Tabletop RPGs are never something I've been able to play. I've been interested in the likes of Dungeons & Dragons for a long time, but without a regular party to play with, I've had to give up the hope. But when those familiar tabletop mechanics are brought into a single-player campaign, well now you have something both deep and accessible to someone like me. Thus, we have Solasta: Crown of the Magister, a classic grid-based RPG, but reimagined in the modern era.
In true RPG style, you bring together a gang of oddballs and take jobs for people, explore dungeons, and kill a whole slew of monsters. Each character in Solasta is a different class, and just like in tabletop games, has their own special abilities. Even in dialogue, those conversational stat-checks that open up new options are split between the whole party, with your large, stoic knight boasting intimidation skills, while your nimble rogue cheekily uses guile to get through the chatter.
Everything in Solasta is bound to grid. Even moving through a dungeon must be done adhering to the grid, clicking your way through dangerous areas and using the environment to make new paths. Eventually, monsters get involved, and Solasta shows how its mechanics influence combat. Every option you make in battle has a dice roll associated with it, and should that die land unfavorably, your damage might be low, or worse, it might render your attack entirely ineffective. It gives every move a risk vs reward scenario, where no option can ever be perfect.
The attacks you use, the position you take on the map, the weapons you equip yourself with, everything can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Where you position your units on the map will determine whether they get a cover bonus, XCOM-style, and of course, you'll also be positioning enemies strategically to unleash large AOE spells on them. Push enemies off balconies, or push them together to make the most of your larger attacks. Your options are limitless, and as long as the dice are on your side, you can win.
Everything about Solasta is deep. Characters appear to be fleshed out and interesting as they chat in cutscenes, and the expansive selection of attacks, spells, weapons and more make the combat feel dynamic and ever-evolving. But of course, you would expect that from most RPGs. The question is, what makes Solasta unique?
Well, to me Solasta's unique appeal is really fusing turn-based grid RPGs with those traditional tabletop mechanics and making them easy to approach and understand. The gameplay can easily be taught to a fan of XCOM, or Fire Emblem, and can give these players an opportunity to play a style of game that they've missed.
And having said all that, it's early days. While Solasta: Crown of the Magister is definitely unique and interesting, it is yet to be seen how deep and interesting its combat and characters can truly become. Signs are good, and with a little polish, Solasta can become a cult classic - but probably not much more than that.
As of right now, the game has rough edges, admittedly, but the fact that Tactical Adventures were willing to launch a pre-alpha demo on Steam for everyone to try out is incredibly bold, and the quality of the demo thus far only speaks to the heights that can be achieved by the team, with enough funding and support. As such, Solasta: Crown of the Magister is up for funding on Kickstarter, but before you look at the page, download the demo on Steam and see for yourself whether it's a game you want to support. If you're a hardcore tabletop fan or RPG lover, then this might be the perfect game for you.
The game is now seeking funding on Kickstarter.