About a year ago, I contacted a good friend and his ten-year-old son to come over to my house and have a LAN party. We couldn’t decide on what game to play and someone suggested Neverwinter Nights 2 – I agreed, because how long could it possibly take? Little did I know, that session turned into an eight-month endeavor to cross the Sword Coast, solve a murder, maintain a fortress, and defeat the King of Shadows. I can’t say that it was the smoothest journey; we encountered some pretty nasty bugs along the way, including two that made us restart the entire campaign when we were over halfway through, but I have to say that Neverwinter Nights 2 gave me some of the fondest memories, and it was one of the greatest LAN parties I’d ever experienced. At this point I’d like to give a shout out to Jason and Zolsci for sitting with me through those hot summer days, especially at the end when the air conditioning failed and we were all at each other’s throats. The pizza was probably worth it though.
Now that the nostalgia trip is over, we come to an interesting question: is there anything on god’s green earth that can live up to the amazingness that is Neverwinter Nights 2? Despite the bugs, and despite the ten hours it took to cross the final boss room (I may be exaggerating, but only minimally), I had a lot of fun and when Sword Coast Legends was announced, I was insanely happy that there was not only a new D&D game coming but that I might just have a chance to experience the thrill of NWN 2 all over again.
Getting Started in Sword Coast Legends
Due to financial issues out of my control I was a little late to the party when it came to getting Sword Coast Legends, but I finally picked it up during a Steam summer sale and jumped in. I rolled a rogue, as I always do, but there was one thing noticeably absent: the bard.
I’m going to take a moment and let that sink in. It’s a D&D game but it has no bard. I could play a rogue, but I didn’t have the option to traipse across the countryside killing monsters to death with my lute. Like, what even? I have to admit I almost quit right there and called it a day, but I decided to press on and at least give the game a fair shake. Without a bard.
The game opens with a nightmare sequence in which you have to defend from an attack on your compound, leading into an underground cavern and eventually fighting a massive boss that by all rights your characters probably shouldn’t have been able to face at the beginning of the game, but hey, that’s how it always goes, right? Funny thing: once I defeated the boss, the game crashed and I was pretty sure I’d lost all of my progress and was about to throw my computer through the window but just for the heck of it, I started it up again and the game actually picked up right where I’d crashed.
Into the Sword Coast
Initially, I want to say that the game is very pretty. The water textures are realistic, the environments feel very fluid, and overall, it’s pretty fun to wander around in. Of course, despite all of this, the environments themselves are pretty forgettable because they are so incredibly generic. This might seem a bit unfair because Neverwinter Nights 2 looked very similar but here’s the thing, it was new at the time. NWN 2 was the most beautiful thing to come out of PC gaming since Everquest, and that’s not even an exaggeration. When Sword Coast Legends came along, however, we were just like “Eh, we’ve seen it, what else do you got?”
Another major complaint I have about the game is that the interactions with other characters aren’t seamless. When you open dialogue with an NPC it skips to an instance, and then back to the actual game. Maybe I’m just picky, or maybe it really is as annoying as I think it is.
Now that we’re past my gripe points, what’s the actual game like? It’s a lot easier than either Neverwinter or Icewind Dale, but it’s definitely not an action game. It still has that turn based feel to it but the battles are easy enough that you probably won’t have to pause and consider your strategy.
What’s in Sword Coast Legends?
When you buy Sword Coast Legends on Steam you’ll find exactly what you’re expecting: a campaign and Dungeon Master tools to help you create a campaign. In other words, just like in the days of old. If you don’t want to play through the original game’s campaign you can create your own and have a good old fashioned LAN party. It’ll be a lot like playing tabletop, but a lot more visual. Pretty cool, right? Well, I started out with the story campaign which casts you as a member of the Burning Dawn (who is not a bard), and you need to guide a caravan to the city of Luskan. A series of attacks leads to the majority of your guild being wiped out and the entirety of the plot now revolves around figuring out who attacked you, why, and seeking revenge. I’m not going to go too far into that because you know what? You’ve seen that plot before a million times, and the only thing that really matters is the game play.
Throughout the course of the game, you’re going to be doing all of the normal D&D stuff, which means walking across the landscape, descending into the sewers, conquering dungeons, and raiding chests in people’s houses as if you think you’re something other than a common thief. Also, holding down ALT on your keyboard will reveal all lootables near you, so you don’t have to mindlessly click on every single item hoping for a payout.
Building Your Character
Unlike previous D&D games, Sword Coast Legends offers a skill tree system which means it’s going to be a lot easier for you to understand the progression. The greatest thing about this is that you can fully customize your character however you want, but you do have to take those class restrictions into account.
Your Party Comes With You
Here’s something that I’m having a bit of trouble with, and you’re probably going to agree with me. Historically in these games, you had to make some very difficult decisions during the course of the campaign, namely in deciding which party members to bring with you. Eventually, as you progress through the game you would end up with more characters than the party would allow, so at the beginning of a major mission you would have to make a decision, and while this would rob you of their abilities it would also rob you of your ability to gain their input on various situations. For this reason, in games like Neverwinter Nights or Baldur’s Gate, you would need to make several playthroughs in order to see all of the dialogue. Sword Coast Legends employs a means of magical communication so you can contact anyone, anywhere, at any time. While it’s cool that they’ve mastered arcane radio, it does mean you can see everything with a single playthrough if you want to.
It’s not all bad, honestly. The dialogue is extremely well written and the voice acting is definitely on par. If you’re looking for an immersive story, you’ll find it here, but if you’re looking for a story to remember, then you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
Go It Alone or With Friends
Something I absolutely love about this is that it has access to the Steam multiplayer support, and the game itself has outstanding netcode. This is much different from the hell I went through to get Neverwinter Nights 2 to function properly over multiplayer, and with the Dungeon Master Toolset, you can build your own scenarios. As far as multiplayer RPG’s go, this is probably one of the most stable I’ve seen recently.
All in all there’s a lot to like here, but unfortunately, there’s just not much to love.
The game likes to cut to instances during dialogue scenes which can really break the immersion. It’s also way too simplistic. Am I looking at NWN 2 through rose tinted glasses here? No, I’m not, D&D is supposed to be complicated guys, come on.
Nothing here is terribly new other than the stable Netcode. That might be something new in itself.
Unfortunately, N-Space closed down a while ago and the game itself is kind of in shambles. The servers are empty and almost no one is playing. If you want to find community in this game you’re going to have to make it yourself. Still, it’s great for an epic adventure if you can find someone to play with.
It sounds good and it looks great, the only problem is that none of it is really going to be memorable. Still, those ground and water textures are definitely something to look at.
Value for Money: 6/10
Okay, let’s be honest here, your decision to purchase this game will really depend on what you’re buying it for. Thank god the game is built on Steam’s netcode so the closure of N-Space didn’t end the multiplayer, but it has been widely abandoned. So if you’re looking for a small game with friends, you might be in luck. If on the other hand, you’re looking for an epic online journey, you might want to consider an MMO. It’s worth it for a single player campaign, but only when it’s on sale.
It sounds good, it looks great, but you can get a more immersive experience out of Neverwinter Nights 2, and while it might take a little bit of work to get going, it’s definitely worth it for the experience. Still, Sword Coast Legends might be a good one to have in your library, especially if you’re curious.
Related: Dungeons & Dragons, Multiplayer, Review, RPG, Steam, Sword Coast Legends