Sword Coast Legends Review
You’re battling with a swarm of bandits in the sewers, since you failed to impress them with a show of strength. Acid arrows fly, heals pick up your beleaguered fighters, and your rogues dispatch enemy ranged units within moments. Sword Coast Legends should feel like a real-deal dungeon crawl, but something’s lost in translation. Perhaps we’ve just been spoiled on the PC RPG front as of late, but the clichéd campaign and dungeon-creation toolbox fail to leave a noteworthy impression.
This simplified, easy-to-play Dungeons & Dragons jaunt takes players to the ever-popular Forgotten Realms setting, and does a good job easing you into the swing of things. Dungeons & Dragons rulesets can be complex and tough to handle, but Sword Coast Legends distills everything down to hotbar actions and real-time combat. The combat features the old “real-time with pause” mechanic that’s been a staple of the PC RPG since Baldur’s Gate 2. The core characters provide all the essential roles you need to make a well-balanced party full of healing, spells, backstabbery, and tanky frontliners. Regardless of the roles and characters you embrace, things run pretty much on autopilot as your group goes from pack to pack, ripping foes apart with their limited selection of spammable skills. While you are free to control the character of your choice during any given encounter, it’s often just a matter of clicking a few buttons and letting your team clean house – a process that gets repetitive quickly.
Contributing to the banality of the campaign, none of your decisions or choices seem to have much impact on the story or developments. You’re not going to be diverting paths or anything, even if you do come up with a different way to approach a situation. I still had fun intimidating people with strength, charming them with charisma, and using spells to solve problems. Despite these moment-to-moment interactions that mostly consist of “Oh cool, I have this spell so I can handle this encounter this way,” you can’t do much to change the linear trail and stock quests. The journey is a slog and the characters that should be the most entertaining (like crazy halflings who go on killing sprees) are all footnotes in an endless backdrop of caves and sewers filled with uninteresting encounters. Your group can pretty much take on anything you encounter, so your input is usually a few pause-taps, item uses, and spell casts. It’s not fun, and the story feels like generic fantasy fare through and through.
Campaign aside, Sword Coast Legends promised to allow players to take on all of our favorite Dungeons & Dragons monsters and mayhem player-created multiplayer dungeons – complete with a Dungeon Master pulling the strings. The good news is that the dungeon, quest, and encounter creation tools are easy to use; anyone can make a pretty solid dungeon from start to finish, and playing other user-created maps is easy. This turns out to be a double-edged sword, as the ease of creation and simplicity of the toolkit imposes significant limitations on how things can be created. It feels more like playing with a strict set of dungeon Legos than freeform customization. This may change in time as users find ways to break the rules and come up with crazy campaigns, but right now the multiplayer Dungeon Master experience feels like a dumbed-down Diablo session that’s in dire need of variety and soul.
Sword Coast Legends will grow over time. Significant updates are already scheduled, but right now it doesn’t provide the ambitious set of creation tools and repeat-crawling chaos that I was hoping it would. Sword Coast Legends has some great ideas and a wonderful world to draw upon, but struggles to live up to its potential.