Video games based on Dungeons & Dragons have been underwhelming, to say the least. But why is that? Why is it so difficult to recreate the tabletop experience in a digital medium? The difficulty with D&D video games comes in the linear aspect of the games themselves. In a tabletop session, Dungeon Masters can add, subtract, and change aspects of the game to meet the needs of the players and the story. The flexibility and creativity of the DM can make or break a gaming session. So when I heard about the DM mode in Digital Extreme’s Sword Coast Legends, I was both excited and nervous about creating a DM experience in a digital form. I am pleased to report that despite some technical hiccups, Sword Coast Legends provides a satisfying dungeon master and player experience.
Let’s start with the player experience. Sword Coast Legends is a classic D&D adventure. With roughly 30-40 hours of gameplay, you control your adventurer throughout a long campaign, diving into dungeons and picking up great loot. In a single player game, you can control any member of your party. This feature can be helpful if you want a character to use a specific power at a specific time in combat. Before you get into any gameplay, you must pick your character. This can be a challenging and time consuming task, but it helps to take your time and read each description and attribute. You have plenty of things to choose from when you set up your character – race, class, abilities, and attributes. You also choose the appearance and voice of your character. The voice acting and dialogue is a plus in this game. If playing with group, you will want to make sure you have a variety of classes in your party. Having four warriors may be fun, but you will want to have someone be a healer or have someone be proficient in magic or long range attacks.
The gameplay is your typical digital D&D control and play. You fight using a variety of weapons to defeat enemies, search for traps, unlock chests, and talk to various NPCs. You abilities that you picked in your character selection can be keyed to specific buttons. Holding both triggers opens your consumable wheel so you can find potions and scrolls to use. You need to be strategic with your use of abilities. More powerful abilities have a longer cooldown period before you can use them again. Again, having a party with a variety of classes and abilities can be the difference between a successful encounter and certain death.
If you prefer a quick activity with friends, you can go into the Dungeon Crawl. Up to 4 players can enter a randomly generated dungeon to defeat enemies, find items, and grab valuable loot. These levels can be short and easy or multi layered and complicated. There are several different environments to choose from, like your classic dungeon, caves, and castles. Each environment is nicely detailed with different rooms to explore. Make sure to watch out for traps!
Of course, the real treat in this game is the Dungeon Master, or DM, Mode. One player is the DM and creates a dungeon crawl for up to 4 players. The DM chooses the difficulty, quests, and rewards. There are a lot of customization as you start creating the dungeon. You can name your dungeon and write a description/story for the other players. You have the power to create multiple floors, put different types of enemies in the dungeon, and add bosses to defeat at the end. The best part of DM Mode is the ability to continue adding while the players are in the dungeon. If it is too easy, drop some high level enemies. If it is hard, take them away! I was able to add traps and move enemies to different rooms while my friends were exploring. What happens if you are playing with that one friend who really wants to be a jerk and add a ton of terrible, high level enemies while you play? Fear not. There is a certain amount of moves that the DM can make before the threat meter is filled and the DM will have to let the dungeon play out as originally set up. I absolutely loved the DM mode. I wish there was a way to save dungeons in advance before playing with friends. In my playthrough, I was unable to find a feature to save dungeons or download community dungeons to try out. This feature might be available on the PC, and I definitely want to see it on the console versions. It takes a while to set up a dungeon, so you will need some patience. In fact, you will need to patient throughout the game thanks in part to the excruciatingly long load screens. Even with my digital copy, I waited approx. 1-3 minutes for dungeons to load. I would love to see a patch to fix this in the future.
My Paladin is ready for his adventure!
Making a digital D&D adventure is not an easy task. But I applaud Digital Extremes for this game and the features they have included in it. It has made great strides in giving us the digital table top experience that we crave. Despite the technical issues like long loading times, I highly recommend this game to anyone looking for the opportunity to not only play a great D&D adventure, but to also be a DM in a digital form. Sword Coast Legends is $19.99 on Xbox One and Playstation 4.
Keep it locked on GameOctane for more D&D coverage! In the meantime, check out our DM Mode experience below!
Fantastic 40 hour story campaign
Good voice acting and characters
DM Mode customization is a major plus
Can't premake and save Dungeons for DM Mode
Should be called Load Coast Legends - Load screens take forever!