Role-playing games attune with me easily. I’m always in awe of the worlds created and the characters that encapsulate these lands. I love the Wastelands, the mountains of Skyrim, and even the most recent exploration of Revachol. These games showcase worlds to dwell into, new threats to fight, and most importantly new stories to wrap my head around. Encased, the Sci-Fi RPG from the studio Dark Crystal Games is taking that same path and bringing me joy, by producing a new RPG that I feel will be a classic for this generation. If you are into Fallout 1 & 2 and want to mash it up with something along the lines of Wasteland 2 and Wasteland 3, then this is the perfect game for you.
Encased is an isometric computer role-playing game (CRPG), with a variant timeline history that drops you into an intriguing and complicated new world. The year is 1976, where you play as a newcomer that has finally been approved to work under the mysterious dome that appeared without warning or whisper. The Dome is an inexplicable and completely contained dome, full of anomalous objects that have driven the technology in the world of Encased. Some of its residents speculate it’s technology from another world, while others believe it’s the exact same enclosure that protects the City of Atlantis.
Although it is uncertain for sure where it came from, its presence alone has signaled the end of all ongoing wars and ushered in a new era of peace. Those who enter the Dome do so knowing that their work underneath its electric glow will surely catapult humanity towards the future. They also recognize that this new dome is exactly like Hotel California by the Eagles and once they enter, they can never leave.
You play as a newcomer to The Dome and start off as an employee of the Cronus Corporation, but soon find yourself on a one-way trip from which you can’t return. Along your journey, you will be given the opportunity to attain power armor, avoid radiation, complete quests, and engage in tactical turn-based combat. In Encased, you’ll meet lots of NPCs, and you’ll have the choice to help them, or wreak havoc and shed blood wherever you go.
Unfortunately, for me, I thought the introduction to this new world was kind of long and boring. I appreciate Dark Crystal Games for making sure we are prepared for the next chapter, but it was repetitive and at times mundane. However, once I got out into the world with the freedom to explore everything as I chose to, my eyes became wide with anticipation and I was enthralled with this open enjoyment.
To begin with, you will get the privilege of creating your character to play. Now they do have premade characters for you to just jump right in and go. However, I had to make it personal for me, and the choices I was given made my next hour and a half an absolute blast. Much can be altered cosmetically, including gender (male, female, and other), age, race, skin color, hair color, and hairstyle, but also class, abilities, and attributes.
Encased offers a very specific class system that dramatically changes the player experience depending on what’s selected, as the Dome relies on five different worker types to maintain and operate the facility. From the Silver Wing managers and financiers to the Black Wing military personnel, from the White Wing scientists to the Blue Wing engineers complete with the Orange Wing laborers recruited from the world’s prisons, Encased’s classes feel less like a job system and more like a gamified Stanford Prison Experiment — in this game, the clothes literally make the (hu)man.
The character that I built in my head was an ex-con trying to turn his life around in the Orange Wing. I figured he was just a thief who was trying to make his life better and got caught. So I created a person who was nimble and smart, but not very strong. He was sneaky and street-wise but is not a fan of violence unless he had to be. Did I mention it took me an hour and a half to just make my character? Again, it was a blast.
Now being that I was an ex-con, the game treated me accordingly. The military personnel treated me like I was going to commit a crime any second. The scientists acted exasperated when I asked them for information, and the other Orange jumpsuits tried to get me to gamble or steal. I was pretty restricted with everything I could do because of my unsavory pre-Dome lifestyle, and the other Wings never failed to remind me that I was probably going to leave in a body bag. Every action and reaction I made, gave the game another way to either cut me down or build me up. All I needed was some dice and a pencil and paper and I felt like I was in a Shadowrun campaign. It was a fantastic feeling.
The skill points helped and hindered me in conversations and actions. If I was smarter in some conversations, it would have given me a different answer to choose from. If I was stronger, I could have moved a heavy pole out of the way to search 2 other boxes. If I was from a different wing, I would have had different reaction choices and been treated differently. The game was amazing and spot on. The replay value of the game alone would be worth the price of admission. All you would have to do is start a new character and pick different stats and then you would have a totally new world to play it. Dark Crystal Games, I tip my hat to your genius and am so pleased with the play style.
I was able to see traps and remove some. I was able to pick locks and searching for new stuff was a blast. My first death came from fighting my first monster though. It is a turn-based game like Wasteland 3 and I was using a nail gun on a mutated poisonous monster. Needless to say, I didn’t survive the first or second time, but the third time I figured out what to do and had a great time.
Encased is a fantastic game and I truly can not wait to finish this playthrough to start over again to see what different options I get. I am already taking notes on what stats to choose to go down different paths. I think I will be a strong Black Wing military man with no brains. Encased is available on Steam for PC now in Early Access for $29.99. I will state again if you loved the original Fallout and Fallout 2 and you’re also into Wasteland 2 or 3, then this is a must-have game. I hope to see more people in The Dome, or at least the outskirts of it.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Encased for the PC provided by Dark Crystal Games, Prime Matter, Black Tower Entertainment, and Koch Media.