When I got fed up with all the ads I saw on Twitch, I got Twitch Prime. It’s basically Amazon Prime (though there is no Amazon in the Netherlands, but there is Prime Video, so that’s something), but you get to watch Twitch ad-free and you get to use a free subscription every month. The subscription times out at the end of that 30-day period, so you can re-use it somewhere else (or at the same channel, if you want). Given the amount of enjoyment I get out of it, it’s a good investment.
There is another perk: you can get in-game loot in certain games. But you can get full games as well! For no additional charge, you can install those games if you have the Twitch app installed — it acts a bit like the Steam client in that regard.
Last week, I saw that I could get Tales from Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation for no additional charge — and I thought: “Free D&D game? Why not?”
It’s essentially a computerised version of the D&D board game, which uses a simplified version of the much-maligned 4th edition rules. You control characters with their own abilities: some they can do every round, some they can only do once per day (once per ‘quest’). Every turn, you can move and undertake an action, and if you end up at the edge of a ’tile’, then a new tile is added to the map. Of course, monsters can spawn on newly explored tiles. Combat is simply using powers (all the ‘at will’ powers do damage — some ranged, some melee), and it’s the usual “roll D20 + your power’s attack bonus to beat the monster’s Armor Class”. There’s Advantage and Disadvantage and things like that: if you’re familiar with the D&D rules, it doesn’t take long to understand what’s going on. The game really pushes you forward: if you don’t uncover a new tile after each hero’s turn, you get a random ‘encounter’ — some of them are beneficial, but most of them are not. But then again, most of them can be averted by using your Adrenaline.
There are five pre-generated characters: you can’t make your own, which is a let-down. Part of the fun of D&D is, after all, creating your own character and fine-tuning their abilities. You need to gain ‘levels’ to open up a new ‘slot’ in your party (you start with two). There’s a paladin, a ranger, a wizard, a bard and a druid — a nice mix of classes.
There is a main quest path, and side quests that unlock with each main quest undertaken. Each mission completed gives you gold and components, which you can use to upgrade the equipment of your characters, giving them more armour, HP or bonuses. The game comes with all the ‘DLC’, which are basically item packs that you can use right away.
The whole game feels rushed though. There is a tutorial, but that only covers the barest basics. There are only two sets of tiles (jungle and dungeon). There are very few different monsters. The interface does a bad job of communicating some of the statuses or the consequence of a choice. There is no undo or “what if”: if you click somewhere, then that’s it. I finished the game, but I never understood how a Spell Ward worked.
For an adventure game, it’s really slow-moving: the game takes its time in the phase transitions. A 9 tile exploration side-mission takes 15 minutes to play through. And it’s not difficult: I think there was only one mission that I couldn’t finish in one try.
I do not recommend the game. Especially not for the 28 euros that the set I got for free would cost you if you bought it on Steam. But I have been ill these past days, and it is a perfect little diversion for when all you can do is stare at a screen, click your mouse and make decisions that require only a light cognitive load.
With a bit more polish, it could have been a lot better. Throw in a level editor for people to add their own missions for others to enjoy, and you could have had a neat little computer boardgame. But that was not the path taken.