Encased: A Sci-Fi Post-Apocalyptic RPG Review – The Post-Dome Dream
EncasedSeptember 7th, 2021
The first two entries in the Fallout series still hold a dear place in the hearts of many RPG fans, thanks to their post-apocalyptic setting and classic RPG gameplay mechanics. Developers know this all too well, and the fact that the series has changed so much since the second game allowed many studios to attempt to fill the void with their own take on the post-apocalyptic setting made popular by Fallout. The Wasteland series successfully managed to do so, especially with the third entry in the series released last year, but now a new contender has risen. It's Encased: A Sci-Fi Post- Apocalyptic, a game that can definitely rival Fallout in terms of setting and worldbuilding, although some issues prevent it from achieving the must-have status for all sorts of players.
Encased is set in an alternative 1970s. At some point during the Cold War, a mysterious artifact called the Dome has appeared in the world. No one knows who made it or why it showed up so suddenly, but it's clear right from the get-go that the Dome houses advanced technology that could change the world forever. As such, a corporation called CRONUS is soon established to explore the Dome, with all major superpowers wanting to get their hands first on the advanced technology found within. Many different individuals also line up to work for CRONUS for their own reasons: some are just looking for adventure, others want to leave their mark in history by discovering advanced technology, others are forced to enter the structure to pay for their crimes. No matter their reasons, only one thing is certain: no living being can leave the Dome once entered.
At the start of the game, players can pick between different premade characters or create their own. What sets each character apart, not counting the different stats and specializations, is the CRONUS Corporation Wing they are enlisted into. There are a total of five Wings - Black, Blue, White, Silver, and Orange, which determine how NPCs react to the character, which areas can be accessed directly, and which dialogue options are available at any given time. The different Wings basically act as the character's origins: Orange Wing members are convicts, Black Wing members are former soldiers or mercenaries, White Wing members are renowned scientists and doctors, Blue Wings members are engineers, and Silver Wing members are managers. While a little restrictive on paper, this system works quite well; it is possible to work around the limitations imposed by the chosen Wing in some very clever ways, which contributes to making the world feel truly reactive to the player's choices.
While the main story isn't very long (around 20 hours or so), Encased makes sure your time in the game is as enjoyable as possible, thanks to the amazing worldbuilding. All major NPCs can provide new information on the state of the world, and the number of choices at the player's disposal, combined with the enlisted Wing, will make each playthrough considerably different from another. There are also 14 different endings, so the relatively short main story length is hardly an issue here. The writing is also competent throughout the adventure, managing to capture the feel of this dystopian reality, although it could have used a little bit of trimming here and there, as the game is generally quite verbose and the amount of information provided during dialogues can be overwhelming at times.
The overwhelming amount of information and how it is provided to the player is Encased's biggest issue. While character building is standard fare when it comes to classic, isometric role-playing games, with easy to understand stats and skills like Muscle, Deftness, and Perception or Light, Heavy or Melee Weapons that can be improved freely upon level up, Encased also features some survival mechanics that players must always keep track of, such as hunger, hydration, radiation levels and so on, as well as countless altered conditions with both positive and negative effects. The main issue here lies in the interface and the item descriptions, which are far from the best around: there are times where you have to go through a lot of text to find information that should be readily available, leading to some frustration.
Thankfully, the rest of the Encased gameplay experience is a little bit smoother. Exploration is especially engaging, thanks to the variety of different locations found inside the Dome, such as huge wastelands, old buildings, and hidden ruins all filled with all sorts of searchable and scannable objects, which are tied to a currency system that rewards exploration, and, of course, enemies. Encased employs a classic turn-based tactical combat system where players and AI-controlled enemies must spend Action Points to move characters, attack with equipped weapons, use Skills and Items. It's a very basic iteration of this type of combat system that works decently enough, also thanks to a decent enemy variety that forces players to employ different strategies. However, other modern games like Wasteland 3 feature a considerably superior take on this system that is ultimately more engaging.
As mentioned above, menus in Engaged could have used a little bit more polishing, and so does the rest of the presentation. While locations do look good enough, thanks to the solid design style and the lighting, character models are forgettable and look low quality for a late 2021 game. However, the undemanding graphics make it so that Encased can run on pretty much any PC from the past 10 years or so. The system used for the test, powered by an i7-10700 CPU, RTX 3070 GPU, and 16 GB RAM, obviously had no trouble running the game at 4K resolution, max setting, 60 FPS, but I expect considerably less powerful machines to be able to run the game smoothly with some tweaking and at a slightly lower resolution.
Encased promised to be the post-apocalyptic RPG to play in 2021. It mostly delivers on its promise, featuring an amazing setting that reacts to player's choices, a short but sweet story with tons of replay value, and solid gameplay mechanics. A little more polishing, especially for visuals and the interface, would have made the game better, but you shouldn't let these issues stop you from visiting the Dome if you're a massive fan of the classic Fallout games.
Review code provided by the publisher.
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Encased: A Sci-Fi Post-Apocalyptic RPG is a worthy purchase for all fans of classic Fallout games, thanks to a well-crafted post-apocalyptic setting, great worldbuilding, reactive world, and solid overall gameplay. The clunky interface, basic combat, verbose writing, and overwhelming amount of status conditions to keep track of damage the experience a bit, however, making Encased a game that only the most die-hard RPG fans will enjoy right from the start.
- Engaging setting
- Great atmosphere
- Highly reactive world
- Solid exploration mechanics
- Competent turn-based combat...
- ... that feels a little too basic
- Writing could have used a little trimming
- Clunky interface
- Underwhelming visuals