Solasta: Crown of the Magister strives to be an old school Dungeons & Dragons style RPG in the same vein as Icewind Dale, Baldur’s Gate, and Neverwinter Nights. Solasta features a brand-new setting that mixes classic fantasy elements with new additions. Like any good tabletop game, players will gather four brave adventures on a grand quest for glory, riches, and possibly the world’s salvation.
Solasta: Crown of the Magister offers the standard fantasy fare involving political tension, brave adventurers and ancient secrets all tied together with an epic quest. It doesn’t break far from the RPG trope, but it does a decent enough job to keep the plot going.
The game feels like the writers are trying to cram important information and a little personality into characters but were severely limited by the number of lines voice actors could perform. As a result, the dialogue pacing feels a bit off. The dialogue isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great. What is terrible is the in-game banter outside of the plot conversations. It sounds like there are only three to five variations of compliments and insults for successful and failed rolls. None of them are particularly great, and a lot of the insults seem unnecessary for a party in a life-or-death battle.
Solasta: Crown of the Magister uses a stripped-down version of the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Systems Reference Document. The main mechanics are there, but there is missing content. The game’s presentation always makes it crystal clear that players are engaging in a stand in for a tabletop RPG. All rolls are depicted as an animation of the appropriate dice. Travel and spell times are all accurate to SRD rules. Long distance travel, short rests, and long rests are done correctly. As a bonus, a dungeon creator is in development for those looking to get a bit of the dungeon master experience.
One of the downsides of Solasta: Crown of the Magister is some of the SRD content that was lost to the cutting room floor. Only six classes shipped with the game: Cleric, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, and Wizard. Sorcerer is expected to be released soon after launch as a DLC. While these classes cover the main playstyles of healer, caster, tank, brawler, and agile fighter, some beloved and unique classes like Bard, Druid, and Monk are missing.
There is a decent amount of exploration in Solasta that will reward adventurers with great loot. Several are locked behind some movement puzzles. Unfortunately, a large number of the top-end loot require Misty Step or a combination of Misty Step and another ability. It’s not an ideal situation as it severely limits the creativity that would normally be found in an actual tabletop game. I would have preferred to see more skills and abilities that could be used.
Combat feels like Dungeons & Dragons with miniatures. As expected, the SRD rules are followed faithfully, and all the combat rolls are handled automatically. Boss fights can be difficult. Legendary enemies built around a specific mechanic are particularly brutal until the player figures out a solution. The devs have made a concession by allowing players to adjust the game’s difficulty on the fly. I love the fact that combat is a big part of game, but it isn’t the only solution to every problem. Diplomacy is often an option for major plot related battles.
Much like the rest of the game, items and weight management follow the Dungeons & Dragons standard. The scavenger system is a brilliant mechanic for an RPG. Instead of players ditching unnecessarily heavy items with low values, they can opt to leave them for professional scavengers to pick up and bring back to town. After a certain number of days, players can return to any scavenger and pick up a cut of the profits or buy back any item salvaged.
There are some item management problems. Players can get vendors to detect magical items an unlimited number of times even though there are no more magical items to be found. Players are charged the same fee instead of being capped to the first detection. The biggest issue is the awkward inventory management. Actual looting is decent as players can choose a nearby character and send items directly to their inventory. Weight limits are already clearly depicted, and anything within five squares are all pooled into one group. The issues arise when dealing with character inventories themselves or interacting with merchants. Each character’s inventory is displayed individually, and merchants only buy and sell with one character at a time. It’s terribly awkward, and a more unified approach would make inventory management smoother.
The game’s quality of life features are a mixed bag. Local quick travel allows player to skip long runs around the map. On the flip side, combat and long distance travel are sorely in need of a fast forward button. Long distance travel is probably the worst of the two, as I found myself breaking out my phone to pass time during travel lasting nine or more days. While the game does offer some fast travel options to old locations as the game progresses, long distance travel is simply unavoidable when exploring newer areas. I like the clear indications of which skills and feats are not applicable in Solasta but are kept in for completeness. I just don’t get why it’s necessary to have those skills and feats in the game at all considering plenty of classes and races were already cut without a peep. Another minor issue is dagger throws. While hurling a dagger at the enemy is a good last-ditch attack, the character loses the use of the dagger. The icon still uses the melee icon depicted by a sword, but the character’s silhouette doesn’t appear beside the enemy. It’s just too easy to hurl a dagger in the beginning of combat and not realize it. A better icon is needed for this situation.
The controls are excellent for mouse user but will be lacking for the hotkey loving crowd. The number of hotkeys are limited compared to other RPGs trying to emulate the tabletop RPG experience. On the flip side, the UI is generally clear with its chunky buttons. I would have preferred to see the ability to bind an alternative button for the cancel function as it is locked to escape only. I really like the highlight all objects that can be interacted with. I think that it’s a feature that should be included with every modern RPG as squinting around for chests is just a boring and waste of time.
The game isn’t too buggy. I only encountered gameplay bugs where an enemy would take forever to act or wouldn’t act at all. These are limited in nature and usually only occur every few hours. Visual bugs are more common. Body parts regularly clip through beards during dialogue, bows aren’t being held the right, and, at times, dice disappear completely.
Solasta: Crown of the Magister’s visuals are quite rough. The graphics look more at home in the 2010’s than the 2020’s. The models and textures are dated. Animations look a bit unnatural, with bow animations being the worst. The epic close up camera angles are also added at the most random moments. These angles should be reserved for massive critical hits or killing blows of major enemies. Instead, they are randomly used for regular attacks and complete misses.
The game’s style is pretty standard for a fantasy RPG. The lighting system is excellent though. It gives the dungeons an excellent moody feel, and it’s well integrated into the light and dark rules found in the SRD ruleset.
The voice acting ranges from passable to really bad. Accents have no consistency based on character race or culture. While all of the main characters try to stick to the standard British accent equals a fantasy setting, the remaining accents seem randomly assigned. Most actors seem to be American, and many fall back to an American accent on the regular. On the flip side, the soundtrack is enjoyable, and the sound effects are decent. I like the fact a sharp eared player can actually hear an impending ambush and take appropriate action ahead of time.
Solasta: Crown of the Magister is one of the more accurate D&D style titles released in the last few years. It’s not a perfect game though. The game suffers from some odd quality of life issues, dated graphics, lousy voice acting, iffy item management, and some gameplay sacrifices probably made to stay within budget. Yet for all it’s flaws, Solasta: Crown of the Magister has me completely hooked with its faithfulness to the 5th edition SRD ruleset and enjoyable combat. If you’re missing the D&D experience, whether its weekend tabletop RPGs with friends or games like Neverwinter Nights, Solasta should be on the top of your list.
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