There was a salvo of excitement among the die-hard fans when the guys from N-Space announced a new game set in the world of Dungeons and Dragons. The game has been advertised everywhere as an heir to the great game series Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights, and will have a DM module for the creation of custom campaigns, dungeons, quests, a broad class system, an infinite number of monsters from the Dungeon Master’s Guide, as well as faithfully translated rules from the latest, fifth edition. Sadly, upon it’s release, salvos of excitement were replaced with disbelief and dismay, and great expectations were replaced by great disappointment. So what is it all about?
Sword Coast Legends has a single player campaign as well as a multiplayer option that you can use either as a player or as a Dungeon Master, of which we’ll talk more later on. The single player campaign puts you in the role of one of the knights of the Order of the Burning Dawn which happens to be under an attack from the other knights under the suspicion of conspiring with demons – a suspicion that can easily be proven to be true, because lately all of the knights, including you, have been suffering from very grim nightmares. Throughout the campaign you’re going to lead a group of adventurers in search of answers to who is attacking you and what you can do about it, and if you manage to get your hands on some quality equipment, such as bonus damage weapons or magic resistance armor, it won’t be too hard to finish. Even though the campaign is stale, clichéd and shallow, it serves only as an introduction to what should have been the game’s strongest point – multiplayer, and that’ exactly where it bombed the most.
In a multiplayer campaign you create your character out of a selection of available races: Human, Elf, Half-Elf, and Halfling; and classes: Fighter, Paladin, Wizard, Cleric and Rogue; and it’s disappointing that some of the standard D&D races and classes were omitted, so forget about playing a Half-Orc or a Gnome, as well as a Barbarian, Druid and Monk. We just can’t understand why the guys from N-Space shot themselves in the foot by promising a “faithful translation of a D&D experience to a PC” and forgetting to incorporate some of the standard races and classes. But wait, there’s more! The game lacks a multiclass system, spellcasters don’t have to ‘rest’ to replenish their spellbooks, abilities and spells work on a cooldown system, and dying isn’t penalized in any way and all it takes is for another player to ‘raise’ you so you can fight on.
Even the combat itself seems more like a hack’n’slashfest and tactically reminds more of Diablo than Baldur’s Gate. Most of them can simply be won by mindlessly swinging your sword or whatever else you’re using until all the enemies are dead, and the battle strategy will at most end up being a discussion with other players about the positioning of the tank or who will pull the next wave of enemies. When we add the fact that the enemies’ strength is determined by the average level of your party, we get strange situations like an undergeared level 15 Paladin having more trouble dispatching the same group of skeletons than when he faced them at level 1. Additionally, there’s the issue of the questionable loot mechanic, or lack thereof. Namely, every piece of equipment, weapon and money that drops from a killed opponent can without limit be picked up by any player, which often leads to nasty situations that favor melee classes, especially when we consider that many players habitually collect even the unusable pieces of loot, without regard that their comrades might use some of it.
The other way to play in mulitplayer is the Dungeon Master mode. It puts you into the role of the “narrator” with tools to create dungeons, quests and even campaigns, at your disposal. Even though this sounds fantastic on paper, those tools however are terribly limited. For instance, it’s not possible to create the dungeons filed-by-field, or room-by-room, instead they’re pre-generated based on given parameters, such as size, complexity and type, and it’s only possible to manipulate the already set “encounter tokens” by adding new opponents, traps, etc. It’s possible to change the monsters or adjust them by adding new spells and available abilities, but the situation becomes tragicomical when you find out that it’s possible to, for instance, give a two-handed sword to a Dark Elf priestess, but not to change her armor out of cloth type. Oh yes –Lolth, the primary goddess of the Dark Elves is absent from the game. Whyyy? It’s possible to connect different dungeons into a campaign by adding quests to guide the players to the various locations in search for specific objects or to kill a named villain. However, to add to dismay, the quests are limited in scope and there is no way for them to branch out, hence any chance for complexity is lost, because everything comes down to „Yes, we accept.“ and „No, we don’t accept.“
Sword Coast Legends is a half-decent game with pretty good graphics that will remind you of old isometric RPG hits, but that doesn’t fulfill any of it’s promises. If you are a patient DM or have a group of friends to share the experience with, then you may expect some good entertainment, but anything more than that is doubtful. Unless N-Space puts in the effort and fixes loads of illogicalities in it, Sword Coast Legends will quickly fall into oblivion. Because whoever wishes to play D&D will pick the pen & paper version in which the imagination is the only limit, over SCL, because why waste time on a Dungeons and Dragons game that’s so half done that only the Dungeons part remained. No, I’m not kidding – there’s not a single dragon in this game. For shame.
Author: Ivan Danojlić