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Sword Coast Legends

4 July 2015 | Written by Maxxum

'Sword Coast Legends' will be 'The Sims' for men. I don't write that lightly as I'm comparing the game against my experience with almost every woman I've dated that has at one point in their lives been obsessed with The Sims. Various responses for why they liked The Sims vary from, "Siiimmmmmms... I like Simmmmssssess" to "...it's kind of like playing House, but you're an adult, plus you get to screw with people's lives". I see Sword Coast Legends being very much this way for men, but more importantly the game has taken the Dungeon Master (DM) role and given it the power to act upon players in the game who then suffer the immediate consequences in-game (somewhat like building walls around your Sim with no doors, though more complex). Additionally, the DM can design custom maps, characters, rewards, and quests in ways I could have never imagined when I used to play Dungeons & Dragons as a kid.

The many games displayed at E3 2015 showcased updates or revisions to previously established titles displaying the latest graphics engines, but Sword Coast Legends faced a unique challenge that went beyond the limitations of computer hardware and graphics. D&D is a well-known series of literature, player imagination, art, and the omni-present Player's Handbook - it has spawned arguments, imitators (online and off), and lifestyle choices all centered around a table-top board game. Capturing the essence of D&D and bringing it to the computer has been tried, and at times been successful with games like 'Neverwinter', or tangential fantasy titles like 'World of Warcraft'... but, those games don't reproduce an essential element; that being the inclusion of a Dungeon Master to guide, or punish players though a game that can be written and re-written at the click of a mouse - and, therein is a major strength of SCL; it's a true interpretation of D&D in digital form.

Sword Coast Legends (SCL) is a joint development by n-Space and Digital Extremes and takes place within the 'Forgotten Realms' setting of D&D. In addition to the character and game creation, SCL will feature a soundtrack from Inon Zur (Fallout 3, Soulcalibur V, Everquest, etc...), and a story campaign that is in part developed with Wizards of the Coast. The art is amazing and the press overview reads well (like most press overviews do), but in this case I believe it undersells the game based on the demo I played at-event. SCL is a cerebral game, and though it takes full advantage of D&D's artistic inspiration (mainly in the form of well-designed, customizable characters and environments) my enjoyment from the demo came from the familiar setting of many-versus-one-versus-chance. The group of press attendees we demoed with couldn't have been gamers, else they would have let myself as the dwarf lead the way to search for traps, but any group of D&D gamers will know exactly what to do.

SCL takes the traditional 20-sided die and implements it as a part of the felt-but-unseen game mechanics of combat in the game that follow the rules of D&D 5e - and while this will matter to some people, the design is so well meshed with the game play that I found myself focused more on countering what our DM had planned for our group in addition to the dungeon dangers that had been created for us as we watched while we waited for our chance to play. We did not have an opportunity to demo the campaign mode; our conversation with our hosts indicated that it is essentially a plot-driven quest that one can play without the aid (or hindrance) of a DM.

We almost didn't see SCL; by chance we came across their meeting room on the way to an interview with another company. I consider myself a serious RPG fan, but searches for RPG will not bring back results for D&D, let alone Sword Coast Legends. Search algorithms appear to favor mass consumed RPGs like 'The Witcher', 'World of Warcraft', 'Skyrim', 'Diablo', and others, which is a shame since D&D inspired most if not all of the results we received when researching titles prior to attending E3. Only when searching for "D&D Games" will one get results for Sword Coast Legends without doing an exact search for the name.

Perhaps it's just as well... while Wizards of the Coast is owned by Hasbro, the franchise has remained true to its fans. Our hosts were comprised of people from both development houses, and staff from Wizards of the Coast all of whom spoke the language of D&D. Like a fine wine that hasn't allowed itself to be diluted with the water of gimmickry and mass marketing, I've learned more about D&D from word of mouth, and person-to-person conversations than I ever did from a magazine ad or YouTube highlight video. Sword Coast Legends probably will not be the next multi-billion dollar video game franchise, but it will be an honest and worth-while interpretation of a 41 year old fantasy.

Sword Coast Legends will be available 8 September 2015, and can be pre-ordered now.

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