Encased PC Review

Encased snares players in a methodical but satisfying adventure.

By Fragnarok, Posted 19 Sep 2021

Encased is a survival role-playing game from Dark Crystal Games and published by Prime Matter. In 1971, a giant translucent anomaly appeared across a vast area of the earth. Rival countries ended the Cold War to jointly fund the CRONUS Corporation, a task force dedicated to exploring the mysterious “Dome”. Over time, CRONUS’ frontier city Crystal Sands was segregated into five castes that transcend old national ties or ethnic backgrounds. Blues make up the engineers and craftsmen who built Crystal Sands; Whites include scientists, researchers, and other geniuses; Silvers are the admins and bureaucrats; Blacks oversee the military and law enforcement; and finally, Oranges are criminals or the untrained that are given either remedial tasks or sent on suicide missions.

Encased|Dark Crystal Games|Prime Matter

Players can select from a large list of pre-made characters, or customize the main hero. The first step is selecting which color wing of Crystal Sands they hail from, which unlocks special dialogue options and story events. They can then allocate among eight attributes including Muscle, Perception, Guts, Charisma, Brains, Deftness, Fortune, and Psyche. Similar to the Fallout series’ SPECIAL system, these stats are minor on their own but influence total ability values. For example, someone with high Muscles and Guts will have a better starting base with melee weapons. Skills can also be tagged to have increased points, making up for weaknesses or furthering strengths.

On the “combat” abilities side, characters can be proficient with light guns, heavy firearms, high-tech sci-fi weapons, hand-to-hand, melee, setting traps, or magic-like psychic powers. The same points may instead be allocated to “applied” utilities like driving, medicine use, tech, science, stealth, persuasion, and wilderness survival. This means differently built characters may solve quests with any mix of fighting, coercion, thievery, or more. Characters are further customized by perks, which apply both a bonus and some kind of colorful penalty. Note that characters with low total Brains will be forced to have the “Bag of Hammers” perk, which changes all dialogue options to reflect someone with a mental disability (even if they are of White wing).

Encased|Dark Crystal Games|Prime Matter

The campaign of Encased begins with the main protagonist arriving at Concord station with other new recruits. Concord servers as a tutorial introducing mechanics like conversations, bartering, item use, combat, and scanning objects. Players can further explore and take on personal quests for the various CRONUS staff. Once orientated with the company and peers, one can move on to their first assignment of driving through the wasteland to Nashville station. It is during this journey that one starts to learn the troubles along the road and the dangerous Dome projects CRONUS is gambling with.

Players will need to manage their personal needs for survival, including eating healthy, drinking clean water, taking medicine to reduce radiation, and comfortably sleeping every day. While one could subsist on vending machine chips and soda, cooking a fresh meal and drinking coffee instead will provide longer bonuses or prevent debuffs. It is important to constantly sleep, or characters may accumulate enough daily fatigue to instantly collapse (though they can still use consumables to wake up). Napping also recovers some hit points, but oddly there is no option to rest until fully healed or energized, leaving players to guess on the number of required sleep hours.

Encased|Dark Crystal Games|Prime Matter

Most of Encased is designed for solo play, but by completing quests in a certain ways it is possible to take on up to two companions. Some early potential allies include the brutish criminal Crump, animal masked arena fighter Fox, and scientist Katarzyna. Companions can use their applied skills like lock picking or hacking on the map, but NPCs (including other companions) will only engage with the main hero (making companion Charisma mostly useless). Companion pathing can be rather poor, with them often running straight into hazards or getting stuck on walls. There is also no deeper tactical party formation, though each character can either be chained to follow or unchained to be moved independently.

Companions mostly serve as meat shields during combat, where it is paramount to keep the protagonist alive. Battles are conducted via turn-based grid combat. Each character gains a number of action points (AP) per turn that can be used to attack, move, or use special abilities. Some of the unspent points will carry over to the next round. AP is even used to interact with terrain or reload guns (some more complex weapons may take several turns to rearm). While most attacks deal direct damage, others may instead stack on fatigue, radiation, or cause debuffs. However, despite all of these options most tactics typically boil down to staying out of enemy range and focus firing one adversary at a time. Along with weird pauses, stutters, and low-impact animations, combat almost always feels like the most tedious solution.

Encased|Dark Crystal Games|Prime Matter

What further highlights combat’s shortcomings is how much more powerful all of the applied skills are. Almost every encounter can be solved easier, faster, and more satisfyingly by sneaking, savvy diplomacy, or using some form of technology. Even those that want to use weapons will find that sniping from afar will allow attacking in real-time as targets will be too far to initiate turn-based mode. This often means role-play and environmentally built characters will quickly outshine those geared towards brawling.

The setting and story of Encased have a lot of hooks that will keep any RPG lover engaged. With both the choice of five backgrounds and many dialogue choices, the game has high replay value. Still, it can be a bit cumbersome worrying more about supplies and sleeping over equipment and character progression. Those that enjoy skulking, camping, and talking over fighting will find the most value in Encased.

Kurtis Seid, 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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