Tactical turn-based RPG Solasta: Crown of the Magister was released on PC in 2020, and fans of D&D and computer RPGs alike were generally pretty pleased with it. (You can check out a very in-depth Solasta: Crown of the Magister review over on our sister site, PCGamesN.) A more-than-competent fantasy dungeon-crawler created using D&D 5E mechanics, Solasta was faithful to the tabletop RPG experience in many ways.
That is, except for one thing. For a game that allowed you to control a party of four characters, it seemed strange that Solasta had no multiplayer component. As of April 14, however, this is a thing of the past – Solasta recently received a free content update which included, among other quality-of-life tweaks, a brand new online co-op multiplayer mode. Solasta’s developer and publisher Tactical Adventures also released a new, paid DLC – Solasta: Lost Valley, a new level 1 to 12 campaign.
The Wargamer team had the chance to take Solasta’s DLC and multiplayer mode for a test drive recently. After spending around six hours playing, we can only really form a ‘first impressions’ judgement of certain aspects, but overall, the DLC and updates are both welcome additions to the core game that are equally fun to play. Many of the weaknesses of Solasta: Crown of the Magister carry over into Lost Valley, but for existing fans of the game and the right kind of gamer, this is still a worthwhile buy.
First, let’s talk about multiplayer. Solasta doesn’t offer its own chat system. This means you’ll need to get your own third-party voice or video call going for a game with friends, or you’ll be relying on the game’s ping system to communicate with strangers online. The latter is a serviceable tool, if a little isolating. Solasta prides itself on using 5E mechanics and being a digital homage to D&D – but a lot of the fun of a DnD game is hearing or collaborating with the other players at the table during a scenario.
The initial setup of an online game is also slightly bumpy. There’s no automatic matchmaking option, and we initially had a bit of technical trouble setting up a private room and inviting the rest of the Wargamer crew. Once you’re in the game, however, things are much more plain sailing. There wasn’t much of a noticeable lag delaying gameplay, and there were a few extra pleasing minor features – for example, the ability to click on your preferred dialogue option to show the player who gets to choose what you’re thinking.
As mentioned above, tabletop RPGs like D&D are enhanced by collaboration and social interaction. Solasta is definitely another game that benefits from multiplayer – we’d even go as far to say it’s better this way. It meant we could discuss and learn new combat strategies, share intrigue at every new plot beat or creature, and throw wild accusations at the one player who decided to run ahead and straight into a nest of ghouls. Solasta is a fun experience that is best when shared.
Solasta: Lost Valley innovates on the core game in a few ways. Its story is far less linear than Solasta: Crown of the Magister, and it introduces some new subclasses in an already pretty in-depth character levelling system. There are four new environments to further diversify the dungeons and landscapes you’ll traverse, and additional monsters have been added.
Apart from having a much more open approach to the story and exploration, Lost Valley feels very much like it’s taken the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach. And there’s a lot to like about the core game, so this feels like a sensible idea. The combat encounters and dungeon crawls are highly engaging. If you’re a veteran D&D 5E player, you’ll be in very familiar (that is, almost identical) territory; and if you’re new to this style of game, then Solasta’s system is streamlined enough that you’ll be able to get the hang of things quickly.
The look of the top-down maps is pleasing, and there’s plenty of variety to make sure that the new areas you encounter actually feel new. The cut-scene graphics and character models still leave a little to be desired, however, and the game’s visuals didn’t always run smoothly on our various systems. If you’re looking for D&D games with a little more visual polish, you’re possibly better off grabbing one of the newer Baldur’s Gate games.
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And this is where the ‘if it ain’t broke’ approach falls apart slightly – Lost Valley has inherited many of the core game’s flaws as well as better qualities. For a game based heavily on tabletop roleplaying, Solasta: Crown of the Magister was criticised by many for lacking in the roleplaying department. This persists with the DLC.
Out-of-combat skill checks very often reward you with nothing more than some XP and a single, unrelated line of dialogue, which kills the worldbuilding experience a little bit. You have the option to give your characters personality traits that can open up new dialogue options – but you might struggle to believe your Paladin is a peaceful character when they’re required to deliver an aggressive dialogue line that someone has to say to advance the story.
The story itself feels a little thin (though bear in mind that this is largely a first impression). You start with a scenario that almost feels stereotypical to a beginner’s D&D game – expect missing persons, fetch quests, and not a huge amount of interesting character relationships early on in Lost Valley.
If you’re a newcomer to Solasta who prefers combat above all else in your D&D games, then you’re going to have a great time with the game. New players who are more on the narrativist side of the spectrum may have to work harder to overlook the aspects of D&D that Solasta can’t recreate. Those who bought and enjoyed the core game, though, have very little to worry about. The multiplayer is a functional and very welcome feature, and you can expect more of the things you love from Solasta – with a new, non-linear twist.
Solasta: Lost Valley
The DLC and updates are both welcome additions, but many of the weaknesses of Solasta: Crown of the Magister carry over into Lost Valley.