One of the original formats of games, the traditional tabletop role playing game genre, is brought to life in Escahlon: Book III for beginners and pros to hash out their dice rolling dreams (and nightmares). To start things off, players select their Gender, Origin, Axiom, and Class while also setting a Portrait image (with custom images allowed as well) in addition to picking 15 available Skills and dice rolling attributes including Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Speed, Intelligence, Wisdom, Perception, and Concentration (20 attribute points are also distributed manually by the player). Once all of this has been completed and a character has been given a name, the game begins. The skills available range from Light / Heavy Armor to Foraging, Medicine, Hiding in Shadows, Swords, Picking Locks, and much more. Choosing these skills will play a large role in defining the gameplay experience players will get out of their time with Eschalon: Book III. The game can be played in Hardcore mode (or lower settings) for additional difficulty as well.
In terms of story, Eschalon: Book III tells an epic adventure that begins with a startling image of an extraterrestrial life form becoming hostile with the player. Everything is told in first person as a narrative unfolds through text after the slideshow of images making up the cut-scene has concluded. The Crux of Fire is what this creature known as “The One” is after originally, and the player begins with that knowledge seeking to find out the answers to the artifact and the creature throughout the rest of the game.
Gameplay performance in Eschalon: Book III is solid and the engine seems to not have much, if any, in the way of glitches. What stands out right away and allows gamers to easily get into the title is the well-thought out and intuitive controls and user interface systems presented. The hardcore RPG gamer audience will certainly be doing themselves a disservice to let this one pass them by. Eschalon: Book III turns out to be one of few brand new releases from the RPG genre that still provide hope that the industry can get back to its roots with role playing games while at the same time making innovations and original, fresh experiences that are fun to play.
Eschalon: Book III’s graphics are very well drawn, detailed, and add a great amount of personality to the game. Despite the game being controlled at fairly common resolutions, the technical merit of the art work contained in the game is still impressive. The aroma and atmosphere of the soundtrack combined with this art direction look and the retro-inspired gameplay come together for a complete package that feels unique and immersive.
When it comes down to detailed explanation of this game’s core mechanics in a nutshell, if you are familiar with modern inventory systems in games like the Diablo series – you’ll be able to get started immediately. However, if you are familiar with RPG titles from even up to a decade or so before that modernized series, you’ll have even more of an advantage. There will be times when the many provided side-quests, such as exterminating roaches, provide an opportunity to grind and level up. Beware, this game is not very forgiving and will require a lot of attention to detail and eventually mastery of the game’s many ins and outs. Just be grateful you don’t have to control it all through typing text into a black and white screen and perhaps you’ll find yourself lost in the pure RPG gameplay aspects that are provided here in this dungeon crawling, mission sprawling action adventure game in isometric presentation.
I always think of the first character you’d make in a game like this as a doomed character required for getting you into the game as quickly as possible and then figuring out what you did wrong during character creation so that you can go back and make the perfect character later. In Eschalon: Book III those unfamiliar with the series, or even worse; RPG games overall, may find themselves creating a lot more than one doomed character before figuring out a good mix.
This title gets deeper and deeper as players expand their awareness of how attributes, skills, and various weapons / items interact with each other in the game. Moving on to magick user, ranger, healer, etc., and seeking advice on pairing skill slots with valuable useful skills you’ll need for any given character build can also greatly extend the replay value of this game.
The title provides a living and breathing world with so many inhabitants that are defined by such complex role playing game attribute systems that it almost feels like a fantasy / medieval warrior experience is taking place. This in addition to little things like the game’s vast Alchemy system (for potion making), Spellbook, ability to make camps, and its towns with inns, dungeons, weapon sellers, and a lot more are the icing on the cake for Escahlon: Book III which comes off as highly polished and striking a cord with fans of the genre who are looking for a fantasy game that makes sense.
The only potential downside I can see with this is that for many of its players the story-lines contained therein will be a bit of an afterthought and most of the focus will likely be spent on leveling up, grinding, and accumulating equipment / items within the gameworld. This is a testament to how well Eschalon: Book III does to provide a Roguelike RPG Sandbox environment, but some players won’t be used to such an absence of hand-holding in terms of the main narrative waiting for players to go to it instead of vice versa. That being said, there is a very nice story-line in place that is introduced with an emotional impact at the beginning of the game. This forms the creepy and mysterious, alien aura that sticks with players throughout the otherwise classical sword-and-magic fantasy-inspired experience.
The Final Verdict for Eschalon: Book III is don’t skip this one. RPG veterans will be pleased with the fresh experience, somewhat familiar gameplay, and extensively prepared final product allows the player to worry about just enjoying the game rather than dealing with bugs or design oversight. Escahlon: Book III is a game which players can sink tons of time into. If making characters in a Roguelike RPG that feels high tech, polished, and yet almost Retro at the same time sounds interesting to you then you should buy this game right now.
Pros and newcomers to the genre alike should experience Eschalon: Book III for the no-holds-barred, hardcore experience of the role playing game genre’s most core elements presented with modern and retro presentation combined.