Sword Coast Legends (SCL) is one of those games that, if it grabs you, can keep you entertained for a good long while past what you might expect. It was greeted with a mostly rocky reception when it released (see Rob’s review for reference), and was critiqued for a number of items that have led n-Space and Digital Extremes to provide free DLC updates moving forward. These updates include Community Pack 1, 2, and the upcoming Community Pack 3, all of which seek to squash bugs and enhance the game’s feature set and DM tools.
There are a lot of things that I like about Sword Coast Legends. At its heart, it’s an isometric Dungeons & Dragons dungeon crawler with all of the Forgotten Realms lore to back up its narrative. Its character development is fairly three-dimensional, with overall excellent voice acting that lends to the likeability of NPC companions. Importantly, although it can be divisive, the combat feels like an honest attempt to adapt the ethos behind the D&D ruleset into a video game context.
The Community Packs seek to address several of the criticisms leveled against the game, and have added (or will add) new companion skill trees and monster abilities, ability respecs, account banks, the drow subrace, and a whole host of bug fixes and additions to DM Mode. Of course, there’s also the upcoming Rage of Demons expansion, which will add tieflings, a new Warlock class, a new adventure, WASD character movement, and more. Still, there are a few feature additions that I’d love to see, which I think would make Sword Coast Legends even more expansive and accessible for fans of isometric RPGs and D&D alike.
As much as I love my NPC companions, I often don’t want to micromanage their abilities and character progression. This is particularly the case when I come across a new party member, and have to learn about their class and skills to decide in which direction I want to take their 15+ available skill points. It would be great to have an autolevel feature, for which I could decide what kind of general build I want the companion to fill, and let the game do the work.
Branching Storylines with Choices that Matter
There are a lot of quests and some important choices in SCL’s 30+ hour campaign. Still, the game could do with a lot more branching storylines and choices that make you feel like you’re making an impact on the world. This is especially true in the early game, which can feel railroaded before the story opens up considerably.
More Expansive Zones
Sword Coast Legends doesn’t have to be the next Icewind Dale in terms of scope, and what it does with adventure zones, it does fairly well. Yet, I can’t help feeling that there’s an opportunity here for n-Space to grab the Forgotten Realms by its horns and create an isometric world that we can get lost in. Part of this experience can come from simply expanding maps, but it rests more closely with the ability to feel like there’s more to do in each zone. Give us more NPCs to talk to, more places to go, and more meaningful quests that make the world feel lived in and bigger than just our stories.
Combat that is More Challenge, Less Cheese
To my eternal shame as a gamer, I continue to admit (mostly to myself) that I play most games on easy, or at best, normal difficulty. Part of this tendency is due to the nature of my work writing about a bunch of different games all the time (this is also what I tell myself). The other part is not wanting to hit a steep difficulty curve later in the game that becomes frustrating or impassable. SCL’s combat is not overly challenging, but there are definitely two boss encounters in mind that seem to require some type of cheesing to overcome. One of the hallmarks of a well-made RPG is fair-play gameplay difficulty, wherein you know what it is that you’re doing wrong, and how to get better at it. Sword Coast Legends could benefit from combat that feels more challenging, but not impenetrable.
Sword Coast Legends: Epic Edition?
There are a lot of contemporary comparisons to other isometric RPGs, and while I intend to discuss SCL mostly on its own merits, it’s still useful to look at Divinity: Original Sin as a counterpoint. That game has its own strengths and weaknesses going for/against it, but one thing that deserves applause is the release of a myriad of quality of life improvements with the Enhanced Edition (DOSEE). I wrote an impressions piece about DOSEE last month, but suffice it to say that the Enhanced Edition made a great game even better, with content additions and some effective streamlining.
Sword Coast Legends could benefit from the same treatment, in several areas. The flexible camera, for example, is much appreciated, but I find that it won’t snap-to my chosen character easily after I mess with the angles. By the same token, the camera orientation will change between map transitions, and won’t always be facing the same direction as the dungeon map. These items could be easily streamlined, along with a better method of fast travel between locations and the Adventurer’s Camp. Additionally, while the opportunity to become Waylaid is a tried-and-true trope of D&D adventuring, it can come across as a minor nuisance (save for one particularly interesting occurrence that I won’t spoil here). Each instance of being Waylaid should feel different and serve a purpose to further the story or world building.
Add these updates into the mix, package them in with the first three Community Packs, and you’ve got yourself a Sword Coast Legends: Epic Edition. I’m just saying.
Last month, n-Space and Digital Extremes made SCL available for a free weekend on Steam, and if such a chances arises again, do not hesitate to give it a try. It may not yet be the be-all to end-all isometric RPG successor to games like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment, but it’s moving in the right direction. And with these proposed changes, and some more bug fixes, you might just start naming it among its lofty predecessors.
Are you playing Sword Coast Legends? How have you liked the Community Packs so far?