Eschalon: Book I PC

User Score
7.5

Generally favorable reviews- based on 58 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 39 out of 58
  2. Negative: 8 out of 58

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  1. BernieC
    Feb 13, 2009
    9
    Over a year after creating my first character in the land of Thaermore, I finally got around to completing the game. Granted, I have ADHD (if you believe in that sort of thing) and am easily distracted by things that are shiny, but I did finish it. Thus, I felt it necessary to share my opinions with everyone else, regardless of whether or not everyone else wishes to know them. Without Over a year after creating my first character in the land of Thaermore, I finally got around to completing the game. Granted, I have ADHD (if you believe in that sort of thing) and am easily distracted by things that are shiny, but I did finish it. Thus, I felt it necessary to share my opinions with everyone else, regardless of whether or not everyone else wishes to know them. Without further ado.... 1. Character Creation Ah, this brings back memories. Whether it be playing the old D&D based computer games or even some classic tabletop action, part of the fun was rolling the stats and deciding exactly what kind of character you wanted to portray. After spending far too much time re-rolling the dice, I finally settled on a Druidic Rogue of Nor'lander origin. I would have spent far less time re-rolling stats if there was an option to swap stats around, but it's a minor nitpick. My only real gripe with the whole Character Creation concept is the classes. They seem like almost an afterthought, with the inclusion of a single free skill. With the availability of trainers and books to learn the same skills, what's the point? If Eschalon is suppose to be a skill based RPG, why not just allow players to pick one free skill and do away with the whole Class option? You can include the class in with the Title, based on the starting skills. Either that or the classes should have more to differentiate them such as more starting skills or class-exclusive abilities. 2. Gameplay In total, I spent 22.5 hours on a single playthrough with my Rogue. Of course, this is not counting reloads for silly deaths and my initial re-rolling of chests to obtain decent starting equipment (yes, it's evil, but there's good reason... read on...). I particularly like the initial starting storyline for the game... waking up in a destroyed village with no memory of who you are and nothing but a note to put all your trust in... classic stuff for sure. The entire storyline itself is fairly straightforward... offering just enough to keep you going to the next point in your quest. I would have liked to see more sidequests and more fleshing out of some of the townspeople, but I won't beat the developers up too much on their first go-round. I'm big on exploration in an RPG, so much time was spent wandering around, searching every nook and cranny to make sure I get all the loot and find possible secrets. Eschalon delivers in part on this aspect, with chests planted in obscure locations throughout the land. Unfortunately, the "hidden" chests are based on the same random loot table as the rest of the game, so I have every bit of a chance at getting that elusive Adamantine Great Sword +4 as I do the not so elusive tuber. This makes one less interested in exploring the game and more inclined to just plow through the main story. Then you run into the problem of needing to flesh out the story to keep people interested in completing the game. There seemed to be a bit of imbalance to the development of your character as well. If you didn't max out a combat skill at the creation of your character, initial progression could be quite difficult. That being said, by the middle of the game I was far too overpowered. Once I hit around level 10, I was a force to be reckoned with. When I reached the end of the game, it was far too easy. I was quite disappointed with how much of a pushover Gramuk ended up being, and obtaining the Destroyer ending was cake. My Rogue had a 98% chance to hit anything, and at most anything had a 19% chance to hit him. This is before any buffing, of course. It appears Alchemy is a big part of this imbalance.... with all my armor enchanted my AC was pretty much doubled. Combine that with Haste III, Healing III and Demon oil III... no wonder I was unstoppable. It's not that I needed alchemy to breeze through the ending, it just made it that much faster. The enemies you encounter fit well with their locations. It was nice to not have a rat be your first encounter for a change.... I am hoping to see a larger variety with Book II, and so far it looks like Basilisk is going to deliver. 3. Graphics While simple in nature, the graphics in this game are incredibly well done. Everything blends together nicely, be it the background tiles, the lighting effects, or the simple graphic for the apple in your inventory. Other "new-old-school rpgs" I've seen/played seem to have difficulty with this concept. One of the most notable examples in my opinion is the Spiderweb games. The characters don't seem to fit the surroundings that they're in. It's like one guy did the background tiles, another guy did the characters, and they never talked to each other or compared notes. None of that is a problem in Eschalon. The only real gripe I have graphics-wise is the fixed resolution. Ok, well maybe two gripes, but they're related. The low resolution of Book I makes it a pain in the rear to run in a window on my laptop; it has a 15" screen with a 1600x1200 resolution. It scales pretty well in full screen, but then the other "gripe" comes into play... the HUD. It's huge! It effectively reduces the actual gameplay area to ~ 570x456. It'd be nice to see a more streamlined interface, something along the lines of.... say Pool of Radiance. If it could be shrunk down, maybe some alpha blending thrown in... or have the ability to toggle it on/off. I'd just like to see more of the world of Eschalon, and less of the interface. Is that too much to ask for?? 4. Sound Don't really have much to say here... ambient sounds are nice, creature sounds are normal fare, not really looking for an ear feast with this kind of game. I suppose there could be some improvement in the battle sounds, and it wouldn't hurt to have some voice-overs here and there with NPCs. Hopefully there will be some good ambient sounds in Book II in regards to the weather effects; thunder, rain, wind, and all that jazz will be something to look forward to. On a whole, the audio was pretty average. 5. Overall - a.k.a. Fun Factor Overall I enjoyed playing through Book I. Sure there were some gripes, but they were mostly minor and likely to be addressed in Book II. In the end, it made for a nice nostalgic romp through a fantasy setting. It made me bust out some other old-school rpgs just to play through them again, and maybe actually finish them this time around. Upon finishing the game, my initial response was.... "That's it? I'm done already?? Wait... there's gotta be more!!" While partially a letdown, it was also partly a sign of solid game design. With the understanding that the game has been designed as a trilogy, the shortness of the game isn't such a big deal. In the end I don't think it will be a huge issue as Book II appears to be shaping up as a larger, more involved experience. The Setup Pros: + Character Creation is fun. + Story is enough to keep you going, even if a bit on the thin side. + Graphics are top notch for the game type. + Lots of places to explore and a decent amount of "secrets" + Overall enjoyable experience. Cons: - Short. Too short. Need more story and sidequests. - Treasure/Loot system needs balance. - Character Skills, Classes, and Leveling need balance. - Resolution/HUD needs streamlining. More game, less HUD!! The Knockdown I give it a final Score of 90%. It has some marks against it, but nothing drastic that will take away from the overall experience. Of course, this is scoring the game based on the fact that it is an old school RPG, not comparing it to new-type games like some of the crititcs have wrongly done. If you're looking for this type of game, then Eschalon: Book I will deliver. I have great expectations for Book II. Expand
  2. Dec 14, 2011
    10
    It pains me to see people hate on this game for being "old school" This is how a true rpg should be done, Turn based so you can do it at your own pace wether iti be fast or slow, I thurally enjoyed playing though Eschalon Book I and look forward to play Book 2, the story is a bit bland if you may. But its good enough to keep you going. The graphics may look a little outdated but they fitIt pains me to see people hate on this game for being "old school" This is how a true rpg should be done, Turn based so you can do it at your own pace wether iti be fast or slow, I thurally enjoyed playing though Eschalon Book I and look forward to play Book 2, the story is a bit bland if you may. But its good enough to keep you going. The graphics may look a little outdated but they fit everything else extremely well, the sound is mediocre. The looting system was a big Minus for me, considering its completely random so i have about as big of a chance of getting a great and getting a health potion. Overall this game is an absolute blast to play and i can easily recommend this game to anyone who likes old school RPG's, If you dont like old school rpg's you should give this game a try anyways. Its a good game to get into the genre in. Overall i would give it a 9.5 but i cant so it gets a 10 on metacritic. Expand
  3. DominicF
    Apr 17, 2009
    9
    This is a great game! Whereas new RPG's rely on flashy graphics and special effects to give appeal, old style RPG's had a different approach. Old style RPG's, that were good, always included great stories, FANTASTIC music, and memorable characters to make the games what they were. If that old style appeals to you this game will be right up your alley.
  4. C.J.D.
    Jan 20, 2008
    9
    A well-crafted game with a decent but immersive storyline that feels like an old-school cRPG.
  5. BebopB
    Mar 31, 2009
    8
    Yeah its old fashon.. and somites i asked me while playing "what are you doing here? good old stuff? just play baldursgate again.." and there it was.. again .. the good old stuff is just old and it had been played so many times.. eschalon is something good old but new , because i, and you have never played it before. It is a good old rpg. Have fun with it.
  6. Oct 3, 2013
    8
    Got this on GoG and have to say I've enjoyed it. It's only $5.99. I think ti's a good value for people who might like this kind of game and can stomach 2d-isometric on a modern computer system.

    The list below is not exhaustive, but it's my best attempt in the given time. Things I liked: - A map in my inventory (that I have to click to open) and no gps. I didn't like the mini-map as
    Got this on GoG and have to say I've enjoyed it. It's only $5.99. I think ti's a good value for people who might like this kind of game and can stomach 2d-isometric on a modern computer system.

    The list below is not exhaustive, but it's my best attempt in the given time.

    Things I liked:
    - A map in my inventory (that I have to click to open) and no gps. I didn't like the mini-map as much as the map in my inventory, but it was at least tied to a skill and, early on, looks like a map I might draw myself. However, I think mini-maps make me look at them more than the actual world which is usually a turn off. Generally, I like to feel like I'm earning an understanding of the geography and locations.

    - Stat system: this game has one. While I am not a fan of heavy use of numbers in games, I am a fan of an underlying system in the game that the player has to understand to fully exploit and I don't think every player should be equally well at understanding it. Maybe I feel this way because so many games that have simplified their skill systems (and thus cut away many of the numbers) are also very linear and cut and dry in most cases, unless you actively try to make the game hard yourself.

    - Inns and a resting mechanism tied to a survival skill. I like these. The inns are kind of expensive, but I used them once or twice just because I kept having to kill things that spawned when resting in the wild. If you catch a disease, inns can be an easier way to regain your hitpoints and mana. This can be a good way to restore yourself if you can't afford or don't have the means to cure a disease.

    - Quick travel to places you've already been to. Is a nice feature and not something unknown to old school RPGs. Daggerfall, for example, had a quick travel option.

    - Crisp graphics: 800x600 resolution. They're 2d-isometric, but much easier on the eyes than old school rpgs which tended to be 3d and pixelated. Animations are good.

    - More combat-oriented than quest-oriented. Yes, there're a lot of quests and they're relatively easy to do and they grant you a lot of experience and gold, but make no mistake, this game as at least as much or more about its exploration and combat. Many games I've played focus so much on quests that it feels like all I'm doing is reading stuff and not actually making tactical choices in a fast(er) paced environment. It's kind of like the distinction between Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale. Icewind Dale was much more combat-oriented and tighter in its implementation, so its combat was numerous and stricter. Baldur's Gate, by contrast, had much more character depth and things to read or listen to.

    - I'm sure I could list many other things, but I'll end with: traps and diseases and poisons and lockpicking, hidden things (the game rewards you for exploring, not just putting points into Spot Hidden), lots of opportunities to escape certain death by using potions or zoning out or using the terrain to exploit the ai-pathfinding, you can specialize or diversify and I myself prefer to diversity so I'm not stuck using only a couple skills, never have too much money and always feel the need to stay alert for new (and old) opportunities to gain gold, can train skills as you level up and by paying non-players, quest non-players can die and will attack enemies but you can still loot anything that drops,...

    Things I didn't like:
    - Automatic skills, like Spot Hidden. It makes you feel like the character is doing the investigating and you're the one sitting in the audience, not participating. Granted, most skills have a high amount of abstractness, but oftentimes I felt like Spot Hidden did its work without me.
    - Help information is stuck inside the character editor and you can't access it without either leveling up or creating a new character. With a game like Eschalon, you need help information to make good choices, since it's a game more reliant on the numbers you choose to increase.
    - Keymapping is fixed, so you're stuck with what they give you.
    - Inventory and Equipping are in separate windows.
    - You have to open a window and click a couple times to change which spell you use.
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  7. Mar 15, 2015
    8
    Very enjoyable title! Understand that this is a fairly direct game insofar as story, mechanics, and tactics. It's more about playing through the game using a character design you find enjoyable. It's easy to mix and match skills to get pretty unique character builds, and it can be fun to play through the game multiple times to see how other builds will fare. In short, think of EschalonVery enjoyable title! Understand that this is a fairly direct game insofar as story, mechanics, and tactics. It's more about playing through the game using a character design you find enjoyable. It's easy to mix and match skills to get pretty unique character builds, and it can be fun to play through the game multiple times to see how other builds will fare. In short, think of Eschalon as: The Elder Scrolls meets the D&D Goldbox Series, presented in the style of a graphical roguelike. [Comparing this game to Diablo (as many have done) is a fallacy of reasoning. The ONLY similarity is the isometric view of the game world. The focus and gameplay are completely different.]

    Like old-school RPGs, selecting a good mix of skills and specializing is necessary, as characters that focus on more than 3-5 skills will wind up hope hopelessly nerfed at higher levels. The turn-based nature of the game works brilliantly -- offering unlimited time to consider the best course of action and examine your surroundings. While mechanics are fairly straightforward, there are plenty of options offered by different spells, weapon damage types, potion effects, and environmental advantages (like a heavy iron portcullis in a narrow choke point or a conveniently placed barrel of black powder).

    Difficulty can be up there, especially early on, and the game world follows suit with that old-school formula of areas geared towards certain experience levels. Grinding is not really necessary, but it helps sometimes to get an edge or squeeze out that next level. The game uses an RNG that is absolutely granting NPCs all sorts of bonuses to attack, critical chance, damage, and defense. Normally, this is not too much of a problem, but it can occasionally result in far too many "cheap" deaths. Be prepared to save and reload ad-nauseam during certain sections. On the whole, it's a shorter game (about 30 hours or so), but it offers a pretty engaging world to explore and a significant amount of replay value.

    If you are someone who associates role-playing with "X = attack... Y = power attack..." Eschalon is probably not going to be your thing.

    If you are a fan of older games like The Curse of the Azure Bonds, Ultima, or The Magic Candle, you should feel right at home here!
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  8. Aug 23, 2016
    8
    As a long-time fan of RPGs of all sorts, this one turned out to be a hidden gem in the turn-based realm (well, I think round-based would be more accurate...every step/action advances the world around you). This game is certainly a homage to the classics with nods of nostalgia. Moreover, this game does what it attempts to do really well, and provides you with a deep experience with plentyAs a long-time fan of RPGs of all sorts, this one turned out to be a hidden gem in the turn-based realm (well, I think round-based would be more accurate...every step/action advances the world around you). This game is certainly a homage to the classics with nods of nostalgia. Moreover, this game does what it attempts to do really well, and provides you with a deep experience with plenty of open-ended decisions to make and careful balancing of levels and skills. There is a general feeling of individuality that grips you as you step through this world with little more than a simple soundtrack and sound effects, but that becomes its charm and helps to establish this lonely journey of discovery that your character is forced to traverse. Expand
Metascore
75

Generally favorable reviews - based on 4 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 4
  2. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. PC Format
    73
    The production values are far higher than many rivals, and anyone looking back fondly on the RPGs of yesteryear will soon be sucked in. [Feb 2008, p.115]
  2. Pelit (Finland)
    84
    A very nice surprise. In this age of good looking, but simplistic and short, easy games a touch of classic role-playing was really refreshing. I hope to see the remaining Books, too. [Jan 2008]
  3. Despite the many warts, Eschalon is not without charm, as this game would have been an award-winning achievement in 1986 or so. Everything is done well, for that era, but, much like steam locomotives, I’m just not convinced this style really works nowadays.