Impressions: Sword Coast Legends (Singleplayer)

We’ll have some thoughts on the multiplayer portion of just-released, latter-day Dungeons & Dragons RPG Sword Coast Legends [official site] – including the all-important DM mode – very soon, but while RPS gathers its party to sally forth, I thought I’d share some initial impressions on singleplayer.

Top-ish down, party-based roleplaying game Sword Coast Legends might just be a textbook example of how to make RPG purists very, very happy and at the same time very, very angry. On the one hand, it’s resolutely traditional: yer archetypal ragtag band of fantasy heroes roaming the land in order to defeat some great evil, in an almost perpetual state of jollity. (So far, at least – it’s possible everyone gets their legs cut off halfway through or something).

There’s none of the hand-wringing or love-wrangling of a latter-day BioWare game, and not even a whiff of vogueish proc-gen or permadeath. And while it regularly tries for in-world jokes, its tongue never goes anywhere near its cheek: this is straight-up, unreconstructed adventuring.

Which is very much the point: Sword Coast Legends seeks to be the heir apparent to Neverwinter Nights, that straight-down-the-line Forgotten Realms noughties RPG which eschewed the comparative complexity and darkness of its predecessor Baldur’s Gate II, in favour of being more of a Choose Your Own Adventure toolset. That side of things we’ll be getting to later, but right now – what if you prefer solo dungeoneering?

Sword Coast Legends is, so far as I can tell, the first new singleplayer D&D PC game since 2011’s poorly-received Atari offering, Daggerdale. There’s a full campaign in here, which can be played either solo or with chums; fully-voiced, prefab AI characters fill out the party if you’re doing the former.

Where Sword Coast Legends breaks with proud 90s tradition is in how it actually plays. You can do the whole pause-time ordering thing, while characters are meticulously built from a host of skills and abilities, but in goblin-twatting practice it leans more towards the Diablo side of things than Pillars of Eternity. It’s not a click-frenzy, particularly as you get a party of four to control, but it is primarily about repeatedly using a small handful of abilities and piling on until everyone falls over.

In my experience so far I’ve been favouring my own character, which I got to custom-create (although the hair options are woefully limited, I’m sad to report), leaving the rest of my party to auto-assist me, which they’re reasonably handy at.

I’m only using pause-time occasionally, and the entire pharmacy’s worth of potions I’m hauling about not at all. At higher difficulties (medium here) I’d probably depend on these things, but for now I’m very much hacking and slashing. It’s not the most thrilling hacking and slashing – there’s a mechanical quality to it in addition to the arguable lack of tactical complexity – but it’s serviceable. Things fall over quickly and the friendly AI seems to go town on using party members’ abilities. I’m not sure it feels particularly like D&D, though: the pace is too fast, and it feels more like hitpoint attrition than praying you get the result you need. Dungeon Siege is perhaps a better comparison than Diablo.

Something feels a bit off technically, too. For one thing, while I’m getting the hallowed 60 frames without issue, it’s making my PC run hotter than a Codex thread about Fallout 4, and my PC gets into a right old state if I dare to alt-tab. I’m also regularly finding that movement orders don’t always take immediately, but other than that I’ve not run into anything disastrous.

There’s a slightly perfunctory air to it all told, in both combat/movement mechanics and presentation, but it’s perhaps hard to ascertain how much of that is down to Sword Coast Legends itself and how much to the rather vanilla fantasy of the Forgotten Realms setting. The same, for instance, was true of the first Neverwinter Nights’ campaign. It was the later add-ons and the player-made stuff which made it sing.

Writing and voice-acting, meanwhile, is uneven but very much tries to have some fun. There have been a few deliberately silly quests – although only really in terms of text, with the actual structure sticking to routine go here/get that thus far – and there’s a playful sequence wherein a fight-loving halfling in your party runs ahead and slaughters all the baddies before you get there. Basically, if you thought Gimli was funny you’ll probably be happy here. Many of the main quests offer a murder/mercy option, which in turn leads to some branching consequence, but it’s straightforward stuff and at least some of the time you end up at the same essential outcome regardless. It’s nice to have the option to choose a general attitude, at least.

Sword Coast Legends’ singleplayer is unreconstructed fantasy, and extremely immediate with it, but you probably don’t want to be wearing your Planescape: Torment t-shirt while you play. In a way I’d rather be playing this than Pillars of Eternity, which I found to be far too ponderous, long and finicikity for my current time-starved parental existence, but at the same time I suspect I’ll bounce off its slightly rickety appearance and general air of beigeness before too long. That may chance if the Dungeon Master mode manages to be all it’s cracked up to be – and we’ll have more on that very soon.

60 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    These impressions are helpful and thoughtful. Thanks :)

    That said, please limit the use of “unreconstructed” to once per article :P

    • Michael Fogg says:

      I thought the right word was ‘undeconstructed’ in the first case.

      • LexW1 says:

        Unreconstructed seems right to me because we’re in an era where fantasy has been deconstructed and reconstructed, and indeed is arguably in an ongoing process of deconstruction and reconstruction (for example with empires, which a lot of fantasy had as being basically bad/evil in a rather unexamined or stereotypical way, with Abercrombie’s stuff for example, but some fantasy today is reconstructing them as having some merit, though usually being deeply flawed – City of Stairs, The Emperor’s Blades, The Grace of Kings, etc.).

        Even games are definitely drawing from reconstructed fantasy – Pillars of Eternity being the perfect example, which is very much reconstructed (Planescape: Torment was an example of deconstruction – even BG2 kind of deconstructed some stuff, though not so much BG1).

        So you could call it undeconstructed but it doesn’t quite make sense with where we are. It’s also not an actual word in common use unlike unreconstructed (which in the dictionary and everything).

  2. Wulfram says:

    Is NWN less dark than BG2? Not really sure how, the whole bit where Fenthick gets killed by more or less the good guys for being a bit thick is rather a downer, certainly.

    • Orillion says:

      Kind of, but at the same time it’s not “woman sees the results of her husband tortured to death in the first ten minutes of the game.”

      Also, you DO fight Fenthick in the sequel’s Tomb of the Betrayers, so maybe there was something to his conviction after all. Or Chris Avellone just hated the character, who knows.

      • Archonsod says:

        Yeah, but any attempt at grimdark was immediately negated when said woman started hitting on the PC five minutes later.

  3. raiders says:

    “finicikity”? Boy, you were frustrated it a bit, weren’t ya?

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Remember, Alec is the one who hated Banished because too many numbers. I simply ignore his opinions on more involved games.

      • anHorse says:

        He’s not wrong though is he, PoE has endless pausing and unpausing just to make sure you don’t lose health to some trash mob

        • Assirra says:

          That depends from person to person.
          Personally if the combat gets braindead after a while except the bosses i find it a failed system. What is the point of “trashmobs” if they didn’t even put up a challenge? It might as well be a cutscene till the boss.

          • anHorse says:

            They aren’t a challenge though, there’s no problem to be solved.
            You just have to spend a good deal of time managing your party to make sure that everyone’s in the correct position and doing the correct things and then the encounter eventually ends.

            At now point are you actually engaging with the game on a mental level, it’s just recalling a bunch of organisational stuff and then applying it; organisational stuff that the player learns on the first floor of the first dungeon.

          • Assirra says:

            That is exactly what a CRPG combat system is.
            Controlling your party, position them right and make them use the right abilities/spells at the right time. You don’t want a crazy AI throwing a fireball in the middle of your group for instance.

            I disagree wtih the combat being the same tough. You have to use different strategy against teleporting ghosts for instance. What about a member suddenly getting mind controlled or one of the other 20 status effects that game contains?

          • LexW1 says:

            The point of trashmob combat is, yes, to test your ability to carefully manage your resources, but it’s also usually there in games to be fun.

            And that’s where Pillars falls down. Don’t get me wrong, Pillars is a good game, but because it’s so hyperfocused on resource-management AND the combat system is tuned so that the same fight can easily be a one-sided no-damage-taken very-few-resources-used massacre, or can be a real slugfest which eats half your resources, AND you can only rest a VERY limited number of times, it rapidly becomes super-tedious.

            I played on Hard and I could certainly win most trash fights with no or little damage taken (on surprise fights were risky), but it was repetitive and very dull most of the time. Everyone gets their gun out, one guy runs and pulls the mobs, everyone fires their gun, then switches weapon, then you deploy all your per-encounter abilities, or maybe a carefully-used daily if that’ll be efficient, then the fight is usually over. That’s like, 75% of the fights in the game right there.

            A lot of CRPGs have a lot of boring fights, but the amount of micromanagement it takes to do the above in Pillars was pretty frustrating. It also stood in contrast to BG2 and other inspirations for Pillars, which had rather less tedious combat (albeit it was often even less balanced).

  4. ChairmanYang says:

    I’m not sure the single-player component of this game has a reason to exist if it’s not a direct turn-based translation of the D&D rules. I mean, is anyone interested in the setting at this point?

    • JFS says:

      Me. Just not quite the slaughtered version of the current day. There’s still no FRCS for the new edition, is there? You know, the Forgotten Realms may be vanilla, but to me it’s the best vanilla around. It ain’t exactly easy to do a “standard” really well.

      • Premium User Badge

        JiminyJickers says:

        Fully agree.

      • nindustrial says:

        Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide is out in a few weeks or so (early Nov.), and mixes player options with a bit of campaign-guide material focusing solely on the Sword Coast. So, no full campaign setting book yet, but that will provide something at least assuming you have any interest in the Sword Coast.

        • neotribe says:

          We shouldn’t really need a campaign setting guide, provided that the devs have stuck to the lore established by a bazillion Forgotten Realms novels, plus the NWN games.

          • JFS says:

            Not for this game, probably, but I’d really like to have a full Forgotten Realms sourcebook that shows what happened to the Realms after 4E.

            Thanks for pointing out the Sword Coast guide! :)

    • Wulfram says:

      I’m not really sure why DnD games stopped using DnD

      • malkav11 says:

        It drives me batty. I do not particularly care about the license for its own sake. I mean, Forgotten Realms is an okay setting with a few nice bits. But there’s no inherent draw there. If they were to go to some of the more unique, memorable official settings that have graced D&D at various points, like Dark Sun, Ravenloft, or Planescape, maybe I’d be more on board, but I don’t think any of those have been brought into 5th Edition yet if ever. I’d much rather have an original fantasy setting with some thought put into it, like in Dragon Age or Pillars of Eternity. (And let’s please not try to claim those are generic settings, because I do not agree with that sentiment in the least.)

        No, what I come to D&D for are the mechanics. And specifically, their faithful implementation in a computer game. Because they are far too involved and finicky and slow for me to want to do anything with them in the tabletop space, not when I have alternatives that are light and flexible and improv-friendly. But in a context where the computer handles a lot of it, and I have a full party to control, they make for some actually quite excellent depth of play, and the relative rigidity is perfectly suited for a necessarily pre-scripted context like a CRPG. But instead we get a severely truncated Facebook game, a Diablo clone, two MMOs that pay a certain amount of lip-service but by focusing on single characters, levelling treadmills, and real-time play have necessarily diverged dramatically from the actual systems, and…this. Which sounds less like Dungeon Siege than Dragon Age Inquisition, to me, but I haven’t played it. It’s frustrating.

        • ToomuchFluffy says:

          Sorry, but I just had to respond to you comment on the setting of Dragon Age: Origins. ;-) (Keep in mind that I haven’t played PoE, DA2 and DA:I). Though to be sure you didn’t really comment beyond stating your opinion on its setting. Personally I can’t see it. What exactly is it you are referring to? The only aspect of the setting that seemed somewhat fresh to me, was the whole Circle of Magi/Fade/Templar-connex. I actually mostly enjoyed that quest. All in all the setting seems to just be less detailed to me. Forgotten Realms is simply ahead on having a developed world from which to draw the detail. And, of course, a lot of the appeal the setting of a game may have, obviously comes down to exectution. And I think that’s where DA:O fails, though to be honest: My personal enjoyment and how I view the game as a whole has probably been somewhat tarnished by the game simply being far too long for its own good. There is simply far too much filler combat. In the end it seems fair to say that neither the Forgotten Realms (as in BGII) nor Thedas are particularly interesting places, but the first is more developed.

          • malkav11 says:

            There’s plenty of fine detail around in Dragon Age. Origins has the burden of introducing you to the whole thing while simultaneously telling a worthwhile overarching game plot and delivering compelling mini-stories in the various sidequests, so it paints in the broadest strokes. The setting becomes distinctly richer when you add in the things you can learn and experience in the two sequels and read the books (I know, I know, but they’re actually quite competent, with a couple of the later entries – Asunder and The Masked Empire – being genuinely compelling.)

            But even in Origins, I found plenty of original, interesting things. Certainly the way mages work – powerful but dangerous both because of the damage their magic can cause and because of their connection to the spirit realm that can let demons possess them. The mythology of the Chantry and the uneasy balance between the templars’ goals of protecting the mages and protecting everyone else from the mages. The fallen nature of both of the major non-human races we see in Origins, with the elves’ once great empire dissolved into a ghettoized, despised underclass in the cities and a handful of backward looking groups lurking in the deep wilderness and raiding the “shemlen”, and the dwarves’ underground kingdom largely overrun by monsters. The unthinking corrupted hordes of darkspawn, which people talk about like orcs but are both far more dangerous (due to the taint that fills them) and yet more of a unconscious hive mind than even the most barbaric portrayal of orcs. The way Ferelden warriors fight with the aid of ferocious hounds. The extragovernmental Grey Warden organization with their strange rites and powers and the ticking clock of each Warden’s doom. Unfortunately, in Origins we largely see them as a plot device to allow the protagonist agency, and we don’t see much about their past and the reasons people don’t trust them, but there are good ones and it’s pretty cool.

            And the thing is, Ferelden is probably the most standard fantasy part of the setting. Even Orlais has the intricate plotting of their great Game, and the masks and chevaliers and such, among other distinguishing features, but we don’t see it until Inquisition and by then it’s torn by civil war and the mage/templar conflict and so on. But there are more exotic places. I’d love for a game to spend substantial time in the mage-run slave state of the Tevinter Imperium, or the lands of the Qun, to name a couple of spots we’ve heard a fair bit about. We’ll see, I suppose.

            And it’s not that the Forgotten Realms don’t have plenty of places (and cultures and details) like that, too, but the games don’t go there. I think maaaaybe Mask of the Betrayer did but I haven’t gotten into that yet since my NWN2 OC character was a wizard and it’s tough to make much headway in a D&D game with a party of one competent wizard and one…illusionist, I think?

          • ToomuchFluffy says:

            I seem to not be able to reply to last post malkav, so I will just reply to my own post.

            -On the plot: As far as I remember, there is just a start and an end to the story, as well as some cutscenes in between. For the most part the main story is in the background and the faction-quests have only a very loose connection to it.
            -On sequels and books: I have never even tried Awakening and sometimes people make DAII sound as if it actually might be pretty interesting in some ways. But obviously I can’t really comment at this time. The books on the other hand are a separate topic. I don’t see why they should be considered a part of the series. There never was any necessity for people to point to Forgotten Realms- or Planescape-literature for BGII and PS:T or even IwD. But then, they were not fully voice-acted. And that’s one of the reason why I have so little respect for DA:O. Some of the things that are supposedely improvements over old games (3D, fully voiced) clearly ended up reducing the amount of the content in the game and mostly eliminating imagination as a factor.

            On the topic of the circle of magi: I think we pretty much agree on this point. I especially like how many different groups and ideas are intersecting here. It also says a lot that the parts of the game I liked most were the ones that somehow included these topics. The Chantry on its own is unfortunately not very interesting (but obviously there would be other games in the series).

            On the other races: I frankly don’t understand this point. That’s more or less how it was done in Lord of the Rings and the Forgotten Realms, with the exception of the humans also being threatened with annihilation in LotR. There were some interesting details to the dwarves and Orzammar at least looked interesting design-wise… Still, Orzammar is not better than Denerim in the respect that they seem rather like villages when it comes to the amount of people living there or the amount of quests or background-information available. Atkathla was also pretty weak on the latter point, but when it comes to quest or a more believable simulation of city-life, it was just so much more dense.

            On the Darkspawn and the Grey Wardens: I don’t take issue with the idea of another “evil race”, I take issue with how little detail there is to them. And the detail that is there leaves me no other conclusion than them being Orcs. This is especially apparent in the way they are basically corrupted dwarves, elves and humans (straight copy from LotR). And they are led by a dragon… ok, a corrupted dragon, but still. Another case of bad execution. There simply is no detail there to convince me otherwise. So I call it what it is: A dragon.

            The Grey Wardens are no better in this respect. I have never even figured out why they even need to exist. Maybe there is more information on that in Awakening or DAII, but frankly, that doesn’t help DA:O from my viewpoint. It’t simply too late or too far removed to matter for me (and not just me, judging from what one can find around the net).

            Though again, I have to point out the fact, that many of my problems with DA:O come down to execution and not necessarily content (though that’s also a factor). There is a large number of problems with all kinds of aspects of the game. For example: Nobody caring if you use Blood Magic or the magic-system not being connected with the lore. Mana and cooldowns aren’t exactly something that makes me think of fantasy. This kind of system could be in any number of games.

            I fear DA:O might have been a fine game, if it hadn’t been marketed as a successor to BGII and if 50-70 % of the combat had been cut out. I have never in my life felt as much that I was wasting my time, as with DA:O. Not even Icewind Dale and that game is similarly long and also has a strong combat-focus. To be sure, I only played IwD rather recently and after I had played DA:O and it helped me a lot to understand why I disliked DA:O so much:

            To put it simply:
            – A very good, very extensive soundtrack, that accompanies you most of the time.
            – Interesting environments, that are beautifullly hand-drawn.
            – Lore, that is integrated in the environments and remains attached to it (items, environmental details, people). In DA:O everything wanders into some category of the codex. The information is theoretically still the same, but most of it could as well have been completely separate from the game.

          • malkav11 says:

            You don’t need to have read the books to appreciate Dragon Age or its lore, but they are an additional source, just as Forgotten Realms has novels and game sourcebooks that provide a bunch of information you’ll never encounter in any of the PC games – and Baldur’s Gate, for one, certainly trades on familiarity with novels for the thrill factor inherent in meeting Drizzt (and probably Elminster, although I believe he was originally introduced in the campaign material and merely plays a large role in many of the novels).

            I must have missed the part in LOTR where the elves are a defeated people living in ghettos in human cities. I’m pretty sure they’re actually proud, immortal folk full of magic living in their own incredible cities that are merely withdrawing gradually from the world because they’re no longer relevant to the faster, more mundane world of the humans. For that matter, although we do see the dwarves reclaim one kingdom they’d been forced out of in The Hobbit (I think – might have been LOTR), I’m fairly sure they had other kingdoms and lands that were still intact and a power. The dwarves of Thedas have lost everything except Orzammar itself. LOTR also has no mafia-like Carta organization, no mining the stuff of magic that fuels everyone else, no permanent exile for anyone that goes above ground, etc.

            The darkspawn certainly have detail to them, and it’s not that of orcs: as I say, they’re essentially walking corruption – they warp the land around them and condemn anyone that they infect (bites are the big transmission method) to a lingering death and/or being twisted into a “ghoul” that fights with the darkspawn. Everyone, that is, except Grey Wardens (and your party members – this is a bit of an omission IMHO, but I guess that’s for gameplay reasons). They’re also not sapient and don’t eat or sleep. They have a certain instinctual ability to fight and use certain tools, and a connection to all the other darkspawn, and are drawn to the Old Gods – who are dragons, yes, but when the darkspawn touch them they get tainted and become archdemons. Orcs are generally portrayed (certainly in LOTR) as being thinking creatures with a society (not very smart ones, but thinking) and culture, albeit a warlike one. They certainly don’t have any sort of paranormal effect on the world around them or poison people with an inevitably fatal sickness, though they’re not typically very clean. And virtually all of the above info is in Origins, FYI. You get a closer look at darkspawn in Awakening and the book The Calling, but the later games are about other things with a few appearances by darkspawn.

            I dunno. Like I say – Origins is where they introduce the world. You want finer detail, fine, but you’ll get a lot of it in the other games and DLC, first and foremost, and you’ll get some nice context if you read the books. It’s not really fair to expect all that from one game. Certainly you wouldn’t get even that much info about the Forgotten Realms from something like NWN or Icewind Dale. The only reason BG2 is so dense is that it’s a crazy huge game full of an amount of content that simply isn’t practical in today’s industry.

        • ToomuchFluffy says:

          Most of what you say only amounts to minor differences. Elves and Dwarves are still on the retreat, while humans are on the upswing. Hardly anything new. Elves as an underclass might have been interesting, but what exactly does it add to the setting? Wouldn’t a human underclass have provided the same thing? Elves were never particularly well developed or differentiated from humans in IwD or BGII, but the city-elves in DA:O are basically not elves at all. That might make sense in the context, but then again: Why not simply use humans?!? The topic is also hardly adressed in dialogue or otherwise developed. Same goes for the aspects of Darkspawn you point out. Sounds interesting, but is hardly adressed in the game at all. If my memory is not faulty the Deep Roads had basically two examples of some exposition on the topic. Like so many things in DA:O, it’s too little butter on too much bread.

          “that simply isn’t practical in today’s industry.”

          That’s really not my problem. Nobody forced them to go fully voiced and 3D with all the consequences that entails. I simply cannot accept Bioware having taken two steps back and everyone acting as if everything’s fine.

          I want to again point to the fact, that obviously my personal disappointment with DA:O is due to far more than just a lack of originality. As I have tried to point out. When just looking at the topics being discussed, neither Forgotten Realms (at least in most crpgs) nor Thedas are particularly original, though some topics were more original and/or were developed in more detail.

          • malkav11 says:

            If you go broad picture enough, all of fiction are the same handful of stories retread. The details aren’t minor. They’re the point. And your issues with Origins are really not anything to do with what I’m arguing, which is that Dragon Age’s setting isn’t generic.

            But, FWIW, the irreproducibility of Baldur’s Gate 2 isn’t because of 3D or voice acting or similar technical concerns. There have been successful RPGs since then that aren’t dramatically different on those counts, not least of which Pillars of Eternity. It’s because it’s a ridiculously enormous project scope, full stop. It was crazy then, it’d be doubly crazy now. The closest we’re likely to get is The Witcher 3, but that required the sort of mid-size publisher-developer hybrid that only really exists in Europe these days and a license and an action-oriented approach to combat and design that worked for a simultaneous three platform release. BG2 wouldn’t offer that.

          • ToomuchFluffy says:

            Edit: Sorry, seems to have ended up being a little incoherent.

            As I have already tried to explain: I take less issue with a fantasy-setting that lacks originality than with one, that doesn’t provide the detail. And DA:O simply is spread too thin to provide the latter. There was no reason for it being 50-100 hours long. 30-40 would’ve been more than enough.

            If I adressed your comments on the setting by saying that the differences were minor, than that’s because it seemed self-evident, considering the examples you provided. As already discussed, there are exceptions, but I don’t see why you try to argue that Darkspawn, Dragons and some other fantasy-mainstays with minor spins put on them (which are not well developed for the most part), would justify calling the setting “original”.

            But sure, you’re of course right that my side of the argument is only partly about the setting and the question of originality.

            The way you are talking about Pillars of Eternity makes it sound as if you already have played through it. If so: In which ways does it fall short of BGII? The impression I got from reviews made it seem like it was at least close in quantity and quality.

            “It was crazy then, it’d be doubly crazy now.” Again, so it’s suddenly okay to make an inferior game because of increased production costs?!? Maybe for some people it is, but not for me. Too much is sacrificed for too little gain. And it caused all kinds of problems. Instead of having your imagination do the work, you suddenly have steeply increased costs for voice-acting, you have to do all kinds of animations (which weren’t a strong point of DA:O) and so on and so forth.

            “ridiculously enormous project scope.” Yes that’s true, and considering the “higher” production values of DA:O it is understandable that the game did end up the way it did. But that doesn’t change the end result. A game that is clearly inferior to BGII in many ways (Denerim/Atkathla, the many insubstantial side-quests in DA:O, story being in the background most of the time etc.). And maybe it’s worth pointing out, that no matter how much BGII is held up as the “best RPG ever released” it did barely have any Choice & Consequence in it. My disappointment with DA:O does stem from the fact that it obviously cannot stand up to BGII, not that it didn’t revolutionize the genre.

          • malkav11 says:

            Pillars of Eternity is of a very high standard of quality from the few hours I put into it before I shelved it to wait for patches and DLC to come out, but nothing I’ve heard or seen suggests to me that it’s anywhere near the scope of BG2 (though I think the setting’s much more interesting). BG2 is easily a 200 hour game and Throne of Bhaal adds dozens more. Pillars is, according to the estimates I’ve heard, more like 40 or 50. Moreover, part of what makes BG2 so special is how lavishly and minutely detailed a world it presents. This isn’t about the Forgotten Realms setting, which it doesn’t really have much to say about, but rather creating a dense environment of characters, quests, secrets and encounters around you. Pillars is nowhere near as densely packed as far as I can tell. And far too much of what is there are completely unrelated vignettes written by backers as part of tier rewards. :(

            As to the rest of your comment, I see no further point to discussing it when a) you’re operating at such a broad and reductive level that you’re blinding yourself to the very real and meaningful differences I’ve presented and b) insist on focusing on perceived faults of one game when I am talking about the entire setting as defined by three games, four books, etc and very little of what you’re complaining about is even relevant to the setting. Not much point in having one side of a conversation while the other guy is talking about something only loosely related.

          • ToomuchFluffy says:

            On PoE: The numbers on “Howlongtobeat.com” for BGII-completionists are between 140 and 190 hours. From all I’ve heard about PoE 40-50 seems a bit of a short estimation, but whatever…I guess we’ll both see eventually (will probably get it in the next half-decent offer).

            I mostly agree with your second paragraph. Your point of view is a different one, considering that you have more background-info on the setting. On the other hand, talking about just the setting doesn’t work in my opinion, since it’s almost impossible to discuss it in a meaningful way, when separated from the rest of the game/s.

            “real and very meaningful differences.” I guess there isn’t much left to say on it, except that I see it differently. Yes, they are there, but a very large part of the setting and how it was implemented was still pretty uninspired in my opinion.

      • LexW1 says:

        What’s particularly bananas is that 4th edition had easily the most computer-game-friendly rules-set D&D has ever had (far better for a single player controlling a group of characters than 2E or 3E), to the point where you could have a totally awesome tactical D&D game, just by following the rules (probably need to semi-automate interrupts, but whatevs), yet, AFAIK, not a single game actually following the 4E rules was made (stuff like the Neverwinter MMO was just loosely inspired by them).

  5. MiniMatt says:

    (So far, at least – it’s possible everyone gets their legs cut off halfway through or something)

    Ever since The Rules decreed that spacebar be mapped to Jump, so few dungeons are wheelchair accessible.

    There’s a game design doc in here somewhere.

  6. Abndn says:

    I’d just like to point out that Neverwinter Nights’ first campaign was basically turn-based Diablo with a bit of extra dialogue. It was an incredibly straightforward vanilla hack & slash rpg that was only redeemed by better expansion packs and user-made content. It was nothing like Pillars of Eternity or the Baldur’s Gate games. With that in mind your description of the singleplayer sounds fairly close to NWN’s.

    • Archonsod says:

      Most likely for the same reasons – in both cases they were aiming at creating a toolset rather than a game. So the single player it ships with is largely just a placeholder.

    • malkav11 says:

      Round-based, not turn-based. It all happened in real-time.

      • Abndn says:

        Yes and no. A turn in D&D is used to describe 10 rounds. :P It just runs these rounds and turns in real time where (at least in the case of Baldur’s Gate) a round equals 6 seconds and turns a minute.

        • malkav11 says:

          In discussion of CRPGs, though, turn-based has a different, specific meaning that doesn’t describe NWN at all. Whereas “round-based” is fair because your actions fire in real-time based on the elapsing of discrete “rounds” of time, which is a useful distinguisher from Diablo, which doesn’t do that.

    • Orillion says:

      Yeah, but the problem there is that the Sword Coast Legends toolset is reportedly really weak. Like, can’t-make-your-own-maps weak.

    • CptPlanet says:

      But the toolset looks to be very limiting. That should be the #1 reason to buy this game.

  7. ffordesoon says:

    Sounds to me like the big problem here – and I would say it’s a problem given the sort of game it’s attempting to be – is mainly a lack of challenge.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad idea to create a sort of casual multiplayer Pillars of Eternity for people who don’t dig lavish descriptive prose or hyperlethal tactics-wonk combat. But in my years of playing it, I’ve found that D&D works best when the threat of death is omnipresent enough to force you into at least a little more thought than “spam fireball.” The most boring D&D sessions I’ve ever been a part of were the ones where victory felt like a foregone conclusion. Which is not to say the overwhelmingly lethal ones with arbitrary save-or-die deaths are necessarily better, of course. They aren’t. But the best games happen in the sweet spot between the two extremes, and it makes sense to retain that feeling even in a fairly accessible/”casual” (gah, I hate the elitism inherent in that word) D&D videogame.

    • Voodoo says:

      Believe me, the “hard” setting is anything but too easy.
      Total party kills will happen to you, even in the first mission (be very wary of things with fur and teeth)
      I’m used to D&D, used to turn based tactical games (I’m a Fire Emblem kind of guy), si I was quite confident going into my first fights. I learned !
      Now, it’s stealth for recon, optimisation of pre-combat spellcasting and a prayer for most of fights involving more than 3 opponents.
      The most annoying thing is that my opponents usually chose at random one of my characters and attack him even though I try to block them. When it is the wizard, it gets ugly real quick!

      • socrate says:

        isn’t fire emblem a tactical jrpg?which basically is nothing close to a crpg?..anyway these crpg have always been like that even pc strategy game push you to scout all the time and in general are alots more tactical and less restrictive….but it as been a long long time since we’ve seen an actual good one

  8. Myrdinn says:

    I really like AD&D computer games and thought NWN2 was a blast – especially with the character building which took me some time to fully grasp but is quite nice (multi-classing, getting prestige classes etc). So I pre-ordered this and got a game which isn’t true to AD&D at all, my main gripes is the lack of classes in general (I think there’s 6, but druids for instance are missing) and the fact that those classes get a ‘skill tree’. So mages don’t actually find scrolls which you scribe into your spellbook, you just level up and pick a new spell like in Diablo 2. Which isn’t good for variety. The other thing is that spells don’t work per rest anymore but have cooldowns like you’d see in Diablo 2 which seems just.. odd. Maybe this has to do with a change in the 5th edition D&D rules (NWN2 was 3.5 iirc)?

    I’m just hoping the DM mode saves it, will play arond with it tomorrow.

    • JFS says:

      AD&D is gone since 1999 or so. The rules have really changed a lot since then. Also, I presume they may have adapted things like cooldown for the videogame version. I don’t think 5E has cooldowns.

  9. neotribe says:

    I don’t need these games to be as good as BG/BG2, but it would be nice if they were at least as good as Pools of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds, Champions of Krynn, etc.

  10. malkav11 says:

    I can’t say as the DM mode is the selling point for me. If you want to play D&D online there are plenty of ways to do so that let you use the actual rules (with any houseruling you want) with the main limit being your imagination and your ability to describe things, not the toolset. I’d quite like cooperative multiplayer through a decent campaign but it doesn’t sound like I’d necessarily find that here.

  11. racccoon says:

    I know its fun to build dungeons etc, etc, but I do think it needs to be separated from the games original play entirely. Games need to be alone for a reason, this gives a true perception & expectation of role playing within the game & sets your path on the story line more precisely.
    The build implementation aspect takes away that story & the game dream.
    Building games need to be all alone in a dark hole. lol

  12. nukularpower says:

    Am I the only one getting a bit sick of all these articles needing to include something to the effect of “but I’m such a busy and popular guy that I really don’t even have the time to be writing this”? This site and PC Gamer are really getting annoying to read.

    • thanosi says:

      I’m really not sure which part of the article contained words to that effect. I’d rather have some brief impressions than Alec pull a review out his ass after the game’s only been out a few hours.

    • Slaadfax says:

      They also write from a more personal perspective. I believe that the author doesn’t mourn his lacking time due to the pressing concerns of fancy parties and important famous friends.

      I’m fairly certain it’s a reference to his offspring, which if I’m not mistaken is yet in the toddler range; just enough language and mobility skills to be dangerous. Though it may not resonate with everyone, the aforementioned personal touch is their style.

      I, personally, can wholly commiserate; just this very evening I and my spouse spent a fair amount of time making robot noises to the repeated request (and delight) of our 19 month-old, which was done instead of playing video games or board games. Or, well, cleaning the house/conducting personal grooming.

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      Yes, you’re the only one. I like the authors here and how they write the articles.

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        Well what are you doing here then? There must be thousands of sites on the interwebs that desperately need you to sign up and tell them how much you hate what they do.

  13. Chris says:

    However good a game this is, or is not, it is NOT a D&D game, it is an ARPG.

    But it was sold as a 5th edition D&D game, and clearly it is not, and aside from fuzzy D&D tropes, it has nothing to do with D&D what so ever.

    This is the worst example of mendacious marketing since Godus.

  14. -Spooky- says:

    I´m in the same boat here. So called Headstart, simple Betatest. Cooldown on the spells, no need for resting / learning etc. spells, no encounter spells at all (NwN1), what the heck is the skilltree for? (we don´t use paragon lvl anymore, do we?) etc. pp.

    And the story mode? *sigh* Bored after Act I, no idea. Maybe it´s just me or the fact i know, their are better games around. *shrug*

  15. xyzzy frobozz says:

    Forgotten Realms. Or, as I like to call it, Tropeyland.

  16. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Was looking forward to some kind of NWN3 with mod maker community and interesting D&D focused single-player campaign like MotB or even HotU with tons of classes/prestige-classing. Simplified Dragon Age meets Diablo with pause isn’t really up my alley.
    I do understand folks who don’t wanna read manuals and faqs to be good at a game but then we have Diablo 3, similar casuals or on the other hand skill-based games to please the crowd.