ATOM RPG: Trudograd Review

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Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2021-09-13
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What's even more impressive is the sheer number of skill checks you'll get in this game. And not just their number, their variety too. For example, when dealing with random encounters, you can use your Speechcraft, Stealth, or Survival skills to avoid them. And as an aside, given the frequency of such encounters, you should strongly consider developing at least one of those.

Beyond that, frequently the game will give you a shot at passing its checks even if you don't possess the necessary skill. This doesn't mean that any character can do everything here, but let's say your Tech skill is too low but you still want to fix some broken-down truck you find during your travels. If your character is smart or attentive enough, instead of a Tech check, you can figure out a way to MacGyver the thing with a plastic bottle and some duct tape.

When creating your character, you can also select up to two distinctions that act as Trudograd's traits, permanently altering your character in some major way. And finally, instead of perks, you have this big ability wheel that allows you to unlock various powerful bonuses, like being immune to withdrawal effects or having more action points at your disposal.

It's a rather deep system, but the thing is, starting the game even at level 15, probably more if you're importing a character, pretty much makes the entire thing irrelevant. With the amount of skill and ability points you start the game with, your character can only go from good to better. And if you ask me, it's not exactly satisfying to start an RPG journey from a position of strength.

If you don't import a character, early on you'll have to deal with ammo shortages and a lack of good weapon and armor options, but before long, you'll have more ammo and money than you'll know what to do with.

On top of that, seeing how everyone you meet also has extremely high skill levels, the game's turn-based combat, which can best be described by the word Fallout, basically turns into fishing for crits, because pretty much every shot will at least connect.

And sure, Trudograd has four difficulty levels, but a game like this, where you have a high-level campaign that has to account for both imported and new characters, is pretty much impossible to balance right. Which once again makes the game's strong connection to the original ATOM seem weird. I think Trudograd would've been much better if it was a completely standalone adventure that started at level 1 and was balanced accordingly.

Another victim of Trudograd's expansion origins is its limited companion pool. Unless I missed something major, you get one of your old companions from the previous game and one unique new companion depending on which faction you choose to support.

Moving on to the game's new features, the crafting system was greatly expanded and you now can customize your weapons in a variety of ways. In fact, the highly customizable nature of custom-made weapons makes them highly desirable even for a character with zero investment into crafting. You just need to procure a crafted weapon from one of your enemies, unlock the ability that makes it so weapons like that don't jam for you, and invest a few skill points on one of your companions so that they can install all the mods you find. This will get you a weapon that's better than all but the top-of-the-line guns you can find in the game.

The game's inventory screen is now much easier to navigate and doesn't feel like such an artifact of a bygone age. Annoyingly, you still have to manually equip a key if you want to open a door, though.