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Why Sword Coast Legends is the digital Dungeon & Dragons RPG you've been waiting for

Hayden Dingman | June 18, 2015
Sword Coast Legends' Dungeon Master mode and custom campaigns make this game a love letter to CRPG enthusiasts. It's even officially sanctioned by Dungeons & Dragons.

Sword Coast Legends

Sword Coast Legends was my favorite game of GDC 2015. Now, three months later I think it has a pretty damn good chance of being my favorite game of E3. And yes, I know we just got started--that's how incredible Sword Coast Legends is.

In case you missed my GDC preview, let me recap: Sword Coast Legends is an isometric CRPG officially sanctioned by Dungeons & Dragons. It's like the D&D folks saw Pillars of Eternity and went "We can do that too."

Except Sword Coast Legends is taking the isometric CRPG in some pretty amazing directions. At GDC we got a peek at the game's Dungeon Master mode, wherein one player takes on the role of DM and basically crafts a challenging dungeon for 1-4 other players on the fly. That alone helps Sword Coast Legends capture the essence of tabletop role-playing in a way no other game successfully has.

But at E3, we got a look at something even more interesting to me (as a tabletop player): Custom campaigns.

It's a huge feature and we only had half an hour, so apologies if any of this seems rushed--we basically glazed over most of the game's capabilities in order to both see everything and get a brief hands-on run through a custom dungeon.

But what we saw looks amazing. There's a very robust design and scripting editor built right into the game, as far as I can tell. The only thing I couldn't figure out is whether you can create custom maps or whether you're just adding props to prefabs--but either way, the amount of customization here is phenomenal.

You can create custom named locations, custom quests, write custom dialogue, custom vendors, custom characters (replete with custom stats and items), custom enemies--basically anything and everything can be tailored. Is it infinite customization? Of course not. I don't think you can import your own character models or anything really crazy.

But this is a spectacular amount of control ceded to the DM. You can even, as I mentioned, decorate dungeons with props. During our demo, we watched an empty dungeon room turn into a grim ritual chamber, with rows of torches and an altar. Give two players the same dungeon layout and they'll undoubtedly put the space to very different uses.

We saw quite a bit of the dungeon stuff before, though--this is just a further extension of it. Far more interesting is the idea of customized quest chains, whether wholly original or based off some classic D&D modules.

To give the sensation of linear progression, you can make it so your party only triggers new locations when certain items are searched, or after dialogue, or what have you. Basically, you can make a whole new CRPG with the tools in Sword Coast Legends. As a fan of the genre--one that basically died for ten years--the idea of mod crews working on a huge story-driven experiences within Sword Coast Legends? That's pretty exciting.

 

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