Encased Review

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Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2021-09-07
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If you've played Fallout, then Encased's character system should sound familiar since it's almost identical, just with new names and a few new ideas. Fallout's system is one of my all-time favorites, so I didn't mind seeing a clone, and Encased's system works well enough. The main difference between the two is that while Fallout had a level cap, Encased doesn't, so it doesn't force you to make as many important decisions. In fact, since you gain experience for doing just about anything in Encased (including crafting, exploring, looting, killing, questing, and even sleeping) it's easy to learn everything you want, plus a few things more. Players usually prefer uncapped systems, but I think Encased would have been better off with a cap.

While you're exploring in Encased, you can meet six people who are potential companions, and you’re allowed to have at most two of them with you at any one time. Companions are mostly only battle helpers -- their contribution to the story is minimal, and I didn't detect anything that resembled a romance. You can equip your companions, but they choose what to do with their skill points, and they don't earn any perks, so you're stuck with their default builds, which means you can't tune them to work better with your character. As a result, your character has to do most of the heavy lifting, both inside combat and out.

Gameplay: Main

Encased is played using an isometric view. You left-click for most actions, including moving, looting, and attacking. When there are multiple things you can do with an object -- like talking to, pickpocketing or attacking a person -- then left-clicking performs the default action and right-clicking brings up a context-sensitive menu where you can choose the option you want. The camera can be rotated and zoomed in and out, but you can't change the pitch, so you can't play the game using a quasi over-the-should view.

Most of the game is played in real time. This is where you walk around, talk to people, and explore the dome. The dome is comprised of a large, circular grid. The diameter of the grid is 30 squares, giving lots of space where you can find cities, abandoned research stations, odd bunkers, and more. There are also random encounters, but the game runs out of unique ones quickly, leaving you with a plethora of trash fights and wandering merchants. Luckily, with the right skills you can identify and skip encounters if you want to. You start out the game on foot, but eventually you find a vehicle, which makes exploring easier.

While you're exploring, you have to survive, which means you have to eat, drink and sleep. Since Encased is based on a friendly apocalypse, this usually isn't too difficult. For example, since the plumbing still works in the dome and there isn't any need to purify water, you can drink from any sink you stumble across, and there are lots of them. Food is more interesting, since it involves crafting edible items from the creatures you kill, or buying supplies from vendors. Plus, food gives bonuses -- sometimes good, sometimes bad (I'm looking at you, flatulence) -- so you can use it to help you in different situations. But sleeping ends up being a problem. Just about everything you do causes fatigue, and enemies can damage your fatigue as well, so you have to sleep a lot to keep your character in peak condition. This is easy -- you can camp at any time to rest and recover -- but it's a constant drag away from playing the game. Luckily, while companions have to sleep, they don't need to eat or drink, so there's no hassle in keeping them around.