Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sword Coast Legends - First Impressions

I only had time to play my copy for about an hour last night, but I was surprised to discover that it's rather compelling. For those of you wondering about it, or reading various comments online and trying to discern just what the game is about, here's a relatively neutral take on the initial experience so far, with more depth to come (since it turns out I really enjoyed that first hour):

Is it D&D 5E? Sort of, but not really. It's got the trappings....I'd call it "70% in feel" in that you buy attributes the same way, pick a background, race, one of six classes (cleric, wizard, fighter, rogue, paladin and ranger) and then you pick from a series of progression charts on abilities. The abilities are where it moves away from D&D 5E...they tend to be named after actual 5E abilities but do things geared toward the game environment, rather than a simulation of 5E like Baldur's Gate was for 2E andNeverwinter Nights 1 and 2 were for 3E. Why this approach? It's because....

SCL is an action/RPG/tactical hybrid. The game incorporates a pause button, like the older RPGs it follows, and plays like it has some DIabloesque DNA. Not a huge amount....but somewhere in there. You can create a character and at least at the low level march around smacking stuff on timed attacks almost like you were in any old classic ARPG (action RPG).

What Modes of Play Are there? There's campaign mode, story mode and dungeon crawl mode. I played the main story for a while and was pleased to see it had good voice acting, and a story which compelled me to keep going, although time prevented me from getting very far last night. Likewise, I tried out a bit of the dungeon crawl and was pleased to see it's kind of like a fun mix of random dungeon delving. While playing I had random players join the game. Not sure if there's a way to do dungeon crawls solo, though.

How are the graphics? This is an odd one. The scenery/background graphics are pretty nice, actually. The game's environments look good. The models however....well, the good news is that the models don't need a lot of resolution in an isometric title, but they are pretty ugly. Surprising level of customization, though.....but I didn't bother too much beyond hair style and colors as lipstick on a pig is still a pig. Not atrocious, though; nothing here is as terrifying as the average result of an Elder Scrolls: Oblivion character, for example.

Concerns? My big concern is that it's clear the game is going to hit us up with microtransactions soon, probably for extra races (such as tiefling and dragonborn which are in the game but not playable), new classes beyond the initial six, and if you want to get in to the dungeon mastering side it looks like it can get really expensive. It seems that the developers must have concluded that DMs are the "whales" of the D&D world and therefore are planning to monetize that side of the game heavily. I bought in at a nice discount through Green Man Gaming the basic game only; once I figure out the pricing structure for in-game purchases we'll see if it looks worth the effort. Other reports on the DM element of the package don't make it sound enticing; there's not enough customization to make it a viable utility for tabletop online gaming, for example....and the system's loose interpretation of 5E mechanics into a action/tactical hybrid mean that 5E fans won't get quite the same experience they'd like as playing at the table provides.

I'll play more and provide a progress report as I go along. Right now however if you could find the basic campaign for a nice discount I don't think you'd go wrong......but if it was a toss up between this and Pillars of Eternity I'd still suggest Pillars of Eternity first.

UPDATE: I have some follow-up here. Short version is the interest didn't sustain, largely because the action-rpg feel just got to me too much.

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