Coming into E3 2015, I had heard of Sword Coast Legends, but had not actually seen the game in motion. The concept of what they were trying to do was ambitious to be certain and I was not sure if it would come off without a hitch. Their idea was to capture the feeling of sitting around a table, playing a game of pen and paper Dungeons and Dragons, but without the reams of graph paper. They want to have up to four players jump into a game while allowing another player to jump into the Dungeon Master Mode and manage their campaign, either through pre-built designs or from the ground up. It was a lot to wrap my head around, but the good folks at n-Space, Digital Extremes and Wizards of the Coast invited me in to not only look at the game, but get an extended 20 minute hands on session with a campaign that was built from scratch and managed by a human Dungeon Master.
Before playing we did get a nice overview of the game, explaining that their is a campaign built into the game that can be played either solo or with up to three other players, or you can design campaigns from scratch. n-Space has given players the tools to customize to the extent that they want to get their hands dirty. You can use pre-built concepts, or create every quest, every character, every environment and even down to the individual dialog that characters use in interactions. It is a robust set of tools and they are there to give players the ability to build what they want and how they want it to play out. From there, players can just jump in or have a friend manage the campaign, changing things on the fly to adjust for difficulty or even jump into characters to give a more human experience to combat encounters.
With that little speech out of the way, we then watched one of the developers put together a campaign. We were told that chunks of this had been built ahead of schedule to conserve time, but we did get to see a couple of quests made, including setting success and fail states, quest markers, bosses and a complete dungeon layout. You can name boss characters, create custom enemy character sheets and so much more. It was rather mind boggling how much customization is at the fingertips of the gamer for design.
With the dungeon and quest states created, my party and I were dispatched to complete the designed quest line that had just been created. Sadly, I did not get to pick my own class as the playable setup had each computer assigned with a specific character, so I ended up a cleric. Yes, the support class, and while I am good at support in a shooter, it is a lot harder to manage a party’s health as the main healer. The devs piled on that sentiment telling everyone (in jest) that I was responsible if we all ended up dead.
So we went through clicking on NPCs and getting our primary quest of entering this creepy dungeon that was filled with a sect that worshipped giant spiders. Hey, I did not create the scenario, but I was willing to role into a dungeon to kill enemies that liked spiders. As we entered and did battle, we noticed things started to get difficult rather quick, as minions started to come in from outside our second room of exploration. This was due to our Dungeon Master assigning new minions to impact our journey on the fly. Apparently he felt that we were moving through his dungeon far to quickly. And then out of the blue, a merchant showed up in the dungeon. While most will not do this, it was more to show us as players that you can literally do anything as the Dungeon Master, no matter how weird or absurd it might seem.
Moving forward with our combat, we got to the leader of this sect, named Mr. Fancy Pants and he started to obliterate us upon contact. I valiantly tried to cast healing spells and defensive barriers, but it was of no use. And then the boss disappeared. Apparently our Dungeon Master overlord felt we were being far too harshly punished and he removed the boss. It was a nice touch for those campaigns where you are just getting worked over that the Dungeon Master can ease up the difficulty to make things a little more fun when things start to get far too bleak.
Our time had come to an end at this point, but I should note that Sword Coast Legends at this point seems to be playing very well and our demo was very stable. The visual fidelity of the game is very sharp when you consider how much customization one can put into a campaign. Mix that together with a game that plays fluid, allows for dynamic, natural game flow and it appears that n-Space might have a solid hit on their hands when it hits wide release. The game should be released for PC, Mac and Linux on September 8th, 2015 while Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have not had a date assigned. However, consoles players should see the game hopefully in the fourth quarter of 2015.
Thanks to n-Space, Digital Extremes and Wizards of the Coast for having us down to check out Sword Coast Legends.