Reviews - Updated on April 7, 2022

Publisher Black Tower Entertainment positions itself as an incubator for creating quality RPGs. However, one of the first pancakes – “bagel” Sin Slayers came out lumpy. With turn-based party Encased: A Sci-Fi Post-Apocalyptic RPG, this most likely will not happen. Firstly, the employees of the domestic Dark Crystal Games (it is she who is responsible for Encased in this “incubator”) have experience working on the Divinity: Original Sin dilogy and other good projects. Secondly, familiarity with the early version leaves a positive impression – although some questions also arise …

Picnic under the Dome

Encased first of all evokes associations not only with Fallout, but also with the Strugatsky brothers’ cult story Roadside Picnic for all “stalkers”. The action here also takes place in the 70s of the last century, during the Cold War (you can even find fictional quotes from the Pravda newspaper on the loading screens), and here too there was no post-apocalypse – just in one desert, the Dome suddenly appeared, an unknown structure , full of relics, mysterious anomalies and artifacts.

The dome was fenced off by the cunning corporation CRONUS, and, in fact, it turned into the same Zone. Moreover, in order to carefully make your way past the anomalies, you need to throw nuts and bolts at them – just like the stalkers from Roadside Picnic do.

Excavations, extraction of relics and their study are carried out by the same Kronus, which in this case acts as a kind of huge research institute, divided into different departments (here they are called wings). The “white” wing is, to summarize, scientists, the “silver” one is managers, the “black” one is security guards, the “blue” one is technicians, the “orange” one is workers.

And now, as a representative of one of these wings, we get to the scene. For everyone, the story path will be approximately the same, at least within the framework of the early version – and this is the prologue and the first act of relatively free wanderings through the wasteland.

Encased preview

As in Pillars of Eternity, many important situations are played out as text quests.

Vortices of change

Almost immediately after arrival, we become witnesses of the approach of the Vortex – a strange and frightening anomaly. And then we go to the remote Nashville base, with which communication was lost and where a rescue team was sent without much success. And there are corpses, blood, people who have actually turned into zombies, strange voices in the walkie-talkie and employees washing the floor with their own intestines. In general, a close acquaintance with anomalies and phenomena of an unknown nature did not lead to anything good.

After our character gets to know the unique relic found in the caves under Nashville, the main events of the game begin. We again find ourselves in the wasteland in a couple of years, where we find things that are already more typical for the post-apocalypse. The vortex has become a phenomenon akin to an outburst in the Zone, although they are trying to study and even control it. A lone traveler can easily be devoured by huge mutant rabbits.

In general, it’s not romantics who have come from all over the world to discover new technologies and knowledge now live here, but bandits, crazy techies, who are crazy about the fact that color music, cultists and so on are broadcast directly into their brains through special glasses. There are five factions in total, which are only partly survivors of the Whirlwind and in some places mutated representatives of the very wings of Kronus. In some, technicians, and scientists, and the military, and even former prisoners have united. The faction of local spies and saboteurs is founded by “black” and “orange”. And, for example, a gang of insane Dupes was founded, to my personal amazement, by a former employee of the “silver” wing.

And if in the early version the passage of the first chapter is available only for one grouping, then in the full version we will immediately be able to either join one of the five factions or play a proud loner. So, in any case, the community manager of the project, Vladislav Lipkin, promised me.

Encased preview

One full passage, according to the authors, will take from 20 to 30 hours.

Wings of Choice

Yes, just play it. The authors of Encased do not forget about the word RPG in the title – as in classic role-playing games, here you can solve quests in different ways, talk, develop, and generally behave differently. And in many ways, this is influenced just by belonging to one or another wing. In many situations and dialogues, unique replicas appear every now and then, available only to “blacks”, “whites” and other “colors”.

For example, my “silver” manager hero could play a strict administrative worker several times in order to prohibit scientists from taking relics out of the laboratory, and his colleagues from sniffing drugs in the toilet. On the contrary, it was possible to turn a blind eye to this, help the “whites” turn off the disinfection system, and find out who sells drugs with a colleague in the toilet using the developed “Crime” skill.

Smarties and smarties

As you understand, Encased is “sharpened” to constantly check the character’s skills in dialogues and other situations. And here, too, much depends on the choice of the starting wing. “Blacks” get a bonus to weapon skills, “whites”, that is, scientists – to science and reason, “silver” – to charisma, and so on. But at the same time, there are no classes and corresponding restrictions – you can develop freely.

Interestingly, in order to open many active skills, you first need to pump the basic ones, and several adjacent ones at once. For example, unlocking locks of the third level will become available only if “Crime” has reached level 75, and “Technology” – 25th. And to learn a crippling blow in close combat, you need knowledge both in medicine and in the same technique. By pumping basic skills, we also get ability points for discovering applied skills.

Encased preview

It will be possible to move around the map in your own transport – many skills are associated with driving a car.

There are also perks. For example, “Nimble” gives an additional action point for each turn, and “Smart” gives more experience when reaching new levels. Perks are unlocked when certain conditions are met.

Rot your line!

There are really a lot of opportunities for wagering in Encased. Another thing is that in the early version the plot itself develops linearly. Yes, there are different ways to solve problems – for example, how to overcome the system of enraged turrets and how, in principle, to get to the same “Nashville”, but the scenario follows one path.

And some situations of choice are beaten very simply. For example, we are looking for an important relic, we come across a looted caravan, and in a conversation with the leader of the Khlysh gang – and these are evil men – we simply use the persuasion skill of the first level so that he gives the right one. He replies something like this: “Ah, well, why does the world work like this. Okay, take it!” And that’s it. We take, we leave. Everyone seems to be in shock – both we and the gangsters themselves. Well, they would have set, perhaps, some kind of condition – they say, rob someone or steal something. And now an interesting moral dilemma emerges.

The best is yet to come?

On the other hand, there are still enough interesting situations and non-linear quests. For example, at the very beginning we meet a colleague who asks for help to register at the arrival station. You are free to ignore or forget, but if you help, then at the next meeting, which will take place in a couple of in-game years, he will hug us for a long time, shake his hands and offer help. It seems to be a small detail, but very important for creating an atmosphere.Encased preview

The character can suffer from hunger and thirst – you have to buy food and drinks.

Or at a certain moment in one of the bars where illegal fights are held in the arena, we will witness how three “blacks” (in fact, local cops) provoke one of the “orange” bullies into a fight. There is an option to pass by or take sides in this conflict. It may happen that in general all the participants in the fight die. But if the “orange” survives, it will become a very useful partner – Encased is a party RPG after all.

According to Vladislav Lipkin, at the release we will be able to complete almost all quests in two or three ways and even influence the game world outside the plot – for example, completely destroy one of the settlements, which will greatly affect the balance between factions. In addition, now there are no such mechanics as stealth and crimes, so some plot variations have simply been removed.

Indeed, if you look closely at the list of skills that are not available in the early version, you will see extremely intriguing things – for example, in the Leadership branch, we will be given the opportunity to launch trade caravans and even run for mayor. And in “Crime” – to arrange a casino, whatever that means. In general, you will not be bored.

Encased preview

When creating a character, three genders are given to choose from – a woman, a man, and … “another.” The spirit of the times, however!

Big work ahead

Also, the authors will have to refine the combat system. She is still not bad – there are movement points, cover, the ability to inflict special blows, make crippling and slowing shots, accurate headshots, and so on. But the system is clearly raw, which was confirmed by the community manager of the project: “Yes, the combat system, of course, will be finalized. Now it, like most of the game, exists only for a basic understanding of the mechanics. In the release version there will be a choice of body parts for shooting, bonuses from shelters and heights. And, of course, there will be more skills and combat perks. Yes, and dismemberment will appear.

I would also do something with the crafting system. More precisely, with the collection of resources for it. In general, everything is fine – there are recipes, there are workbenches, the ability to do something for first aid on the go and even cook food. But at the same time, in each location, literally every item can be searched for the sake of collecting all sorts of rubbish. Because of this, at some points it all resembles a homeless simulator. It is clear that this is also in the spirit of Fallout, but rather according to Bethesda, and not the original developers. It is better to reduce the number of caches, but make their search more interesting, increase the amount of loot in them, build everything on hacking / discovery. Or reduce the amount of resources needed for crafting.

Random events when moving around the map that I came across are also primitive so far. There are also questions about the local humor that revolves around porn, offers to go to a forced castration “with two bricks” and references to “shit-goblins”.

Big bosses have not been canceled.

***

It is clear that the game still can and should be improved. Fortunately, the authors have time. Now their goal is to have a full release by the fall of this year and add all the mechanics that they promised backers from Kickstarter, where the project raised more than 100 thousand euros. But if they don’t make it in time, we’ll wait, because we want everything to work out: unlike the almost buffoon ATOM RPG, Encased has every chance of becoming a more classic and large-scale Russian version of Fallout.

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