaves a lot to be desired too. Now, I'm not familiar with the 5th edition rules but I am fairly certain it doesn't do realtime cooldown abilities and have Diablo II -like skill trees. It's impossible to say if the system was the original goal or did the development drift to it after a more accurate implementation of the rules proved too hard to accomplish.

However, I quite enjoyed the skill and combat system. You hardly need to use the active pause for micromanagement outside difficult boss fights. AI-controlled party members handle themselves adequately. Only the casting of AoE spells cause trouble to them as abilities like Fireball didn't seem to get used at all.

I took a safe bet and played a paladin. The class tends to be awesome and this game was no exception. I planned to use two-handed swords but then discovered there was a passive ability that added a static radiant damage bonus to any radiant attack and another passive that increased radiant damage dealt. That synergized well with solely radiant damage dealing short sword called Sun Blade. I'm not sure if smaller weapons attack faster in the game though the animations seemed to at least suggest so. Faster attack speed would thus mean more damage from the passives.

Having a paladin main character and thus a considerable strength score also allowed me to be less affected by an annoying design flaw which probably stems from multiplayer focus: the party's carrying capacity is determined solely by your main character's strength. Thus when playing a class to whom strength isn't important, you'll end up overburdened very easily and have to return to town to sell all the loot before been finished with a dungeon. It's such a tiny yet annoying thing that would've been easy to fix in one of the patches Sword Coast Legends received after launch.

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