Write, Teach, Laugh

E3 Expo: ‘Sword Coast Legends’ Brings Dungeon Masters Back – It’s 1978 Again, But With Computers

(Originally published on Blogcritics.org)

I was a Dungeon Master before being a Dungeon Master was cool. (What? You don’t think being a Dungeon Master is cool? Three points deducted from your character’s Intelligence.) That was in the late 1970s.

Your character can be customized using one of five races and six classes.

Your character can be customized using one of five races and six classes.

When I saw that n-Space was developing a video game with a Dungeon Master Mode, set in a Dungeons and Dragons universe, I had to check it out. Sword Coast Legends was demoed during the Electronic Entertainment Exposition – E3 – held at the Los Angeles Convention Center June 16-18.

The options and alternatives in modern video games are programmed when the game is created. N-Space is bringing back the human-interactive element in its new game, Sword Coast Legends, a party-based RPG set in the Dungeons & Dragons(D&D) Forgotten Realms universe.

The game is currently in development at n-Space from the director of Dragon Age: Origins and key contributors to Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights. (I remember those titles from pre-computer days.)

The folks at n-Space invited me to sit down and play the game. And, there were donuts.

The Set-Up

Nighttime outdoor landscapes contain sophisticated lighting.

Nighttime outdoor landscapes contain sophisticated lighting.

As in classic D&D, the Dungeon Master (DM) sets up the goals for the party of adventurers before the game, builds the world, and fills it with non-player characters, traps, and treasures. I was impressed by how the game provides an intuitive interface with which the DM can rapidly create a complex world.

Although there wasn’t time to do this during the demo, player characters are also developed on an individual basis.

In the game I played, the characters had to solve one quest before they could go on to the second, ultimate prize. This, too, was set up by the DM ahead of time.

 The Play

Each player, the members of the party and the DM, sat at his or her own networked PC. On screen you could see all the other players, the preprogrammed elements, and the interactive changes the DM made.

Luckily, as I am a tad out of practice with gaming, the character I was assigned was a healer, with lots of spells. No different from the old days, it’s best if the healer hangs around the back of the party to stay safe and help other players. That was good because I started out asking questions like, “How do I make my character move?”

It didn’t take me long to get the feel of the game, figure out the controls, and keep up with the rest of the party. For more experienced gamers it should be a breeze.

Why So Special?

Interiors are detailed and contain numerous spaces for treasures, traps and monsters.

Interiors are detailed and contain numerous spaces for treasures, traps and monsters.

According to n-Space, this is “the first time in a video game, you can play alongside an active Dungeon Master, whose primary role is to provide a more robust and enriching roleplaying experience. Active DMs can dramatically alter adventures, challenge players with random encounters, hide treasures, place traps, take direct control of powerful opponents, reward clever adventurers and even reduce encounter difficulty on-the-fly.”

A difference from classic D&D that I liked is that not only do the adventurers gain experience points and new powers, DMs earn experience as well. They are rewarded with power-ups and increases in level, and gain new abilities as the adventures progress.

Sword Coast Legends is being developed by an impressive team, n-Space and their partner Digital Extremes. N-Space has 20 years of development experience and Digital Extremes has been developing top first-person shooter games since 1993, such as Dark Sector and BioShock. Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro and publishers of many book and gaming titles such as Magic: The Gathering, brings the Dungeons and Dragons universe to the game.

To get news of the game’s progress, go to the n-Space website and click on “products” or follow the game on Facebook or Twitter. A preview is available below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *