Editor Zack Webster had some hands-on time with Sword Coast Legends. In this hefty impression, Zack gives us information on the game's world, combat and even when the game is set to release.
Dungeons and Dragons has been relatively silent on the gaming front the past few years, having only the updates to the MMO Neverwinter and HD remasters of old titles like Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale. The upcoming Sword Coast Legends, due this September, might be bringing the franchise back to the digital frontier in a big way. Returning to the ever-present Forgotten Realms, Legends is an ambitious, party-based RPG that borrows from its forebearers, such as the aforementioned Baldur's Gate, while managing to build a rather compelling asynchronous multiplayer experience.
The demo set up had five players involved, four that made up the traditional party and the last acting as the Dungeon Master, or DM. Quite a bit of the game requires a lot of input on behalf of the DM, most of it separated from actually playing the game with others. A short demonstration was given showcasing the game's adventure building tools, which allowed the DM to customize to the tiniest detail every aspect of the game map and the objects that inhabited it. Quests could not only be created, with full dialogue trees and varying outcomes, but could be triggered to begin in different ways. While limited from true creative freedom by what tile-sets were available, the DM had a great range of power to personalize the given assets to create unique events and with a seemingly simple and fast process.
When our party finally gained control, we were placed in a spider dungeon that had been put together moments before, including unique bosses, traps, and units. We began exploring the dungeon, doing general dungeon-y things like fighting giant spiders and searching for traps, when all of a sudden the corpse of a horse appeared out of nowhere. On closer inspection, the horse exploded, knocking out nearly all the party. You see, the DM doesn't just remain passive while the party explores, they have a certain amount of room to react and to influence the dungeon in real time. This function operates inversely to how the party is performing. When performing well and overcoming obstacles, the DM's action pool increases, allowing him greater reign to influence the game in real time. The more beat down a party becomes, the fewer actions the DM can perform. It's a neat system that better captures the spirit of playing the pen and paper game more than any other game in the series has. This could lead to a system where malicious and sociopathic DMs rule the online scene, but the developers hope that a built-in rating system will keep people wise to the less sympathetic DMs out there.
The game plays like a more streamlined version of Neverwinter Nights. There are five races and six classes to choose from, each that help the party in their own way. Limited use spells and abilities didn't work well in testing, so all skills have a cooldown timer instead. This also marks the first game in the series to use the Fifth Edition ruleset. From my short time, it was a hectic but genuinely entertaining bit of dungeon crawling and like I said before, better replicates the feel of the pen and paper game at least in regards to interaction between the party and the DM, than any other game has before. Sword Coast Legends is set to release this year on September 8, 2015.