Encased Early Access Preview

Encased is a decidedly Early Access title whose world and old school-style skill system show promise.

By Woozie, Posted 09 Oct 2019

I’ve only arrived at the Dome, eager to take on potentially life-changing work, and I’m already trapped in what looks like a chaotic spiral. A shady man in an orange uniform chased me with a wrench when I was trying to fix the faulty elevator that was supposed to bring me to the reception. The clerk handling accommodation had me running errands for her, fixing TVs and finding stolen watches. It’s not exactly the expected welcome for a scientist at a site advertised as running without a hitch, I’d say. And this is just the start of the at-times engrossing but mostly faulty old-school CRPG adventure that Encased: A Sci-fi Post-apocalyptic RPG currently has on show.

In Encased ‘s version of the 70s, humanity discovers the Dome, a mysterious, invisible, semi-permeable barrier that completely separates what’s inside from what’s outside. With it comes a number of strange relics left behind by what the Cronus Corporation analyzing the Dome calls the Precursors, alongside a suite of nasty anomalies; the kind that can turn you into a radiation-filled puppet or shred you to bits with sheer force if you hang around too much.

Encased, Early Access, Preview, PC

You come in as fresh meat joining the effort of uncovering the role of the Dome and what it can offer humanity; at least in theory. Aside from letting you choose the usual, like gender, age, and hairstyle, out of a few options, Encased’s character creator also gives you the option of choosing a Wing. At first, the role seems rather obtuse, but it’s not long until you understand that the Cronus Corporation functions based on a hierarchy that sees the different wings fulfilling different roles. Members of the Black Wing take on the role of guards, the White Wing that of scientists, the Orange Wing is comprised of convicts tasked with menial labor, and so on.

As surgical as it sounds, Encased wastes no time in letting you know that these lines and roles are easily blurred and often ignored. A Black Wing employee will easily abuse their power, just like the Orange Wing members don’t take long to fall back on their old habits. Of course, you’re there, watching human nature at its best and, often, even interfering. In true CRPG fashion, Encased lets you take various decisions when it comes to quests and conversations that end up building your character. Do you rat out the guy selling drugs to the guards? Do you tell the higher-ups of the clerk using newcomers to do her tasks or do you try blackmailing her into rewarding you? All these come with different rewards and reputation changes which, at the moment, don’t seem to make that much of a difference, but could end up building a web of relationships you’d need to carefully navigate.

Encased, Early Access, Preview, PC

Encased: A Sci-fi Post-apocalyptic RPG takes its self-proclaimed status as a Fallout tribute seriously. It features a rather vast array of skills to invest your points. In turn, doing so opens up more options in dialogue, abilities, and combat while cutting others off. You’ll have to navigate a vast series of skill checks, into which your chosen Wing will repeatedly weigh in. If developed enough, the Wings alone could contribute significantly to replayability. In the ten(ish) hours I spent with it, I could solve the majority of quests using simply dialogue. Having a high speech skill complemented by knowledge of criminal goings-on and science definitely helped me out of a few nastier situations. As much as it sounds like your usual CRPG fare, Encased does seem to have a good grasp of what makes the old Fallout games and their peers tick. It’s just not all there yet.

Although its world isn’t that lively, at least visually, Encased creates a rather heavy atmosphere for itself through its enclosed, almost claustrophobic environments and harsh outdoors populated with a multitude of hostile anomalies. The synth-heavy soundtrack also plays into this, even if at the moment its offering is terribly limited. When speech isn’t enough to send an enemy on their way, you’ll have to settle things in tactical turn-based battles. This is where Encased begins to fall apart.

Not only does its current iteration feel terribly barebones, but it’s also very fond of leaning heavily in one party’s favor. When I didn’t get obliterated by opponents due to missing every attack, I wiped the floor with human and oversized roach alike. At times, the AI would move but forget to attack or I would be unable to click anything until restarting the game. You’ll also find traces of a crafting system that, at the moment, is only there in its most basic form.

Encased, Early Access, Preview, PC

Encased is very clearly an Early Access game that requires plenty of work. As you explore its research base and rough exteriors, you’ll bump into unflattering visuals and missing animations. The UI is also a tad off-putting and the messy quest log makes keeping track of what you’re supposed to do fairly difficult. Needless to say, bugs feel at home in the game’s current version. While you’ll definitely read glimpses of good writing, its main and side quests can feel a bit isolated from one another at times, giving the impression that the world lacks cohesion.

And yet, underneath its rough exterior and looking past its issues, there’s a promising, if unambitious, CRPG in Encased. It showcases some early potential for replayability and customizing playthroughs through its Wings and multiple ways of dealing with characters. Its reliance on (mostly) good writing, old-school stats, and skill checks also seem to promise a drive down nostalgia lane sans any modern alterations. However, it’s not hard to see that getting there will require quite a bit of time and work, which makes jumping into Encased now difficult to wholeheartedly suggest. Keeping an eye on it, however, should have a place on your CRPG to-do list.

Bogdan Robert,
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Prime Matter
Developer(s): Dark Crystal Games
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Sci-fi, Post-apocalyptic
Release Date: 2021-09-07

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