Encased Review – post-apocalyptic retro RPG in test

Text-heavy, isometric, post-apocalyptic – Encased, a new RPG that sounds and looks like Fallout 1, indeed plays like that

Encased Review
post-apocalyptic retro RPG in test
Encased Review
post-apocalyptic retro RPG in test

In the new role-playing game Encased, we play in an alternate universe of a 70s Earth and enter a strange dome, created by an ancient culture or by aliens, it’s not known for sure. Encased is an isometric retro role-playing game, like in its role models Fallout 1 and 2, Arcanum or Neverwinter Nights, we travel through the world, talk to many NPCs, shape our character with numerous stats, collect equipment and solve the mystery of the strange dome and its origin.

Encased was released in September 2021 for PC on Steam, GOG, and the Epic Games Store. It is developed by Darkcrystal Games and published by Prime Matter (formerly Koch Media).

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This article is available here as text, but also as a YouTube video (German voice-over, many subtitles). This way you can choose how you would like to enjoy it most.

Encased Review Video

German Voice-Over, many subtitles

Encased Review – Test – Intro

Hi there, this is the Zap. In this Encased Review, you get a little insight into the new story-heavy role-playing game with lots of secrets and a post-apocalyptic 70s science fiction style. I’ll tell you how it is played, what’s inside and at the end, you’ll get a rating from me. But most of all, I want to give you all the info, so you can decide for yourself if you might enjoy the game.

Encased is developed by Dark Crystal Games and published by Prime Matter. I received a free trial key, my thanks for that. However, this should have no bearing on my review, as I always test all games with the thought in the back of my mind, how would I feel if I had paid full price.

Foreword – Retro Role-play Game

Encased Review 
Foreword - Retro-RPG - Oldschool Role-play game
Encased Review
Foreword – Retro-RPG – Oldschool Role-play game

I want to say this upfront, so you don’t get the wrong idea about what this is all about. Encased is an absolute retro role-playing game. There’s no open world here, no mind-blowing 3D action, no perfectly animated cutscenes with motion-capturing. Instead, there’s lots of text, turn-based combat, relatively dated gameplay, and a similar presentation as well.

However, there is also a very awesome and freaky story in return, which you probably only rarely get to play in this way or similar. Imagine someone in the ’50s writing a science fiction story about their vision of the ’70s, and that being packaged into a game with late ’90s technology. If you’ve always dreamed of a slightly more modern version of Fallout 1 and 2, this could be right up your alley.


Encased Game Type – Old-School RPG

Encased Test 
Game Type - Old-school RPG
Encased Test
Game Type – Old-school RPG

Encased is a very classic role-playing game. The NPCs, mostly standing around in fixed locations, have an enormous amount of dialogue, with us having to read everything. About 20% of the dialogues are also voiced, but this luxury is only available for the main story, especially important characters and events.

We look at the world from an isometric perspective diagonally above. We control our characters with clicks on the floor. And in the time we’re not chatting with one of the many NPCs, we’re searching through massive amounts of containers for tons of items or tweaking our huge amount of stats, equipment, and abilities. If we don’t let this deter us, however, we can experience a really offbeat story in return.

The game is in parts comparable to classics such as Arcanum, Neverwinter Nights, and especially Fallout 1 and 2, but partly also old classic series such as Might and Magic or Ultima. As far as these names are still meaningful to anyone today.

In times of opulent graphics engines and 3D worlds, you deliberately go in a completely different direction here. Encased looks a bit out of time in parts, as if the clock had been set back to the year 2000. And it’s intentionally retro-style in many ways, not only in terms of gameplay but also the very weird 70s sci-fi story underscores that.

There isn’t much action here, but there is exciting storytelling. Things rarely explode, and wild battles and frantic turmoil are replaced by calm and deliberate tactical turn-based combat in Encased.

Often in dialogues, we have many different answers to choose from, of which in turn a large part depends on our character’s skills and stats. And when we make choices, they also affect the course of the story or how we experience the world, at least within certain limits.

The game is based on a world map on which numerous locations are placed. When we travel between these locations, we are represented only as a moving marker and more or less random encounters can happen to us. Each of these locations is a separate map or in some cases even divided into several sub-maps. We can discover new map markers by traveling around wildly, but we also get new landmarks uncovered in the course of the story through conversations or quests.

Encased is thus completely map-based and isometric. So it’s a completely conscious decision against the free 3D open worlds that are common today. And where in modern games you are kept busy with irrelevant chatter and lots of shooting, here as a contrast there are lots of dialogues and conversations that often go into depth.

Dramatic scenes are not depicted at all, or only as drawings, but they are described by text or read aloud by a narrator as in a radio play. Here, retro-style, our imagination is called upon to picture the events. These can get quite complex at times, though, due to the many skills, abilities, and usable items.

Our hero or heroine we can create completely freely, including the 8 basic values and a choice of 14 skill groups associated with them. And in each skill, there is then a large selection of 17 active and passive skills to learn in each case. That’s a total of 238 skills then, in case you were just doing the math.

Over time, we get to know numerous factions, all of which have opinions about us. Depending on how we behave, who we attack and who we help, where we steal and for whom we do quests. So we rise and fall in the prestige of these factions, and that has a strong influence on the opportunities they will have for us in the game.

There is also a companion system, so we don’t have to explore the world alone. Over time, we keep getting to know NPCs who are happy to accompany us if we help them in return. And there are some more complex role-playing systems here as well, which work between characters.

Encased Screenshots InGame

Click or tap into the image for a larger view.
In the enlarged view, you can scroll right and left on the edges

Encased Gameplay – World and Story

Encased Review
Gameplay - World and Story
Encased Review
Gameplay – World and Story

Encased offers an alternate universe on Earth. In the ’70s a very strange dome is discovered, which was probably built either by an ancient people or by an alien race, it is not known exactly. To investigate this, a kind of elevator is built to enter the dome from above and a company is hired to build settlements inside the dome. But something is changing the people in the dome so that if you would leave, you would die.

The story makes an initial impression that comes across as something like Fallout in the old eastern GDR, a part of the Eastern Bloc. There are five factions, to begin with, the silver leaders, the white explorers, the blue workers, the black military, and the orange criminals. This results in a sort of caste system, once you’re in a color or faction, you can’t get out of it easily.

After a surprising event, which I do not want to spoil here, this world then changes again strongly. After that, it goes even a lot more in the direction of Fallout, End Times, and Apocalypse. But the remnants of the caste system and a part of the GDR planned economy gray in gray somehow remain.

Just as Fallout draws its special ambiance from the mix of ’50s USA setting with atomic bomb worship, here you get a 70s Eastern Bloc feeling mixed with some esoterica, ’70s horror movie ambiance, and other oddities.

Gameplay – Role-play Systems and Character Stats

Encased Test
Role-play systems and Character stats
Encased Test
Role-play systems and Character stats

A particular highlight of Encased is the role-playing system. Character creation is really extensive, not visually, but certainly when it comes to character stats, at least. And it also feels like it has a strong impact on the game. In nearly every 2nd dialogue, you have special conversation options that are tied to individual skills and abilities or attributes.

There are skill checks for quite a few actions in the game, and dice are often rolled in the background. And depending on that, you can often find shortcuts or steer conversations with NPCs one way or the other by fleshing out your character’s skills.

There are extensive equipment slots and hundreds of items to stuff in there. In addition, there is a huge amount of food, drink, and other things that you are allowed to consume and by means of cooking skills, you can also craft or refine some things here yourself. And besides buffs of food, drink, medicines, many other things have effects on our heroes, including whether we go to the bathroom or take a shower, and even a look in the mirror can affect our psyche.

With the scanner, a game system exists that we must first use to identify unknown artifacts. There is hacking, stealing, lock picking, and prisons to match if you get caught, including jailbreaks. Ammunition for our weapons is scarce, but if we’re skilled craftsmen, we can craft them ourselves.

This is how a good role-playing system is gradually forming under the surface. Many other RPGs of recent years can only dream of the complexity that lies dormant here in Encased. And the fantasy doesn’t fall short either. The stories told and the quirky characters absolutely have their appeal. If, yes, if only the packaging was a bit more appealing.

Tech, Graphics, Sound

Encased 
Tech, Graphics, Sound, Translation, Sfx, Gfx, Engine
Encased
Tech, Graphics, Sound, Translation, Sfx, Gfx, Engine

The visual presentation of Encased is rather a middle class for the current times. The game is based on the Unity engine. There is a freely rotatable 3D world on the numerous maps, you can zoom in and out a bit. The camera is moved with WASD, while our main character is controlled by left-clicking on the ground or objects.

This all works and serves its purpose, but there’s nothing really impressively innovative that hasn’t been seen x number of times before. At least Encased is pretty well crafted technically, it didn’t crash on me once. I didn’t have any bugs that somehow negatively affected the story or combat.

The soundscape varies between quite good and miserably repetitive. There is a large amount of background noise, ambient sounds, and speaker announcements. But what really stands out negatively is when you’re in one of the many loooong conversations, the sounds continue in the background. And depending on where you are, these sounds are repeated over and over again. And there it can already happen that you hear the same loudspeaker announcement in the background 20 times during a single conversation and that is really annoying.

Encased offers English voice-over, but only for about 20% of the texts. Here, some of the important events are described by one speaker, and the dialogues are then spoken by other narrators. There is also a kind of, in quotes, cutscenes, where a still image is displayed with text that is then read aloud. But 80% of the dialogue is straight text and reading, reading, reading. With the amount of text here, I felt reminded of old text adventure games.

The game comes in eight language variants, besides German and English the interface, items, and texts are in Russian, French, Spanish, Japanese, and 2 variants of Chinese. The quality of the English and German texts was very good here. The voice output, however, is only in English and Russian, and that just not consistently.

Encased Test – Opinion and Conclusion

Encased Test
Opinion and Conclusion
Encased Test
Opinion and Conclusion

Encased is definitely not for everyone. And fans of role-playing games will be divided here. Because this game has nothing at all to do with modern 3D action role-playing. Encased is more oriented towards the role-playing games from 1995 to 2000.

Gravishingly, the tutorial is particularly ultra lame. And that makes getting into the game really daunting, in fact, I wanted to quit right at the beginning. Because you get right into eternally long dialogues, and thereby the first conversations are just not yet as crazy and cranky as it gets later.

You get pushed from one tutorial NPC to the next in a tightly organized corporate base, and you always have to perform small, unexciting learning tasks. And so it starts off really, really boring, it feels very much like getting pass A38 (that’s a German phrase for a number of very enervating and tedious tasks in an office to get the papers you need). But then it improves, at least a little bit. But I’m afraid the game loses a lot of players right at the beginning because of this tutorial.

Later, the story gets really exciting in parts and sometimes nasty or gross. I don’t remember when a game has ever described to me in detail how a crazed psycho uses his own guts, hanging out of his cut-open stomach, like a rag, and tries to clean up the floor of his room with them.

But one thing Encased never gets is really exciting and action-packed. Roughly 70% of the time is spent on dialogue, 20% running around and looting containers, 5% traveling around and fighting, and 5% trying to keep your eyes from falling shut.

Please don’t misunderstand. The story Encased tells is really not bad at all. The world design is also somewhere between good usable and fancy. Some of the characters even have some depth as well as real charm, and there’s no shortage of unexpected events and twists. But the overall pace of the gameplay is leisurely and relaxing at best, or one could more spitefully say sluggish and lame.

One of the reasons this review is coming out a few weeks after release is that I kept getting tired while test playing and my eyes were threatening to fall shut. At the same time, though, I wanted to keep playing because the story somehow captivated me as well. It was a bit like a book that you read to fall asleep, 2-3 pages every night, and then the nap follows.

The scope of the game is enormous, the story really long. And if you like text-based RPGs, you’ll get a really good game here that runs stably and is well programmed. The story is something special and if you get into it, it can be really engrossing. But the slow and ponderous gameplay makes it really hard to get into this game in 2021.

Encased Review – Rating

Taking the rather mid-range price of $29.99 as well as € and comparing this to the amount of gameplay offered and the fun to be had, I’d like to give Encased a rough base rating of 75%.

On the one hand, there are 5% plus points for a technically flawless implementation and an interesting story in a really special world. On the other hand, the only partially available voice output and the really slow game pace pull the whole thing back into the minus strongly with a 7% deduction. And somehow the price feels a bit too high for me, for which I deduct another 5%.

This brings me, for my tastes, to a final rating for Encased of 68%. True retro role-playing game fans can certainly add up to 10% back on top here. But if you’re more of a fan of action RPGs and fast-paced storytelling, it’ll go down by the same amount for you.

Encased Review
Rating and Scoring with numbers - 68 percent
Encased Review
Rating and Scoring with numbers – 68 percent

Encased

Zap from ZapZockt.de

Encased review (Deutsch) - postapokalyptisches Retro-RPG im Test
Text-heavy, isometric, post-apocalyptic – Encased, a new RPG that sounds and looks like Fallout 1, plays like it too

In the new role-playing game Encased, we play in an alternate universe of a 70s Earth and enter a strange dome, created by an ancient culture or by aliens, it’s not really known. Encased is an isometric retro role-playing game, like in its predecessors Fallout 1 and 2, Arcanum or Neverwinter Nights, we travel through the world, talk to many NPCs, customize our character with numerous stats, collect equipment and solve the mystery of the strange dome and its origin.
Role-Play
World and Design
Story
Pacing and Text to Gameplay Balancing
Sound and Voice-Over
Graphics
Fun per price ratio

Rating

Taking the rather mid-range price of $29.99 as well as € and comparing this to the amount of gameplay offered and the fun to be had, I’d like to give Encased a rough base rating of 75%.

On the one hand, there are 5% plus points for a technically flawless implementation and an interesting story in a really special world. On the other hand, the only partially available voice output and the really slow game pace pull the whole thing back into the minus strongly with a 7% deduction. And somehow the price feels a bit too high for me, for which I deduct another 5%.

This brings me, for my tastes, to a final rating for Encased of 68%. True retro role-playing game fans can certainly add up to 10% back on top here. But if you’re more of a fan of action RPGs and fast-paced storytelling, it’ll go down by the same amount for you.

3.4

Outro

Do you like complex RPG systems, turn-based combat, and text-heavy retro role-playing games in the style of Fallout 1 and 2? Or are endless dialogues and cutscenes with drawn stills, not your thing? Feel free to write me your opinion in the comments or in the ZapZockt Community Discord.

You can find more gaming news, game reviews, and guides on the YouTube channel or here at https://zapzockt.de – thumbs click, subscribe and share with friends certainly can’t hurt, and then have a great day, ciao ciao, your Zap.

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Encased Website
Developer Website
Encased Steampage
Encased @ GOG.com
Encased / Darkcrystal Twitter

Reading – recommendations:

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Zap

Dirk "Zap" von ZapZockt.de, 40+ Gamer, zockt seit 1980 vor allem Strategie Titel, MMOs und Rollenspiele. Schreibt Game Reviews, Gaming News und auch mal über Technik, Hardware und YouTube. Mehr Infos findest Du unter Mehr über Zap lesen ◄----------► Dirk "Zap" from ZapZockt.de, 40+ gamer, has been gaming since 1980, mainly strategy titles, MMOs and RPGs. Writes game reviews, gaming news and also sometimes about technology, hardware and YouTube. Click here, if you want to read more about Zap.

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