Crown of the Magisters Review

A Respectable Prince Among Kings

May 20, 2024
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I’m sure anyone who spent time with the Sprites & Dice crew knows that we love tabletop RPGs. And when it comes to the video game versions of these games, we’ve had a lot to love the past few years! From Pathfinder’s epic recreation of it’s Wrath of the Righteous campaign setting to the long awaited continuation of the venerable Baldur’s Gate series, the 2020s have given us plenty to play from the big names in the industry.

But we’re not here to talk about the big names; we’ve already sung their praises, and for good reasons. We’re here to look at the gems that fell through the cracks and give them a chance to shine. Solasta: Crown of the Magisters is one such gem, with great mechanics and customization options, and while it has some rough edges, there’s plenty to love in this lesser-known game.

Solasta Review Dungeon Party

The party’s ready to start their adventure!

A Fine Kingdom Built on Noble Framework

While Solasta isn’t an official D&D game, its creator, Tactical Adventures, received a license to use the D&D SRD 5.1 as the basis for their game, giving them quite the starting point for creating this experience and easing players into the game. Anyone familiar with D&D’s rules will feel very comfortable from the get-go, but they really made sure that newer players know what they're doing as well. Every class option, spell, and ability is explained perfectly in language that anyone new or old can understand, and the tutorial (which is skippable) does a great job explaining the basics without overloading the player.

When you start any campaign, a list of pre-generated characters are always available to choose from, but you have the option to create your own characters as well. The character creator is easy to use and intuitive to learn, breaking down all the steps you’d find in the regular player’s handbook into manageable sections for you. I will happily admit to spending a few hours just playing around with the system to make exactly the characters I wanted. There’s even the options to write in your own backstories for each character! It doesn’t affect the gameplay or plot, but it’s an appreciated way to breathe your own life into these characters.

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The character creator plenty of options for customization. If you’re ever not satisfied with appearances, you can even edit them later instead of creating a whole new character!

You’ll find several D&D mainstays at your disposal here. Your main hub of Caer Cyflen runs the gamut of shopkeepers to maintain your wares and help manage inventory, with the chance to improve your standing with certain affiliations to get special items and discounts. Crafting is available to almost every class to create extra potions, gear, and scrolls on your journeys. Side quests are offered pretty regularly for those looking for an extra challenge and even play a role in certain backstories depending on your character.

Beyond the pre-established campaigns, Solasta sports two more features that encourage sharing the game with friends. The first is a dungeon maker, which not only lets you make your own towns and dungeons, but offers a Campaign Creator to bundle dungeons, towns, and NPCs into your own storyline to share with others! And if you want to explore the world of Solasta or a campaign you made with friends, you can; the second main feature is a co-op mode, compatible with most of the campaigns in the game and all player made dungeons and campaigns!

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Traveling long distances is made more than easy for you. All roles and events are taken care of and listed in the journal. And should you run into an combat encounters, full rests while traveling will replenish your abilities, so go all out!

Surveying the Kingdom

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Combat is one of D&D strongest systems, and Solasta delivers with a smart and streamlined system that lets you get right to the action.. Your HUD is perfectly laid out to display all your available actions and what action type it uses. Any modifiers affecting you or other targets are immediately available information, so you know what effect you may have with your actions. Solasta also takes great advantage of level design to build its exploration and combat encounters. Areas are crafted meticulously with verticality and player autonomy in mind. Just in the first mission alone in Caer Lem, I had a great time figuring out what could provide cover for my ranged fighters and how to use terrain and destructibles to my advantage. And if I lost, I really felt like I learned something about how the NPCs work and what to try next. And I did lose. Quite a few times actually. Luckily, you can change the difficulty settings at any time outside of combat, and they even have custom difficulty settings so you can find the right amount of challenge for yourself!

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I mean, look at this! Isn’t it beautiful how effective this layout is?

Outside of combat, exploring off the main path can lead to hidden loot, like special crafting supplies or extra gear, or hidden parts of the dungeon to conquer for bonus XP. (and more loot, duh) You may also find small items and books that expand on the backstory of Solasta’s world, and certain set pieces will allow knowledge checks to discern their history and value to NPC factions. There is enough here to make the world feel full, but this is also where we do have to compare this princely kingdom of a game to titles that feel like monolithic empires.

The Pathfinder series of games takes time to give you tons of lore, submerging you in a campaign setting like Kingmaker and drowns you in hours and hours of content in the process, having you run kingdoms or manage crusades into hell. Baldur's Gate 3 has an intricate companion system which roots you into the story, creating an immersive experience that makes you as a player incredibly invested, even wanting to do multiple runs to experience the story in entirely new ways. Solasta by comparison has you create your entire party from the start, handle some small quests for each, and keeps giving you great combat set pieces for its main plot.

Solasta Crown of the Master Review.jpg Solasta: Crown of the Magisters

Developer: Tactical Adventures
Platforms: PC
Price: $29.99
Release Date: May 27, 2021
A Review Copy Was Given By Publisher

This last portion of the review isn't meant to be a criticism, just a way to illustrate how this game is different from others in its field. Solasta: Crown of the Magisters knows what it does and does it well: punchy combat encounters, and then keep things moving.

All(?) the King’s Horses…

Now for all the great things this game offers, there are a couple things you’ll want to know before walking into this game. Now this is more a warning than an problem, but while I praised the character creator above for its ease of use, there is a glaring issue…While the game has all the ancestries and classes in the D&D Player’s Handbook, only half of them are available to use in the base game. I can understand not being able to include them immediately on launch if you’re working on a smaller budget, but it stings when your favorite class is staring you in the face and locked behind a DLC paywall. The only reason the Sorcerer class is available for use is because it was included as a free update later, otherwise the Wizard class would have been your only dedicated spellcaster option.

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Needless to say, I was very upset that I could not have a Bard, but the options provided in the base game still provide a decent smattering of what D&D has to offer. Its one of the few reasons I recommend buying the game on sale alongside some of the added campaigns and character options.

Dialogue can also feel stilted with mismatched tones and inflections that can also draw it’s issues from the character creator. When you create your character, rather than choosing an alignment, you choose personality traits that shape what dialogue will be used when they speak. Unfortunately, sometimes what’s said doesn’t exactly match what personality you set for your character, and there are more than a few moments where tone and inflection wildly do not match the situation. It can be amusing at times, and rather awkward at others. This is a game that is focused on a very combat heavy adventure, but with other recent entries to the genre that excel in storytelling and mood, sometimes the stilted dialogue or more standard adventure can leave a player feeling a little underwhelmed.

Long May It Reign

Despite the issues I have with it, Solasta: Crown of the Magisters is a fun game to play. Wizards of the Coast made a great call allowing Tactical Adventures a license to use their system, crafting a faithful and intuitive representation of D&D in digital form. As a way to introduce players to the concepts and feel behind D&D, or a more affordable experience for veteran players, Solasta provides a great playing experience for fans of RPGs. If you want just a great 'dungeon crawl' sort of adventure by yourself or with a friend, Solasta is worth the cost.

There's a good chance you may want to wait until it’s on sale if you are a completionist and want all the added campaigns and DLC since its release. You'll also want to keep in mind that this is a game made by a smaller team than other recent game-of-the-year offerings. But even if it is rough around the edges, it scratches the itch of a good RPG on its own merit. Solasta: Crown of the Magisters is a gem you’ll want to add to the crown jewels of your collection.

James Donaldson

Guest Writer