Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Solasta: Crown of the Magister
Over the course of the month of March I played Pathfinder:Kingmaker for 184 hours. I stopped after having "conquered" a second kingdom, basically completing the main game, and skipping the end game, which wasn't very appealing to me. While I did like to play a computer role-playing game that is based on tabletop rules, I'm still not a big fan of the Pathfinder rules, and I found several aspects of the Kingmaker game somewhat annoying. So I tried Solasta: Crown of the Magister next. That is a game I backed on Kickstarter in 2019, which is now in Early Access on Steam. The isometric interface is somewhat similar to Pathfinder: Kingmaker, but the game is based on 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons rules.
Already the change of rules system has a profound impact on gameplay. Compared to Pathfinder, which is based on D&D 3.5, the 5th edition is a lot simpler and streamlined. You don't have to juggle anymore whether your +2 competency bonus stacks or doesn't stack with the +3 enhancement bonus. And of course there is my personal preference for D&D 5E, which is the system I play on (virtual) tabletop. While on paper both Pathfinder and D&D have 20 levels, D&D campaigns usually don't go as high. And in D&D the powers of the classes are less front-loaded, which makes complicated multi-class characters less advantageous. So, D&D is simpler, while Pathfinder is better for fans of theorycrafting complicated character builds.
For Pathfinder: Kingmaker I played the "enhanced plus edition". Unsurprisingly that edition is a lot more polished and bug-free than the early access edition of Solasta, which should reach version 1.0 only later this year. Otherwise the main difference is that the isometric map in Solasta is divided into cells, and that in 3 dimensions, while Kingmaker is 2D without any squares or hexes.
One thing I like a lot more in Solasta is that you create all 4 characters of your group. In Kingmaker you only created your main character, and choose among the companions you meet during the game. There is a "mercenary" system in Kingmaker, which allows your companion to be created yourself, but that gives you a stat penalty, and the mercenaries are silent and without character, compared to the voiced premade companions. Solasta manages to give your 4 characters a distinctive character and voice in game, based on your background choices, and animated with the face and body choices you make. Making your characters yourself avoids the problem of not knowing what classes and specs of companions you will meet later, a problem that Kingmaker shares with Baldur's Gate 3.
While I am having fun in the early access version of Solasta in spite of the occasional bug, there are a few things I like less. The devs are clearly immensely proud of their 3D system, and so there are lots of scenes where you have to move in 3 dimensions, and enemies that can attack you while hanging upside down under the bridge on which you are standing. That is combined with an extremely complicated light system, where that monster under the bridge might count as "unlit", and give you disadvantage on attacking it. So the game added more different cantrips with different light spells to the game, which is all a bit excessive for what it does. Once in a while it is fun to drop a rock on a monster, but it doesn't add *that* much to the experience.
But apart from that, Solasta is a fun enough game. I'll fiddle around with the early access version a bit, and am looking forward to the release version to play the full game.