When it comes to CRPGs that use the Dungeons And Dragons licence, you are probably going to get visions of Minsc, Boo, Khalid, and Jaheira. You are going to think of Baldur’s Gate, you might even think of Baldur’s Gate 3 if you have been following Larian’s Early Access. You probably aren’t thinking of Solasta: Crown Of The Magister.
This is a shame because you absolutely should be. Solasta: Crown Of The Magister is a CRPG by first-time devs Tactical Advance, and it’s really good. Surprisingly good even. It has a partial licence to Dungeons And Dragons 5th Edition, which means you are getting some homebrew, but all in all, it’s a very faithful recreation. It’s not perfect though, and some tweaks could easily launch this greatdom.
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Solasta plays like a dream. Heck, it even looks great. Environments are detailed, enemy designs are clear and interesting, and there is just enough lighting and special effects to sell this as a good-looking CRPG. There’s one catch – this only applies from a distance.
Solasta makes the mistake of looking unfinished because it insists on dragging the camera down to emulate a Mass Effect or Dragon Age style of dialogue system. This is highly unusual for this genre, and frankly, in this case, it doesn’t work.
Character models look hideous up close, facial animations are incredibly janky, and there are clearly visual bugs and hiccups. It looks unfinished – almost like an early access title despite the game being fully released. Heck, despite the game being incredibly polished everywhere else.
How would we fix this? Easy, use the Pillars Of Eternity, Divinity 2, Pathfinder, and practically every other CRPG method of dialogue – text boxes and keeping the camera isometric. Had Solasta stayed within this genre norm, then you would likely never know the game was clearly on a budget – the blemishes would be hidden.
4 Better Voice Acting
The voice acting in Solasta is bad. It’s really bad. This is for several reasons. Firstly, the game didn’t have a big budget so it looks like they had a handful of actors doing a lot of voices. They just added a bit of gruff or a badly formed accent to try and mask it.
Secondly, the game voice acts every single conversation you have. This is very impressive for a first attempt at a game – especially one in a genre that is known to have a lot of dialogue. This leads to a lot of awkward delivery, and in some cases, the same actor voices multiple characters in a single conversation.
It’s not a good look – well, it’s not a good sound. It’s also not an issue you can fix without just cutting things. In this instance, we would probably limit the voice acting to key scenes or snippets of dialogue. Don’t voice the entire game. You can then focus on those smaller snippets and make sure they are delivered on point.
This method of voice acting has existed since Baldur’s Gate, and it continues to live on in the likes of Pathfinder and Pillars Of Eternity. Reign it in a tad.
3 Remove The Illusion Of Choice
Solasta does its best to pretend it has freedom. It has a world map, it has large areas, and you are free to do side quests. The thing is, Solasta is incredibly linear. There are very few deviations from the main progression route. You are on a rollercoaster, as opposed to an adventure.
This is revealed very early on when you first leave to go out and do some adventuring. The world map is shown before you, and unlike other CRPGs, you aren’t free to go off and just explore random areas. You can only go to places the game tells you to go – which is the main route. There are no real side areas. It’s just moving from A to B when told to.
This method of linearity is carried over to questing and dialogue too, unfortunately. Every quest can only be completed in one way. When you are given a multiple-choice dilemma, the outcome is nearly always the same regardless of what you pick. For example, early on you can interrogate a man, kill him, or try to calm him down. All these options result in the man suddenly dying before you could do anything. You never had a choice.
Simply open the game up a bit. Allow for branching quests and dialogue. Throw in some side areas to explore for additional loot when on the world map. Some of these things will take a lot of work, of course, but it would help instil that all-important sense of adventure and freedom – aspects the genre lives for.
2 Better Quest Design
There are some side quests you can tackle whilst travelling through Solasta, but these are more often than not, pretty generic. Go here and kill this, or fetch this, and take it here. We’ve seen it all before, and they are, to be brutally honest, boring. Some of them are egregiously so.
One example has you talking to an NPC, running across town, and talking to another NPC. You then go back to the first NPC, who tells you to go back to the second NPC. You do this, and then go back to, we kid you not, the first NPC. All of this is for a sword you don’t get to keep.
The fix is not simple, but it needs to be done – make your quests interesting. Running between 2 NPCs over, and over again is not a quest, it’s busy work. It’s lazy. Side quests are rarely interesting, but you can do better than fetch quests.
Maybe even add new areas to explore for side quests. As it stands, most side quests have you exploring areas you have already been to. This is just backtracking, and it’s again, not particularly interesting.
1 Smoother Introduction To Character Creation
This is not just an issue for Solasta, this is an issue that has plagued the genre since its inception. Character creation in CRPGs is one of the most important aspects of the entire game, but it’s also one of the densest to get into. Making your dude is often the first thing you need to do, and many players are going in blind.
How do games like Solasta get around it? Well, they flood you with text boxes, descriptions, numbers, and jargon. In short, they expect you either have pre-existing knowledge of the genre, or they expect you to have a working knowledge of the source material. In this case, Dungeons And Dragons.
This is an awful way to start your game. Solasta does come with some premade characters to pick from, but here’s the kicker, the game advises you not to use them. The game is pushing you to interact with a system it isn’t necessarily interested in walking you through. Not only that, you don’t make one character in Solasta, you make four.
How to improve this without removing the depth of character creation? Have the tutorial before character creation to give players some knowledge on how a class works. Maybe offer an actual tutorial on character creation. Stop relying on outside sources to teach players the game. Solasta does, in some ways, make it easier to make a character than others – specifically when it comes to stats, but much more could be done to make the game and the genre more accessible.
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