Eschelon Book III – Cool Retro RPG gaming

We take a look at Basilisk Games’ retro style turn based RPG and determine whether this third and final book in the series is worthy of your time. Take a look at our Eschelon Book III hands on preview video for the full picture.

Eschelon Book III hands on preview

Today we’re taking a look at Basilisk Games’ retro style turn based RPG Eschelon Book III which marks the final installment in the trilogy and adds some refinements along the way. Having not been familiar with the past games, we’ve had to jump in at the deep end and have tackled the game with fresh legs.

From the offset players are tasked with choosing a character, which is standard fare for any role playing game. There’s a selection of five character classes on offer where each posses different abilities, but to add more characteristics, players get to choose the origin and temperament as well which in turn provides more bonuses to the character. Obviously a bit of experimentation is required here unless familiar with the game’s expansive lore.

Once the male or female character has been selected, players can then assign skills which again is worth spending time experimenting with, for example, the Cartography skill is most useful for using the mini-map which if you decide not to use makes the game’s navigation much harder. There are a selection of skills on offer which can then be boosted when leveling up, but it has to be stressed the starting elements of character class and skill impacts the game early on quite considerably.

Playing the game is fairly simple with the number keys for movement, or if using a mouse, then the character will move in the direction of the mouse click being held. The game is set within an underlying grid and due to the turn based nature of the game, time only passes when the player performs an action. The game features a day and night system which impacts the effectiveness of the character and as expected night time is not the best time to travel. Starting out with absolutely nothing, there’s much joy in wandering the wet and woody opening area, looting skeletons and opening barrels for random generated items and after a little foraging,  a taste of combat. The game then opens its doors with a populated settlement which offers extra quests when talking to the right people and a continuation of the main story arc.

As with any RPG players can purchase or sell items, repair weapons and armor and buy all the potions required for a day out adventuring. Sadly, during the opening of the game, most of this is locked out of player’s reach due to the lack of resources – you literally do start out with nothing, and need to forage even the most basic items such as shoes! What is neat is the attention to the character’s thirst and hunger levels. Not content with hitting players with all sorts of status attacks, players need to keep an eye on these two crucial aspects of human life. When hunger or thirst sets it, then it becomes more dangerous than any would be adversary the game throws at you. This is made apparent when setting up camp to restore health. During the sped up time frame, the hunger meter depletes very fast and could lead to death by sleeping!

In some ways, having your game thwarted by usually overlooked aspects of gaming characters, can grate and at times feels a little unfair, but as with many “roguelike” experiences, planning ahead is key. In this regard the game does allow for saving game at any time, and also offers a lifeline fast travel option to areas visited which takes away some of the frustration. However, the game is about learning from mistakes and this also includes running into enemies that are simply way too powerful. The game doesn’t provide any way-point markers, and so players are left to explore at will…and learn from their errors. It’s a hardcore approach which works well, but does encourage hitting the save button a bit too frequently.

To conclude, there’s a neat little throwback game on offer here which is drenched in some quality audio and simplistic looks but has some deep gameplay elements beneath the surface. Whilst not for everyone, those who do delve into the game’s delights will find an entertaining ride as they become more powerful and uncover the secrets of the final book. It has to be said, the game is a time guzzler, and is quite tough overall, but as mentioned, with some time spent experimenting, there’s much to be gleaned from a bit of knowledge before diving in.

Eschelon Book III will be available on February 14th for PC Linux and Mac and has also been Greenlit on Steam.