Solasta: Crown of the Magister Transforms D&D Into a Single Player RPG

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Video game RPGs owe much of their DNA from the classic tabletop RPG. Despite Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition catapulting the tabletop RPG into mainstream popularity, there’s been a stark lack of officially licensed D&D video games in recent years. Indie studio Tactical Adventures hopes to change that with Solasta: Crown of the Magister.

“We’ve been a big fan of tabletop RPGs for 30 years,” says Mathieu Girard, CEO and creative director at Tactical Adventures. “We have a D&D campaign running every week – currently playing Descent Into Avernus. Making a D&D RPG is a passion project for us.”

Girard previously co-founded Amplitude Studios, creators of the excellent Endless strategy series, before founding Tactical Adventures in 2018. In the fall of 2019, Tactical Adventures brought their concept for Solasta to Kickstarter, successfully raising over $275,000 from nearly 6,000 backers.

A major selling point for Solasta is that it’s based on the Systems Reference Document from D&D. Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition has a special Open Gaming License that allows other creators and companies to use the basic ruleset for their own games and supplements. The SRD includes all the races, classes, magic items, and most of the monsters from D&D 5E, but does not include any of the official settings, characters, or trademark foes.

Solasta will feature a completely original fantasy world, but with the familiar Tolkein-inspired D&D races of humans, elves, dwarves, and halflings. Solasta will include original lore-specific sub-races like Snow Dwarves and Island Halflings, but doesn’t have the more exotic races like tieflings and dragonborn.

D&D veterans will feel right at home when creating a four-person party of characters, including rolling for STR, DEX, CON, etc, and choosing Race, Class, Background, and starting equipment. Currently Solasta only features six of the 12 D&D classes: Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Cleric, and Wizard, with a seventh class, Sorcerer, coming as launch day DLC. “We’re a small team, 17-person studio,” says Girard. “Everyone is a veteran and works wonders, but we wanted to focus on six classes for now.” The team hopes to add the remaining classes in the future.

One of the most intriguing elements of character creation are the Personality Flags. These traits are derived from the character’s Background and Alignment, which are often shoved to the back or forgotten altogether once the dice starts rolling. A character’s Background could be an Aristocrat, Lowlife, or Spy, along with the classic D&D alignment system, like Lawful Good or Chaotic Neutral.

Each Background and alignment includes four personality traits, like Lawfulness, Greed, and Kindness. Players choose two from each to form their character’s overall personality. “The Personality Flags define how your character acts during cutscenes and narration, as well as dialogue choices when interacting with NPCs,” says Girard. “We didn’t want a binary system.” A Philosopher could choose Cynicism and Kindness, while selecting Neutral Good can add Altruism and a second Kindness flag, resulting in a very formal, self-less personality.

Having unique dialogue choices based on your chosen personality is a nice reflection of role-paying in D&D. Solasta takes it a step further by providing fully voiced characters for each of the four customizable party members that we’ll be creating at the beginning of the game. The result is a wonderfully immersive intro that features each of my custom party members bantering with one another, from the stuffy elf to the surly halfling.

During the intro each character regales their scenario prior to joining the party. “We wanted to avoid boring tutorial boot camps that involve shooting crates and rats,” says Girard. “Instead the tutorial is an origin story for each of your characters of the party.” These mini-tutorials show off the lighting and verticality in the level design, as well as the turn-based tactical combat, which includes Attacks of Opportunity and using Actions, Bonus Actions, and Reactions.

The game doesn’t know if the player is going to create a party of all wizards – or no wizards at all, however. “It’s impossible for us to have specific tutorials on wizard spells, because we’re not sure the player is going to have a wizard,” says Girard. Instead the tutorials cover important mechanics like jumping over chasms, knocking down walls, and sneaking past enemies.

“Verticality is a big thing in our game,” says Girard. “We use a cubic world simulation like Minecraft, which simulates elevation and can be dynamically modified.” A pillar can be pushed over a gap to create a bridge, and a loose wall could be brought down on an unsuspecting enemy. Flying enemies can remain out of reach, forcing party members to use spells and ranged attacks. “It’s a big plus when we can be as faithful as possible to the original rules,” says Girard.

Solasta will feature most of the same rules as 5E, including combat, stealth, and resting. One deviation is with initiative – the order in which players and monsters move in combat. In the tabletop RPG, all monsters of the same type, such as goblins or wolves, roll one group initiative and act together. Solasta will include group initiatives as an option, but you can also play with individual initiatives, resulting in a turn-order queue that’s more familiar to tactical video games. “It’s easy for a computer to handle individual initiatives, and I love the increased randomness it brings to combat,” says Girard. “We’re working with our community to determine which option should be the default for us.”

Though Tactical Adventures released a limited demo earlier this Spring on Steam, the game is still in pre-Alpha development. “All the game systems are built, along with a fraction of the campaign,” says Girard. “The hardest work is done. Now we’re just creating cool content.” That cool content includes a main campaign around 25 hours long, plus an additional 10-15 hours of side quests, which should bring the party up to the level cap of 10. The max level in D&D 5e is 20, though most officially published campaigns don’t extend beyond the low teens.

Solasta: Crown of the Magister’s scope may be somewhat limited compared to a true D&D tabletop RPG campaign, but the potential of a single player tactical adventure that uses the official 5E rules is hugely appealing for D&D fans like myself, and I look forward to exploring this new world.

Solasta: Crown of the Magister is coming to PC (Steam) in 2021.

card battler

Four Great Deckbuilder Card Battlers For Fans of Slay the Spire

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Slay the Spire’s successful year-plus Early Access run and launch last year helped popularize an exciting new genre. While “card battler” could be used to describe digital adaptations of collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh, it’s increasingly used to describe RPGs, roguelikes, and strategy games that happen to use cards to represent items, buildings, or abilities.

If you’re looking for more excellent card battlers besides Slay the Spire, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorites.

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Pokémon Home: How to Transfer, Store, and Trade Pokémon

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With the release of Pokémon Home, trainers finally have the chance to consolidate their pokémon collections that span well over a decade. We’re providing a step-by-step process for bringing everything together, as well as what all you can do with Pokémon Home and the different versions and subscription levels.

Using Pokémon Bank on 3DS

The most exciting prospect for Home is bringing our old pokémon from previous generations onto the Switch generation. For the 3DS era (Gens 6-7), which includes X/Y, Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, Sun/Moon, and Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon, Nintendo offered an app called Pokémon Bank, released in 2014. Bank was largely the same as Home, a digital cloud storage space to upload pokémon, in order to bring them into future games.

Bank also supported the older Nintendo DS generations (Gen 4-5) through a free app called PokéTransporter. The DS had a GameBoy Advance cartridge slot, and it was possible to transfer the GBA era (Gen 3) into the DS era using the in-game Pal Park in Gen 4. By using all these methods it’s entirely possible to transfer pokémon who are over 15 years old!

Pokémon Bank requires a subscription fee ($5 a year) in order to transfer, though it’s free to leave them in storage. However, with the release of Pokémon Home, the subscription fee for Bank is currently waived until March 12.

In order to transfer pokémon from these older handheld generations, you’ll need to first set up Bank. Simply download it from the Nintendo eShop on your 3DS, sync it with the game cartridge (for Gen 6-7) or use PokéTransporter, and transfer pokemon from the game box to a storage box. Not that you won’t be able to transfer any pokémon directly from your party – you’ll have to start the game and move them to a box first.

Moving pokémon from Pokémon Bank to Pokémon Home

In Pokémon Bank on the Nintendo 3DS, select the option to Move pokémon to Pokémon Home. Important Note: This is a one way-street. Once moved to Home, pokémon can never return to Bank. Say goodbye to the 3DS era (or start over fresh).

Pokémon Bank will mention a Moving Key. Don’t proceed just yet.

Download Pokémon Home on the Nintendo Switch from the eShop. Home is also available on mobile devices, but we’ll need it on Switch to transfer from Bank.

Make sure you’re signed in as the same Nintendo account as you used for the Nintendo 3DS and Pokémon Bank.

Select the Move option, and Begin Move. Home will provide a Moving Key for Bank that will only be valid for 3 minutes. We’ll want both systems ready to go!

Confirm on Pokémon Home to get the 12-digit key, and carefully enter the key on the now much tinier Nintendo 3DS screen. Both systems should confirm that the key is successful, and that pokémon are transferring.

Pokémon Home will be unusable while pokémon are transferring, but it shouldn’t take long. Within a minute I saw my full roster of 844 pokémon successfully transferred to Home. You can choose to move them exactly as they were in Bank, or re-organize the boxes.

Moving pokémon from Sword and Shield or Let’s Go, Pikachu/Eevee to Home

Transferring pokémon from the Switch generation is a far simpler process, since they’re directly compatible with Home. Home will automatically detect these games, which you’ll see under the Pokémon screen. Selecting one of them will take you to a simliar screen to Pokémon Bank, with Home’s storage boxes on one side and the game’s storage boxes on the other.

The first thing you’ll notice is that many pokémon aren’t supported in the Switch games yet, as denoted by a red slash circle symbol. No pokémon can be transferred into the Let’s Go series (but they can be uploaded to Home) while Sword and Shield supports a select number of pokémon that equals about half the total roster.

Certain moves are also not supported in Sword and Shield, such as Refresh, Embargo, and Flame Burst, even though the pokémon itself is. These pokémon with unsupported moves will have a yellow triangle exclamation point over the move. You can transfer these pokémon if they have this symbol (and not the red slash circle) but the move will be removed during the transfer. Future Pokémon games may support these moves (as well as additional pokémon) so it may be worth waiting.

What can Pokémon Home do on Switch?

Pokémon Home can do three main tasks on the Switch: Transfer pokémon, view the National Pokédex and Research Tasks, and earn and transfer Pokémon Home Points . Points are earned by depositing pokémon, and you’ll get a big boost of 3,000 points the first time you upload a single pokémon. Points can then be transferred at a rate of 30 points to 1 BP to Sword and Shield (and future core Pokémon games).

BP can be used as currency to purchase special items at the Battle Tower in Sword and Shield, once you complete the main campaign. BP can also be earned in-game by battling at the Battle Tower.

Completing Research Tasks

By entering the Pokédex section of Pokémon Home on Switch, you can tab over to the Research Tasks. Currently there are only two sets available: one for Galar (Sword and Shield) and one for Kanto (Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee). Think of these tasks as optional achievements for uploading specific pokémon from those games into Home.

Note that transferring the pokémon from Bank won’t work – the pokémon have to originate from those specific games.

There are no rewards for completing the tasks, but it’s a fun way to work towards Catching ’em all.

What can Pokémon Home do on Mobile?

The mobile version of Pokémon Home is free-to-download on iOS and Android mobile devices. It’s primarily used for trading, though you can also see your entire collection, and receive any Mystery Gifts offered by Nintendo. The mobile version also includes Challenges, which are a bit like Research Tasks that act as milestone achievements for depositing certain pokémon. Unlike Research Tasks, Challenges do come with rewards in the form of digital stickers.

How do I trade Pokémon in Pokémon Home?

Pokémon Home finally adds the GTS, the global trade system that allows for easy online trades, as well as trading between friends, and the thrill of the random Wonder Trade.

Trading via Pokémon Home is only available on the mobile app, not the Switch app. Certain trade functions will be limited depending on if you’re using the Basic or Premium Plans (see below).

To trade, simply tab over to the Trade section of Pokémon Home, where you’ll find Wonder Box, GTS, Room Trade, and Friend Trade.

pokemon homeThe GTS is the primary place to get the exact pokémon you’re looking for, letting you enter in all the parameters, while putting up another specific pokémon to trade in return. You can also search for pokémon, and what other trainers are looking to trade them for. Premium users can put up to three pokémon in the GTS, while basic users are limited to one at a time.

Wonder Box lets you send one of your own pokémon out onto the digital trading block, and receive a random pokémon in return. It’s a total gamble but can be a fun way to receive new or interesting pokémon. Premium subscribers can have up to 10 wonder trades going at once, basic plans are limited to three.

Trade Rooms are like multiplayer lobbies, with folks jumping into rooms to randomly trade pokémon. Premium users can host and join rooms, while basic users can only join rooms. Specific rooms can be joined via the host’s room ID.

Friend trade is pretty obvious – trade with people on your friends list! Unfortunately Nintendo’s friends list systems are never well-integrated; you’ll need to add friends specifically to Pokémon Home.

What’s the difference between the Basic and Premium Plans?

Pokémon Home is free (Basic), but also includes an optional paid Premium Plan. The Premium Plan costs $2.99 per month or $15.99 per year, a 300% increase over Pokémon Bank. The following chart showcases the differences.

Primarily, you won’t be able to transfer pokémon from Pokémon Bank without a premium plan – but you should only have to do that once anyway. Note that number of pokémon that can be stored, however, from a paltry 30 (a single box) for basic users, or up to 6,000 for Premium. The IV Judge tool is also only available for Premium users.

What happens to my pokémon when my Premium Plan expires?

Don’t worry about your pokémon disappearing, like Pokémon Bank, if your subscription expires, your pokémon will rest safely in the digital storage space. However, you’ll only be able to access the 30 pokémon in your Basic Box until you renew your subscription.

How do I use the Judge function?

The Judge function, or IV Judge, is a way to analyze your pokémon’s individual values, or IVs. Each stat category, including HP and Defense, have a rating from No Good to Best, which can only be seen by using the Judge function. The Judge also provides an overall rating for the pokémon based on their IVs, such as Ok Stats or Good stats.

The IV Judge is available in every game, usually after beating the main campaign. But Pokémon Home Premium users also have the ability to see all their pokémon IVs in both the mobile and Switch version.

In the Switch version, press Y to view the Base Points, then Y again for the Judge. In the mobile version, tap the stat hexagon graph to view the IVs.

Pokémon Home is free-to-download on Switch and mobile devices.