Last updated on December 16th, 2016
Sword Coast Legends isn’t D&D. So what? The game, while not what many were hoping for, is just downright fun. I wasn’t going to write a review for this game, but after seeing the mixed reviews all over the internet (which is a shame), I decided that I probably should. Most of these bad reviews are by people who thought the game would be the D&D tabletop on PC and were upset that it wasn’t. Now I’m not too familiar with SCL’s marketing strategy, but if it was advertised that way, I can see how they would be upset. However, the devs had done numerous live streams and answered questions months before the launch of the game, so I can’t see how people didn’t know what they were getting.
Developed by: n-Space
Published by: Digital Extremes
Release date: October 20th, 2015
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Reviewed on PC)
Launch Price: 39.99 USD
The game is something of a mix between D&D, Dragon Age and Diablo III. I love all of those games and SCL does a particularly good job mashing them all together into a more accessible D&D with tons and tons of loot (something that I like!), and a Dungeon Master Mode. One of my biggest gripes about D&D games like Neverwinter Nights is that the game felt slow and the upgrades to loot and your character were slow and sometimes sporadic. Some people like that, I don’t particularly and SCL avoids that.
In SCL there are so many abilities per Class which makes room for a ton of builds, and you get 3 Ability Points per level so you really feel your character become more powerful as you progress. After a few levels your character build starts to take shape (something I felt took much longer in D&D). The loot upgrades are frequent enough that you avoid the, “Yay! More crap loot…” feeling. Items are uber expensive at vendors so you have something to save up for and the Search and Lockpicking abilities are invaluable. All of this translates into a lot of fun, and while many players are complaining it’s too easy, there is a hard difficulty that ramps up the combat challenge.
Combat reminds me a lot of Dragon Age: Origins. When things get dicey, you pause the game and issue commands to your party and resume (pausing as needed). This isn’t needed all the time, but in the harder fights it’s a necessity. The cooldowns on the Abilities make planning and management essential to success. An interesting contrast happens when you are running a Dungeon Crawl (playing someone’s created Dungeon) in multiplayer, where most of the time the pause button is disabled and the game transitions into MMO like combat. Players will all have their roles (healer, tank, dps, cc), and they will have to manage their cooldowns and work together (just like an MMO) to clear each encounter. My only gripe here is that cooldowns do not refresh after combat, making it so you sometimes have to wait before attempting the next encounter.
The music and setting of the game (The Forgotten Realms) are both fantastic. The graphics, while being average by today’s standards, are still pretty good for the genre. Quests are not overly complicated and flow along nicely, almost breezily which may not please some players. The game isn’t a “deep” RPG in that sense, but I personally find that it is fitting for this game. The combat, loot and gameplay are what really makes this game shine. Creating quests that are more straightforward allows the player to get back to the best parts of the game faster.
The Dungeon Master Mode allows up to 4 players to play against another player who takes the role of Dungeon Master inside a “somewhat” unique dungeon created by a player. I say somewhat because after you’ve played around with the editor for about 3 or 4 hours you start to realize that it is very limiting. That isn’t to say that it isn’t fun to create dungeons, because it is entertaining to play around with the editor. However, where I thought I would create an entire Fextralife campaign, I very shortly realized that I would be better off creating 3 or 4 very good dungeons and leaving it at that. The tools for a massive branching campaign that all links together just simply are not there yet, which is a bit disheartening. However, having experienced a great DM Mode session the other day (on a live stream), you can have an absolute blast with a singular one-off dungeon if you are creative in how you use the tools.
What excites me most about this game is that it is coming to console next year. Because the game is 4 player co-op throughout the campaign or dungeon crawl (5 if you have a DM), I really feel like this will appeal to the console market. The game is drop in drop out, so it should be relatively easy to find people to play the campaign with or run a quick dungeon. The game reminds me a lot of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, which is a game I absolutely loved (I still have both titles on original XBOX discs). Why they didn’t make more of that series is, frankly, beyond me. But, SCL is probably the closest thing to that in 15 years, perhaps with more RPG elements in it and a bit less of that “arcade” feeling. I’d wager a hefty sum if this game was released on console first and PC second, you’d see a lot more positive reviews.
Do not believe the negative reviews. The game is definitely worth picking up at it’s price point (39.99 USD) on Steam. There’s simply so much replayability with the mulitplayer elements and large Ability trees that I don’t see how you could play the game for less than a month. Sadly, the negative reviews out there have probably hurt sales and discouraged people who would have otherwise purchased the game, potentially resulting in less people to play multiplayer with.
I’m having a blast playing. Hours fly by when I do. If you’re looking for something to play until Fallout 4, this is it.