Encased Review

Article Index

Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2021-09-07
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Campaign

The campaign for Encased allows you to explore the interior of the dome, which is big enough to house multiple cities. So you get to travel around and meet people and complete their quests, all while learning what life is like inside the dome. What you don't learn is what the dome is or why it appeared. The dome is just the world you're in, and that's it. This sort of annoyed me, but maybe it's just as well. Sometimes speculation is better than the explanation.

Developer Dark Crystal Games took an old-school approach to the campaign, which features a lot of elements that were more common around the turn of the century. At one point you have to collect the Five Special Objects so you can Do Something Important. At another point you have to Gain the Trust of Each Faction so you can do Something Else Important. There is only minimal branching of the quests (mostly you only choose one faction or wing over another), and most quest givers disappear or cease to have an important role in the game once you've completed their task, meaning it doesn't really matter what you choose. There's also an arena sequence (a one-time requirement for all RPGs), and a Towers of Hanoi mini-game (which wasn't new even when it appeared in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 20 years ago). If you're old like me, then the campaign might feel a little familiar, but if you're younger then maybe it'll seem new and different.

Even with its familiar feel, the campaign for Encased starts off well. The Prologue is detailed and well written, and it gives a good introduction to the game, but then the further you advance into the main part of the campaign, the more threadbare it becomes. The main factions aren't really fleshed out, so it doesn't matter who you support. There aren't any good guys or bad guys, so there isn't any emotional hook to keep you playing. There are huge cities where you can meet dozens of people, but most don't have anything interesting to say, and if you talk to all of them then maybe you only find a side quest or two. There are dozens of computers and telephones that you can interact with, but they just have placeholder text. And there are hundreds of containers to loot, but most just contain crafting components or nothing at all. The problem is, slogging through all of the people, computers and containers takes hours, and there's rarely a payoff, which turns the campaign into a chore rather than a fun enterprise.

As an example, during the Prologue you can find some tricky and amusing ways to "accidentally" kill yourself, like taking a nap in a coffin and getting incinerated. There are five ways to do this, and each one earns you an achievement, plus an extra achievement for experiencing the full set. But the game as a whole only has 44 achievements, and most of them are for stuff you're almost guaranteed to do (like getting your first kill and completing the game). Almost all of the optional achievements are from the first half of the game, and most of those are from the Prologue. There's just a complete lack of detail and content once you get past the halfway point. I don't know if Dark Crystal Games simply ran out of time, or if they were taking their inspiration from Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader, but the quality of the game deteriorates badly after the fine start. Hopefully Dark Crystal Games can fill in the gaps in the future -- and not with paid DLCs.

Conclusion

Overall, Encased is a functional but less-than-exciting RPG. The premise is fine, the engine is fine, but there isn't enough content to support the campaign. Developer Dark Crystal Games has released a handful of patches since the game's release a couple of months ago, but so far they've only fixed some minor problems, and it's not clear if they plan to do anything major (or if they even agree with my assessment that there isn't enough content). Encased has a mid-range price point, so it won't cost you an arm and a leg to try it out, but if you're interested in turn-based post-apocalyptic RPGs, then there are numerous better ones out there, like Underrail and Wasteland.