Eschalon Book I: First Impressions

 By Shamus Jan 10, 2008 60 comments

Thomas Riegsecker recently provided me with a copy of Eschalon: Book I for review. I realize this makes me dangerously close to something like a mainstream game reviewer / journalist. Note that I don’t plan on acting like a reviewer anytime soon. I’m not going to assign points or give thumbs up / down or any of that nonsense. I’m still going to review the game by analyzing the gameplay mechanics and doing a little armchair game design. (Much easier and safer than real game design, I’m sure.) You’ll have to work out for yourself if it’s something you might want to play. In fact, given that this is an indie title and the author of the game is familiar with my site, I might be even more obsessive than usual. You’ve been warned.

Eschalon: Book I is from Basilisk Games, a developer of old-school style RPG games. The about page sums up their gameplay philosophy with this:

Single player. Turn based. Stat heavy. Story driven.

These are either magic words for you or they aren’t. As graphics have evolved, big-name developers have all but abandoned the old turn-based formulas. If you want an RPG which focuses on strategy in combat instead of reflexes, you either have to check out indie titles or play a ten-year-old game. Some have that real-time / turn-based hybrid gameplay you see in KOTOR or Final Fantasy XII, but for a game that will let you ponder your move without a timer (like in a tabletop game) you need to go back a few years.

Stat-heavy games are, for better or worse, getting rare. A game with heavy stats is able to offer more depth and more replay, at the expense of alienating a good segment of the already-niche RPG demographic. I love them, but they seem to be unpopular. Most developers are favoring the minimalist approach to character building. Oblivion is the only big-title game I’ve played recently with real number-crunching depth behind it, and in that game the whole system was rendered nearly pointless by the auto-leveling monsters.

So Eschalon: Book I is a rare breed of game in this day and age. It revisits gameplay mechanics which have been slowly supplanted or abandoned over the last decade or so. If you’re nostalgic for the old days or want to see what you missed, this is a pretty good example of what RPG’s were like before polygons ruled the world.

Character creation begins, surprisingly enough, with the character creation screen:

eschalon_character_sheet.jpg

The attribute points are set with an interesting blend of dice roll and point-buy. You have eight attributes in all. Strength, Dexterity, Perception, Wisdom, etc. All attributes start with a random value between 7 and 14, and you are then given 15 extra points to spread around as you see fit. There’s nothing really wrong with this system if you’re a normal person, but if you’re like me the dice roll demands that you sit there and pound away at it until you get a “good” set of initial values. There are 88 possible combinations, so the odds of getting all 14′s is only 1 in 16,777,216. Assuming you click once every second, you should hit the magic combination in about 194 days, assuming you never stop to rest. I did manage to stop clicking after a while and live with something less than all 14′s, but you must understand that doing so required an act of willpower on my part.

There are five races (all human) for you to choose from, five outlooks (mostly dealing with religion and philosophy) and five character classes. This offers a nice variety of choices to serve as a starting point, although they don’t really restrict you in the long run. If you choose the “Nefarious” axiom you’re still free to run around helping NPC’s for altruistic reasons if you like. Fighters can acquire skills in magic if they want to.

Like Oblivion, Morrowwind, and Fallout, most of your success in the game is dependant not on your attributes, but on the skills you’ve mastered. There are 24 in all, from Swords to Elemental Magic to Lockpicking. Note that while you start out with certain skills, you’re free to pick up new ones any time you level up. This means that you’re pretty much free to make up your own character class if you want, although this freedom does mean it’s possible to cripple your character in the long run. On my first play-through I was a fighter with a bunch of rogue skills. These extra skills spread my skill points too thin, and I ended up with a guy who was mediocre at a lot of things instead of great at a few things. This made the game really hard, and I was obliged to abandon that character and begin again. The game expects and even demands a little min-maxing, so if you want to explore all the different skills you’re going to have to play through the game more than once.

I seem to have lost all of my memories! The only thing I can remember is... playing about a hundred other games that start out just like this one.
I seem to have lost all of my memories! The only thing I can remember is... playing about a hundred other games that start out just like this one.
The game begins in the old-school tradition of your character waking up in a strange place to find he has lost all of his memories. RPG players have been down this road many times in the past, but if you’re going to play an old-school RPG you may as well embrace the old-school storytelling. The amnesia thing here is not a hindrance, not a crutch, and in fact it ends up being integral to the plot and not just a device to ease you into the gameworld. Right from the start you’ve got an anonymous benefactor leaving you cryptic notes and enough questions to compel you to get out there and find some answers. The answers come in time, although this wouldn’t be an RPG if finding the answers didn’t mean doing some sidequests for the locals.

The game offers a little freeform fun as well. You can, if you like, begin wandering around the map at random. (It’s big.) This will probably lead to your death early on, but the important thing is that there aren’t any dang plot doors keeping you out. You can also murder and steal in towns, assuming you’ve got the desire and the might to do so. It’s not really of any great benefit to go around offing people (a little short-term monetary gain at the expense of not being able to interact with the person in the future) but I like that the game allows you to do so anyway.


20202060 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.


  1. Grue says:

    Thanks for the first part of the review. We can read reviews of the big games from any number of sites, but you’re doing us a huge service if you can review more good games that don’t get press coverage. Of course, I enjoy your big game reviews too, and that lets us calibrate your reviewing style.

  2. Ozy says:

    The “outlooks” are a little odd, since they make you choose between beliefs (atheistic, druidic, agnostic) and moral outlook (virtuous, nefarious). It’s like asking, “Do you generally go out of your way or put yourself at risk for the sake of others, or do you accept the Axiom of Choice when creating set-theory proofs?”

  3. GWvsJohn says:

    Virtuous and Nefarious could represent a “good” and and “evil” god and then the 5 choices make sense.

  4. Henebry says:

    Interesting. And for once a game that plays on a Mac. Think I’ll give it a try.

  5. Avaz says:

    Interestingly, these past couple days, I’ve had a hankering to play Fallout 2 again. The problem with that is that an 800×600 game with no resolution options doesn’t look right on a widescreen monitor (which is why I abandoned it again), and I know that’s what I have to look forward to – a distorted screen, and frustration from not being able to see everything properly, which will lead me to abandon the game once more.

    Now, though, it seems I have another option to satisfy my stat-craving. Thanks Shamus :)

  6. Nathan says:

    I beta tested this game for Linux (it works wonderfully). It was refreshing to see a game run natively on Windows, Mac, and Linux boxen. It will be interesting to see where you get with the review.

  7. Telas says:

    System Requirements:
    OS: Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, Vista // MacOS X 10.3.9 or higher
    Hardware: 1.8 GHz processor // 256 MB RAM (512 recommended) // 3D accelerated graphics card.

    Wow, that is old-school! Never thought I’d see another game that runs on Win98 with 256 MB. :)

    Seriously, this looks like a fun game in the niche market that I used to love… I’ll have to get the demo and see if the love is still there.

  8. Gahaz says:

    I am not in love with how small the game is. The game window is rather small and I keep running into issues or just clicking on things because they are so small. And when your inside the dungeon areas, the overhanging walls that the genre has to deal with blocks so many switches and doors and that cuts an already hard to click item in half.

  9. Deoxy says:

    Looks good – I get that particular itch from time to time, and it is indeed hard to scratch with anything remotely “new”.

    However, I’m broke at the moment, and Battle for Wesnoth is both free and open source, and since I get the “make stuff better” itch, too, it’s what I’m going with for a while.

    But I hope to remember this one when I have some money again… assuming that ever happens. Sigh.

  10. Melfina the Blue says:

    Ooh, a new game to try (if I ever manage to play anything other than lotro).
    I loved the stat heavy games, and wouldn’t have heard of this unless you reviewed it.
    Thanks!

  11. Jeff says:

    My biggest, and only real complaint with this game is the speed.

    In that you can’t set an animation speed, so your character slowly treks his way around. As I’m one of those people who want the entirety of the map revealed, I’d guess at least 25% of my total playtime came from backtracking.

    I saw a lot of complaints about the speed, but what every response to detractors seem to be missing is that the complaints aren’t about speed in relation to the world (trying to move faster than the other characters, rather than 1 move = 1 move, although because of animation speed you can deny characters actions) but the realtime speed of the world itself.

    An enjoyable game, nonetheless. I kind of miss detailed item descriptions though, especially as I’m now playing through Nethergate Resurrection.

    Avaz: Practically all modern-day video card drivers allow for selection of aspect ratio and stretching when the native resolution is not used. So for example, a 1280×800 screen, when displaying 800×600, can either stretch it to 1280×800, letterbox it to 800×600 with black borders, or stretch while maintaining aspect ratio to 1024×768, or even to 1060×795, again with black borders on the side. You should look into it.

    Deoxy: I very much wanted to convert Wesnoth into a D&D type game, but lost interest before I even started.

  12. Avaz says:

    Jeff: I’m not entirely sure that the video card is the culprit in this case. Fallout 2 does not have the option to play windowed, nor can you change the default 800×600 resolution. What happens is that the game switches to full screen and strtches it out accordingly; I can’t stand that.

    I also cannot find a workaround, other than messing with the monitor’s horizontal/vertical stretching options manually. And even then, it still doesn’t scale correctly. :(

    Also, I’m not terribly computer savvy, and could be completely wrong. *shrug* :)

  13. Hal says:

    This game, in both look and feel, really reminds me of another series of games made by an Indy game company. The graphics on that one were slightly less polished, but the general view and style and gameplay mechanics were the same.

    I’d love to tell you the name of the games and the company, but for the life of me it’s just not coming to me. The game centers around summoning creatures, if it helps at all.

  14. Gahaz says:

    I an stretch the window all I want, it just looks worse lol.

  15. Snook says:

    Now I need to check this out… Thankfully there is a demo!

  16. AngiePen says:

    I love old-school RPGs and this one looks very interesting. Dashing off to try. :)

    Angie

  17. Althanis says:

    My interest is piqued! I must pick this up when I’m not at work. =)

  18. David says:

    My experience with rolling up my character was very similar to yours. In the end I settled with a roll that was entirely in the 12-14 bracket.

    My biggest problem with the game thus far is that it encourages the obsessive in me. Once I realized that random loot is rolled up whenever I opened a container, I found myself obsessively reloading and opening the same container over and over and over until I got the good stuff.

    Still, it’s a fun game. And using the powder kegs to kill tough boss monsters reminds me of Ultima. :D

  19. Fruitbane says:

    Older school RPG style games aren’t dead, they’ve just moved into the smaller developer space. Spiderweb Software creates lots of these kinds of games and has been doing it for many years. I’ve never played them, however a friend of mine was an addict.

  20. Jadawin says:

    Avaz,

    I recently figured out how to run Fallout 1 windowed, but I can’t remember what I did and it’s at home. I bet whatever I did could be applied to other games as well. If you want to email me at my username at gmail dot com to remind me, I will try to figure it out tonight and let you know how I did it.

  21. Davesnot says:

    All this talk of old-school, stat-heavy, turn-based… I continue to be baffled at those who haven’t returned to Neverwinter Nights (1) .. it has had 5-years of patches and development.. has a method to create your own games and content.. DM them if you wish… older graphics that run well on what are now older machines..

    If mult-player isn’t your wish.. there are THOUSANDs of single-player mods.. and there is a method to sort out the dogs from the gems..

    It’s just funny to me how everyone just goes looking for someone to reinvent things… rather than go back and take a second look at something… I guess you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

  22. Kameron says:

    While I might try the demo, I’m afraid the price is a bit prohibitive, and I have a hard time believing they’ll sell enough units at that price to break even. Considering I can pick up many classic RPGs from the 80s for free on abandonware, or get Fallout and its contemporaries on ebay for $5-$9, shelling out nearly $30 for a game that is graphically inferior doesn’t make sense.

  23. Ryan says:

    Thanks for this review, Shamus. I just saw Eschalon Book I mentioned at rampant coyote yesterday, and I was planning on perusing the Eschalon site today to get more details.

    Looks very interesting. Based on the review, I’m definitely going to check it out.

    Thanks!

  24. Hal says:

    Fruitbane, you’re awesome. Geneforge is the series I was thinking of.

    I only played the demo of #2, but it was really good. The demos are huge, and they only give you a fraction of the game. I like Spiderweb software (even if their graphics ARE old school).

  25. maehara says:

    Mac-compatible, and a demo version to boot. Count me in. I like slow & stat-heavy.

    Will be curiously watching for further installments of your review, though.

  26. Ian says:

    Avaz: Generally, the only output devices that video cards will let you change the scaling settings on will be digital flat panels (connected to the DVI port) and laptop displays. Both ATI and nVidia drivers have options to change that. If your monitor is connected to an analog VGA port, you’re out of luck. :( Otherwise, take a look through your configuration.

  27. Whiner says:

    While I might try the demo, I’m afraid the price is a bit prohibitive, and I have a hard time believing they’ll sell enough units at that price to break even. Considering I can pick up many classic RPGs from the 80s for free on abandonware, or get Fallout and its contemporaries on ebay for $5-$9, shelling out nearly $30 for a game that is graphically inferior doesn’t make sense.

    On the one hand, I agree – I’d have bought it if it were $20, at $30 it’s still in my ‘maybe someday’ category.

    On the other hand, you can’t seriously expect a newbie company to get started and fund itself selling games for $5. If you insist on buying only the old cheap favorites, you greatly increase the probability that there will never be anything BUT those old favorites to buy. :) (That is, if you want new games to be made, it helps to ensure that people can afford to make them.)

  28. Cineris says:

    Agreed on the price issue — I probably would have bought this for $10 on the spot, but the price point it’s at makes it more of a wait and see. Understandably, you want to make some profit off of your game, but everyone who’s a potential customer is weighing the price of your game against all the other ones out there.

    @Davesnot: I think people are not including Neverwinter Nights in consideration for old-school, turn based RPGs because NWN is more like modern Final Fantasy games with a pseudo turn based system. In my own particular case I’d also say that I’m not particularly interested in playing d20 on the computer. Not only is d20 not my ideal system for a computer simulation, but d20 is also well-trod ground. I think it’d be a bit silly to ignore that a lot of the appeal of crunch-heavy games is learning the system and maximizing your character in it.

  29. Davesnot says:

    @Cineris… I’ve heard NWN is “psuedo” turn-based before.. But nobody has explained it to me.. From what I understand, actions are performed in an initiative order, etc.. ..and you can pause it.. so reaction time isn’t important..

    I guess I see a lot of people basing their opinions on the buggy initial offering that NWN released.. I find it a good way (via Neverwinter Connections) to Roleplay when you don’t have time or a group for a PnP game…

    And with lots of custom stuff.. including new character classes.. there is plenty of opportunity to min-max.. though, I personally don’t like that aspect of character building.. I like quirks and weaknesses.. Truely great characters are defined by their weaknesses (“Why’d it have to be snakes!).. their weaknesses throw their strengths into a brighter light.

  30. Chris says:

    “though, I personally don’t like that aspect of character building.. I like quirks and weaknesses.. Truely great characters are defined by their weaknesses (”Why’d it have to be snakes!).. their weaknesses throw their strengths into a brighter light.”

    But isn’t that where roleplaying comes in? It’s hard to even see Indy’s fear of snakes as a mechanical issue in character building…that, or else he makes his Will save to do whatever has to be done with snakes pretty easily. Flaws and fears like that are often best roleplayed out, and when you min-max creatively and roleplay the “min” part out right, you can have some amazingly interesting characters.

  31. J says:

    “Random” is a dirty word to me. Random stats? Lost half an hour rerolling. Random loot? Lost 2 minutes per chest. Are the leveling up stats random too? Because for me, that is a dealbreaker.

    I like stat crunching like any other nerd. But this kind of timesink is one I swore to avoid after NWN and KOTOR 2. I’m not going to pay full price for any game that subjects me to that.

  32. guy says:

    I’ve heard good things about this one from the rampant coyote. speaking of games i’ve heard of from there, you should try depths of peril. just make sure you don’t leave the depths boss monsters alone too long if you don’t want the town bombarded.

    @davesnot: i’ve seen stuff sort of like that before. things are in realtime, but attacks that have been ordered take place at intervals in initiative order.

  33. Kameron says:

    @Whiner: Nah, I don’t expect $5, but somewhere close to $15 would probably be more palatable and still give the company a profit margin.

    @Davesnot: NWN, like the Infinity Engine games before it, fire off the actions in the queue every 6 seconds (or whatever the time limit per turn is), unless you pause the game. So, some reaction reflex is required to pause. True turn-based engines stop the action until you end your turn. I personally don’t mind the way NWN handles turns, though I admit I’m never entirely sure when my turn is ended or the opponent’s has started. It makes it a little harder to calculate when your action will resolve.

  34. Davesnot says:

    @Kameron:

    It makes it a little harder to calculate when your action will resolve.

    Yeah.. I guess… and guy’s thing about reactions I suppose is valid.. though, hitting the space bar is pretty easy.. but.. yeah.. it’s hard to tell when your turn starts and ends..

    But.. isn’t that a problem with PnP RPGing.. not the knowing when it starts (DM: “New Round”).. but the argument of how much one can really pack into the 6-second/ten-second/one-minute/etc turn/round time.. I mean.. it kinda needs to be fudged a bit (and argued about).. and since the DM is always right.. well.. I guess I don’t mind trusting the computer to be fair.. maybe not right.. but fair.

    Anyway.. I like the idea that this game Shamus is talking about is free-form.. I like designers that let you mess with the world at your own peril.. though, I hope if you go around killing random folk that someone starts to take notice and sends out a cop..

    Now then.. I had something else to say.. but I just woke up after being hit in the head and can’t seem to remember anything… sounds like it’s adventure time!

  35. Mistwraithe says:

    Bah. I wrote a whole post out and forgot to enter the anti-spam word so I got “computer says no”. Then I went back to fix and the post text had disappeared!

    Can Shamus change the interface to remember the text if you get the d20 wrong? (I’m using Firefox 2.0.0.11) Or failing that to check whether it has been entered before the page is left?

    Going to go and sulk now! ;-)

  36. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    Or,you can try opera which is better than FF,and it remembers the text if you do that thing(it happened to me numerous times,and the text was always there)*shameless marketing grin*

  37. J says:

    Obligatory browser evangelism: Oh hell yes, Opera does remember that. So much better than Firefox. /troll

  38. TheDeepDark says:

    Opera? Should I have heard of this thing? ‘Cuz I admit I haven’t.

  39. Robert says:

    I’m going to download the demo but to be honest I don’t think I’ll be willing to shell out $30 for the game. Sure it’s probably worth it but…meh.

  40. J says:

    ~1% market share browser. Small, powerful and fast.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opera_(web_browser)

    While fully compliant with all sorts of official web standards (for those that care about such things), many websites are unfortunately built to IE or FF “standards” instead.

    The Wii’s Internet Channel is based on Opera.

  41. MaxEd says:

    Despite the fact that I live in Russia and we’re not used to pay more than 10$ for ANY game here, I’ve still bought Eschalon (download only – I have no need and no place for any more discs!). I like it much more than Spiderweb games, and I hope that second Book would be even better… But it’s still 12-18 months away, according to official forum.

  42. Denzine says:

    I noticed someone mentioned having trouble running Fallout, and one of you mentioned ‘windowed’, so here’s a handy-dandy link.

    Fallout 1 & 2 engine tweaks. The main features are:

    * Increase movement and combat speed to up to 10x normal.
    * Play fallout in a window or in 16 bit colour mode
    * Use d3d9 in place of the usual ddraw
    * Use the mouse scroll wheel in the inventory, barter, conversation and save/load menus.
    * Assign a use to the middle mouse button, and adjust mouse sensitivity beyond fallouts normal range
    * Adjust or remove the 13 year time limit
    * Fixes the broken pathfinder and sharpshooter perks
    * Adds some additional script functions for modders to use

    It’s good stuff.

  43. josh says:

    There comes a time in a game designer’s life when he/she starts paying more attention to the gameplay that a game encourages. And when that gameplay is pathological, you work to find solutions.

    Re-rolling stats isn’t fun for most people. Yet, they don’t want a wimpy character. Since you can’t force players to accept the first random set of stats, you should do something else – such as limit the sum of all points, so that rerolling doesn’t do any good.

    The same goes for the chests. If you save/reload/reopen a chest, you can get better loot. This cycle is not good gameplay, and a game designer should ensure that it won’t pay off.

    Eschalon: Book 1 is a fun game with some interesting features, but its design, along with its graphics, is not at all impressive. I actually explored most of the demo territory, and created three characters, but in the end, decided not to buy it.

  44. Denzine says:

    josh: If you’re talking about simply placing a maximum value, that doesn’t help things for the people who would be forced to re-roll due to horrible stats. A minimum would be better. Then again, if the minimum currently possible can still beat the game with a little thought, what argument for the reduction or removal of randomization is left?

    I fail to see why I should be disallowed randomization because Shamus can’t help but click a button 30 or 40 times. Or the freedom to do so myself should I feel like it. I also strongly disagree with the idea that because something is possible it forces a player to do it and thus lowers their gameplay experience.

  45. Nyxia says:

    It sounds somewhat like Temple of Elemental Evil (an older D&D based game), just a little more evolved. I could see myself playing this game in the near future, seeing as I’ve run out of people to play D&D with =(
    Thanks Shamus

  46. Henebry says:

    Wasted most of yesterday playing, and managed to complete a few quests and level up ~ 5 times. Now I’m stuck—I can’t get into the inner crypt or (in a different sidequest) into the inner chamber where the mithril must be. It was fun, though as a “Conjuror” with little melee ability I spent a lot of time on guerilla tactics: running away and then walking around in the wilderness to recover mana before making another strategic strike. This got a bit boring.

    The game reminded me a lot of Pillars of Garendall, right down to the giant acid grubs that you’re supposed to retrieve as a sidequest (another one I’ve not yet figured out). This may be a case of direct influence, but it might suggest a common ancestor (I’ve not played enough RPGs of this kind to know). The big difference between this game and PoG is the interface: PoG wasn’t strictly turn-based, so if you did nothing the monster would obliterate you. I like the turn-base mechanism, but find it often drains the suspense.

    The game ran fast enough except in towns, where it slowed to a crawl. I’m on a Mac, and I’ve heard that the Mac’s Open GL is a lot less efficient than Windows’ Direct X. The odd thing is that flipping from millions to thousands of colors had absolutely NO effect on the game speed, so the slowness I’m encountering is probably not a graphics card issue.

    At any rate, today I need to reclaim my life. So, goodbye Eschalon, at least for this month.

    Shamus, I don’t know how you manage to keep up your punishing gaming life, along with holding down a job, having a family, pumping out your flooded garage, etc.

  47. Deoxy says:

    Jeff: “I very much wanted to convert Wesnoth into a D&D type game, but lost interest before I even started.”

    It’s already been done (largely) – User Made Content includes several “RPG” style games, where you only have one unit (or sometimes a few) with no recruiting, shops to buy weapons and armor, etc. It’s pretty spiffy.

    Oh, and Firefox generally DOES remember the text (just had it happen to me) – occasionally, it doesn’t, and I don’t know why, and it’s annoying, but it’s pretty rare.

  48. william says:

    anybody here heard of Dwarf Fortress?

  49. Varil says:

    ;) Heh. As far as ASCII games go, DF is really, really reknown. I wonder if more people know about it than Angband or similar roguelikes?

    As for Eschalon…what a coincidence! “Single player. Turn based. Stat heavy. Story driven.” *are* my magic words! Though…I admit, a multi-player element is always welcome. What’s more fun than killing a dragon? Killing one with a buddy! (Which almost always devolves into “AHHHHH RUN AWAYYYYYYY” while the healthier/more competent/bolder[read: arrogant/careless/crazy] of the two beats it up before the bait dies.)

  50. Jeff says:

    Avaz:
    Ian’s a bit more technical, and I’m not qualified to comment on his comment, but essentially the software doesn’t really set resolution or stretch, that’s the job of the graphics card or monitor. With CRTs, the monitor is the thing that tries to fit things on screen. With LCDs, because each pixel is fixed, the drivers tell it what to display.

    In the case of LCDs, different graphics cards and drivers will allow you to set aspect ratio and things like how to set up stretching (I once tried BG2 on a 1280×1024 screen without stretching… man was that tiny). With CRTs, the drivers can still have an effect by tricking the monitor into thinking it’s showing something else.

  51. Josh says:

    Denzine: I was talking about a set value, not a maximum. I definitely stated that incorrectly. There should be a value – something like 10 per stat, possibly with modifiers for race – and the points get distributed. Maybe a random distribution, at first, to make it interesting, but then the player could redistribute them (within limits). Thus, there would be no “re-rolling” at all.

  52. Denzine says:

    Josh: To repost: I disagree with the idea that because something is possible it forces a player to do it and thus lowers their gameplay experience.

    To rephrase: I disagree with your reasoning. Because some players choose to spend time re-rolling, it does not mean being able to re-roll is bad or detrimental to anyone’s experience at all.

  53. Varil says:

    Complete randomizing is bad in most games, since that experiences the same problems Shamus experienced in this one. But some randomizing can help keep things suprising. Is your wizard this game carrying a wand of megadeath or a staff of superknowitall?

  54. josh says:

    Denzine: I suppose we’ll have to disagree then. I believe that limitations are integral to the design of any game, and how a game designer sets boundaries is one of the most important ways that you communicate with players. If I allow a player to reroll hundreds of times looking for a high-stat character, I’m saying that individuals are generally worthless, and you need a born hero to get anything done. (Each reroll represents a rejected candidate.) If I put up clusters of trees that you can just walk through, I’m saying that the environment is just a painting and doesn’t really matter.

    I am an advocate for freedom and open gameplay – for example, FFVII was only *just* open enough for me, and most of the rest of the series is too much “on the rails”. Yet, complete freedom in a game is worthless. It means that the game designers were lazy or just didn’t have time to make something worth playing. They’ve offloaded more work to the player than they should have.

    I’ll accept that rerolling is run and rewarding for certain individuals, such as yourself. And if I were making a game and severely short on time, such a system might in fact be left in. But I’d never consider it a “good” product.

  55. scragar says:

    @ Telas : Those min requirements are higher than they need to be, I’m playing it perfectly fine in full screen resolution on my old computer with 16 colours(1.2 Ghz CPU, instead of the recomended 1.8, and my graphics card doesn’t support 3d acceleration :P).

    Recently downloaded and tried the demo, asides from being a little slow I do have to say I’m enjoying it so far.

  56. Alex says:

    The speed of walking is really a deal-breaker for me. I’m going to download the demo and try again, but the first time around I nearly pulled my hair out. It’s like playing the original Diablo again after getting used to running around in Diablo II, or playing old King’s Quest games without the run option…just too painfully slow.
    The difference with other old-school games is that a lot of them were turn-based through and through, meaning the player could control how quickly his characters took steps. Something like Etrian Odyssey which animates each step the char takes is still better for me because I have some control in how fast they take those steps, even though the end result is probably about the same speed.

  57. Denzine says:

    josh:
    It’s entirely possible the player could re-roll until they get the worst possible stats, which appears to me to turn your argument on its ear.

    The way I see it, in having that range of possible stats for the hero the designer says that anyone can save the world(or whatever the goal is). Not just the 14/all guys.

  58. Jeff says:

    That’s not exactly true. This game is in the spirit of the old rogue-likes. This isn’t one of those games where you’re only a fighter or only a mage or only some predefined role, as the main character you need to be able to do everything (like with Rogue, or any number of old school RPGs).

    In otherwords, if you don’t build your character properly, they expect you to die.

  59. Denzine says:

    Yes, I did simply assume that it’s possible for the 8/all to beat the game with some thought. Mostly because I’m pretty sure skill build is much more important. Anyway that’s only my interpretation of the freedom given we’re talking about now. Which, frankly, is something I don’t like to do very much, so I’ll not be defending it any more. Also it’d be way too much work to actualy prove my assumption.

  60. [...] Games is an independent PC game developer.  I learned about Eschalon:  Book I thanks to a review from Shamus Young.  It’s an old-school, isometric, turn-based, stat-heavy RPG, like [...]

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