Tactical Adventures are back with another expansion to Solasta and since this one might be the last, they are looking to send the game off with a bang.
Solasta: Crown of the Magister began crowdfunding on Kickstarter in 2019 with a humble goal of reaching €180,000 which obviously spelt out that this is not a massive game with virtually endless funding.
The 5,995 backers got the project across the line, overshooting the goal but dropping just short of the €250,000 stretch goal which would give the players access to the Sorcerer class. It didn't stop Tactical Adventures from creating the class as free DLC regardless and it was at this point that it was clear Solasta is a labour of love that was only going to get better with time.
Four years later and the developers are about to release the Palace of Ice expansion, due on May 25, 2023, which is meant to be simultaneously the last one for the game and the one that shows just how far the game has come, driving the point about the labour of love home. And yes, that means that the hour-long preview session already had me sold so get ready for a bunch of praise going Solasta's way.
Chronology and the story of Palace of Ice
The expansion kicks off a few months after the events of the Crown of the Magister adventure. Therefore, if you want, you can import the party that you finished that campaign with and continue the story at the previous maximum level of 10. With Palace of Ice, the cap is raised to 16, giving you replayability even with the old party as you discover new powers for each of the heroes.
Having quelled the Soraks threat in the original game, players find out that something is not quite right and venture to discover that their subtle adversaries have found new allies and formed the Snow Alliance, which is why you will be fighting new enemies alongside the old ones. In other words, the adventure will seem familiar but with fresh new challenges to see you through.
One important part about the story is its structure. Crown of the Magister was linear and Lost Valley was branching out like there is no tomorrow. Both adventures received their shares of criticism about design choices and Tactical Adventures definitely took it to heart, with Palace of Ice taking the middle ground - there will be some branching during the adventure as you choose to go after one of five different clans but the game will eventually return to the linear style to avoid confusing and potentially nonsensical endings.
Design that shows graceful ageing
When you take a look at the old promotional materials for Solasta, you will see competitive elements that were undeniably made on a budget. Even though Palace of Ice is not a blockbuster that breaks budgetary records, it looks, sounds and feels so much more advanced than what we've seen in Solasta's previous years.
During the preview session, I was left impressed by the animation and visual effects of the new Earthquake spell that breaks the ground into chunks that keep trembling, seemingly each for itself. The developers confirmed a while lot of effort went into making it but the spell is there and is definitely ready for launch as it caused no performance drops whatsoever and still looked amazing.
This feeling of advancement extends to the environments as well, with each new one looking better than the last.
Unfortunately, the limitations of Solasta's technology have caught up with it and they are one of the reasons the devs decided to make Palace of Ice the last expansion. Tactical Adventures did confirm they "have a lot brewing" but there are no details on whether we are in for a sequel or something new entirely. The good news is, if you liked Solasta, there is more like it on the way.
Price and what you get for it
With the price point of $15 / €15 for roughly 25 hours of gameplay, it is already a good deal, especially because beating the game multiple times with different parties can easily double, triple or multiply the hour count with an even bigger factor.
The good news doesn't stop there since this expansion adds new assets to the Dungeon Maker and the community creators will undoubtedly use them for additional adventures, free of charge. Those adventures often offer tens of hours of fun by themselves, so if there was ever a good deal as far as game time versus money invested goes, this is it.
If you are still on the fence whether the expansion will be worth it, we will have a full review on May 25, 2023, the release day of Solasta: Crown of the Magister - Palace of Ice.