How in the name of Selûne have we made it to 2019 without so much as a whiff of a AAA Dungeons & Dragons game? It’s been a full thirteen years since Neverwinter Nights 2, the last quality single-player D&D experience, graced our hard drives. Sure, we’ve had the Neverwinter MMO, by most accounts a decent effort from Cryptic Studios. In 2015 Sword Coast Legends came out, a budget RPG which garnered a lukewarm reception. There was also that godawful Daggerdale atrocity, but the less said about that the better. While excellent CRPGs like Pillars of Eternity and Divinity: Original Sin have certainly filled Wizards of the Coast’s vacated gauntlets more than adequately, I can’t help but find myself pining after another adventure to Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale or one of the literally thousands of other compelling locations in the multitude of published settings for D&D.
I’m not just a fanboy moaning about not having enough content to consume either. The time is right for a new, fully realised, D&D CRPG. The game is currently more popular than it has ever been, owing to platforms like YouTube and Twitch generating a whole newer, younger audience for the hobby. It even has two active MMOs, in the form of Dungeons & Dragons Online and Neverwinter, both of which maintain a stable player-base.
Once upon a time we would have been able to say with almost certainty that an offering was inevitable, owing to the fact that a major Dungeons & Dragons motion picture is on the way. Currently slated for release in 2021. It seems someone is finally taking D&D movies seriously, with Paramount Pictures producing it in conjunction with Hasbro. A decade ago this would have meant that a videogame tie-in was in the works, which in this case would have been awesome because the film is going to be set in the Forgotten Realms universe, the very same setting that hosts Baldur’s Gate, Waterdeep, Neverwinter and Icewind Dale. I never thought I’d say this but...what a shame move tie-ins are a thing of the past.
Still, we don’t need a movie to give us an excuse for a new D&D computer game. In fact, there are already plenty of awesome adventures out for 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons which would make excellent video games. Out of the Abyss is basically one huge dungeon crawl through the dank, cavernous Underdark, pitting the players in a desperate struggle for survival against the pursuit of Drow slavers and the many alien Gods that hold sway over the landscape’s inhabitants. Waterdeep: Dragon Heist’s bizarre series of events that occur as you search the city for a treasure trove of unimaginable wealth would make for a quality linear narrative. Out of all of the published adventures though, I reckon Storm King’s Thunder, a sprawling adventure that takes the party through innumerable towns and cities along the Sword Coast, would make for a truly Skyrim-esque experience. You may be understandably skeptical about all of this, but let's not forget that Pathfinder, arguably D&D’s closest competitor, managed to push out a decent isometric RPG last year in the form of Kingmaker, itself a conversion of one of the system’s most popular campaign modules.
Better still, why not draw on some of the classic adventures from previous editions of the game? Red Hand of Doom, a criminally overlooked 3rd edition adventure, sees the party rescuing a vale populated by a handful of small cities and farming communities from the onslaught of a horde of bloodthirsty enemies. Or perhaps it’s time the gothic land of Barovia came to our computer screens in the form of a conversion of Ravenloft. After all, the module’s brooding antagonist and moody landscape is widely regarded as a watershed moment in RPG narrative.
I could (and would love to) bang on for days about why literally hundreds of D&D modules would make an excellent CRPG, but the point is that this franchise has both the resources and the audience to make something like this viable, if only Hasbro would be willing to sign off on it. Make it happen guys!