Encased Review

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Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2021-09-07
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Encased is a post-apocalyptic role-playing game from first-time developer Dark Crystal Games. The premise for the game involves a huge dome suddenly appearing in a desert in an alternative version of 1971. Humanity takes it as a sign from the "forefathers" -- or maybe God, or maybe aliens, who knows? -- and they band together to explore it. Interestingly, the dome is filled with odd and valuable relics, and while these and other inorganic items can be transported out, people, once they enter, are stuck inside, making the dome sort of a Human Motel. So only volunteers and criminals are used to investigate the phenomenon.

Your character enters the dome in 1975. Shortly thereafter, an "Incident" occurs, and the dome is cut off from the outside world. The majority of the game then takes place two years later, when the people stuck inside the dome have created their own rules and societies. But during this time there is still electricity and plumbing, and there isn't any nuclear fallout to worry about, so while Encased is labeled as post-apocalyptic, its apocalypse is pretty friendly.

Character Creation

The first thing you do in Encased is create your character. You're given some options for faces and hairstyles, but since the game is played using an isometric view, this is the only time you're likely to see your character close-up, and so your appearance doesn't really matter. More important is your choice of a portrait, since you'll see that all the time. Encased comes with over 40 portraits for you to choose from, and if you don't like any of the default options, then you can create one of your own. Nicely, Encased uses roughly the same setting and exactly the same portrait format as the most recent Wasteland games, so finding custom portraits is easy.

Next up, you have to choose your "wing." The residents of the dome were divided into five wings when they were admitted, based on their planned role. The wings include Black (guards), Blue (mechanics), Orange (criminals), Silver (administrators), and White (scientists). Oddly, despite the Incident and the resulting chaos, people have stayed with their wings and still wear their colors. For you, your choice changes some dialogue options and quests, and it gives you a unique starting bonus. For all intents and purposes, your wing is your class.

You also have to choose your attributes. These include Muscle, Perception, Guts, and more -- or basically Fallout's SPECIAL attributes with some renamed and Psyche thrown in for good measure. You're given 37 points to spread around the eight attributes, and you have to be careful here because you're not given many ways to increase your attributes during the game. Attributes determine a lot of your starting stats and skill levels. For example, your health is based on your Muscle and Guts, and your Medicine skill is based on your Brains and Charisma.

There are 14 skills in total -- seven for weapons (there are seven weapon types, including light weapons and melee weapons), and seven for social and environmental situations. As you increase these skills, you gain access to new attacks and subskills, like Lock Picking (gained from 30 points in the Criminal skill), Resuscitation (gained from 90 points in the Medicine skill), and Weakening Strike (gained from 60 points in the Melee Weapons skill). You receive skill points each time you level, based on your Brains attribute.

Want more? There are also perks, which you gain every three levels. Perks give you nice bonuses in a variety of areas. For example, you can choose things like Backstabber (bonus damage when attacking from behind), Heavy Sleeper (increased resistances for 24 hours after sleeping), and Observant (extra skill points each level). There are around 80 perks available, pretty much guaranteeing that you'll find something useful to pick.

And finally, you can choose a trait. Traits give a bonus and a penalty, so you have to decide if the former is worth the latter. Traits include things like Neanderthal (you do more close quarters damage, but you can't wear pants or a shirt), Penitent One (you're more skilled, but you take more critical hit damage), and Slacker (you receive two extra perks, but you gain fewer skill points per level). Traits are optional, so if you don't find one that you like, then you can pass on them.