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    Solasta: Crown of the Magister review

    Need to know

    What is it? Authentic D&D RPG with great dungeons but dodgy writing.
    Expect to pay $40/£31
    Developer Tactical Adventures
    Publisher Tactical Adventures
    Multiplayer? No
    Reviewed on AMD Ryzen 5 3600, Nvidia GeForce 2080 Super, 32 GB RAM, caffeine and late nights.
    Link Official site (opens in new tab)

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    Whatever else Solasta may be, you can’t fault its authenticity. Tactical Adventures’ RPG is the truest virtual representation of a D&D ruleset since Neverwinter Nights. Armour classes, spell preparation, wincing at a bad dice-roll, it all brings back fond, occasionally agonising memories of BioWare’s early games. The Fifth Edition rules form the backbone of this sprawling RPG, filled with giant, puzzle-y dungeons and challenging tactical combat. It’s a decent first effort from the small French studio, albeit one that suffers from clumsy and derivative storytelling.

    That story sees you control four adventurers recruited as Deputies of the Council, an organisation representing various factions across the realm of Solasta. Initially dispatched to investigate a beleaguered border fort on the frontier of the Badlands (think Mordor, but in the West rather the East), you eventually stumble upon an ancient artefact known as the Crown of the Magister. But the Crown is incomplete, missing several magical jewels that can make it powerful enough to open rifts between worlds. No prizes for guessing what your party will be doing for the next forty-ish hours.

    I’ll get to the story’s issues later, but first I want to focus on what Solasta does best—making strict D&D rules accessible. As someone who found Baldur’s Gate rather intimidating, I credit Solasta for its teaching skill. The first few hours of Crown of the Magister act as a soft tutorial that slickly introduces you to the Fifth Edition rules, from longstanding mechanics like spell-selection and the nuances of resting, to 5e-specific rules such as advantage and disadvantage rolls. Whether exploring or in combat, I always knew what was happening and why it happened that way.

    (Image credit: Tactical Adventures)

    The one major addition I’m yet to discuss is Solasta’s Dungeon Maker, which as the name suggests, lets you make your own tile-based caves, crypts, and castles for your party to explore. It’s a slick and accessible tool. The drag and drop function lets you knock out basic room layouts in minutes, but it has enough depth and precision to allow for more intensely detailed dungeons too. That said, it isn’t something you would buy Solasta specifically for.

    In the end, what maintained my interest in Solasta was a desire to see what lay around the next corner. It may not be the most original or scintillatingly written RPG, but there’s enough variety in the dungeons to keep you intrigued, while the broad array of enemies means combat remains interesting through most of the campaign. It also gets D&D right while providing a gentle onramp for newcomers, which in and of itself is no small feat.

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