GB Feature: Underrail Preview

Our own WUE has been hammering his way through the Early Access build of Stygian Software's isometric, turn-based RPG Underrail, and that's led him to pen a full five-page preview so that you can get yourself better acquainted with the game. An introduction of sorts:
Let's start with the basics: to start an Underrail playthrough you have to build a character, as there are no pre-made options available to help newcomers. You'll find yourself dividing points between its six main stats, called here "base abilities", which affect both skills proper and secondary stats: Strength (which affects melee skills), Dexterity (thieving abilities, throwing, melee criticals), Agility (dodge, movement, stealth), Constituion (hit points and the various resistances), Perception (your aim and the ability to spot hidden creatures and objects), Will (psi and social skills) and Intelligence (scientific disciplines such as hacking). Differently from Fallout and similarly to D&D, you'll get one point to raise your base abilities every 4 levels, which will also give you the chance to raise them beyond their initial cap of 10.

The rest of your character creation time will be divided between distributing points into skills and choosing feats, which work similarly to Fallout's perks and Dungeons & Dragons 3.5's feats. Your start with a pool of 120 points to distribute between the various skills, though you can't put more than 15 into any of them to start. At every level up you get 40 skill points and this cap raises by 5, meaning the average player is likely to specialize into 8 skills and keep putting points into them, but there's no effective obligation to do so, and I can certainly attest to that. By the end of my time with the alpha I had learned how to pickpocket unsuspecting citizens and intimidate gangers into submission, something I'd have no chance of doing with my initial skill setup.

There's a total of 22 skills, divided between Offense, Defense, Subterfuge, Technology, Psi and Social: Guns, Throwing, Crossbow, Melee; Dodge (used against melee and traps), Evasion (used against ranged attacks and area of effect); Stealth, Hacking, Lockpicking, Pickpocketing, Traps; Mechanics, Electronics, Chemistry, Biology, Tailoring (all used for crafting); Thought Control, Psychokinesis, Methatermics; Persuasion, Intimidation, Mercantile. With a few exceptions (Persuasion was checked only a couple of times during the alpha, and Dodge and Evasion feel underpowered as of now) the skills are actually useful and not trap choices, and I have to admit I found myself wishing I had put at least a few points into the ones I had ignored while exploring some of the title's deadly hi-tech ruins. Skill synergies (a bonus derived by a percentage of the points you have put in another skill; e.g. Dodge has a skill synergy with Evasion that amounts to 10%, meaning that if you have 0 points in dodge but 60 in Evasion, Dodge will get automatically raised to 6) help plug some of those expertise holes, but the benefits are too low to rely on them alone, and only really help when you're going for particularly easy skill checks.