Sword Coast Legends: on D&D, dungeon masters and the CRPG revival

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Sword Coast Legends is an exciting prospect for D&D fans, Bioware fans, RPG fans and anyone who's interested in games that try to model the role of a dungeon master. The developers are consulting with Wizards of the Coast to maintain the authenticity of Forgotten Realms lore, and their powerful DM custom campaign tools could give rise to some some fascinating player-made campaigns. We sent over some questions to game director Dan Tudge to find out more.

PC Gamer: To what extent are you guys targeting D&D fans versus people who are just generally interested in fantasy RPGs? I’m not personally invested in D&D, for example, but I really enjoyed what I played of the 4v1 multiplayer at E3.

Dan Tudge: I’m glad you enjoyed yourself at E3, that’s great to hear. D&D has been around for over 40 years and as such has influenced a lot of CRPGs over the years, so even if you’re just a fan of CRPGs chances are you’ve played a lot of D&D without even knowing it. I’ve personally played a lot of D&D over the years (both on and off the table) and building adventures in the deep, rich world of the Forgotten Realms is something that will only add to the excitement of adventure, teamwork and discovering what lurks down the next dark corridor with your friends.

PC Gamer: Can you talk about the campaign and what that experience is like in single-player?

Tudge: The player campaign can actually be played with one to four players which is pretty exciting for a CRPG and one of my favorite ways to play Sword Coast Legends. We set out from day one to create an intimate story that rightfully sits well within the legacy of D&D classics such as the Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights series—and I think we’ve accomplished that. I’ve played through our story more times than I can count and still find myself laughing out loud at some of the conversations with companions like Hommet and Izhkin and feel some dust fly into my eye during other moments as well.

PC Gamer: What have you learned about the way people approach playing as DM in Sword Coast Legends? Do people get better at constructing on-the-fly narratives as they go?

Tudge: It has been really interesting to watch. Different people have different approaches to playing as the DM and there is a lot of power at your disposal to play with. Learning when to hold back really is key, how to provide just the right challenge. When you achieve that balance everyone has a fantastic time playing—and I know we’ve achieved what we’ve set out to do.

PC Gamer: Can you talk about the story of Sword Coast Legends? How can players shape the narrative of the single-player?

Tudge: I don’t want to spoil too much here so I’ll just set it up. You are members of the Order of the Burning Dawn, a somewhat ‘standard’ guild whose origins have been lost over the last 100 years. Recently you’ve become hunted by the Gilded Eye, a particularly brutal offshoot of Order of the Gauntlet. Players will need to unravel this ruthless agenda and perhaps save all of Faerûn in the process. Throughout their adventures players will meet companions, travel the surface of Faerûn and even journey deep into the Underdark. Players will definitely make choices along the way, determining not just their fate, but the fate of many others.

PC Gamer: There’s something of a CRPG resurgence right now. Why do you think that’s happening now, and where do you think Sword Coast Legends first into that?

Tudge: The video game industry has evolved to allow developers to connect directly with players. We see this with Kickstarter and direct to consumer digital distribution like Steam. Couple this evolution with game developers—and players—love of the isometric CRPG and I think you’re seeing a resurgence of this genre because we can finally make the games we’ve been longing to make for years. Sword Coast Legends’ DM Mode put’s a unique spin on the genre, one that will give players the tools to tell their own stories for years to come.

PC Gamer: Is this viewed as a Baldur’s Gate spiritual successor by the team or Wizards of the Coast? To what extent are you conscious of that history in making Sword Coast Legends?

Tudge: We’re all huge fans of past D&D RPGs, including Baldur’s Gate and while we have certainly been inspired by it, I would not say we are a successor. Sword Coast Legends is its own evolution, one that hopefully earns a rightful place within that legacy.

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PC Gamer: What benefit does years of experience at BioWare bring to making a brand new RPG series?

Tudge: Directing Dragon Age: Origins (and my experience at BioWare as a whole) was a big influence on my career as a game developer. In particular, the development competency required to create a great interactive story. Jay Turner, our narrative director (who is also from BioWare) and I have leveraged our BioWare experience to ensure we created a compelling story for Sword Coast Legends—and with DM mode, the ability for players to create their own stories as well.

PC Gamer: I know some of the team came from the ranks of former BioWare employees—what about N-space generally? What’s their background coming onto this project?

Tudge: n-Space was founded over 20 years ago and has worked for pretty much every major publisher in the industry. We’ve always been fans of RPGs here, working on RPGs such as Marvel Ultimate Alliance and creating RPGs from scratch like Heroes of Ruin, however we’ve always worked with a publisher. With Sword Coast Legends we’re pivoting away from that model and creating it internally. This one is as much for us as it is for gamers.

Sword Coast Legends is available on September 29.

Samuel Roberts
Former PC Gamer EIC Samuel has been writing about games since he was 18. He's a generalist, because life is surely about playing as many games as possible before you're put in the cold ground.