Today we are diving into some new territory with a game called Solasta: Crown of the Magister. This is described as a turn-based tactical RPG based upon the 5.1 Ruleset for Dungeons and Dragons. In Solasta, you will assemble a team of four heroes to serve under the Council, but as you journey through the lands, your team becomes ensnared in a conspiracy surrounding the crown of the Magister.
As a newcomer to the Dungeon and Dragon’s ruleset, how easy was it for me to get into the source material and was it an enjoyable experience?
Let’s talk about that.
When you first begin Solasta, you are highly encouraged to handcraft your team of heroes before starting a new campaign. They have pre-made ones if you want to get right into the action, which is what I ended up doing to learn the mechanics. But the Hero creation is really well done and offers deep customization in order to make each hero just how you want them.
You get to pick things like your race, your lineage, languages, set up your ability scores, classes, appearance and so much more. It took me about 20 minutes to create my hero when I was taking my time and carefully planning it out, if you want to blaze through it, you can get each hero done in about half the time.
And just like in classic D&D, you need to create a party of heroes that complement each other not only with their attacks, but also their utility. Having a hero that is great at disarming traps is just about required, while having one that is knowledgeable in multiple languages and lore is also super nice to have, information is a powerful tool in games like this. Don’t just focus on dealing damage with spells and attacks either, the supporting abilities can be game-changing, like Mage Armor, Blessings, and other supportive spells will help your team out a ton when things get dicey.
So while I said it takes 20 minutes to make each character to your liking, it might take even longer if you are really diving deep into the granular details of your team. This was one of my favorite parts of the game. As a big deck-building guy, I love to create synergies and weave together strengths and cover weaknesses. So I was right at home.
The one big drawback here that I saw from others who reviewed the game is that there is no multi-classing available and some big name classes are missing like Barbarian, Druid, and Bard. So if you are looking forward to plaything those classes or mixing two classes together, just know you can’t do that.
Once you get your team assembled, you can take on the main storyline, Crown of the Magister. This comes in a few different difficulties.
- Story – for those who just want to see the story and don’t want to worry too much about challenges.
- Explorer – which is perfect for me because it’s aimed at people who are new to ruleset games.
- Authentic – True D&D experience with no modifiers. Normal mode.
- Scavenger – Slightly more difficult, enemies will deal more damage, you will have less saving throws.
- Cataclysm – Nightmare difficulty. Here your party will take 50% increased damage and enemies will deal more damage and have way more health.
So there are multiple ways to enjoy the game and I’m glad the devs went this direction with it. I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed my time as much if I was forced into both learning all the ins and outs of the game while being constantly merc’d every time I got into a battle.
The story itself has been a relatively predictable adventure. They have some heavy foreshadowing that is almost immediately acted upon and it really doesn’t have a ton of complexity through it. I’m not saying it’s a bad story, it’s just one that doesn’t really throw anything surprising at you. So if you are looking for some Edgar Allen Poe level of depth, then I would keep looking.
But it’s the combat within the areas of this story that really shines. For a turn-based tactical RPG, complete with the grid and units of movement, it has been satisfying to play. When you begin a battle, your team and the enemy roll for initiative and that sets the order of events for actions. Now if you get jumped with a surprise attack, you skip your first turn which is a powerful buff or debuff for your party. If you are able to sneak up on some enemies and open battle with an attack or spell, then you can have a free turn to setup your team or kill off some weaker enemies.
And the whole ‘rolling for initiative” thing is throughout the entire combat sequence. You will constantly have characters rolling for attacks, saves, opportunity attacks, or certain movement throughout the battlefield. For instance, if you have a character attempting to jump across a gap, they will roll for a dexterity check to see if they can make the jump, if they fail, they will stumble and take damage, if it’s successful they will easily make the jump and be able to perform their main action – same goes for climbing and really most other movement.
So this is one of those things that other players were really big on, they liked seeing the dice rolls and various checks within the game. It took me a few battles to get the hang of it, but now reading those rolls is second nature and helps give the game more character.
I did encounter a few bugs within combat that were more annoying than anything. There were times when the enemy would perform an action and the game would freeze for about 30 seconds. I could still move the camera and click around, but the battle sequence didn’t progress. Then suddenly things would start acting normal again. I checked online to see if this was a widespread problem and from what I can tell it affects everyone despite their PC setup pretty intermittently. Some other issues I ran into involved lines of sight not reading correctly where sometimes I could launch a magic spell through a wall, and other times I could clearly see an enemy, but the game stated I didn’t have any line of sight. It wasn’t a big deal for the battle I was in, but during a more high stakes fight, that would have been super annoying.
Outside of combat, your will be guiding your party through a variety of explorable areas filled with traps, chests, and secrets. Some of these things hold some pretty awesome pieces of gear, so it’s worth checking out everything rather than zipping through to the next battle.
And on a larger scale, your party will move from location to location through an automated travel system. You simply click on the location on the map you need to move to and your party will go there over a certain period of time. During this time they will consume food, hunt, craft, sing songs and do all kinds of other interesting things. This is pretty much downtime for you as the player unless they get a surprise attack at camp.
Now I mentioned crafting. This game does have a crafting system that will allow you to take some raw materials and make things like potions, gear, and ammunition. This is where your character building plays a large role because certain classes and backgrounds will have a proficiency that you can take advantage of. If you want potions for example, build a character who is talented with herbalism.
Overall the story mode was fun and engaging even with the small bugs and middle of the road story. The game also has a built-in dungeon maker so you can create your own areas to explore and share with others on the Steam Workshop, it’s a great feature that is easy to use and fun to build within.
But as fun as the game was, there is a huge, glaring issue that really takes a lot of appeal away in my opinion. The game is single player. There is no way to play with friends or matchmake and go on an adventure. Most of the fun in games like this comes from being able to join up with others and play with other people who have made their own characters. I don’t imagine playing D&D by yourself in a room is fun, and this game suffers from that limitation. Hopefully they will add it in the future.
Now, because I’m a new player when it comes to tabletop and tactical RPGs, I wanted to talk with someone who has spent years of time with these types of games. So I got a quote from a seasoned veteran in Dungeons and Dragons and has lots of hours in games like Solasta, Baldur’s Gate, Divinity, you name it, he’s played it. Here is what he had to say:
“The best way to describe Solasta is, if you want a 1:1 adaption of the 5th edition ruleset, then Solasta is the game for any D&D fan. It follows the rules brilliantly – but keep in mind that the 5th edition ruleset is free source material that is available to anyone and because of this, if people were wanting certain classes then they might be out luck because not all of them are included in the free material along with certain feats. Overall, for a 15 man team they did really well.
Graphics are obviously not at the standard of Baldur’s Gate 3, but as I said if you want a 1:1 adaption then it smashes it out the park, it really feels like you’re playing around the table with dice rolls on the screen, grid tactics etc. Alot of people will say its Solasta vs BG3 but I say if you want strong visuals, then go Baldur’s Gate, but if you want faithful game that respects the ruleset, go Solasta. The big hang up with BG3 is that it’s a D&D and Divinity hybrid and that annoyed the veteran ruleset fans.”
So as someone who knows these games inside and out, Wolf seemed to really enjoy himself from a veteran standpoint, and I thought it was a fun time from a newcomer point of view. Solasta does a great job of introducing each mechanic to the player and explaining things in a simple, yet digestible way. I’ve never played a game of actual Dungeons and Dragons, but after a couple hours in the game I was able to understand fully what each mechanic was, how it affected my team, and was able to make good decisions.
Overall, the game itself was a fun time, but for me it was a one and done. I don’t see myself getting back into that world as I feel like I experienced everything it had to offer for a player like me. Solasta is available on Steam for $40 USD and is currently still being updated by the developers.
So what do you all think of this game? Have you played others like it, like divinity original sin or baldur’s gate? If so, how do you think this one holds up?