Nick Santangelo, Managing Editor: When my former roommate and his D&D buddies used to get together to roll some dice and fight fire goblins and what have you for hours on end, I never got the attraction to it. Their tabletop adventures would go almost until the sun came up in the living room, while I sat in the living room shooting, jumping or questing through games of the video variety. Not being a D&D guy, I didn’t know what to expect out of n-Space’s Sword Coast Legends. Nevertheless, I volunteered to be dungeon master, assuming I’d somehow embarrass myself as Jill Randolph and the party she was paired with today at PAX Prime breezed through my dungeon.
Jill Randolph, Contributor: Just like Nick, I have absolutely no experience with Dungeons & Dragons. That being said, I still tried to go into Sword Coast Legends with an open mind and see what would come of it. I’m glad I did. This RPG looks and plays very similar to the Diablo series, which is something that I love. In fact, Greg Tito, communications manager for Wizards of the Coast, had to immediately tell all players that you did not have to keep clicking to attack, since most players see the layout and immediately play it just like they would Diablo.
As for Nick’s comment above about breezing through his dungeon — well, let’s just say it was far from a breeze. I would describe it as more of a gale force wind. I’ll let the dungeon master himself tell you a little bit more about the hellstorm he created for us.
Nick: OK, so I guess it did get fairly heated there. I mean, that match really escalated quickly. But can you really blame me for dialing things up to 11 when n-Space Design Director Tim Schwalk continually suggested ways for me to make your life hell? It started easy enough, with Schwalk telling me I could zoom out farther on the map than the players to see the whole dungeon, drop a few basic traps here and there and change some doorways around.
The party came walking into the first room I had control over and seemed to be breezing right along. A meter in the upper right was slowly building, though: the better the party does, the faster it builds, and the more points the DM gains to spend on spawning enemies, traps, etc. At this point I dropped in some spider eggs and a few basic enemies along with a handful of fire traps.
That’s when Schwalk walked me through the process of creating custom characters. I wanted to go with an explosives-laden kamikaze goblin, but Schwalk didn’t think it was a good fit for the demo dungeon. There were a huge variety of enemy types to choose from here, with all sorts of sliders to tone their difficulty up and down and options to add extra abilities to their arsenal. I settled on a goblin. With lightning spells. And wolf summons. Oh, and I also made him five levels above the party, because why not, right? My goblin (named Beast Lord) created, it was time to use some of those points I’d accumulated and liberally spawn Beast Lords around the dungeon.
Jill: Beast Lord lived up to his name. Our party walked up to a rather innocuous looking door. We opened it with ease, expecting to walk through to another part of the dungeon with maybe just a few spiders or other minor enemies. Boy were we wrong. As soon as the door swung open, lightning rained down on us, killing two to three of us immediately. One player in the party started apologizing profusely to the team, thinking that the error was his. He was quickly informed by another party member that it was that “bastard DM’s fault.” Nick gave out a cynical laugh as more lightning poured down on us.
We were encouraged from the start to make sure we created a well balanced team, which I believe we did; this wasn’t our first RPG rodeo. That being said, I don’t think the poor healer ever got a chance to fight. He spent almost his entire time healing us after the massive lightning and spider attacks we had to endure. But in the end, good did prevail over evil and we were able to beat the dungeon.
Nick: But before any prevailing could be had, it was time for one last challenge. The dungeon’s final room housed a giant spider boss, and the party, already unhappy with my lightning-casting, wolf-summoning +5 goblin madness, gave me some pissed-off looks and joked that they were going to leave me negative feedback. But this one wasn’t my fault! n-Space had put that spider there… I just put a gazillion spider eggs and more Beast Lords around her. Oh, and also arrow traps in the corners so party members would sustain damage if they attempted to seek shelter from the spider boss. Sorry/not sorry, guys.
Going on Schwalk’s advice — I think the guy wanted the party trolled as much as I did — I took control of the spider boss myself on occasion, unleashing some web attacks and littering the room with even more spider eggs. The party was really scrambling to make it through all this chaos, but since we were playing a convention demo, n-Space had set things up so that at least one player would always stay standing. So, as Jill mentioned, the party eventually vanquished the boss and reached the exit. Jerks.
Jill: What? They designed it so one person would always survive? Man, you had to go and burst my bubble, didn’t you? So maybe good didn’t prevail over evil, but we still gave it a good, honest try. As you mentioned, the final boss fight of the demo would give anyone a bad case of arachnophobia. There was one huge spider with a million little spiders hatching under her. It was indeed a chaotic finale to the demo experience. One thing that I feel was not helping, and that I hope they change before release, is the fact that it was very hard to tell your character apart from the others. Everyone had the same colored circle surrounding them, making it almost impossible to figure out who you were in the pandemonium when a swarm of enemies spawned.
The dev team told us that this was a “4+1” game, designed so that the DM played with the team, not against it. Our game felt a lot more 4 vs. 1 than 4+1, but the DM can choose to help the team rather than play against it — if, that is, he’s feeling generous. Just like in the traditional D&D game, the possibilities are endless.