Review: Sword Coast Legends (PS4)

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Title: Sword Coast Legends
Format: PlayStation Network Download (25.88 GB)
Release Date: July 19, 2016
Publisher: Digital Extremes
Developer: Digital Extremes / n-Space
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: T
Sword Coast Legends is also available on Xbox One, PC, Mac, and Linux.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Two Dungeons & Dragons games. Not in the same month, not in the same week, but on the same day! On one side, we have the MMORPG, Neverwinter, opening up the world of the Forgotten Realms to hundreds, if not thousands, of players. And on the other side we have Sword Coast Legends, a more traditional role-playing game akin to PC games like Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights.

Once again, much like Neverwinter, the narrative explored in Sword Coast Legends takes place near and around the events that were covered in the Neverwinter series of R.A. Salvatore books.

Included with the console version of the game is the free DLC, Rage of the Demon, a side story that partners your character with the famous dark elf, Drizzt Do’Urden.

It’s definitely a great time to be a D&D fan if you only own a console. There is still the question of whether or not Sword Coast Legends holds up on a console, since the game was primarily developed for computers.

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Gameplay:
Significantly different gameplay runs under the hood, compared to Neverwinter. Legends plays more like a traditional PC game and very similar to Divinity on the PS4. You will take control of a team of one-to-four characters within a story driven campaign.

At any point during gameplay you are able to tap the central PlayStation button and pause gameplay. This is not only possible in combat, which otherwise occurs in real-time, but it is also encouraged.

… rewarding and engaging …
If you’ve played the recent Dragon Age: Inquisition, you will be familiar with this combat system. By pausing the action, you are given the opportunity to plan actions and execute them with a certain level of strategy.

You can also just let the NPCs run their own actions, while you sit back and watch, as well as take control of one character and control his or her actions, while the others fight on their own. While leaving combat to its own devices was fatal to my party, I found pausing the action and assigning commands to each character both rewarding and engaging.

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Initially you are able to create your own character by choosing race, gender, and class. You will be joined by other NPC characters, so you cannot create your entire party as you would in older D&D games.

I took no issue with this because it allows for the NPCs in your party to come packaged with their own dialogue and personalities, which makes the campaign a lot more entertaining.

… ridiculously long load times …
As you make your way through the story your team will level, and you will have full control of how you shape their ability to defend themselves and support the rest of the party. Since you are limited to four characters on your team, including yourself, you will have to swap some out from time to time.

Playing through the campaign alone, I ran into no major issues to speak of aside from some visual glitches that I will discuss later. I should mention that the game has some ridiculously long load times. Seriously, at one point I thought the game had actually crashed. I was moving to hard reboot my console, when I heard some sound from the upcoming environment and still had to wait another ten seconds for the scene to come up.

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Not to encourage cheating, but in addition to changing the difficulty settings, one thing I did find interesting was that your character is transferable between campaigns and saves, meaning he or she is independent of campaign progress. So if I started the game over again and wanted an advantage over the enemies, I could bring my leveled character with me into the new campaign.

While I didn’t take advantage of this, I did visit the Rage of Demons DLC and “borrowed” some nice equipment from the beginning of that campaign, only to bring it back with me into the main game save.

… waves crashing down below …
Visuals:
It’s too bad that a game like this can still fall victim to terrible framerate issues, when games like Diablo 3 can look just as good, have four players on screen surrounded by dozens of enemies, and run silky smooth.

I would say that the issues in Sword Coast Legends are by-products of it being a PC port, but so was Diablo. Since this is a role-playing game, with little to no need for instinctual reactions, I didn’t find that this hurt gameplay in the least, but it made for a very broken experience.

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Outside of this glaring issue, it’s not a bad looking game. Character models accurately represent that Dungeons & Dragons feel and the minor details in the environment really help in creating a believable world.

Since most of the game takes place on the Sword Coast, it was nice to see the waves crashing down below, far beyond the rocky cliffs. I know that I could not visit those areas, but that didn’t stop the artists from making those backgrounds look just as detailed as the elements in front of me.

… a few chuckle-inducing lines …
Audio:
If the tunes accompanying you on your quest sound familiar, it’s because they were composed by Inon Zur. He’s the composer for many popular RPGs on PC as well as the amazing score for Champions of Norrath on PlayStation 2. He has a talent for engaging the player with some fanfare and scores that truly manipulate emotions when playing a video game.

Most of the game is voiced including all dialogue between your companions though your character only speaks with expressions. Similar to games like Dragon Age, your companions engage in conversations while you travel and chime in when you have important decisions to make.

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They will express displeasure if your decision doesn’t coincide with their beliefs and give you counsel on how to handle certain situations. There are even a few chuckle-inducing lines, particularly between the two dwarf characters in your party, dwarf flirting rules.

… run a live campaign and place enemies and traps …
Online/Multiplayer:
I was able to take the game on a couple of multiplayer rides. You certainly lose some options when playing with others, such as the ability to pause the action which is pretty understandable.

Since you can’t use those tactics during combat, you have to think on your toes, which makes the game more akin to something like Champions of Norrath, which would be great, except that it still plays like an RPG.

It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m actually not. We had a good time exploring dungeons and planning our attacks on enemies. Since the other player was hosting, he had control of the other two characters, while I only had to worry about myself. His cleric would automatically heal me if I was hurt badly, and I would provide cover fire with my ranger.

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While there’s a nifty dungeon master mode included, it is not the promised campaign development tool that was mentioned back when this game was announced. You are still able to run a live campaign and place enemies and traps as the other players explore, but you cannot plan and develop a campaign from the ground up.

I have to admit absolute disappointment at this, since it was supposed to be a LittleBigPlanet-ish version of Dungeons & Dragons and I was looking forward to spending some time making quests for my friends. I doubt we’ll ever see this come to fruition as the developer has shut its doors.

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Conclusion:
I truly enjoy Sword Coast Legends. For twenty-bucks, I would venture to say that it’s a very enjoyable RPG with various environments to visit and a good story to carry you along. Even playing a few hours of the campaign online had its moments.

It did introduce a few issues and I’m pretty sure the other player had to start his campaign over because of a bug where he couldn’t find a piece of a evidence that I’m sure was supposed to be there but I can’t verify that.

The framerate hits are inexcusable for a game of this kind and the lack of the promised campaign creation hurt the overall potential, but I’m sure that’s why the price was dropped from what it initially went for on PC.

If you enjoy games like Baldur’s Gate and more recently Divinity on PS4, then you may find a good time in Sword Coast Legends. As a Dungeons & Dragons fan, I really had fun with this. It will never hit the same beats as the Baldur’s series, but that doesn’t stop it from being a decent ride.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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