Solasta: Crown of the Magister Preview

We check out the first act that just launched on Steam Early Access

PC News Videos Previews Indie RPG Strategy

Solasta: Crown of the Magister

Developer: Tactical Adventures
Publisher: Tactical Adventures
Platform: Windows (Previewed)
Release Date: 20 October 2020 (Steam Early Acess)
Price:  $34.99 USD/$49.95 AUD – Available Here

Video Preview

Solasta: Crown of the Magister is a Kickstarter-funded tactical RPG looking to bring the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop RPG experience to the PC. The game is officially licensed to use the 5.1 edition Systems Reference Document. The first act of Solasta is now on Steam Early Access, bringing players ten hours of gameplay and a level cap of six.

The story so far is pretty standard fantasy fare. It is by no means appropriate for young children, but it isn’t a dark, edgy adventure either. The dialogue is decent. There is room for improvement so far as the pacing feels a bit clipped at times.

Solasta: Crown of the Magister offers one of the most faithful recreations of the tabletop RPG experiences on the PC. It’s just short of actually breaking out your favourite rulebooks with friends over Roll20 or Tabletop Simulator. The game openly rolls every single attack, check, and save players would expect from a D&D session, and dice animations are featured prominently in the game’s UI.

Solasta offers one of the best implementations of rest and travel from the D&D rules. It fully embraces the need for consistent long rests by faithfully following the game’s prepared spell limits and liberally adding places for long rests throughout the levels. The pacing allows players to be generous with their limited use skills while still encouraging a certain degree of care. The travel system is represented by movement between major maps. Ranger bonuses, travel time, and ambushes are all replicated in the game, but done in a quick enough way that it never feels like it is bogging down the pace of the game.

Character creation and customization is a major part of Solasta. Players have the choice of populating their party of four with a handful of premade characters or creating their own custom characters. Six classes from D&D are in Solasta. Cleric, Fighter, Paladin, Rogue, Ranger, and Wizard cover all the main playstyles; however, there are some notable omissions. A free DLC adding the Sorcerer class is planned after the game launches in full. Fans of Barbarians, Bards, Druids, Monks, and Warlocks will be disappointed to know those classes are not in the plans.

The character creator is very thorough. I like that the system not only tells players what their character will be able to do out of the gate, but also provides a thorough, but manageable preview of what their character will also be able to do in the future. The background choices are slightly different than D&D. Players choose four words based on their background and alignment to sketch out a personality that likely affects available dialogue choices in game. Each character contributes a potential response based on their background and personality as conversations in game are with the entire party. It’s a refreshing change from the standard RPG method that groups everything into a positive, neutral, or negative dialogue from a single character.

With all the customization options, Solasta does a good job of getting lazy players into the action quickly. There are enough premade characters to form a party right away. Options for automatic allocations for level ups and spell slots are available. While the results will never be as good as a proper min/max job, the results are usable.

Combat is excellent. The first few fights of the game are easy, but I found the difficulty ramped up nicely. Overall, the game is on the higher end of the difficulty spectrum, requiring players to leverage every possible advantage they can find in the D20 rule set. Making use of lighting, ambushes, rest, and limited use abilities are all necessary if players want to get out alive.

The controls are decent. There are some keybinds, but the emphasis is heavily on the mouse. I did find the game wasn’t the best at dealing with moving the characters and attacking with one mouse click. Sometimes the positioning was the worst possible option, and a few times nothing happened. The most reliable method was simply moving characters and then attacking separately. The game also can’t deal with multiple units stacked on the same square due to sleep or some other knocked out status effect.  Additionally, the UI is a bit chunky looking with all the boxes, but it manages to stay out of the way during combat.

Solasta’s art style is classic fantasy with a clean semi-realistic look. The graphics themselves are dated looking though. The environment looks good, but the character models are not sharp. The animations are passable, but they tend to look wooden.

The audio experience is decent. The soundtrack is enjoyable, and the sound effects are solid. The voice acting is on par with smaller independent titles. The main characters aren’t bad enough to be in a B-movie, but it’s nowhere near an AAA performance either. On the other hand, the actors for smaller roles are rough.  

It’s a shame Solasta: Crown of the Magister hit Steam Early Access around the same time as Baldur’s Gate 3. The two will inevitably be compared, and there is always the risk Solasta will be overlooked simply because it’s not the shiniest toy on the block. However, Solasta makes a compelling case by carving out its own niche. For tabletop RPG fans looking for a video game that’s close to the actual thing, Solasta is already worth a look this early in the development cycle.

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