It’s no a secret that I like my digital dungeoneering games. This fascination goes from the original Diablo through to World of Warcraft and everything in between, such as Icewindale. In truth, it goes further back, way back to when I had an Atari ST and was playing Dungeon Master on a regular basis. I was also involved heavily in the Neverwinter Nights community, running campaigns using that engine using DM teams. It was great.
It’s not surprising I’m very interested in Sword Coast: Legends (herein SCL) doing well. I’m so interested I’ve pre-ordered and took a gamble.
I was hoping to be playing it this week. I got the impression they’d opened early access for the whole week before the games release so I pre-ordered. It turned out the early access was only for the weekend and it was already midday Sunday and I was travelling from the early evening. I did get to play around with it a bit and watch some people playing it on Twitch.
The hope is the game is worth it for the 40 – 50 hours campaign that exists even without experimenting with the DM and scenario creation tools. I’m looking forward to that and we’ve not even seen it yet. This should allow me to play out my Icewindale fix again, but in a more fast-paced environment. Considering the restricted nature of the quest construction rules, it’ll be interested to see if the quests in the campaign follow the same restrictions or whether they’ve been built on a substantially richer model and only the more basic tools are available to the community.
And yes, it would seem the tools are basic. This isn’t Neverwinter Nights, but that doesn’t mean it’s a disaster.
The DM’ing Tools
The DM’ing tools are odd. They’re odd because they don’t provide total freedom. You can’t construct your areas tile by tile, they are randomised based on criteria and then you can tweak them. The whole set-up of DM threat is neat, but it comes across more as a Descent-like construct than a DM creating a scenario, adventure and story. This may be a weakness on my part, as I keep seeing it in that Descent-like way, rather than another way of just providing a method to ensure the game remains challenging. After all, Dungeons & Dragons does this in numerous ways, such as challenge ratings, etc.
It’s going to come down to how much stuff can be done dynamically, as this was the key with Neverwinter Nights games. You can speak as characters and NPCs (though worryingly the community had to request and push for this), but can you assign quests without people clicking on characters? Do you need to assign quests or can you free-form without them? How easy is it to create areas when players go their own way? To have them in stock and get the players to them in a scene transition sort of model?
I get a sense it may be possible, but not ideal or naturally built around that model. At the moment, I see possibilities bound by restrictions, but not something I’m eager to ditch. The one part that was very impressive was the character creation. I could easily see how you could happily create unique character assets to use in your campaigns, it’ll just come down to how dynamically and easily you can use them.
The problem SCL faces is the community interested in the game is a bit like a political party with competing views on what the game should deliver:-
- The MMO crowd, or the endgame Diablo crowd at least, are already talking about loot problems and issues around running dungeons repeatedly
- The action RPG crowd who want a challenging experience of running dungeons and levelling up or playing modules without a DM
- Those who want to play the game like a computerised version of Descent seeing the player and DM dynamic as more adversarial
- The very strange Dungeons & Dragons crowd, often hardcore proponents of 3E, who see the rule as some sort of simulation of some sense of reality (a big grouping in the Neverwinter Nights community)
- Those wanting more of a story-based approach and tools and the ability to dynamically DM the game and do lots on the fly
- This is ignoring all the edition ways that are already going on, the game is too much like 4E, it’s too simple like the dumbed down 5E, etc
It’s a bit like the Doctor Who of computer games, it’s destined to not satisfy any particular group a 100% of the time. It’s heading for a metric ton of shit no matter how good it is as each group argues about where it doesn’t deliver. The risk is with SCL is it doesn’t gun for meeting any groups expectations well so it ends up being ridiculously far from meeting any of them.
A Hopeful Delay
Today the game has been delayed three weeks due to the experiences of many on the early access weekend. This is both a good and a bad thing, obviously. It’s good because they are addressing issues, it’s bad because it wasn’t the glowing experience one would hope for. I could get a refund, but I’m committed now and if nothing else I’ll hope the £30 of single-player campaign is worth it. I also get the Rage of Demons expansion for free due to the delay, which is good. I really hope you can put some games together that can run on some sort of free-form basis, rather than being exactly like a sing-player module but with a DM playing around with his threat as an additional player.
The game is going to experience a fraught existence, this is just going to be a fact, but I’m hoping it can navigate its way through it and provide a worthwhile experience.