Solasta: Crown of the Magister Review
There are a lot of games that use systems and mechanics that should be familiar to TTRPG players. The obvious ones like Baldur’s Gate, Pathfinder: Kingmaker, and the Divinity series all lean heavily into systems like Dungeons & Dragons. Baldur’s Gate is even set in one of the fictional lands of D&D but takes its own steps away from the TTRPG in favor of a unique system to the game. Solasta: Crown of the Magister is the first game to accurately recreate the 5th Edition SRD for use in a video game.
Solasta: Crown of the Magister takes place on the fictional continent of Solasta. Your party of custom-generated characters has been enlisted by the council at Caer Cyflen to find out the status of an outpost that has failed to check in. Pieces begin falling in place, such as the return of the fabled Soraks—lizard-like monsters that infiltrate with disguise magic—and a quest to recover magical gemstones for the titular Crown of the Magister to try to defeat the Soraks once and for all.
This story is every part of a grand adventure you could hope for: a party of adventurers gathering at a tavern; a call to action to repair the crown that only you are able to attune to; exploring deep caves, luscious jungles, and fiery volcanoes hunting for a number of MacGuffins. During Caer Cyflen’s Council meetings, as characters you barely know all agree that you and your party should be the only ones to take on this quest because the crown “chose us” feels simultaneously very Lord of the Rings and a bit paint by numbers.
The way Solasta slowly delivers the history of the country is done quite spectacularly. By the end, as you work to stop a world-altering event, you’ll have learned about local politics, the history of the continent, the changes in dynamics between races of those times, and more. At no point does it feel overwhelming as various time periods and high fantasy names are slung your way.
Your party of four characters will take on this level 1-10 adventure. There are 5 races to pick from and 6 classes from D&D 5e. This is certainly far from containing all character options from 5e, but the ones that are provided give you the kind of well-rounded team options that you’d like. My party composition ended up being a Human Fighter, Half-Elf Cleric, High-Elf Wizard, and a Halfling Rogue.
The creation process does a fantastic job at presenting all relevant information to the players. From different proficiencies and their explanations, to easy to understand skills you’ll acquire at later levels, everything you need to make an informed choice at the beginning of the game is there.
Solasta as a video game does inherently miss out on large parts of what make TTRPGs unique, like random dialogue and freeform actions. So some skills, like Animal Handling, that are already barely used have a disclaimer to let the player know that it’s an option but will never come up in-game. Later when picking feats, the game assists the player again, pointing out if your character innately has an ability that the feat will grant. It lets you know which options are less useful to you.
Combat is exactly what you’d hope for when thinking about how D&D would translate into a video game format. You creep through dungeons waiting to encounter monsters. Whether you catch them off guard or they manage to catch you first is based on how slow you’re willing to explore. The initiative is rolled for and combat begins.
The layout of combat choices is extremely straightforward. Bonus or free actions, if they’re an option, are presented in a different color. Spells are also split out between whether their casting time is an action or bonus action. Some mechanics have been given some minor cosmetic changes, like cast range being 6 squares instead of 30 ft, but there are a few other spells that have had some tweaks made to them. The biggest example of this I kept coming across was Mage Armor. Instead of applying a buff of AC 13 + Dex modifier, in Solasta it sets your AC to a flat 13. While a level 1 character an AC of 13 can be useful, but as you acquire different magical items this version of Mage Armor quickly becomes useless.
An aspect of combat that Solasta focuses on that I’m sure many players won’t have too much exposure to in normal games of D&D is the light system. Let’s be honest, the casual player will know enough about lighting to know to alert their DM to the fact that they have dark-vision, but once in combat, it’s not going to matter too much. Here you’ll need to be utilizing torches and lighting spells to make sure you’re not having to roll disadvantage with every attack. While it might be frustrating to be continually burning spell slots in catacombs on casting Daylight, you’ll find some added benefits against monsters that have disadvantage, or that even take damage, in bright lights.
You’ll likely experience a fair bit of bugs in Solasta. While there weren’t any game-breaking issues during my playthrough I did suffer from issues like Spiritual Weapon not appearing, increased wait times after attacks, cutscenes not loading correctly, and character names not appearing or showing what I’d assume would be referenced in code. Tactical Adventures has explained that there are still a number of things that will be improved/enhanced with a day one patch, but I know some of the issues listed don’t line up with what they’re working on. The game is still completely playable, just expect a few hiccups.
An extremely impressive element of Solasta, and one that the team didn’t want to talk about last time I spoke with them in October, is the Dungeon Builder. While you’re not going to have as free access to building as intricate dungeons like those in the game, these creation tools are no joke. Similar to the DOOM (2016) Snapmap system, when entering the Dungeon Builder you’ll get options for a theme—do you want a volcano map or high-elf hallways—and then have access to all the relevant building blocks. A few rooms with a variety of entryways, props to fill the rooms like bookcases and statues, and access to the entire Solasta Bestiary. From here you can drag and drop your pieces in place and test out your creation.
Playing around with the tools myself, aside from the limited monster selection, it was extremely easy to recreate a short one-shot I’d created for my players the previous weekend. There are even lore tools allowing for custom text to appear as the party moves to different rooms and switches to activate to progress the player plot forward. It took around 30 minutes to turn a 3-4 hour one-shot into a small custom dungeon in Solasta.
Placing all of the different props in rooms to give them life took the longest but was the most fun. The reading room I had given little thought to when typing my notes now is instead filled with rows of bookcases, a harp standing in the corner, and scattered piles of books where a previous patron was partway through some kind of research. While there are some aspects of the dungeon maker that could give more freedom to a player, such as getting to build the room floorplans yourself, what’s already there is an extremely powerful set of tools.
Solasta: Crown of the Magister Review | Final Thoughts
From its first reveal and demo, I had been extremely excited to see what Solasta: Crown of the Magister would look like in its final form and I’m happy to say I’m extremely impressed. While the story felt a bit cookie-cutter, there’s also something to be said for a formula that works. Combat, hiccups aside, was fun and engaging with a variety of combatants and interesting locations. I will always wish there were more races and classes involved and that the story was longer than a 1-10 campaign, but also have to acknowledge how much the team at Tactical Adventures is able to accomplish. For such an enjoyable first game, they’re definitely a developer to keep an eye on going forward.
TechRaptor reviewed Solasta: Crown of the Magister on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher. It will also be available on Xbox for PC.