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Thursday, February 14, 2008

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Eschalon: Book 1 Reviewed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 4 comments

2404 has posted a new review of Eschalon: Book 1, Basilisk Games' debut RPG title. Inspired by classics of the RPG genre, Book I challenges players to uncover the mysterious past of their character while exploring dangerous outdoor environments and treacherous dungeon depths. Criticizing the game's "old school" design, 2404 gave E:B1 a score of 5 out of 10.

While the general story is adequate, the play is disappointing. Combat is a bump-fest, bump into the monster to take a swing, hitting for damage based on weapon and skills; alternatively, you can use spells, at least until the mana runs out. After a few fights, your character requires rest. As you rest, you regain health and mana, but there’s a random, but likely, chance that a swarm of monsters will pop up next to you. They’re almost always too much to fight, especially if you’re weak (you’re resting, after all), so you’ve no choice but to run to the next zone (yep, old school zones give you a way to escape hordes), where you can rest… but another wandering monster encounter might send you scurrying to the next zone, and so on. Once you finally get to recover, you’ll have to fight through those hordes to get back to what you were doing in the first place.

The game makes much of light, and combat in dungeons or at night is usually frustrating, as enemies are “partially hidden by darkness,” making it difficult to land a blow. Your character has little choice but to keep at least one hand free to hold a torch; granted, slimes and such might battle in pitch darkness, but it’s rather odd that human enemies don’t seem to care about needing light. Torches are plentiful, at least, though players wishing to use a shield or two-handed weapon will find the preoccupation with light to be most annoying. Merely exploring in darkness is unpleasant as well; turning up the brightness on your monitor will be more rewarding than lighting a torch.

Despite the many warts, Eschalon is not without charm, as this game would have been an award-winning achievement in 1986 or so. Everything is done well, for that era, but, much like steam locomotives, I’m just not convinced this style really works nowadays. Players with that certain hunger for this sort of game will be satisfied, although mainstream gamers will probably find their gaming dollar better spent elsewhere.
The full review is available at the website linked below.

2404: Eschalon Book 1 Review
Basilisk Games
Eschalon: Book I
Buy Eschalon: Book I

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