Review cover Solasta: Crown of the Magister (Computer)
Official GBAtemp Review

Product Information:

  • Release Date (NA): May 27, 2021
  • Publisher: Tactical Adventures
  • Developer: Tactical Adventures
  • Genres: Tactical RPG

Game Features:

Single player
Local Multiplayer
Online Multiplayer
Co-operative
Today for review, we’ll be taking a look at Solasta: Crown of the Magister! The turn-based, tactical RPG is finally out of early access, so let’s take a look at the final product and see how it holds up!

attachFull265860

Finding a “perfect” video game adaptation of Dungeons & Dragons has always been a casual goal of mine. Being utterly obsessed with the franchise and its lore, but with not even close to enough hours in a day to play through written modules at a pace that I want, I’ve always been aching to see the tabletop role-playing magic replicated in video game form. Previously I’ve reviewed the heavily anticipated Baldur’s Gate 3, another early access game officially licensed by the franchises publisher Wizards of the Coast, and while I was unhappy with some of the early access quirks in that game, I was absolutely in love with how close Larian Studios stuck to the core 5th edition D&D ruleset. So when offered the chance to review another game rooted in the D&D 5e ruleset, I was absolutely interested. So, let’s take a look at Solasta: Crown of the Magister, and see how it fares in delivering the tabletop experience to players virtually!

attachFull265862

Review imageReview imageReview imageReview image

Crown of the Magister takes place in a world dreamed up by the team over at Tactical Adventures; the world of Solasta, a country still recovering from a great cataclysm. The main story of the game sees your party of four adventurers being tasked with exploring the untamed badlands of Solasta, gathering artifacts and loot wherever you can. Along the way, the party uncovers an ancient artifact of immense power and discovers the revival of a long thought dead race of murderous monsters called the Sorr-Akkath, and has to work to protect what remains of Solasta from another cataclysm happening. If that seems like a really bland and vague overview of the story, that’s for good reason; Crown of the Magister’s story really just isn’t that memorable.

There’s some good here, for sure, such as the party feeling like a truly cohesive unit and each member getting a dialogue option during conversations. This helps make four distinct characters feel really fleshed out, and it got me to care about all of my player characters… but that’s where it stopped. The writing here just isn’t very good, and the deeper lore of this world really just isn’t that interesting either, which doesn’t help. It’s a shame, too, because part of the draw of any good D&D campaign is definitely the story and the world you’re playing in, so to have this be one of the most lacking departments just doesn’t feel right. 

Review imageReview imageReview imageReview image

Gameplay is, in my opinion, the star of the show here. With the selling point of having a license to use the D&D 5th edition ruleset, I was very interested to see how accurate of a “traditional” tabletop experience I could expect in the game. What I found was one of the most accurate representations of my favorite game translated to a single player RPG. Combat features the same “action, bonus action, movement” formula that tabletop D&D is known for, and features a ton of spells and abilities ripped straight from the source books. Movement is still measured in cells, and nearly everything that requires some sort of skill check is determined by a virtual, simulated dice roll; initiative order, whether your attack hits or your skill check passes, damage, etc. Where Solasta stands apart from the competition is that the virtual dice are shown for literally everything. The dice roll animation plays, shows your result, adds any modifiers, and tells you whether you succeeded or failed. It adds an extra layer of immersion straight from the source that makes things not only familiar for veteran players, but clear for new players who might not be as familiar with D&D.

Outside of combat, the game feels very inspired by the likes of Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale with isometric maps, point-and-click movement, NPCs to interact with, and dungeons to crawl. Where Solasta differs from the inspiration, though, is that where those games encouraged exploration to an almost annoying amount, Solasta feels very surface level. While there’s plenty of room for exploration in the dungeons, the main city that acts as the game’s central hub is very simple, and there’s just outright no overworld; traveling from the hub cities to the points of interest takes place on a map that tracks the days of travel, rations, and gives an adventure log to tell you what the characters have done on their travel. While there’s the occasional random enemy encounter along the road, those get less and less as you quickly level up, and you’re soon left just sitting and waiting until the next opportunity to actually play the game again. It’s very old school, and painfully accurate to the tabletop experience, but it doesn’t translate well to a video game at all.

attachFull265873

Review imageReview imageReview imageReview imageReview imageReview imageReview image

Aside from the main gameplay, the character creator tool brings the familiar assets from the tabletop game to the desktop experience, in the form of character creation and dungeon making. While Solasta does have pre-generated characters ready for those who would rather just jump in and play, the game offers a character creator that will look very familiar to anyone who’s ever picked up a 5th edition character sheet. You’re able to set your character's race, background, class, skills and proficiencies, starting gear, and if you’re a spellcaster, starting spells. It’s all great, but once again very limited. Despite the studio's heavy touting of their license to use the official 5th edition ruleset, only six of the twelve core classes from the tabletop game are available in Solasta; cleric, fighter, paladin, ranger, rogue, and wizard. This is a really balanced list to choose from for sure, offering a bit of each of the three “traditional” combat types, but it still leaves plenty to be desired.

That said, with the exception of some of the subclasses, each class is almost a one-to-one translation from the tabletop game which was a welcome sight to see. Character races are limited too, with only five to choose from; human, dwarf, elf, half-elf, and halfling. And even beyond that your customization options are limited too, to just a handful of facial presets, hair styles, and some very basic sliders for the body features. It’s nice to have the customization options I guess, but it’s just so limiting.

The new dungeon crafting feature, too, suffers from some limitations in the form of just a few pre-determined pieces to craft your dungeon, and the inability to rotate doors and walls; though admittedly, the dungeon maker is still in beta despite the game being fully released. But to the dungeon makers' credit, you're able to create entirely custom maps to share with the game's community which will likely keep folks around past the completion of the main story. 

Overall, while I appreciate the ambition of the development team, and overall I’m happy with how the game plays in its current state, I’m still left feeling a bit disappointed by the limitations of these creative options.

Review imageReview imageReview imageReview image

For how good the gameplay is, I have to confess that the graphics aren’t anywhere close to as impressive. Save for some of the maps looking really unique and cool, everything here looks like it belongs to a mobile game. A lot of this comes down to the character models, and how flat and texture-less they look. Some characters have next to no detail in their face, others have hair that looks more like a plastic-y helmet, and in one instance I noticed that a beard option when making a character was just straight up not attached to the face. There's also some clipping issues with a lot of the hair and armors, as well as with weapons in some instances that just make it seem unpolished more than anything. 

Sure some characters look better than others, but the issues don’t stop there. The animations are all very stiff for just about everything beyond combat. And the syncing of facial animations to dialogue is particularly bad, with some characters often just looking like they’re flapping their mouths rather than speaking. It’s immersion breaking, to say the least. I don’t want to be too harsh given that this is a game made by a small team, but at the same time it’s reasons like this that I typically prefer more stylized graphics for my fantasy RPGs. I wasn’t expecting this to be on the level of something like The Witcher 3 graphically, but even lowering my standards I was still shocked at how poor everything looks. It’s dated on arrival.

Review imageReview imageReview imageReview image

Crown of the Magister is a textbook definition of a “mixed bag.” The poor writing and already dated graphics hold it back in my mind, but where the gameplay works, it’s fantastic and keeps me coming back for more. I may not be all that interested in the story or world of Solasta, but I do want to continue playing tabletop RPG simulators that are this much pure, unfiltered fun. Not everything translates perfectly, and the limitations from that  just adds another item to a stack of problems. But I can’t deny the fun factor, which is in my mind the most important aspect of any game. In that regard, Crown of the Magister is a success… albeit a restrained one. I hope to see another game continuing this style of gameplay from Tactical Adventures, and that they’re able to fix what doesn’t work here going forward.

attachFull265898

Verdict

What We Liked ...
  • Amazing gameplay
  • Incredibly accurate to 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons
  • Manages to make playing four different characters at once feel distinct
  • Kept me wanting to play despite glaring flaws
What We Didn't Like ...
  • Limited customizability
  • Shallow exploration options negatively affects connection to the world
  • Poor, already dated graphics
  • Mediocre story
  • Some aspects almost *too* accurate to 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons
8
Gameplay
The real star of the show here, the gameplay is satisfying, balanced, and just all around fun. Managing to feel both accurate enough and familiar to those with a history in D&D, yet also very accessible and not too overwhelming for someone getting their TTRPG start with Solasta.
6
Presentation
Despite some really nice music, presentation barely scrapes by here. Most of the environments look nice, but the character models and animations just scream unpolished and need a lot of work yet.
7
Lasting Appeal
While the story may not be much worth bragging about, the dungeon maker means that there will be no shortage of content to play through thanks to community engagement.
6.9
out of 10

Overall

Solasta: Crown of the Magister leaves me conflicted; as a long time Dungeons & Dragons fan, I think it’s an absolute blast and I love how faithful and accurate everything is to the tabletop experience. But limited customization options, a poor story, and unpolished character graphics keeps me from loving this game as much as I want to.
Great review, I've had this one on my wishlist for a while but the price was never quite low enough to pull the trigger.
 
  • Like
Reactions: RyRyIV
Hehe, 69.
It's funny, but could a game with amazing gameplay have at least 7? People often have stigma against games less than 7, as not time worthy.
 
Hehe, 69.
It's funny, but could a game with amazing gameplay have at least 7? People often have stigma against games less than 7, as not time worthy.
Honestly I flip-flopped a lot in the writing on if this deserved a 7 or not. And while the gameplay is definitely great, I just couldn’t get past all of the graphical issues. And that even goes beyond “it doesn’t look good.” When there’s this many animation and clipping issues on the character models, it just reeks from lack of polish. If this were still in early access I’d have let that slide, but I expect a bit more polish from something that’s “fully released.” Hence the 6.9.

It’s just my thought process and it’s okay if you/anyone doesn’t agree. The numbers system in a review “ranking” isn’t perfect anyway. So I hope that anyone might see less than 7 and think “not worth my time” will take the time to read the full review, and see that there’s a gem here; it’s unpolished and rough around the edges, but it’s still a gem.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Xzi
if this is "Poor, already dated graphics" then dont play 80% of games...
What? Some of those screenshots definitely look closer to Xbox 360 games than anything modern. On top of which it sounds like animations are pretty bad.
 
if this is "Poor, already dated graphics" then dont play 80% of games...

The characters looking fugly as heck was the first thing I noticed.
WoW's 2004 character models look better than those, and the animations indeed look stiff as F.
I mean, just look at the very first SS - all 4 chars are in the same pose, looking like scaled clones of each other.
 
Review cover
Product Information:
  • Release Date (NA): May 27, 2021
  • Publisher: Tactical Adventures
  • Developer: Tactical Adventures
  • Genres: Tactical RPG
Game Features:
Single player
Local Multiplayer
Online Multiplayer
Co-operative

Reviews

  1. Hardware

    PowerA MOGA XP7-X Plus Bluetooth Controller

    Going back to mobile gaming, we check out PowerA's latest Android-focused MOGA gamepad!
  2. Hardware

    Analogue Pocket – GB, GBC and GBA handheld FPGA based player.

    FPGAs are the king of devices to replicate/simulate other devices, here we have one made portable and with a very nice screen aiming at playing GB, GBC, and GBA games among others.
  3. Xbox Series X|S

    South of the Circle

    Narrative driven title South of the Circle from indie devs State of Play will have you traverse Antarctica while looking back at past events that brought you to this frozen landscape, while stuck...
  4. Hardware

    Donner Dobuds ONE ANC Earbuds

    ANC earbuds are all the rage, but how do Donner's $36 Dobuds ONE earbuds stack up?
  5. Nintendo Switch

    Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes

    Three years later we venture back into Fodlan for some hacking and slashing with a pinch of strategy in Koei Tecmo’s latest Warriors mashup!
General chit-chat
Help Users
  • No one is chatting at the moment.
    KenniesNewName @ KenniesNewName: US $54.12 34%OFF | RetroScaler Replacement Plastic Shell Translucent Case Compatible Nintendo...