Seven years in, one would think there would be an official Fifth Edition video game by now.
There are plenty of ways to play D&D electronically, such as the upcoming Dark Alliance action brawler or mobile versions of classics like Baldur’s Gate. Computer versions have yet to completely scratch the itch of playing a game with a Dungeon Master who can react to unexpected plans and adjust storylines on the fly. But they can still tell great stories and help out the dry periods when you can’t get a group together for whatever logistical reason.
Solasta: Crown of the Magister seeks out the audience looking for a computer RPG that uses the 5e rules set to tell its story. Kickstarted in 2019, it recently came out of Early Steam access looking to hook people who love D&D 5e and either can’t get enough or can’t get any. They sent me a code to try out the game after I covered it for a previous article. And while there’s some rough stuff going on, the underlying experience was engaging.
The game uses the 5e OGL as the basis for its game engine. Anyone familiar with 5e will know how combat works and those who don’t will learn soon after an amusing tutorial level where members of your party are telling tales of their adventures about how they got to the tavern. Unfortunately, this also means the game is restricted to the content available in the OGL, which means six base classes and humans, elves, dwarves and halflings as character options. There are some unique choices like snow dwarves or marsh halflings, but the options are far more limited than the standard Player’s Handbook.
The game also is rough technically. The character models are not great up close, load times can be a bit long and there are occasional sound glitches. The voice acting ranges from bad to decent with everyone speaking in an accent best described as a solid Ren Faire English. An official D&D game would have a lot more polish in these areas and it can be a little distracting sometimes during cutscenes or other non-combat moments.
The combat, however, is great. Not only does it run on a smooth version of the 5e engine but the set piece battles offer great variety. There’s a vertical aspect to the dungeons that’s really stunning and it opens up encounters in a way that rarely happens in tabletop grid combats. The game encourages exploration and tactical thinking in a way that makes fights more dramatic than they would be with a more grind-focused setup. The game wants you to fly and rain down spells or find that rock that you can push down on some zombies. Dungeon Masters looking to make their home game battles more dynamic should take note.
Another dynamic element is the party construction. Rather than a main character and sidekicks, the dialogue choices come from the entire party. Their personality traits affect the choices but it’s fun talking with quest giving NPCs as a group rather than a main character. It made me feel a little like a film director choosing when my sarcastic fighter would say something or my noble paladin would step in to smooth over negotiations.
The game is also expanding. It plans on adding some classes as well as setting up a Dungeon Master mode where players can create and upload new campaigns beyond the first. As a nice touch the game offers notes on skill choices that won’t turn up often in the main campaign but might still be useful in future content.
Fans of 5e looking for battle action and a decent high fantasy storyline on their PC should check out Solasta: Crown of the Magister.