Games of the Year

Encased: A Sci-Fi Post-Apocalyptic RPG

Encased: A Sci-Fi Post-Apocalyptic RPG Screenshot 1
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Encased is a tribute to “Roadside Picnic” and the original Fallout games. Fight enemies, explore anomalous wasteland, level up your character, join one of the forces in the ruined world in this new apocalyptic turn-based RPG. Encased is a turn-based sci-fi RPG. A game for those who love Fallout, Divinity: Original Sin, Wasteland and Shadowrun. Make decisions, fight, study anomalies, survive, craft and find equipment in the anomalous Zone under the Dome, cut off from the outside world.
Promote for 50G

Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous
Review from Steam

I write this review because others I’ve read don’t replicate my experience.
I recommend the Google Doc put together by Waladil here and this Steam post prior to starting a character. Hopefully with both you aren’t surprised by requirements for perks.
TLDR Conclusion
Setting, alternate methods for quest resolution, some encounters are good. Narrative was ok, but not fire. Unfortunately, the game incentivises you to do tedious activities to level up. If you can force yourself not to do them, or don’t care, the game could be for you.

Good Stuff
Choices
Dialogue options and skill checks will be available, or not, based on your skills, attributes, the ‘wing’ of CRONUS you chose in character creation, your faction reputation with the person you’re talking to and the dialogue itself. Most quests (possibly all) offer multiple ways to resolve them based on how you’ve built your character.
Setting
You play an employee of CRONUS, exploring “The Dome”, an area which (in the game’s universe) appeared around 1970 and contains inexplicable phenomena. It’s a unique setting.
Random Encounters
These encounters are the most interesting events in the game – even if a lot don’t award more than a narrative reward. You’ll get descriptions of weird environmental phenomena and events.
Side Quests
Mostly pretty interesting – find someone’s torn off leg or hunt for a chess game. Unfortunately, to access them you need to travel the entire overland map or talk to every NPC in every ‘city area’. This design will certainly see those who aren’t interested in exploring everywhere miss out on good content.
Pacifism
I believe you can play the game without killing anything.
Average Stuff
Narrative
An event occurs and you try and deal with it. This resolution doesn’t explain the event but instead focuses on how the various factions can use it to benefit.
The denouement of the narrative fell pretty flat; resolving the mystery would have been better.
Companions
Outside of initial meetings, companions don’t really offer much in the way of dialogue. Companion pathing is awful. Anticipate them to be precisely where you don’t want them.
Factions
You need a ‘thing' from each faction which involves going to their area, finding the relevant ‘faction head’ and asking them for it. Their chains usually involve a couple of quests, about half of which are banal. That’s about it for ‘connecting to a faction’; the rest of the inhabitants could be people from anywhere, and a few merchants.
Combat
Combat is turn based - you generate action points, move and attack, so does the enemy. Someone dies. Non-fatal weapons exist, but they’re pretty pointless. You can combine the stealth system and quiet weapons to avoid turn based combat.
Stealth and Crime
You activate stealth mode. NPCs get two concentric circles – a white and a red. Outside of the white, they can’t see you at all. Inside of the white, they’ll see you if you leave stealth mode. Inside of the red, they’ll see you if your stealth timer runs out. Your stealth timer lasts a number of seconds determined by your “Criminal” stat.
When you’re in stealth you can also pick pockets – the value you can take off any person is determined by your “Criminal” stat, now they’ll look for you for a few hours, and you can’t pick them again for a few days. “Criminal” stat also determines the highest value lock you can pick.
It’s hard to imagine playing this game without taking Criminal skill.
Money
One option is to play the game on easy mode – pick the pocket of merchants (and NPCs). Alternatively, don’t take Criminal and be strapped for cash the entire game. It feels like the developers assumed everyone would invest in Criminal.
The Bad
Experience and Learnability
Experience is generated from many sources. The problem is how these things are valued. Quests and combat (i.e. ‘playing the game’) generate comparatively little – finding hidden things on a map, or discovering expensive shoes in a box can produce heaps.
This incentivises you to maximise experience doing the most banal activities – such as opening every container on a map, or scanning every possible thing.
This is compounded by Learnability. Learnability effectively operates as a multiplier to experience generated, and comes from a mix of attributes, armour worn, perks and skills. Relevantly, in the Criminal skill tree you can generate Learnability when you’re stealthed.
When you’re stealthed, you move slower. Despite this, you’re likely to find yourself stealthing for hours across a map, opening boxes (and praying they aren’t locked, which will slow the process down) to generate experience. This isn’t the only ‘edge case’ for learnability.
Containers
The experience problem is made worse by the way the developers have placed containers.
Holding alt reveals most (but not always all) containers on the map. Because loot is randomly generated, any could hold something worth hundreds of currency and thousands of experience... or nothing at all.
A single building, on one decent-sized city map, could hold twenty or thirty containers. Your character has to walk to each container to open it and, if you’re lucky, perform an animation. If you’re unlucky there’s a search bar as well. If you’re really unlucky, it’s locked and you have to pick the lock.
Having picked the lock and waited for the search bar, there’s still no guarantee you find anything.
So because any container could contain epic pants or a fantastic relic, you open everything... while stealthed... in power armour... because those things maximise the Learnability, and therefore the experience, you get if you open a container and find a pair of orange boots.
There are likely thousands of containers in the game, and the loot/experience economy of the game commends itself to opening all of them.
Loot
99% of loot is random.
Expect to spend hours opening boxes to find nothing of any gameplay value, but you’ll keep doing it because the system incentivises it for experience earning.
Level Scaling
The game has some pretty mad level scaling.
Outside of scripted encounters, enemies level with you and so do merchants. You won’t find any level 10 weapons in a store at level 1, and everyone will sell them by level 40. Not-for-nothing, this also renders the crafting system almost pointless.
Perks
You earn one perk point every three levels. One of the perks drops this to a perk point every two levels. That, and several other perks, vastly outclass the majority of perk options.
This is one problem with the system – some perks are useless (faster fatigue recovery when sleeping) and others a no-brainer selection (more skill points every level). This makes early perks feel like less of a choice and more of an obviously optimal path.
Additionally, there are perks which don’t function as their text appears to suggest; several add benefits only to your companions, not the main character, even though the text would suggest otherwise and you won’t know this unless you manually check to see if the stat increased.
Finally, prerequisites for perks sometimes seem arbitrary. For example, a perk that adds to ‘psionics damage’ needs “Muscle”, as well as “Psyche” even though “Muscle” adds very little to a psionics build and would be sensibly a dump stat.
No Respec
The game contains no respec method, which is an egregious failure given perks rely on arbitrary attribute allocation that can’t be reset after creation.

Review from Steam

"This is it! The return to classic CRPGs in the best traditions of Fallout and Fallout 2, but with modern interface and QoL, that will give older gamers what they have been missing and teach the newer generations what made those old games so damn good! Why aren't you already playing this?!..."
...Is what I had hoped I would be saying.
The game does not live up to that level of hype, but so long as you manage your expectations, it is still a good game worth the price. And while I must voice a number of caveats, it still gets my strong recommendation.
Encased is a modern isometric CRPG that is very much in the style of classic games, particularly Fallout 2. It presents us with an alternate-history, post-apocalyptic setting, only this time it is the 70's (and the 70's trappings are rather minimal) and the apocalypse is localized. The rest of the world may be plodding along just fine... although the lack of communication from the outside pushes many to question if things might actually be far worse out there.
Your choices when interacting with NPCs can affect not only the current quest but faction relations and the end of the story. Attributes, skills and companion choices will unlock extra options during NPC interactions and the CYOA-style random encounters. Choosing those options can produce results that are significantly better or dramatically worse than the more generic choices.
Exploration is key. And frankly, the Criminal skill is king. There are few places you can't go or situations you can't handle through stealth and lockpicking (which may be the single useful skill). I love the pickpocketing system. No RNG to determine success. If you have the skill and the level in Criminal needed for your target, you can pickpocket them. How much you can steal is limited by your Criminal rating and perks. Furthermore, you gain experience for exploration, skill use and even looting. (I gained far more from plundering than I did from combat!)
You have to explore. There are no quest markers. Listen to the NPCs to know what to do. Some quests may require reading the instructions on machinery or paying close attention to environmental elements. Finding side quests requires talking to people and getting to know the area. The game does not hold your hand. Nobody has an exclamation point floating above their heads.
Chargen involves a lot of tough choices. Character appearance, however, is not one of those. You will see your character model from above, behind and at a distance. So don't stress that your character model looks absolutely nothing like their portrait. Chose your portrait wisely as it represents you in almost every interaction. The game distinguishes itself early by allowing you to upload a portrait of your choice if you don't want to use one of those provided. I admit the first hour of my playtime was spent looking through my art collection for a face with the look and attitude I wanted.
During character gen, you will also choose your Wing and a Trait (if any). Wing is less like a character class as it is a starting package, and the starting bonuses are not character defining. However, your Wing will significantly affect your interaction with many NPCs, give you extra options and can even open up or lock you out of the rare minor side quest. Traits are special perks that have a positive and negative. You only get one. There are many to choose from. Three are solid choices and the rest will cripple you in one way or another. Choose wisely.
I was surprised to learn that after character creation, you will not be raising your attributes. Your initial choices will lock you out of a LOT of options, particularly regarding perk choices. And unlike skills, the game does not give you a look at the perks and their requirements during character gen. So look the perk list up online or you will be going in blind.
On that note, I must voice the first of my caveats: the game has poor documentation. I found the quest log to be mediocre. The game's Discord is barely responsive and the wiki is a ghost town. I attribute the latter to a player base that is far smaller than this game deserves. Seriously, more people need to be playing this awesome game.
Combat is unusually basic for a modern game. Combat is turn-based and sight lines are vital, but there is no cover system. Non-lethal combat options exist, but instead of offering immediate incapacitation, they deplete the enemy's Fatigue bar, which is often more robust than their hit points. You will fight a lot of giant cockroaches. But the game makes up for that with some of its the more interesting enemies, like mechanized hyenas and robo-children.
The companions are a wonderful. I loved whenever my companions would unlock alternate ways to complete objectives. Additionally, they lend their attributes and skills. One of my companions did not stat-dump Psyche, and I had her teleporting me about the map.
Sadly, companions also have some issues. One quest to gain a companion requires fighting the companion and will glitch if you use non-lethal attacks as the game intends you to go lethal and then have her revived. Likewise, one of my companions is over half a dozen levels behind me because of a bug relating to their starting XP. Companions will level but gain only a fraction of the skill points their character sheets say they will and allocate them in less than optimal ways. With these issues, most of your companions' improvement will come from you outfitting them and upgrading their unique weapons. Which, by the way, are awesome.
There are other issues. There are bugs. There are misspellings. Several of the perks have misleading or erroneous text (such as Talented Instructor and Team Mascot which, despite what they say, only give their bonuses to your companions). Many abilites that you will unlock as you advance are useless. The entire Piloting skill can be avoided unless you want to play with Servoshells, the game's version of power armor. You will eventually get a vehicle to use as a mobile base which doesn't require the piloting skill level associated with its vehicle type. Where it exists, the voice acting is usually very strong (I particularly loved the cadence and enunciation of the narrator) although there are a few wince-worthy exceptions. Unfortunately, only the prologue and main quest line gets vocal attention.
However, while the bugs and issues can be frustrating, they do not significantly impact the enjoyment of the game. Especially if you come into the game with expectations based on this being the first game of a small independent group of developers. Be ready for and accepting of the quality that should be expected for that kind of game, and Encased will meet and exceed your expectations.
I haven't yet finished the game, but it has already given me several times my money's worth, and has been the most engrossing CRPG that I have played in over a decade.
That said, there is once final caveat that I must express: the game is definitely frontloaded. The most lavish content is in the first "half" of the game. The new areas opened up in the second half lack the level of content, NPCs and quests that the first half happily drowned me in. That is only a small damper on my enthusiasm, but it is enough that I cannot proclaim that quote at the beginning of this review.

Review from Steam

"You stare at the rock, and the rock stares at you. It feels like love, and now you have a silent little friend who will travel with you everywhere.”
Encased represents a turn-based role-playing game (RPG), developed by the company Dark Crystal Games and published by the company Prime Matter.
Pros & cons:
++ Explore the mysterious wasteland within the Dome with up to two charismatic companions that will comment on your every action. Or, do a pacifist run with ≤ 2 intelligence and relish how every character reacts to you in a unique way, while the universe bends to your will in order to protect your spotless mind. One scientist even gave me bonbons for each finished experiment, she was very nice to me.

+ Solid character progression with badass endgame abilities. Fascinating locations encourage exploration, curiosity is rewarded, and the perception attribute defines the chance to discover secrets. Good balance between loot found and items purchased. Tactics difficulty satisfies the needs of hardcore players.
o The story has its high and lows, but I disagree with the advertised emphasis on storybuilding, where the player’s decisions affect the rest of the gameplay. Instead, your influence and fate of the various factions are summarized in form a slide show during the epilogue. Somehow, I miss the classic showdown.
- Inventory management can be frustrating due to incorrect stacking of items and lack of automatic alignment features.
Summary:
Despite being the first game of the developer Dark Crystal they have surprised me with their level of quality, especially in regards to a playthrough with a low intelligence character. I consider it a hidden gem.
Recommended for connoisseurs of a low INT run.
Achievements:
Estimated time for 100% completion: +50 hours
Singleplayer achievements: 47
Multiplayer achievements: none

Review from Steam

READ FIRST, NOT A FULL ENDORSEMENT
Encased is an RPG where you run alone or with up to two companions. You find yourself under a massive dome that is threatened by a Psi-Storm and have to save the day. The story and overall design reminds of RPGs like Fallout, with elements (artifacts, anomalies, bolts used to determine where the anomalies are) of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. / the novel "Wayside Picknick".
There are no character classes in Encased, but different wings of the Cronus Corporation, of which you have to choose one. Each wing provides you with a different set of advantages and disadvantages, factually creating an alternative form of character classes.
The problem with that is that if you actually create your own character, some of the most valuable perks later in the game may be completely out of range for the rest of the game. Which is the reason I started over completely. So check the perks list beforehand and adjust your character accordingly. Yeah, I know that is not it is supposed to work, but this is how the game works here.
Encased is a prime example why I prefer to play without companions. Companion behaviour most of the time is really ruining the fun - companions run back and forth b/c someone/something is obstructing their path, alering enemies, setting of mines/anomalies, ruining stealth approaches, standing in the way of the main character.
You cannot modify you companions´ skills, just equip them - although they too seem to level up.
Stealth and detection are also a huge problem. B/c companion behaviour was so bad, I parked my two morons somewhere else on the map and went alone exploring and pillaging. Nobody had seen me, but my reappropriation of stuff alerted some NPCs. Suddenly one of my companions was arrested for something I did half a map away.
Quest tracking is also a very frustrating problem, as you have to pierce together from the description in the quest log what to do next. That would not be so much of a problem, if the description was complete, which it isn´t at times. For example: You find quest item in soandso´s office. It does not state where the office is.
And in Encased you have very, very large maps and places with multiple levels of large maps. And you have a fog of war type of mechanism that prevents you to check the extra large map wheter your questgiver is here or not. So... happy searching your ass off...
Inventory is another mess. Like in Diablo you have a box that appears in some of the maps and allows you to stash stuff. So far, so good. You cannot just look into your box with your companion and pick equipment. You have to transfer stuff from the box into inventory, then you can choose equipment for your companion. Very clumsy and time consuming.
Another issue in the category is that you cannot properly organize your stuff. Any DIY organization is deleted once you close the box again. Also, too many item classes are in the same category - especially clothing and artifacts. Having more categories would really help.

Weapons - Encased has a lot of them - with different damage types to battle different enemies. Using the wrong type on an enemy may not only inflict no damage (not a little bit, we´re talking absolute 0) or even heal the target. All weapons have a malfuction rate of 1% or so - which is quite misleading, as pistols and rifles malfuction all the time. Very, very frustrating.
Weapon upgrades are costly in materials, so you have to pick a set and stick to it. Testing the various weapons at higher level is not really an option.
What really pissed me off, however, is that I upgraded an assault rifle to lvl 10, was delighted to see that an underbarrel grenade launcher appeared on the model (and in the description) and then found out there was no way to fire said grenade launcher. Great.
As you can see, Encased has a number of really frustrating problems. Which is why I give it a
6/10 - barely recommendable (get on special sale)
Please note: If this was not in Early Access and produced by a AAA Studio etc., this game would absolutely not be recommendable. Encased is, apart from the problems mentioned, a solid RPG.

Review from Steam

(NOTE: Recommendation is not unreserved)
Encased is one half of of one of the best games ever.
Act 1 is utterly brilliant. It's everything that a revival of the isometric RPG would want to be. It's the Fallout 3 that fans of Fallouts 1 and 2 wanted, it is damn near perfect. An interesting system powering everything with twists on how builds work that encourages you to play interesting characters over middle-of-the-road 'safe' choices, a fun combat system, and incredibly deep reactivity. Every corner has some brilliant quest, every NPC something unique about them, and throught it all you constantly have choices to make, unique strategies to pursue, and things to explore. The companions are great and promise great things adventuring with them.
Then you complete the first act and the game just sort of... stops. What used to be incredibly intricate becomes bland and threadbare, what used to offer options, offers none. From one point in the main story one of the best classic RPGs ever, becomes a tedious paint-by-numbers exercise.
Why is this review still a 'recommend?' The game absolutely does not stick the landing. In fact, I'd not recommend beating the game at all. The reason that it is still a recommend despite this horrible problem is that the point where the game becomes a mediocre-to-bad slog is some thirty hours or so in and those thirty hours are going to be exquisite fun, If you are willing to just stop the game when it is no longer fun and abandon it midway in order to get about thirty hours or so in a classic RPG in the vein of Fallout, then Encased is absolutely worth a purchase.

Review from Steam

This is a late-90s style isometric post-apocalyptic RPG about looting. That's what you spend the vast majority of your time doing, holding left alt to highlight and comb through containers, occasionally broken by the need to unlock one. You must loot, because you need to check for better equipment, hidden plot items, often-rare crafting materials, and xp. Combat has an interesting system, but the time spent doing so is small in comparison. The story is an interesting concept, and often well-written, although it doesn't present nearly as many branching paths for quests as that one late-90s isometric post-apoc game that it is clearly trying to evoke (and the stats are even in the same special order, if you catch my drift, but with Psyche added for some psionic play.)
Ultimately the game is full of systems, relationships, and structures that were never allowed to blossom into their full potential. However, it's engaging and probably worth your time if you can tolerate the packratting and inventory management.
After beating the game for the first time, I was prepared to give this a neutral-ish review until I, an inveterate achievement hunter, decided to make a low-IQ character.
Then I found out where all the effort had gone.
See, Encased is not one story, but two stories wearing one giant trench coat. When you play a fool, you lose the ability to behave normally, and the narrative transforms into a bittersweet, magical story of ice skating, somersaults, hugs, and acting like a kitty. This story is rarely at the expense of the fool, as they navigate the world breaking social norms and tearing down the barriers erected by the convolutions of society. They expose the folly of civilization, for who better than a fool to unmask the fool within us all?

Review from Steam

So, all in all i like this game. I tried it, because lot of ppl here compared it to the old Fallout games. I must say, that this comparison hurts Encased more than it helps it int he end.
Game mechanics are more complex than Fallout and that is mostly a good thing i would say. What is my beef with this game - and i realize its exactly because of that Fallout comparison - the game absolutely lacks that great dark humour of the Fallout games.
Sure, the game had its great moments and well written pieces, but it feels all so very generic while speech was the best skill to get fun out of the fallout games because of dialogue options that were just fun, here you get option to "convince him that he should do X" and then you get the mention "Using your great oratory skills, you convinced him that its better for him if he helps you with this."
And thats all the fun you get out of the dialogues. Not to be too crtitical responses from NPCs are sometimes good and funny... and also actually written.
But all in all, i would say the game is definitely worth your time and money (especially if you got it on sale like me). And if you don't go in expecting the kind of Fallout experience i did, you will probably enjoy it very much.

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