Calum Petrie previews Encased…
Encased is a lovingly crafted RPG that tips its hat to the isometric styles of Fallout, Diablo and many other greats. Created by Dark Crystal Games, founded in December 2017, their main objective has been to create this dense and deep world that we are going to inhabit in Encased.
The game is interestingly set in three different time periods: before, during and after a cataclysmic event that changes the course of humanity and the world. We must do our part to take the lead, change to course of history and realise our true potential.
Encased starts off by explaining the state of the world and the alternate timeline that we now find ourselves in. The Cold War was called off when a strange dome was discovered, and we find the world’s collective eyes and attention focus on unlocking its secrets. When someone enters the dome, they never seem to be able to leave afterwards, making the people who volunteer to enter very determined and focused individuals.
When embarking upon your adventure players must choose from a number of “Wings” to decide the background or profession of their character. This is explained but each Wing has its own strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to have a much more stylised style of playing the game. The Wings are; Black for physical styles of play, Blue for mechanical and crafting, White for medicinal and clinical, Silver for speech craft and Orange for a criminal. The branching paths based solely on the Wing chosen at the beginning of the game can cause many variations in a play style, and it can almost feel like a daunting decision.
Once we have looked at wings, players can put points into the character’s attributes. These are somewhat different names for all the similar attributes found within normal RPG titles. A basic, numerical way to created a character in the form of a stat block giving each attribute a number makes it a lot easier for the player to see instant change and improvement within certain areas. The system is very similar to the majority of games out of there, maybe just changing the order or descriptions to keep everyone on their toes.
Encasede does throw an excessive amount of information at the player upon first booting up the game. The player is bombarded with alternate history, new jargon and terms to memorise rather quickly and the experience left me feeling a little overwhelmed. The setting of the game was rather beautiful in a horribly dystopian manner, but the amount of brainpower needed before the game actually started to get going was pretty substantial.
The information overload does not stop with the intro, but instead expands into the tutorial which can be equally as confusing. The layout of the tutorial area is not as straight forward as one would imagine. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I did get lost after completing all the main stages of the tutorial, and wandering and backtracking to find my next objective. It turned out to be back inside the room I had been removed from and didn’t realise I had to walk out a door on the other side.
This lack of obvious direction may be refreshing to a lot of people, yet I felt like a better marking system for where my objective was could have improved my experience greatly. The journal system could have been doing with a little revision as the list of objectives did not have the greatest UI that I have ever experienced.
The game’s combat works on a point system, mixed with turn-based attacking. The player will have a certain amount of Ability Points, with each action using up a certain number of points. This includes all movement, attacks and defending used during your turn within the combat round. When you are finished the enemy takes their turn and so forth until it comes back round to you again, or one side is totally wiped out.
A few hours into my first game, I discovered I had not put enough points into the combat portion of the gameplay for my custom made character. I was actually forced to start again and replay the first couple of hours of Encased all over again. As infuriating as this was, it gave me a chance to go back and quickly see what some of the differences of choosing another Wing would have on my playthrough style. Though I can imagine that this game is definitely designed to allow players to approach different situations form different angles, I couldn’t find my work around and more often than not had to approach my problems head on in combat.
The visual atheistic ties in excellently with the musical score within the game. The synthwave-style music plays great and helps build setting atmosphere and add polish. Encased boasts music that has not managed to set the scene since Stranger Things’ opening theme tune sent shivers up and down my spine.
Overall, Encased is a solid and wonderfully built title, and I very much look forward to the game’s full release. The game has a significant amount of potential and room to improve, fix and develop its fantastic ideas even further. This can also be a time of reflection used to evaluate some of the choices that might not work. Encased is in no ways breaking new ground for a title in this genre, yet it certainly has an incredibly well thought out backstory, lore and worldbuilding element involved in its conception and creation, and I am certain I will be delving back into this world again in the near future.
- Interesting world building elements
- Blend of cold war era setting with futuristic tech
- Great replay value
- Beautiful art style and music
- The information overload at all times.
- The combat ca be rather unforgiving and difficult to avoid.
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