It’s decent time for CRPG games. Various indies are picking up where AAA left off (to hunt the DLC and multiplayer fairy). From
UnderRail to Colony Ship, we’re spoiled for visions of the post-apocalypse. And in this Encased preview, I’ll make the case that it’s shaping up to be one of the standouts even in this varied arena.
Encased takes place in the alternate 1970s, where a mysterious Dome is discovered. It encases (geddit?) a huge patch of desert, full of mysterious artifacts and anomalies. While cargo can travel freely, living organisms can enter, but never leave. Cronus corporation is the one leading the multinational effort to exploit the wondrous discovers found inside. You start as an employee in one of the five Wings, arriving in Magelan station, as depicted above – syke! This was how Magellan looked in 2019. Since then, the whole start of the game has been scrapped, stream lined and remade.
You have have quite a bit of freedom to create a character to your liking, though the Wings roughly respond to RPG classes. Silver Wing (administrators) best suits faces, Black Wing (security) is for beatsticks, and so on. Orange Wing is made of criminals who volunteer for menial service under the dome in exchange for escaping their sentences. Unlike in SCP-verse or Prey, this is not an automatic death sentence!
Like any good CRPG, Encased is filled with character interactions, stealing anything not nailed down (maybe a little too much), and, of course, fighting. Sometimes the regular dialogue is replaced by a near-text adventure mode, and that’s how you know that the Realness Extent of Excrement has just increased.
As far as your own character goes, level ups give you skill points to spend on skills both combat and utility, with tiers at 30 point increments giving you new abilities, which can be really important (like being able to craft even the simplest ammo, picking locks, and so on). You also get Perks every 3 or 4 levels, and those can be both powerful and well written (one that gives charismatic characters more endurance justifies it by saying that you spent so much time convincing others that you’re a badass, you managed to trick yourself).
Now, a criticism of Encased much more solid than “excessive amount of lootable containers” is the combat. The game says outright that fights are balanced around having a party backing you. Guess what you don’t have during the prologue? Of course, that just makes you seek alternate routes and means, but some quests are just unbeatable because giant cockroaches are like that as well. On the other hand, this might result in this “replayability” thing, the stuff like modern The Elder Scroll entries lack by making everything accessible to any character.
One big thing about combat that I didn’t mention is tiredness. Anything above the most basic attacks drains your stamina, which can lead to debuffs and fainting on the battlefield (not great). Avoid that by using powers, coffee and drugs. You’ll get plenty of later, as inventory management is also very much a thing. Will you cart around useless equipment and crafting materials to sell them off? Which combat drugs are worth using? Do I want to use a wonder science scalpel to slaughter people or will I take the wrench and attempt to knock them out non-lethally?
Now, if you read the previous screenshots closely, you may notice that Encased is both funny (especially if you remember the candy in question from your childhood) and well-written. To me, this is even more impressive since Dark Crystal is a Russian indie studio. Usually, ESL puts the game on the road to language even its own mother wouldn’t call natural. But nope, the English on display feels more natural than mine, and I’m pretty high on my own ESL farts. The only faults in evidence are in the form of the rare lurid descriptions as the one the linked image, but that just comes with the “nerds in Eastern Europe” territory. All in all, I can’t wait for the full final version of Encased. Gimme that polished Dome experience!