Encased Review

Article Index

Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2021-09-07
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay

When you loot enemies and containers, you find lots of crafting components. With enough skill, these components allow you to craft meals, ammunition, healing kits, grenades, and more. The grenades in particular are important because early in the game they're way more powerful than your weapons, and they allow you to survive tough fights until you can build up your character. Crafting requires special crafting stations, but you can find them all over the place, including in all towns.

For weapons and armor, you mostly only find them being sold by merchants, which means you have to sell the stuff you loot from enemies and containers to buy the stuff you need (which isn't my favorite way of gathering equipment). Characters can wear nine items, including power armor -- oops, a "servoshell" -- and they can equip two weapons. Weapons and armor have a level. You can upgrade weapons to increase their level (using crafting components and weapon manuals) but you can only improve your armor by buying better versions. You can also equip up to five relics, but most of them have pluses and minuses and aren't worth the trouble.

Finally, you're given a scanner early in the game, and it allows you to catalogue new and unusual items. For a while, I thought this was how I was going to learn about the dome (similar to how X-COM uses research to teach you about aliens), but sadly the scanner isn't nearly that interesting. Scanning just earns you points that you can redeem for healing supplies -- which you might not even need since the Medicine skill makes most of them unnecessary. I bought one item with my points just to try out the system, and then I never bothered with them again. Still, scanning earns you experience, which is always useful.

Gameplay: Combat

When you run into enemies, Encased switches to a turn-based mode. Each character involved in the battle gets one turn per round, with the order being determined by their initiative. Characters get a certain number of Action Points (AP) for their turn, and they can spend them by moving, attacking, using skills, or using inventory objects, each of which has an AP cost

As you learn weapon skills, you unlock new attacks. So assault rifles gain burst modes, bladed weapons can cause bleeding, and blunt weapons can stun. There are also "high-tech" and "psi-glove" weapons, which essentially give the game a form of magic. These weapons can burn or freeze -- or explode heads. Most weapons can also damage fatigue instead of health, giving you a way to knock out opponents instead of killing them (for all of you pacifists out there). So there are lots of options for how to attack enemies.

Unfortunately, the rest of the combat engine isn't as great. You can deal extra damage when attacking from behind, but I didn't notice any benefit to flanking or attacking from height. There isn't any way to use cover. There isn't any way to draw aggro. You can't wait to take your turn later in the round (although you can end your turn early and save some AP for your next turn). So you attack and move, and that's mostly it, making combat feel sort of basic.

Combat also has some balance issues, especially in terms of sneaking. Sneaking isn't tied to any skill, so anybody can do it, and once you select perks and build up skills to take advantage, you can one-shot enemies without their compatriots noticing anything amiss, making battles almost trivial. But until that point, battles can be rough, especially early in the game. Combat seems like it was tuned with a full party in mind, so after completing the Prologue but before finding companions, the game can be rough sledding. My first time through, I didn't know what to do early in the game and was constantly frustrated. Now I know you should visit the towns and complete social quests -- and loot tons of containers -- and earn experience that way first.

There are also relatively few enemy types: "undead" creatures (afflicted and necroids), animals (cockroaches, rats, wolpers and hyenas), robots, and people (usually bandits). That's it, and you see them all well before the halfway point in the game. Worse, almost all of the fights are random trash fights, so combat gets repetitive quickly, and there aren't any boss fights to liven things up. This is an area where Encased needs a lot of work.