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Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: 10.3    CPU: G4 @ 1800 MHz    RAM: 256 MB

Eschalon: Book II
June 21, 2010 | Franklin Pride

There aren't too many RPGs released with a turn-based battle system these days. With the current trend of action games with RPG elements continuing to blossom, they're slowly becoming a dying breed. Still, there's an inherent appeal to being able to spend minutes contemplating your next move, and it's nice to see games being released into this shrinking genre. Eschalon: Book II (EB2), a recent release from Basilisk Games, fills the void quite nicely.

Eschalon: Book II is a turn-based RPG from the Rogue sub-genre of RPGs. The world is set in a static time until you move, at which point everything else in the world moves with you. All combat is calculated off your character's stats using a percentage chance for you to hit and then a quick dice roll to determine damage if you hit. This is truly a classic-style RPG, and it's one of the best looking ones you'll find.

Its story is very linear, however. You get a quest near the beginning of the game which then leads to another quest and so on. There don't appear to be any quest branches or points where you can change the story besides right at the end, so you'll get the exact same experience every time you play. In addition, experience rewards for quests are significantly larger than what you get from hunting monsters, so you're essentially forced to complete side quests if you want to level up.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. The quests are mainly designed to get you exploring areas you haven't reached yet, meeting NPCs that seem hostile but end up as useful skill trainers, and just enjoying the world. You'll miss a lot if you just stick to the main quests. It can get a little disconcerting to see a quest dialogue tell you that you have little time, however, as the quests are completely static until completed. You could spend two years in the wilderness grinding lizards and rats and it wouldn't change a thing.

On the plus side, the game plays completely differently depending on how you design your character. In a lot of these games, it really doesn't matter whether you're a rogue or a warrior. Both are spotted immediately, and it really just changes which attacks you use. This isn't the case with EB2. As a magician, you get large penalties for wearing heavy armor, so you end up being an eggshell with massively overpowered spells and, as a rogue, you can sneak everywhere and backstab with impunity. One thing that's a little broken, though, is what happens when you combine spellcasting with any other class. It becomes way too easy to win when you can backstab twice in a single round or shoot arrows accurately in pure darkness.

Still, Eschalon: Book II is more than fun enough the first time through. The fighting takes strategy, the backgrounds, sprites, and particle effects are all good-looking, the sound and music is well done, and the world is plenty big enough to last you for a reasonable length of time. What it really comes down to is whether you enjoy rogue-like RPGs or not. If you do, then this $25 is well-spent.

• Good graphics and sound
• Classic RPG gameplay
• Good-sized world

• Linear storyline
• Overpowered magic

Eschalon: Book II
Developer: Basilisk Games
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