While driving home from dinner, I was contemplating the latest entry into the D&D computer RPG arena, Sword Coast Legends. It does have pretty graphics, there is a lot of voice over work and the quests seem well-written. The DM tools appear to be pretty good too, though I’ve not delved too deeply into them yet. The biggest issue I have are the character classes.
The classes have simplistic trees that have more in common with main-stream fantasy MMOs than a computer adaptation of a tabletop RPG. There are weapon trees, skill trees and ability trees. The only thing I see that this game has in common with the pen and paper version is the setting (Forgotten Realms). The game takes place in Luskan on the Sword Coast. This is the same region as Neverwinter Online, the MMORPG from Perfect World.
The character classes available are Ranger, Rogue, Wizard, Cleric, Paladin, and Fighter. Missing are various staples such as the bard, barbarian, monk, among others. The character generation is a point-buy system that is fairly common in the later iterations of the pnp RPG. Caster classes gain their spells by putting “attribute points” into various trees to unlock abilities. Even the current edition of the pen and paper version of the RPG does not do this.
The last CPRG based on D&D that I can recall that is tightly based on the source game would be the Baldur’s Gate/Icewind Dale/Planescape games. These games where tightly tied to the actual mechanics of the pen and paper version of the game (2nd edition at the time). Your casters had to memorize spells and had limited spells to cast. Your rogues and fighters needed to watch their armor and weapons based on their proficiencies. In the latest generations of the games, you build your ability trees and slot those abilities on your hotbar. This is your memorization. I guess.
It is my wish that any CRPG based on a pen and paper RPG hold true to the source material not only in setting and lore (which is easy to do), but also in the mechanics. Calling a game D&D and creating a completely new system for the game does not make it D&D. Do the developers think that the people playing the games are not smart enough to figure out the mechanics of the source game? I believe that most of the people you get playing the computer versions of the game are already players of the pen and paper games, either the current versions or past versions. So, game developers, please don’t dumb down the computer versions of the games based on our beloved pen and paper games.