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I’ve been saying this again and again. It’s a great time to be a Fallout fan. While a true Fallout 3 still remains a pipe dream, there has been no shortage of good post-apocalyptic RPGs taking inspiration from the original Fallout in the last five years. Wasteland 2, Age of Decadence, Underrail and ATOM RPG have proven that there is still a sizeable audience for the ol’ post-apocalyptic RPG formula pioneered by Wasteland and perfected by Fallout. Dark Crystal Games’ Encased, is the latest game to join the list.

After a moderate Kickstarter success, Encased: A Sci-Fi Post-Apocalyptic RPG has finally launched on Steam Early Access last month. I know what you’re thinking. Early Acess, ambitious RPG, yada yada. Not every Early Access RPG is going to be an After Reset, right?

Encased (I refuse to address the game by its unnecessary full name), is a Computer Role Playing Game inspired by games from the classic Fallouts to the recent Original Sin. In case you were wondering, no nuclear bomb or natural calamity has struck the Earth, changing it into a barren, lawless wasteland. Instead, the gist of the story in Encased revolves around something called The Dome in an alternate ’70s setting. A mysterious alien structure containing miles of previously unknown landmass has been discovered in a faraway desert. Filled with strange technology and artifacts, The Dome drew the attention of the world governments for obvious reasons. The world governments come together to form CRONUS, a massive organization tasked with discovering the secrets of the Dome and doing what we, human beings do best; study how to exploit its resources for the ‘advancement’ of our own kind.

How Does it Play?

Well, Encased plays just as you expect it to play. If you’re already familiar with Fallout 1,2 or even ATOM, you should have no trouble jumping right in. Encased is a point & click CRPG with a fully rotatable camera and turn-based combat. Aside from the main story, you’ll be able to explore the desolate world inside The Dome, meet all sorts of weird characters, manage your reputation with factions, complete side-quests multiple ways and level up your character from level 0 grunt to a walking god of destruction. You know, the traditional CRPG stuff.

No, you don’t play as a chosen one and don’t start out as the puniest, worthless character in the game in Encased. Instead, you play as an employee of the CRONUS foundation. You don’t just play as any employee. You can select from five different hierarchies within CRONUS. During character creation, you’ll be asked to select from these different wings of CRONUS;

  • Black Wing- Military, security, special forces, and police, providing security and keeping the police under the Dome.
  • White Wing- Scientists, researchers, and medical personnel
  • Blue Wing- Mechanics, computer scientists, engineers, builders. Blue Wing employees build and maintain company infrastructure.
  • Silver Wing- Directors, managers, and financiers
  • Orange Wing. Unskilled labour, recruited from the world’s prisons.

The wing you get assigned to dictates your characteristic skills, its bonuses and how the Dome and other CRONUS employees treat you. Choose the Black wing and you can intimidate the ones below you. Choose Silver wing and you’re blessed with the emotional level of a rock and get to order people around. Choose orange wing, good luck to you. No matter who you pick, within 30 minutes of playing, you’re given enough armour, weapons and supplies prepare you for the exploit…exploration of the Dome. A welcome change from the usual level 0 grunt trope seen in RPGs, that’s for sure.

After a robust character creation where you choose your gender, wing, attributes, tag skills, skills and abilities, Encased introduces you to its interesting world filled with lots of characters to meet, piss off and walk over. The setting and atmosphere are worth experiencing, there’s lore behind almost everything, the dialogues are quite extensive, there’s ample amount of skillchecks, more than enough junk to satisfy packrats and more than one way to complete many of its quests. Ticks all the right boxes, that’s for sure.

Early Access- How Much of the Game is There

Encased is in its early days of…Early Access period and thus, you may find the current build of the game to be a bit lacking content-wise. In the words of the developers, “The early access version features the prologue and piece of the global map exploration which gives more than 10 hours of gameplay (depending on your playstyle). The player will be able to finish 20+ quests, meet 75+ unique characters each with their own dialogue and story.” 

While the 10 hours of content is not enough to form a full impression, the current build of Encased serves to give you a small taste of what’s to come, as well as help decide if you want to periodically check back, issue a refund or keep it in your wishlist.  Aside from some annoyances, I found myself having a good time with the current build of Encased. One of the most detailed prologues in an RPG ever and I mean it in a good way. I must have spent near to 5 hours on the tutorial section alone without being bored to death. It does a great job of introducing you to CRONUS, the world as well as get you acquainted with many of its systems.

That being said, there are lots of room for improvement. For one, the inventory is just a mess. It’s not as bad as vanilla Original Sin or ATOM, but everything is just all over the place and it’s hard to locate the items you want quickly. The fact that it’s both slot and weight-based is kind of a turn-off. While I understand the lack of content in the current build, to see that a lot of the skills, traits and items are yet to be added leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Then there are the numerous bugs. While I did not run into any game-breaking bugs personally, I’ve heard of quite a number of game-breaking bug reports here and there. Then there’s the combat which, in its current form, is as basic as it gets. But one of the Early Access goals is to flesh out the combat so I’m not really bothered about this. Encased could also use some performance tweaks, especially when zooming out all the way. And finally, the writing needs some work, especially in the translation department.

So, What Have We Learned?

Encased, like ATOM before it, is a love letter to Fallout and isn’t ashamed to follow the shadows of its inspirations and neither should it be. It aims to do everything Fallout did in a modern canvas and they’re doing a good job so far. But for now, I really can’t wholeheartedly recommend the game to anyone other than hardcore Fallout fans due to how little content is available right now. But that statement is in no ways a representation of how I feel about Encased. I have a feeling that Encased will come out as the best ode to Fallout once it’s done with Early Access. Even in its current state, it’s easy to see that the game is way more than just a nostalgia trip.

If you like what you see and want to support the devs, buy the game right now, or, if you want to wait till more content arrives, keep Encased in your wishlist and tick the ‘follow’ button in the store so that you don’t miss out on important updates and announcements.

It’s a great time to be a Fallout fan. We’ll just pretend that Fallout 76 doesn’t exist.

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