I've never really been one for Dungeons & Dragons. The iconic board game has never really resonated with me, which is why I was a little reluctant to take on a review for Solasta: Crown of the Magister, a turn-based tactical RPG based on the D&D SRD 5.1 ruleset. But, after spending a weekend completely absorbed by this title developed by Tactical Adventures, I can safely say that I am pleasantly surprised by what is one of the more engaging tactical RPG adventures I've ever experienced.
Set in the fictional world of Solasta, Crown of the Magister is an adventure that sees a group of beings of various race, beliefs and skills venturing out in the dangerous magical world to engage in combat, loot for new equipment, and level-up to earn new abilities, all while unravelling a sprawling narrative that is themed around a mystical and unusual golden crown. The game plays like a digital version of tabletop D&D, and not only asks you to fight in turn-based combat, but to also become immersed in its diverse world through the characters that you have created for that adventure.
Creating a character is one of the most important parts to Solasta, as it will affect every single part of the game going forward. The system that is incredibly broad allows you to customise the race, class type, gender, tone of voice, personality, ability distribution, just to name a few factors, and is crucial to not just how well your team works in combat, but also how they understand and interact with the world. For example, you might choose to create a Fighter with high strength and charisma, making them great as a damage absorbing presence but also in conversation, whilst also building a Wizard that has high wisdom and intelligence, allowing their spells to hit hard and for them to be pillars of knowledge when moving around the world.
The reason all of this is important is because the game is a reflection of D&D, meaning a lot of the decisions and opportunities that come your way will be substitute to a dice roll that has better odds at succeeding depending on the amount of points a character has in an attribute. For example, you might have a character with six points in history, and to succeed in the interaction you need to reach at least 12 points, meaning in this situation you only need to roll a six or higher on a twenty-sided dice. Essentially, where in a tabletop game of D&D you might have to coordinate your character's personal strengths with the party, in Solasta, the entire party's strengths and weaknesses are determined by you alone.
While the majority of the game is pretty much told through narrative expressed by the interactions between the members of the party and other beings throughout the world, and is done so in an interesting and well-written fashion, a large part of what Solasta offers is in its turn-based strategy combat. This is largely a pretty run-of-the-mill strategy system that allows each character on your team to complete a number of attacks depending on their class and abilities within a turn, but the main difference is that the success of an action, or the damage it outputs is not directly determined by a percentage alike X-COM. There are a whole bunch of factors such as whether an enemy is visible, behind cover, or far away, but ultimately the success depends on how the dice roll.
It might seem, on the surface, to be more based-around luck than a percentage system, but when using a twenty-sided dice, the chances of getting low rolls that will make attacks miss or hit for feeble amounts of damage actually seems to be much lower than for example missing a 60% attack chance on X-COM - of which any X-COM player would tell you basically means the attack won't hit.
Tactical Adventures has done a great job of making a D&D game that feels approachable and is actually simple to dive into and understand. There's such a wide array of RPG mechanics and systems that even the most dedicated and knowledgeable player would be packed with stuff to do, but it's also designed in a style that doesn't overwhelm those less versed in either D&D or strategy games.
It is disappointing however, that Solasta has no multiplayer support, aside from the dungeon creator that allows you to create and play dungeons made by other players. From my experience with this game, I believe it would work pretty well as a multiplayer title where each player controls one character, and in typical D&D fashion, the party has to work together to make the right narrative and combat decisions in order to survive until the end of the adventure.
But, even with this negative, there's not a whole lot that I can say against Solasta: Crown of the Magister. This is a well-designed strategy experience that offers an approachable take on the iconic tabletop game of D&D, and whether you are a fan of D&D or not, the turn-based combat and engaging narrative makes for a great fantasy RPG that will make you want to keep playing. Despite being a fan of this game, I can't say that I've been converted to the ways of D&D personally, but I do long for the days when a new adventure is added to the title, so that I can take my eccentric crew of oddballs back out into the expansive magical world.