Yesterday I mentioned finishing Book One of Eschalon, and now that I’ve finished the game I want to write about it a bit more and also talk about its sequel.
I finished Book One with just over 20 hours players, which might seem a little short but felt right given the plot and pace of the game. I also did not explore every last area, which I believe would have added at least a few more hours to my total. I played a light armor wearing sword user, and only picked up magic at later stages of the game. Had I picked up magic earlier, especially the buff-heavy divination school, the overall challenge would have decreased by a noticeable amount, as spells like Bless are a huge power increase. That said, I felt the challenge of the game overall was solid, and with the ability to save and reload, you technically can overcome any obstacle with enough patience.
The main plot, start to finish, is very solid. It’s nothing earth-shattering in terms of originality, but it’s well written and contains just enough twists to remain interesting. Another thing I liked about the plot was that it never felt too heavy or forced. The updates you would get as you progress were generally short and to the point, while still containing a good amount of character and background about the world. Further detail get also be found in the various books you can find or buy in the world. The various side quests you can accept and complete also range from decent to great. One nice feature that made exploration rewarding was the fact that you could recover a ‘quest item’ ahead of time, and so when an NPC asks you to retrieve item X for them, you can tell them right away that you already have it and complete the quest. It’s really amazing that such a simple feature is ignored in so many game, be they MMO or otherwise, when it does so much to reward the explorer. Nothing made me happier then to finally have some random item I found a few hours ago turn up as a request by some NPC. This also gives the world a sense of ‘realism’, as quest items don’t magically pop up for you now that you have the quest, which I always found rather lame in other games. If while adventuring I come across a unique and giant skull, I should be able to pick it up and find someone who might be interested in it rather than just leave it be because I don’t have a specific task to grab it.
There are a few nagging issues with Book One that Book Two either fixes or makes a bit more manageable. For starters items in your inventory don’t auto-stack, which while not major does lead to a noticeable amount of extra clicking. Same goes for casting spells; you can’t do it with a sword/shield equipped, which means every time you buff you have to pull up the inventory, remove the sword/shield, cast all your spells, re-open the inventory and re-equip your gear. Annoying once, rather painful after the 100th battle. You also can’t hold a torch and shield at the same time, which makes sense, but it would be nice if the game auto-unequipped the shield for you rather than forcing you to do it yourself. Spells? You have to manually select the spell and its power every time, for every spells. In the beginning of the game this is hardly noticeable, but when you have 6-8 buff spells to cast before combat near the end of the game, each encounter is more setup than actual battle.
UI issues aside though, Eschalon Book One came out of nowhere for me and had me hooked for its duration, and just a few hours into Book Two I can tell I’m in for an even better overall experience. I would recommend everyone to play through Book One first however, because even though Book Two is a fresh start character-wise, it is a somewhat direct continuation of the story.
Chuck-o-the-day: Chuck Norris penned “If Your Happy and You Know it, Clap Your Hands” as a way to find victims.