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April 30, 2014

Eschalon: Book III - Review


Game reviewed: Eschalon: Book III
Version: 1.021
Created byBasilisk Games
Released: 2014
Formats: Pc, Mac
Difficulty: 5/10
Est. Playing time: 20 hours
Price$14.99

Arghh...Little did I know I was only a few hours from the end of the game when finishing my last post. I have to say I was almost shocked at the quick resolution of the game. I thought the mainstory would at least continue for a few more quests but alas, that was not so.

Without going into any details, let´s just say I finally made it into the Astral range. I was right in my last post. One of the four vital widget items you need to complete the temple was found in the goblin island stronghold. The most difficult one to find was hidden in a treasury hold in Moonrise. It wasn´t easy to find the last piece and I do have to admit I did get some hints online. After that I could complete the temple and walked out into the Astral range. 


It consisted of three new maps that was quickly explored. They where almost empty. A few new opponents made their appearance like the phoenix but not anyone of them was any problem against my level 6 ice-lance spells at level 16.




When I finally met the warlord I gave him the head of one of his enemies and was let in to see the prisoner. In order to reach the prisoner I had to solve two puzzles relating to numbers. The second part of them, I had to check online also. 

I don´t want to spoil too much now but let´s just say the story takes on a huge turnaround here and the end is quickly approaching with some epic scenes you have to be part in. 

When the game comes to an end you are presented with a final score and some statistics about how many hidden treasuries you found or how many foes you killed. I like that kind of statistics.

But even though the ending story in itself was quite good and unexpected I cannot help but feel a little empty inside. I had thought there was more to do. Twenty hours is definetely much less than what it took to complete the first and second game and they both have better feeling and atmosphere. They contained more texts and information and they were both harder and more challenging. This third game lacks a bit of soul or is it because I have already played the previous ones ? I don´t know, but the game is still good and I do recommend it but I wouldn´t recommend starting with it because it doesn´t help you much with the previous story.



It was also by far the easiest of the three. I had a pretty easy walk through the game combat wise. I did focus on only my magical skills but if you put enough skill into divination so you reach 30 or more and then surpass 40 in perception, you get a very good mana regeneration bonus which means you can flee from your enemies in the later stages and regenerate enough mana to strike back after just a short walk. Perhapas it has to do with the fact that I am a magician. I don´t need melee weapons or armours that needs to be repaired so I alsmost never had to spend money on such things and ended up with at least 6.000 gold in my pockets.

 Well, over to the ratings....

Gameworld & Story

During these three games the unique world of Eschalon has been built up with different races, factions and powers. The story has been good from the very beginning even though I must say the last series has the weakest part of it. You are not given much information about your part in the main quest. Everything seems to be to stop Malukar from gaining all four cruxes. 

There are almost no information about the world gained from books or other sources. Even the descriptive texts in the message area that tells you of specific areas are far between. They should have used that part more to fill in with more atmospheric information at certain places to give the feeling of a world that is alive. 

Rating: 2.5


Economy

In the beginning you really feel the lack of gold and the first few level advancement keep this at a good and challenging level. But with some invested points into the forage skill I don´t need to spend too much money on food. There are a lot of chests or remains in the world that gives you many items you could sell for money. One thing that spoils it a little is the randomness of chests contents. From something useless to a very powerful mage scroll. It is really worth to reload a lot in the beginning of the game if you want to powerbuild you character. You could turn off this randomness at the start of the game. I didn´t do that. So one could say I did spoiled it a little for myselves not doing that.

Even though I had a lot of money, there are only 2-3 places at which you could buy magical items and they are always worse than what you could find. So I think this is flawed. I had no use for my gold to upgrade anything. It seems there are hundreds of items but in the end I almost found nothing useful. I couldn´t even buy any magical light armour for my mage.

Economy was better balanced in the previous games as I recall it.

Rating: 2.5

NPC & Interactions

There are quite few NPCs in the game if you don´t count all shopkeepers that make up the majority of all side quests you will get. You never have any advanced dialogue trees. In this respect it is much like Dark Disciples. You could always choose all possible dialogue options.

The dialogue and information present is well written though and help building the atmosphere for the game.

The interactions with the environment is better. You could grab torches, pick up explosive barrels and use them at strategic places. There are levers, barrels, remains etc to be examined.

Rating:  2

Monsters, tactics & combat system

There are a few dozen of monsters in the game and they are very well animated. They have some different abilities like stun, poisioning, ranged attacks. Since I myself have been a ranged fighter I haven´t had to meet them in melee so I don´t know how hard it would have got. As a mage I have a powerful nimbus spell that protects me from ranged attacks which was very useful against goblin archers and others. As is expected
Strength affects melee damage, dexterity to hit chance of ranged weapons etc. Different kinds of armour gives different armour classes that are deducted from damage received. They will also degrade over time so you need to repair both weapons and armours.

There are no tactics involved in the fights whatsoever, except that one has to keep the distance as a mage and retreat and let them follow until you have regenerated enough mana to kill them, or you exit the map and reenters again. Some enemies can retreat when wounded but that´s about it.

I do like the simplicity of the combat system though. You get clear information about how much damage you are dealing and any modifiers applying like darkness, bad weather etc.

Rating:  2.5

Magic system

While combat might be fairly simple. Magic is a little bit more elaborated. You basically have two skills that determines wether you would prefer priestlike spells or magespells. The skill divination in combination with high wisdom gives you access to priestlike spells, while the skill elemental together with intelligence give you access to mage spells.

As I´ve said in my previous posts, scrolls could only be read if you have a high enough skill level. And even if you do, you must have a high enough attribute level in wisdom or intelligence in order to learn this spell. Fortunately you could unlearn old spells to give place for a new one if your attribute level is not high enough. Then to cast a spell you have to assign it to a casting level ranging from 1 (lowest) to 6 (highest). The higher the level the more powerful the effect of the spell will be (damage dealt, duration, range etc). The drawback of using high casting power is that the mana consumption is greater so you have to have enough mana as well to make it effective (investing in perception and meditation is the best way to go for that).

This system works extremely well and is well balanced. You could build a character that can cast both priest and mage spells but you would probably not have enough skill points invested in all skills and attributes to make them powerful enough.

My spells of choice as a mage was sparks, fireball, ice-lance, nimbus protection, trapkill and lockmelt. You get a powerful Portal spell but because of the many teleporter stones and the relatively easy game I never missed to use it much.

Rating:  4

Character generation & development

You decide for yourself which kind of character to build by spending skill points and attribute points during startup. There are no class choices at all so you could mix all classes if you wish. But I would recommend specializing since not doing that you might not get strong enough. I only managed the opponents by investing heavily into my magical arts to get the best spells as quick as possible and with the highest amount of mana generation.

At each level up you get 3 skill- and attribute points to spend freely. The system works really well.

Rating:  4

Map design

Each map is very well laid out. It is not very big and you could travel from one end to another in perhaps one minute. The underground complexes are also very well laid out in irregular or regular ways with rooms, corridors etc filled with paintings, torches, chests, furniture, corpses and other things to fill upp the spaces with. There are places you could only reach by accessing it from other maps or by using magic or other means. Scattered around the world are 30 secret places. I managed to find 17 of them when I completed the game.

Rating:  3.5

Manual

The manual is well written and even gives you hints and tips of how to play.

Rating:  3.5

Graphics, Sound and Interface

Even though it was two years ago I played the last Eschalon game I can say that it is obvious this game has the best graphics. The animations is better, there are more details everywhere and small improvments in the terrain can be spotted. It is easy and clear to see what everything is and the game runs very smooth.

The sound effects is clear, goodsounding and adds to the atmosphere. The same goes for the music that is very good and have always been in this game.

I really like the interface and the fonts used. It is crisp, clear, easy to understand and quick. I have to judge every game for its time though and even if this game is better in all respects to most old crpgs, it was released in 2014. I deduce 1 point for that.

Rating:  3

Gameplay

I played this game for two weeks on all my spare time without ever getting tired of it. That if something is a good value and even though I think 20 hours is not much and the game ended too quickly, I can still recommend it. 

Here and there the game forces you to use at least some brain to figure out numbers, avoid traps or finding illusionary walls or secret passages. It gives you the very important feeling of just playing a little longer and just explore a little more of the new map you have discovered. It is extremely easy to play and understand, yet hides some complexity in your character builds and utilisation of skills. The underlying combat and magic mechanism is well done and you always want to buy the best items there are. Too pity there are too few good items to buy but I found a lot of good weapons, useless for me as a mage. 

Yes, it is the weakest part in scale, atmosphere and storywise in the series but it still lands a solid experience and is well worth its money. We´ll see if I will return to the game engine if any third party adventures will be released since the editor is released at the same time as this game.

Rating:  4

Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
2.5
Economy
2.5
NPC & Interactions
2
Monsters, tactics & combat system
2.5
Magic system
4
Character generation & development
4
Map design
3.5
Manual
3.5
Graphics, Sound and Interface
3
Summary CRPG value
27.5


Gameplay
4





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