Eschalon: Book I
Description official description
Eschalon: Book I is the first title in a planned series of independently developed RPG games. According to the developer, it is a faithful follower of classic RPG series like Wizardry, Might & Magic, or Ultima.
The game is turn-based, with the outcome of every action determined by the character's stats. Those are aided by different skills that involve combat proficiency with various weapons, thieving skills, magic abilities and non-combat skills like cartography (affects the quality of the automap feature), lore or mercantile. The world is open from the very beginning, with nothing but overpowering monsters and thugs preventing the player from going wherever he pleases.
The story finds the player in an abandoned building in the ransacked village of Elderhollow, suffering from a memory loss and with a short note instructing him what to do next. In time, he finds out that he is located in the eastern province of Eschalon, Thaermore, which is currently torn apart by war with a mysterious underworld race of creatures bearing a strong resemblance to dwarves. The passage to the west was closed by the Eschalon ruler, so all the people left in the province now have to care for themselves. A series of notes and instructions brings the player closer to the truth about his origin and his role in the current conflict.
Credits (Windows version)
38 People (26 developers, 12 thanks) · View all
|Title Theme and Select Music|
|Mac Hardware Donation|
|[ full credits ]|
Average score: 69% (based on 12 ratings)
Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 26 ratings with 3 reviews)
The best moments of playing this game were the first: Your character creation screen lets you customize every part of the character - you can add up to almost twenty different skills, manage eight attributes and even choose your hero's religious outlook. While dice-based attribute allocation can be annoying, there is a certain nostalgia value to this feature that throws me back to the days of Baldur's Gate. In fact, there are quite a few points of resemblance between this game and the old Black Isle games, because the isometric view and the multiple skill selection brought to my mind the first Fallout games. The many reviews that called this a "return to classical RPG" raised my expectations further...
...only to have them fall, crushing down, on the jugged rocks of reality.
If it weren't for the indie community hype, I would have been slightly more generous to this game:
It has decent graphics, a fairly large world to explore with dungeons, forests and deserts, a small (but good) selection of magical equipment and (unlike any classical RPG) I didn't experience any bugs.
The game has traps and puzzles, and although they are fairly simplistic they add quite a bit to the gameplay, especially if you wish to play in iron-man style (no reloading, if you die you restart). The same goes for randomized items (almost all drops and almost all chests and containers are random), which could make any two gameplays fairly different. On the other hand, you could abuse the reload feature and get the best possible items for your level (shops, drops and chests are mostly level dependent) to become a juggernaut of destruction.
None of the above, however, make this game any less boring.
The game has a childish plot with exactly one twist that you'll see coming a mile away. It has only three towns, very few side-quests and barely a handful of NPCs, and even they serve only as shops/trainers/healers. Your character has no personality of his own (and he's always a "he", choosing a gender is enabled in the next game - yes, they needed an extra game to implement that feature) - all the background choices you made at the start of the game serve only to give you some bonuses. All your interactions with NPCs (the few that you manage to find, that is) are limited to either accepting their quest and doing exactly as you're told or killing everyone and everything. In the world of Eschalon subtlety and multi-choiced approaches are non existent. Even after playing through the game and reading all it's books of lore (not that difficult as there are about five books that expand your knowledge of the game world, while all other books are either alchemy tomes or stat increases) I still know precious little about that world, nor do I care for any of its inhabitants. When all of your NPCs are either quest or item dispensers (with the exception of the inhabitants of the first town that at least try to educate you about the going-on in the world) there is nothing to immerse you in the game. Classical RPGs were classical because they had memorable characters - from cynical druids to flouting skulls, but Eschalon only has shop-boys and quest-girls.
The combat aspect doesn't compensate for the lack of a plot: While you can invest in many skills, in the end you will either be a sword/bow fighter (with a bit of casting) or an elementalist/divine caster. Both serve equally well because all enemies are practically the same melee opponent but with different stats. The game has only four non-melee monster types: one short-range spitter, one long-range archer, one long-range magical beast (that shoots magic beams instead of arrows) and one suicide bomber. Notice the lack of spell-casting foes - the game just couldn't be bothered to engineer an interesting confrontation.
You could have forgiven the poor opponent selection if the melee fights were any good, but they aren't. The game's turn system is completely unbalanced because any action - be it shooting or casting or hitting in melee - takes exactly one turn. This means that if in any moment the fight turns against you could simply bid your enemies farewell and march to the nearest exit, and they won't be able to do anything but follow you at a distance of exactly one square (or more, because some monster are slower than you, or the AI chooses a bad route). When you reach the exist to a safe area you can heal at your leisure (by walking to and fro until mana and/or health recharges because sleeping spawns more monsters) and then return to the previous area to kill some more. Even when the game forces you to stay and fight by closing your escape routes or flinging ranged opponents at you, you can still outmaneuver them with creative walking. Yes, "creative walking". It is as exciting as it sounds.
The game even ends (SPOILERS! ...of a sort) with insert-ending-here. When you reach the very end of the game you could either choose one dialog option and no fight to have one ending or choose another dialog option and a fight for a different ending. Thus lazily ending a lazy story. As long as you kill main baddie number so-and-so all your actions are excused and you can choose to be the great savior or the great traitor regardless of what happened so far.
The Bottom Line
If this game was trying to recreate the experience of classical RPGs it failed miserably. Even if it didn't, it's still a failure. Technically tolerable, but boring and unimaginative. If you want a good indie RPG you could check out Spiderweb games, but stay away from this game.
Windows · by Alex Z (1852) · 2013
I think the true sign of a really good game, no matter what genre, is when it keeps you thinking about it long after your play session is over. That is the one quality that I can attest to when playing Eschalon Book I, a game I have now completed three times in three different manners, and could easily give it another go without any hesitation.
Developed by Basilisk Games in 2007, this indie gem harkens back to the glory days of the early to mid 90’s computer role-playing game scene, where titles like Ultima Underworld, Betrayal at Krondor, and Dungeon Master were taking the genre into bold new directions.
You will play as a single character, ripe with a myriad of stats and skills that you alone decide upon, and how to advance. Presented in a isometric viewpoint, Eschalon will do very little in the way of hand holding, which will surely delight veterans of the genre, while introducing a newer generation of gamers to a RPG style that they probably won’t be too accustomed to.
The story of Eschalon revolves around your character, who awakens in a burned out house in a war torn and decimated city. You have no recollection of how you got here, or why, but it won’t take long before a mysterious letter sets the stage for a classic amnesia story that will take you across the vast terrain of the land of Theramore in search of your identity, and destiny, in a war torn land.
There is a slew of classic RPG features that genre fans will surely love: loads of number crunching, random dice rolls, extensive attention to detail, a open game world, moral choices, monsters that don’t auto-level, randomized loot, multiple endings, varied character builds, mature writing, and a balanced economy to name a few.
All of these features are wrapped up in a nice graphical package, with sleek animations and detailed sprites. For an indie game, Eschalon looks great, and has a great interface designed specifically with the PC in mind. The music is absolutely amazing and fits perfect for the games atmosphere. Although there is no voice acting, there are some well done sound effects and audio touches that really shine.
Combat in the game is handled in a turn based format, so as long as you don’t make a move, the computer won’t either. This gives the player ample opportunity to plan their attacks in a relaxed manner. You will see loads of detail during combat, with messages relaying your percent chance of hitting an opponent, damage messages, and resistance rolls.
There were a few small minor complaints I had with the game, mainly the characters walking speed. You will have to backtrack a lot in Eschalon, and there is no other form of travel except walking and quick travelling via landmarks. The problem is there are very few of these landmarks, and even when using them, you still will have to go on foot a lot. The walking speed isn’t horrible, but it could be a lot faster.
My other small gripe is with how empty the game world can feel at times. You will find yourself walking through vast grasslands of pure emptiness once all the monsters have been cleansed from an area. Almost everything is hand placed in the game, and the only way to grind out experience once you have completed all the games quests and monster encounters, is to make camp and hope for a random encounter, as that is the only place they happen.
Although the game had a nice ending, my only other small complaint is the fact that I wish I could keep playing once the game was over, going back and completing old quests and gaining more levels, but this is just a minor issue I had.
Overall, Eschalon is a rock solid indie RPG and should not be missed by veterans or newcomers of the genre. If you love computer role playing games, give Eschalon a try, it will give you a solid 15-20 hours of retro RPG goodness with a sleek, up to date look.
What else can RPG fans ask for?
The Bottom Line
Overall Score : B+
Windows · by Baxter Arnett (10) · 2013
Review Version: v1.0
Review Date: June 8, 2011
Review Length: 4 (four) pages.
Game Version: v1.04
Tech Specs Used: Intel Core 2 6300 1.86 Ghz CPU, 3 GB Memory, 512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 8500 GT Video Card.
Finished: Nope. Gave up.
Last time played: June, 2011.
Character Class: Agnostic Magic User.
Last Character Level: Level 8 (Artisan Initiate)
High hopes for a decent old skool RPG remake remain unfulfilled.
Role-playing games (RPGs) – the most problematic genre in the game industry.
I had high hopes for this game, I really did. In a modern gaming world where RPGs now are about everything else except character development; games where these RPGs are just a poor excuse to put statistics on the main character yet overshadowed by other gameplay elements, one would hope this developer, who brandishes itself focusing on classic RPGs, still remembered what RPGs were like and supposed to be.
These hopes were secure, in the beginning. Obvious from the opening intro...which was spot on in music and the overall epic-ness most RPGs in existence seem to lack: that aura of grandeur. After all, when we're talking about role-playing here, if you aren't pretending to be a hero that saves the world, anything less isn't really worth role-playing. So why do we role-play? Because none of us has the cahoona's to stand in front of a tank in Tienanmen Square, that's why.
Everything seemed perfect. The intro, the numerous help information. From a technical standpoint, the developer practically did everything (and more) that one could hope for.
Unfortunately, the perfection lasted about 10 minutes. Then came the gameplay...
Part I – Character Development
Mind you, this is only character development nerds understand.
- Dice Roll Character Development
Egad. I haven't even begun playing the game and they already had stuff that should've been kicked long ago from RPGs. One of the nightmares for character development junkies like myself is when you cannot attain the maximum bonuses available for a character...or you can, but attaining them is seriously straining. When creating a character, the player may role dice which results in random statistics between 7-14 for the character. This alone will take several minutes (or luck depending) an hour, just to get a character that has well-rounded and balanced stats. Seriously, this type of character creation is the most annoying of all character development. Why? Same reason why no one will probably play the character if he/she had 7-8 for all the statistics at the drop of a dice. You don't want a lousy character. You want the perfect character or at least good enough. So, it took me several, several minutes to find a character that had the most highest statistics available. Some classic RPGs helped the player a bit by allowing a save feature so the player could compare two stat results. This is as annoying as those RPGs that award the player with random hit points (HP) when the character levels up. Screwed when you get the lowest stat. Now I'm wondering if I increase my Endurance stat, whether or not the previous bonuses are added to my character when he levels up. Fortunately, I'm too old to care anymore. Already have enough stress issues to last me a lifetime.
- No Heads Up
Reminds me of
Fallout 3. Spent hours trying to figure out the most efficient character and the game ruins it by introducing items that screws up the character development plans. Same here. Apparently, the player may acquire books that when read will increase the skill by 2 points or if the skill does not exist, the character will acquire that skill. So what's the problem? The problem is, it takes 3 points to attain a skill manually via character creation or leveling up. So using books to attain skills is much more point efficient than spending points to attain a skill. Problem is, you didn't know this before (prompting me to restart). If they'd only make the equation the same, it'll solve the problem. Apparently no one thought that this was a big deal in character development. Later I got screwed again when I found out that you can purchase the Cartography skill when you've finished a certain sub-quest. It prompted me to restart yet again, since I already spent a lot of points for that skill when I could've spent it on something else.
Part II – Combat
RPGs without combat is like playing a console game without a controller. :p Seriously. Combat is the fundamental component that makes those character development statistics mean something. There is no point of a game being an RPG if you can whack all the monsters on the map on day one. This is the soul of RPGs: level up/gain skills and whack the dude that you couldn't whack before. Everything else is a hybrid element.
So, does this game succeed in creating a turn-based combat system? You tell me:
If it weren't for
Fallout, sound in RPGs would probably be something of an after thought. Apparently sound does greatly effect the level of enjoyment in gameplay (played Fallout without sound once...sucked big time). Sound effect in this game is pretty much top notch. Except one thing that eventually ruined it all. There are some sound effects that involve the player missing a hit. This involved a not so nice high-pitch sound of metal. When you continue to miss, this sound become oh, so, extremely annoying to the ears. I was once so frustrated at this high-pitch clanging that I had to turn off the audio, since apparently you can't kill the sound effect separately.
- Mathematical Algorithm Screw-Up
Admittedly, I have trouble counting past 10, but not so bad at math to notice that there is something wrong with the algorithms here. The hit/miss success rate in this game is identified by percentage rates. You would expect a higher percentage rate means a higher success rate. In this game, someone used a really bad calculator. I'll give you an example: Me: Chance to hit = 49%
Horny Monster: Chance to hit = 18% What's the result? Got my behind pwned by the horny monster...and this happens every time. Regardless of their percentage rates, monsters seem to be able to hit you without much difficulty. Whereas, you one the other hand, continuously miss, regardless of how high your percentage to hit is. Even more ironic, there is one skill called Dodge, which if it succeeds, will allow a 10% higher chance for you to hit the monster. In practice, 90% of the time, you don't hit that monster. So I'm at a 59% hit percentage and 90% of the time, I couldn't hit a tree standing still. On the other hand, pick locking a chest with only an 10% success rate, isn't that difficult. Usually doesn't take more than 5-10 tries.
- Looting and Random Items
Though not necessarily combat-related, items found are random, may it be in chests, barrels, or any other container. Problem is, a good percentage of the time, you come up with nothing or really bad stuff. Another problem is when killing an enemy, sometimes they drop stuff, sometimes they don't. Why the developers decided it's a more entertaining feature to randomly withhold rewards from the player is beyond my ability to comprehend.
Part III – Graphics
The overall graphics aren't really much of a problem. Quality speaking, it's a couple of notches better than earlier Fallout, Planescape Torment, where honestly the 2D graphics where one of the worst at the time.
The graphics of this game is noticeably better (though still outdated), though the graphics isn't really the problem. It's the interface. First thing that came to mind is that the character looks small. In fact, it's much smaller than those previous games I've mentioned. I subconsciously try to zoom-in and realize there isn't a zoom-in feature.
The reason why the character is a wee bit too small is probably because the interface takes up a lot of space. This problem would've been easily solved if the interface where smaller or if the game allowed a more free-camera perspective so the player could scroll around instead of the fixed-center view on the character.
Part IV – Plot Screw-Up
Play testing failed. Yes, it did. After restarting god knows how many time due to the character development efficiency issues, I got to the point where I was to discover the meaning of this mysteriously amulet by a non-player character (NPC) called Lilith. So, there was this one option where I could exit the dialog (where I could save my game first before the juicy bits) and continue the dialog later. When I re-entered the dialog... that option disappeared.
More or less after experiencing this, my reaction was something like this: %!%!$!^@$%
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, it's painfully obvious that the only part of old skool or classic RPGs in the developers mind is simply turn-based. Character development fails to follow less annoying and better examples. Combat is straining and tiresome. Quest and sub-plots are somewhat buggy here and there.
In overall, I give this game an overall bad score. Why? It was released in 2007. There are a ton of classic RPGs that the developers could imitate. Many of those games earned their status in as RPG gods because player found one or more of its features particularly attractive. None of those attractive features are found in this game. No specific uniqueness or a better version of an existing classic RPG makes this game worthy of mention.
Eventually, it's just a generic copy-cat of several classic RPGs, but not enough to warrant itself in distinction. At this point, the developers should really start re-thinking whether or not they realize what's so fascinating about classic RPGs. Whatever it is...it's not in this game.
Windows · by Indra was here (20633) · 2011
Related Sites +
Game Review: My Game Company
A review of Basilisk Games' <em>Eschalon: Book I</em> by Troy Hepfner (October, 2009).
The product page for <em>Eschalon: Book I</em> on Basilisk's website, which offers additional information, a downloadable demo, and an official trailer.
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Contributors to this Entry
Game added by St. Martyne.
Linux added by Iggi.
Additional contributors: Zeppin.
Game added September 11th, 2008. Last modified August 27th, 2023.