Dark Crystal Games take inspiration from games like Fallout and Wasteland with their post-apocalyptic role playing game Encased: A Sci-Fi Post-Apocalyptic RPG. This is a sprawling title that requires a ton of investment, but is it any good? Take a look at our Encased review PC for the full picture. The game also comes to consoles.
Today we’re taking a look at Dark Crystal Games’ Encased, a post-apocalyptic RPG set within a 1970s alternate universe. The story revolves around an artifact –the Dome– where its effects on humanity are quite profound. You begin the game choosing from a selection of five colour coded classes (Wings) which ultimately shape how you progress through the story in terms of what responses you have during conversations and perhaps confrontations. As with most RPGs of this nature, you are free to create a custom build.
Once the opening pleasantries are over, a lengthy intro begins where you find your feet, visit various people on base before embarking on your first mission. The pacing is quite slow here, as you will be talking much more than getting into combat situations (well it was for our white wing character build, events may differ depending on your choices). The game prides itself as a tactical RPG, but it could be an hour before you get into some real combat.
Without spoiling any of the story here aside from, a major event occurs which thrusts your character into the fore. You become the “main character” so-to-speak, rather than a single cog set within a multitude of moving parts. It’s here where Encased begins to show its true potential and its nods to games like Fallout and Wasteland. You’re very much free to explore how you see fit, except following the main story path isn’t hand-holding by any stretch.
Encased doesn’t do a grand job of explaining things to the player. It’s either a deliberate harking back to the days of gaming where you just got on with it, or a lack of time and resources to present a proper tutorial. On one hand it’s totally intriguing to find out things 20 hours plus into the game; such as the option to unlink your two companions without losing them by clicking the chain beneath their icons. On the other, a pain in the backside you weren’t told this sort of basic stuff earlier, or missed the person who told you about these things. A tiny icon allows you to bribe or trade with specific characters rather than have that as an option in the conversation dialogue. Whereas other times the option to “let’s have a look at your wares” exists. Some things just don’t feel consistent enough.
The same can be said of the quests which we’re still on the fence whether we like them or not. Expect fetch quests aplenty here, but what really got us was an over-reliance of quests within a quest making progression feel unnaturally elongated and deliberately obtuse for the sake of it.
Picture this as a typical gameplay loop (trying not to spoil anything here); you’re required to get some specific items for a main part of the story of which there’s a vague description of who you need to ask to get them. You might have to perform another quest for that person before they hand them over. Once you have them, you then need to put them in set locations. So, off you go across the world map. This journey will tire you out, make you hungry and thirsty, but you can stop and make camp anywhere here to replenish your fatigue.
Once on your way again you might hit a random encounter (or two) on your journey of which it could be a set of events such as a battle with hyenas, an option to trade with a mysterious trader of goods, helping someone in trouble – or having sex with a flasher who jumps out at you from behind a rock (yes the writing is thrilling and bizarre at the same time). Once you reach your location, you then scour the fog-of-war driven map to find where you need to put your item. You find it, select the “use” option, only to discover it won’t let you because you need another item alongside it. So…off you go again to different part of the map to another person who knows how you can craft said item. However, before they give you the info, you must perform another task for them. Get the picture? It gets tedious at times and whilst admittedly some of the side-quests within a quest are interesting, parts of them can become increasingly vague. At one point we had to ask on the steam forums where we could buy a particular quest important item.
The takeaway here and perhaps for some, this is a positive. Your experience will vary compared to others depending on who you speak to and how thorough you are. There is simply a lot of missed items for the unlucky, or those who skip random encounters or evade speaking to every NPC. Take that as you will.
On a positive note, the game’s writing is often of a very high standard with massive amounts of descriptive text when interacting with NPCs. In-fact for any main character you will hear a wonderfully spoken soundbite, which at first is awesome, but often it’s far quicker to read. A shame, because the voice actors are on-point here. Audio overall is very well done, the voice over cast offering compelling performances. The music subdued but welcoming and overall fitting for the type of game here.
Visually, the game looks pretty decent on PC in 4K using the game’s ultra preset. Players will come across some neat locations and witness impressive designs of characters via their portrait images. These especially are impressive and look like the characters you interact with of which you can zoom in-and-out when in the field. There are a fair number of them too which shows a lot of care was put into creating a varied cast of NPCs. There is really little to complain about from a visual standpoint. It’s a post-apocalyptic setting, so expect plenty of desert locales and settlements alongside interior structures that appear as relics of the 70s time period. The game runs smoothly, although due to its nature isn’t going to tax competent hardware. That said, some options exist for those who want to get the best performance. As mentioned, we ran the game on ultra 4K without any issues including zero lock-ups or crashes.
In terms of controls, we would have liked full WASD movement as an option alongside continuous clicking the mouse. There is no controller support here either, partial or otherwise which might put-off some players. There are plenty of options to rebind the keys though for those with specific tastes which is good.
Encased is a long game, and you will need to set aside plenty of hours to get the most from it in terms of progressing. It’s also as long as you make it due to the numbers of NPCs and optional side-quests alongside the main story. You might want to replay it again using a different build too, to get a feel for how they differ. An option exists to simply play solo and as a touted feature quite possible to finish the story (rather than beat the game) without any combat which is a challenge for those with the silver tongue.
To conclude then, we have mixed feeling about Encased. No doubt for some players it’s a great game reaching the upper echelons of the review scale. For us, less so due to our own preferences or perhaps expectations. A lack of direction, vagueness and tendency to draw on some frustrating quest design over-and-over have us at odds with the engaging combat, excellent writing and fantastic audio alongside its neat premise. However, with our grievances aside, we still recommend this for those looking for strategy turn-based role playing. It’s certainly got character and that’s something most people can probably agree on.
Score 8/10 – Review code supplied by publisher