Played Encased: A Sci-Fi Post-Apocalyptic RPG. Fallout on the sidelines

Played Encased: It just so happened that the first two parts of Fallout and the novel by the Strugatsky brothers "Roadside Picnic"  are some of my favorite works in their genres. Therefore, I am extremely wary of projects that publicly proclaim themselves the successors or spiritual heirs of these masterpieces; the set quality bar from such comparisons soars into the skies. The authors of Encased literally from the doorway declaring that their game is, no less, a "tribute" to both the original Fallout and the Strugatsky novel. Well, nobody pulled them by the tongue.

Fallout with bolts and memes

Played Encased: In the seventies of the last century, mankind finds the Dome - a mysterious multi-kilometer territory full of anomalies and artifacts, where there are traces of the presence of an extraterrestrial civilization. The opening of the Dome changes humanity for the better forever: wars and conflicts between countries are dying out, scientists from all over the world are uniting into influential conglomerates. However, the mysterious zone does not share its secrets for free - those who got inside at least once can no longer leave its limits. Therefore, at the beginning of the Encased events, the Dome is already well developed and populated. Under its arches, settlements and research bases are scattered everywhere, and everyone who wants to look at the wonder of the world with their own eyes undergoes a special selection and training. The player gets the role of one of these volunteers, but peacefully exploring artifacts and shooting giant insects will not work. The arrival of the protagonist coincides with the appearance of an unprecedented anomaly, the consequences of which will forever change not only the Dome but the whole world.

Encased's a desire to be the very "Russian Fallout" is noticeable at first glance. The turn-based combat system, the interface, the mood of ironic retro-futurism - at first, such associations are only good for the game. The character creation window that meets the player also evokes entirely positive emotions. Traits, skills, perks, features, the choice of backstory through the research "wing" for which the hero works - character development is really well executed here. In addition, there are plenty of other goodies in the role-playing system. So, for example, all skills are divided into combat and applied, while the latter has a fairly wide range of applications. A physician who knows well anatomy can not only mend wounds but also make good new ones in opponents with the help of something sharp,

However, my favorite role-playing mechanic in Encased is the "reverse" perks, which are unlocked as a reward, not for high stats, but, on the contrary, for extremely low stats. Have you created a character with zero charisma? Then you will have access to the "Ugly" perk, which gives a nice discount to all merchants in the game - because they want you to quickly get out of sight. Is the hero practically blind due to minimal attention? Get a bonus to automatic suppression shooting, since enemies are still out of sight.

The game around low characteristics greatly diversifies the role-playing, only the quests in Encased came out, frankly, uneven. For every interesting problem, there are easily two or three "go-talk-fetch" problems, without much attempt at originality. On the other hand, even the most trivial situations, as a rule, offer some kind of room for acting out and at least a little non-linearity. It is especially gratifying how much attention is paid to non-combat skills - applied knowledge does open up many alternative paths, so it is sheer pleasure to role-play a scientist here.
At least until it comes to battles. The problem is that the Encased combat system does not even reach the standards of the first Fallout. At first, everything looks promising: a huge arsenal of weapons and techniques, traps, gadgets, many unlockable abilities, and other attacks. Enemies are also not lagging behind and actively use almost as wide a range of opportunities that are available to the player, but all this works with grief in half. In most cases, opponents, including shooters and medics, who do not need this, try to come close to the player; those who did not have time to reach, will remain standing under bullets in full growth - there seems to be a system of shelters in the game, but there are animations for their use, as in the same XCOM, not. In general, AI ​​is so slow that battles feel much longer than they actually are.

Encased also suffers from balance issues. The explosion of a grenade and a punch with a fist here may well cause the same damage, and the enemies either issue several fatal crits in a row, then they just stand still, missing their turn for no reason. However, the biggest problem with combat is debuffs. Developers are very fond of (read, abuse) to throw negative effects on the player - they can easily be typed under several dozen. Fatigue, bleeding, poisoning, biological contamination, psi radiation, bad mood, a sense of doom, fragility, fragility, frailty, and the devil knows what else. Almost every enemy attack imposes some kind of penalty on the character, and the player rarely knows in advance what to expect from an already familiar enemy, because remembering his entire arsenal is not so easy. By themselves, debuffs are rather annoying, rather than represent a real threat, but there is simply no reliable way to defend against them in the game. Therefore, in battles, you often have to control a slightly "alien" character - with noticeably weakened characteristics and five or six allergies.
As a result, the battles look downright ridiculous and feel worse. Opponents behave inappropriately, complexity often depends on chance, and all tactical potential is broken into the only correct strategy "constantly retreat and don't let the debuffs finish you off." Fortunately, violence can be avoided, but only if the developers have thought out a workaround in advance for a specific situation - stealth in Encased works purely nominally. Enemies cannot be manipulated in any way, but sometimes they do not notice the character literally point-blank, especially if they do not become impudent and do not stand right under their noses.

Identity crisis

Played Encased:  Similar claims can be made for many other Encased elements. For example, the game has something like power armor from the same Fallout, but for some reason, the suit does not give any noticeable advantages. Or the elements of survival: the character needs to be fed and watered, and the use of skills accumulates fatigue, an excess of which can easily lead to death. But there is no real threat of exhaustion in the game since supplies are lying around at every turn, but still, the player will have to regularly dive into the jungle of an inconvenient, cumbersome interface to check the character's needs.

Encased seems to generally confuse hardcore with banal hostility towards the player. The lion's share of the used items will forever remain a dead weight in the inventory, simply because the game does not explain exactly how they work. Searches for passwords and key cards alternate with quests, where, in principle, it is not clear what needs to be done. There is no need to hope for the help of the diary: the main character may literally not write down the current goal in it, but he will heartily heap a useless literary text. This approach hardly adds real complexity to the game, but it succeeds in catching up with longing.
Of course, Fallout also had a lot of technical and gameplay problems at one time. Such games often have to forgive a lot of mistakes for the sake of an interesting story and a curious world, but Encased here shows itself extremely contradictory. The main plot intrigue works well: to understand what is happening and find out what the Dome really is, and really exciting. But to uncover these secrets, you have to digest a lot of boring terms, lessons of in-game history, and plot nonsense like hitmen (how can we do without them in Russian science fiction), hallucinations, thought forms, and other absurdities. As befits a story-driven role-playing game, Encased has a lot of texts, and some of them turned out to be really great - a caustic satire on loading screens, funny descriptions of objects, sometimes touching, memorable dialogues. Unfortunately, the rest of the texts were supposedly written by another, much less talented person who made a sea of ​​stylistic mistakes. The characters' speech is replete with phraseological units, templates, sudden outpourings, and inappropriate obscenities, and the script is full of excessive descriptions of facial expressions and gestures. Because of this, some of the dialogues came out at times unbearable, and in contrast to the truly successful, this is especially disappointing.

A similar moment has to do with humor and references. Encased has some really funny jokes and subtle references, but the writers rely too much on quantity over quality - at least not among the latter. Literally in the first ten minutes, the game manages to present a dozen of the most transparent references to STALKER"The Night Watch " and the Evangelion anime, a mountain of Internet memes, and even a candy "Rachok". And that's just what I was able to notice. If the first time such jokes cause laughter, and the second time - a smile, then for the tenth time you even get tired of rolling your eyes. After all, behind all references and borrowings, there is a fatal flaw in Encased - the absence of its own face and charisma. The game is sorely lacking in personality and distinctive features. Fallout or STALKER can be recognized by one look at, say, Vault-Boy or some bloodsuckers, and Encased does not have its own style or identity at all. Humor and homages to timeless classics are great, but they won't go far alone.

Played Encased:  There is no doubt that the developers really want to make “that” ideal RPG of dreams - at least the one that they imagine. All aspects of Encased were clearly worked on with great diligence: this can be seen both in the amount of content and in the variety of mechanics. But efforts alone, as you know, are not enough. Is Encased worthy of comparing itself with Fallout and the work of the Strugatskys? Perhaps this is not so important. Among the domestic audience, there is obviously a request for games of this kind - about survival, about artifacts, about you and me. There are always few such games, and they are ready to forgive a lot, as Fallout and STALKER were forgiven in their time. Will popular love win against Encased's shortcomings? We will find out very soon - the release of the game is scheduled for September this year.

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