Sword Coast Legends Review
Microsoft Xbox OneAlso available on Apple Mac, PC, Sony PlayStation 4 and Linux
Released on PC’s late last year the now defunct studio n-Space’s Dungeons & Dragons-based RPG Sword Coast Legends now makes its way to consoles. Set in the Forgotten Realms it will no doubt invoke some misty eyes from long time players familiar with the area having played host to classics such as Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights. Its PC launch was met with disappointment and unfortunately its transfer to consoles does little other than to bring its grey cloud of frustration to other platforms.
As mentioned Sword Coast Legends whisks us away to the Forgotten Realms as a mercenary and member of the Burning Dawn guild. Before you begin you are met with a typical character creation screen. After choosing which race you wish to represent from the Humans, Elves, Half-Elves, Halflings, Dwarves and Tieflings you then pick your class. Interestingly while staples such as Rogue, Warrior, Cleric, Paladin etc are included others such as Druids or Barbarians are missing. Whilst six classes seem limiting it does at least mean it’s easier to balance your party. Once complete you set out on your initial journey to protect a travelling caravan of traders. Things take a turn for the worse and for reasons you have yet to find out a Knight of the Helm has taken a particular disliking to you and members of your guild. However, not wanting to spoil any of the story you essentially go on a journey to find out why all this happened and to clear the good name of your guild.
The journey will be perilous and the night is dark and full of terrors but thankfully you do not go alone! You are joined by three companions every step of the way which can comprise of either AI controlled members or you can create a public game for random fellow adventurers to join. The latter is cleverly done by allowing you to start with normal AI companions but, should a fellow human join your game, it pauses to allow you to make a new party to involve your new friend. Still if you don’t have anyone else to play with or dislike the thought of some random person influencing your game you can just go it alone.
The AI for your party members is quite solid and rarely did we have to take the reigns ourselves. In fact we were often saved thanks to the mastery of our companions. As you advance through the game you’ll be given opportunities to recruit more members to your cause giving you some great options ahead of each of the game’s three acts. Each of them has their own driving desire behind their eagerness to join you which lead to some interesting twists later in the game.
Moving on to the actual gameplay and the controls are actually pretty well thought out. Main character movement is, as you’d expect, on your left thumbstick and camera controls on the right. The four main buttons correspond to their assigned spells etc and pressing the right or left trigger opens up four more on each. This gives you the choice of twelve different abilities and they can all be re-assigned and moved around as you find your favourite loadout. The environments in Sword Coast Legends are, at times, rather pretty though these moments tend to come with the external settings. Most of the internal ones are rather bland and, well, just what you’d expect.
It’s at this point you’re probably wondering why this polarized opinion on its PC launch. It has solid gameplay, looks decent if unremarkable and has a tight story which is aided by some very good voice acting. The problem with Sword Coast Legends is that there are some things that it does that are just downright baffling. For example there are some staple D&D classes missing as well as races. You gain so much loot, specifically health and healing-related, that it makes getting your party wiped out a rather rare moment indeed. However if there was one thing that really that really pushed our frustration buttons it would the load screens. Between each map/dungeon within the game we were treated to load screens which seemed to last forever. For a game of this generation to take as long as Sword Coast Legends did to load its next location is simply unforgivable. During our playthrough we had time to get up make ourselves a snack and grab a drink and still be back before the game had finished loading. To be sitting, staring at one of these screens for six minutes or more was not uncommon and when you had a travel disruption it meant you had to sit through another and you hadn’t yet got to where you wanted to be.
These weren’t Sword Coast Legends’ biggest hair-pulling moments, however. No, this would belong to the repeated crashes we would experience. None bigger than the crash just after we went through the portal for our battle against the big bad enemy. Our party got waylaid and during another long load screen the game crashed. Whilst there was an auto-save that recovered our party to just before that moment, going back through treated us to a black screen with music playing and nothing else. It never loaded and never went anywhere. We could reload and successfully travel to other locations within the game but not to our final destination. With an inability to load earlier saves it seems the only way around this would be to start again but when a game takes as long as this one does (even without the load screens) that option is rather unappealing.
The ending of our first playthrough of Sword Coast Legends left us with a rather bitter taste in our mouth and more than a tinge of disappointment. When you exclude the crashes and the load times it’s a pretty decent game for the money being laid out. Knowing, however, that should you be as unlucky as we were and hit the same bug you’ll be unable to complete the game in that playthrough. Add to that the exceedingly long load times and you have a game that loses your interest purely down to the fact that by the time the next map has loaded you’ve pretty much forgotten why you went there.