ROLLING IN THE DEEP
PC Gamer US Edition|September 2021
Get tactical in authentic D&D roll-player SOLASTA: CROWN OF THE MAGISTER
Rick Lane

Whatever else Solasta may be, you can’t fault its authenticity. Armor classes, spells, wincing at a bad dice-roll, it all brings back fond memories of BioWare’s early games. The Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition rules form the backbone of this RPG, filled with giant dungeons and tactical combat. It’s a decent first effort from the small French studio, albeit one that suffers from clumsy, 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 40 hours.

BACK TO SCHOOL

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.

What helps is Solasta structures its ruleset in familiar ways. Combat, for example, borrows from Firaxis’ XCOM, both in its representation of the battlefield, and in certain mechanics. By default, characters can move and take one action, or ‘dash’, spending their action to move further. Solasta also features its own equivalent of overwatch, where you can schedule an action to trigger when an enemy moves into range. This is particularly useful for ensuring melee characters don’t waste their actions.

Combat is where you’ll spend most of your time in Solasta, and unsurprisingly it’s where the game is most robust. While the stringent D&D ruleset means you shouldn’t expect the wild creativity of other recents CRPGs such as Divinity: Original Sin II, Solasta’s fights are nonetheless both challenging and satisfying. You’ll grin when your fighter’s sword crunches into an orc’s face, wince when that orc’s axe whooshes through the air, missing your wizard by a hair’s breadth. Spells are colorful, ranging from explosive elemental incantations like Fireball and Lightning Bolt, to amusing hexes like Hideous Laughter, which cripples your enemy’s diaphragm more effectively than an episode of Taskmaster.

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