Eschalon Book I: Ending

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jan 17, 2008

Filed under: Game Reviews 32 comments

This game is more about stats than story, so I don’t have too much to say about the tale this game tells.

Spoilers follow. Click here to skip the spoilers and jump to my wrap-up thoughts.

Nice map.  Remember: The shortest distance between any two points goes right through the friggin’ enemy base.
Nice map. Remember: The shortest distance between any two points goes right through the friggin’ enemy base.
This is as much of the plot as I was able to sort out on my first-and-a-half trip through the game:

The plot centers on a gigantic gem called the “Crux of Ages”. It has magical powers, although its powers are of no direct use to you in the game. Its magic is intended to protect the king from external magical influences. A powerful Goblin wizard nicked it, which left the king open to his powers. The Goblin then proceeded to dominate the mind of the king, compelling him to launch a war with an otherwise harmless third party who live a good distance away.

The main character and his brother stole the Crux from the Goblin, but the Goblin could sort of see “through” the Crux to him. This vision wasn’t perfect. It was a very indirect sort of scrying, but it was impossible to remain hidden forever. His memories linked him to the Crux, and thus the wizard would eventually see where the protagonist had taken the Crux and what he was doing with it. As long as the main character knew where the Crux was, so would the Goblin.

THREE POUNDS? Well, that certainly limits us in where we can hide it. Ahem.
THREE POUNDS? Well, that certainly limits us in where we can hide it. Ahem.
So he came up with a plan to hide the Crux and then erase his own memories. He stowed it in a safe place, left himself some clues, and then drank a potion of Plot Device. The game begins as you wake up and wonder where and who you are.

You then have to re-trace your steps, and re-claim the Crux. The erased memory created a break in continuity for the Goblin Wizard that he couldn’t follow. The upshot was that you could now safely own the Crux without him spying on you.

It was explained much better in the game. I’ve kind of butchered it by shaving it down to mere synopsis.

Once you reclaim the Crux you have to hammer your way deep into Goblin territory and confront the Goblin Wizard. There are a lot of ways this can play out, as the game gives you a number of choices.

Piss off, kid.  You’re not gettin’ into the castle until you complete your assigned quests.
Piss off, kid. You’re not gettin’ into the castle until you complete your assigned quests.
My major complaint is how you have to fight all the way to the heart of the Goblin fortress, kill their leader, and then use a teleport to get to the king’s castle, where you can return the Crux to its rightful place. The nearby castle is “impenetrable”, but the far-off Goblin fortress isn’t? This was too much of a stretch for me. It makes sense from a gameplay perspective, but I would have liked a better justification for storming the Goblin’s place. Considering that all you really need is to drop the Crux into its pedestal, it seems like walking up to the front gate and giving the guards a peek at the THREE POUND JEWEL OF MAGICAL AWESOME SPARKLE POWER should have been enough to get in the door. The Crux is famous, after all.

End spoilers.

I’m probably being unfair. Eschalon is designed to be old-school, and the old games were notoriously sloppy with justifications for doing all sorts of crazy stuff in the world. The classic “Gather up the Seven Magic Keys of Evil-Thwarting, which have been hidden for no good reason” was about par for the course back then, and Eschalon is miles ahead of that sort of thing.

I was a bit wary about the ending, since this is Echalon: Book I. I was worried we were going to get left at some wretched “buy the next game!” cliffhanger. But no, this game is self-contained and wraps things up nicely.

I had fun with the game. I’ll be looking forward to Eschalon: Book II.


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32 thoughts on “Eschalon Book I: Ending

  1. Scott says:

    I just beat the game for the first time yesterday!
    I checked out both the good and bad endings and I’m pretty sure I did all of the side quests.

    All in all, great old-school style game that made me want to look for more indie titles.

    Thanks for finding this and telling us about it Shamus!

  2. ReluctantDM says:

    Glad you enjoyed it. I tried the demo and found it very frustrating on the first run-through (mostly an interface gripe) but I’m really itching for some turn based stat-centric combat too. I’ll give it another go. :)

    Now, if you find a game that lets you target body parts in a turn based manor ala Fallout let me know! ;) YAY CRIPPLING!

  3. Phlux says:

    Sounds like an interesting take on the amnesiac hero hook.

    What I don’t quite follow is why erasing the memories made it impossible for Mr. Goblin-Wizard to find the thing. Couldn’t he have been watching your memories WHILE you were hiding it BEFORE you erased said memories? Or is it not quite so real-time?

  4. Snook says:

    “Potion of Plot Device” Oh man, you crack me up!

    I’m going to have to buy one of those in my D&D campaign…

    “You stand before the great evil wizard, Killith (Yes that’s his name. Reminds me of Casey’s writing…) All your fellow members have fallen in combat, and you have one arrow left (I’m an archer.)”

    “Q – Potion of Plot Device. Headshot!”

  5. Matt T. says:

    I am trying to enjoy this game, however I seem to be finding that the only real character to play is a fighter. I tried a mage but there are no good spells to start with so I wind up fighting with my dagger(fighter), my Ranger can’t afford any more arrows cause there is no way to recover them so I wind up fighting with my dagger(fighter) and the hide and sneak dosent seem to work well for my thief. Anyone else find that this is true?

  6. puff says:

    Matt, I’ve only played the demo (got to 9th level), but I did fine as a cleric/druid with no weapons and no armor. My starting skills:

    Alchemy: 4
    Divination: 5
    Mercantile: 5
    Unarmed Combat: 1

    and stats:
    Str:18 Dex:12 End:12 Speed:18
    Int:13 Wis:13 Per:18 Con:14

    Note that strength and speed are key, as is getting entagle from the shop early. Also, keep in mind that the loot percentage is based on level, which penalizes aggressive play, so sleep a lot and open chests when you are nearly 3rd level, 6th level and 9th level. Do _NOT_ open anything if you just hit one of those levels.

  7. Davesnot says:

    Maybe we need a new catagory of game… one for those of us that just wanna do things our way.. maybe a game that is so free form that there is no game.. we could try to break whatever plot there was by doing things differently.. and since there was no plot.. we’d wander around forever.. getting through any door we wanted to (no plot = no plot doors).. if we stumble into big bad monster when we are snivling wimps.. well.. zot.. if we kill the good guys and none of the good guys will talk to us anymore.. so be it.. kill all the bad guys.. so be it.. the game doesn’t end.. you’d get board.. and kill all the good guys.. so be it.. wander.. wander..

    Say.. add multi-player.. wander together.. kill together.. be plotless and pointless together!! Hey.. now we have the makings of a gazillion-dollar, massively-gargantuan, roleless playing game! Where nothing matters at all.. you can kill everything.. or nothing.. the world will go on and on.. we’ll be … uh… absolutely unimportant…

    Hmm… maybe we should try to ignore the man behind the curtain.. even if he is in a box with whirring fans and mind-boggling circuitry..

    …maybe the emperor has no clothes…

    No.. wait.. what a beautiful set of robes he has.. oh my!! how dazzling!

  8. Avaz says:

    I am completely entranced by Davesnot’s reply. :)

  9. Joe says:

    I am completely entranced by Avaz’s Wavatar. :)

  10. Josh says:

    Davesnot, I love that kind of game. I think the reason they aren’t made is because it’s harder to develop a compelling game that way. I mean, you have to balance the exp gain to the relative difficulty of an opponent. Which means you have to be able to reasonably measure that difficulty – and if some player figures a way around it, boom they shoot to the head of the class. Lazy developers avoid being second-guessed by walling you in so much that… the only class worth playing is fighter :-) (Note: I am not necessarily agreeing or disagreeing with Matt T. with regard to Eschalon).

    Another reason it’s harder is that you really have to have compelling content of some kind. Your NPCs should be intelligent, and objects should interact with the environment more. All of these things take time and/or are hard.

    It’s so much easier to just say: here’s a plot. Now you need to fetch the key of plot-door opening to proceed. Because $STORY. Players tend to accept this sort of thing in lieu of a real dynamic world. For the most part, they have to.

    I wish someone would make a kick ass graphical interface to Dwarf Fortress…

  11. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    @Matt T.
    A mage with unarmed is a very nice combination.You get the fire dart for sniping,and your fists for when they come close(and for braking boxes without pain).And if you get high strenght in the begining,take heavy armor(high strenght increases the amount of things you can have in hands when casting).Later,with predator sight you can even fight in pitch dark.Also,if you take alchemy(learn from someone),no need to wory about healing anymore.

    You mean,something like morrowind?

  12. Davesnot says:

    I do some module building in NWN… (viva la NWN!).. you can take a tiny area.. put a building in it.. toss in a couple of people.. To make that become free-form… boggles the mind.. If there is a live DM.. no worries.. they can think on the fly.. DMs are analog..

    But… games are digital.. everything that will ever happen has to have been thought out.. and even then.. someone.. probably a reviewer.. will want to do the one thing nobody ever thought of..

    What if Jack (from Beanstalk fame).. got his beans.. but hid them from mom.. and when they got hungry.. they ate the beans.. or.. maybe he kept the cow and learned to fish to save the family.. or they ate the cow.. or Jack’s mom went on a crusade to find the Strange man that ripped off her kid.. only to come back to a beanstalk and a missing kid… or maybe they plant each of the 5 beans and get enough beans to go to market with every week and live happily.. but poorly ever after..

    Without a human there to keep the rails from showing.. well.. you’ll eventually see the rails.. and we all know what to do when we see rails… and the computer just won’t lets us derail things .. not enough anyway..

    Sure… a freeform game would take a lot of money.. but if there isn’t a DM.. well.. even it’s lack of plot would become a plot that couldn’t be derailed..

    @Daemian – never played morrowind… (hides face in shame..)..

  13. Chargone says:

    morrow wind is oblivion done better with a different plot [and admittedly older graphics] which none the less manages to be kinda ‘meh’ in my opinion.

    [actually, oblivion is also kinda ‘meh’ it just takes longer to get to the point where i noticed it enough to care]

    the kinda free roaming free action type stuff described is Great. . . . right up until you realize you’ve got no idea what the heck you’re doing or why.

    opinion based on not much: if you’ve got people worth playing with and a GM who can actually do the job, table top RPs are better. if you want story and something which doesn’t need other people, be prepared to live with rails.

    on a more relevant note: this game looks pretty good… in a ‘not really my kinda thing’ kind of way. i always appreciate your reviews Shamus, even if they’re typically either of things i don’t care about or already have anyway :) one of your many advantages over ‘professional’ reviewers is actually playing the game. and writing about the Game.

    end result makes for interesting reading even if i don’t actually care that much about the subject :D

    amusingly, i have read professional game reviews before which contained about 50% fluff which amounted to ‘i don’t like this genre, but i have to review the game, so I’m going to bash it for all it’s worth’… and half the Rest of the statements in it were just Wrong.
    the oposite end of the spectrum of fail from those reviewers who write their reviews based on orders from above based on who’s paying for the ads :S I’m still not sure which is worse, but Shamus’s reviews are definitely Better :D

    and I’m rambling all over the place again. have a comment :)

  14. thvaz says:

    Josh: Dwarf Fortress doesn’t need a graphical interface to be awesome. After some time playing you absolutely won’t mind the ASCII graphics any more. And I was a graphic whore before playing DF :)
    About Eschalon : it looks a good game. I should check it.

  15. MaxEd says:

    Shamus, have you tried getting “Destroyer” ending by killing king & his elite guards?

  16. Jeff says:

    Destroyer wasn’t that hard, mainly because I had a stockpile of roughly 20 Demon Oil IIIs, as well as that quest reward oil.

    As the AI won’t walk through fire, I easily controlled how many approached me at once. Nifty, although I wish I could have explored the castle more. Hm, maybe BEFORE I kill him? Ah well, I don’t really want to reinstall it.

  17. Kameron says:

    Based on your synopsis, Shamus, I see no reason why the developer chose to shoehorn the player into being male. Supposedly (from the game forum) it was for story reasons. Perhaps it will come up in the sequel, but it still reeks of poor design. I can’t think of any story-based reason why the character has to be male.

    I disagree that clunky storytelling and ill-conceived plot devices = old-school gaming. Those elements are still present in “modern” games. The “old-school” feel comes from the engine (turn-based and stat-heavy) and the graphics. Don’t apologize for short-comings in the game’s design by sweeping them under the “old-school” rug.

    @Davesnot: Nice to see another fan of NWN1. I recently re-installed it on my machine after deciding one of my goals for the year was to finally build a full-length module. I’ve always wanted to convert Pool of Radiance. I know it was already done (both on NWN and the sequel), but I felt the previous adaptation didn’t capture the the old “gold box” experience for me.

  18. Davesnot says:

    @Jeff… yeah.. you don’t _really_ wanna reinstall it.. but how will you ever know what you missed in the castle…

  19. Josh says:

    I assumed they only allowed a male character because they didn’t have time to include alternate artwork and conversation text. I’m not saying that justifies it.

  20. Davesnot says:

    @Kameron.. I sold my Gold box in.. oh.. 2000?? for like $80… I miss it.. even though I never played it all the way through.. I guess I go outside too much..

    I’m about to release a NWN1 mod that we parents can play with our kids… Jack and the Beanstalk.. the rails are visible… but my kid likes it.. he’s 5.. here’s a link to one of the trailers…

    I too have goals for lots of my PnP mods.. but never seem to get the time… maybe tomorrow…

  21. Jeff says:

    Well, the given reason why Book 1 is one male character and Book 2 will allow a party with difference characters (and presumably sexes) is that this time around he’s more concerned with checking out the mechanics of the character system.

  22. Joshua says:

    Hehe, Gold Box. That THOSE were some DIAS gameplay, although it had more to do with luck then skill.

    You are fighting 6 Wyverns. On their action, they hit all of your characters. 4 of them fail their save vs. poison and die. Reload.

    You are fighting 4 Blue Dragons. On their actions, they breathe electricity, and hit several of your characters twice. Your thief with 56 hit points takes 154 points of damage, he dies. etc., etc. Reload.

    The Gold Box games were also subject to some extreme forms of cheating(pick your stats, even to max, and copy all your big magic items). It didn’t matter, because the games were STILL really hard at times.

  23. Ah, yes.

    It *is* pretty hard to play through the game in the beginning as anything but a fighter-type, though honestly pure non-casting fighters suffer in the endgame, where buffs and alchemy are king. The game system encourages a but of hybridization to a degree, but if you want to challenge yourself, you could roleplay within a single class-archetype and refuse to leave it.

    It’s perfectly reasonable if you’ve plowed through the optional “Destroyer” battles against the game’s strongest enemies. A hybrid caster/fighter makes a terrifyingly powerful killstick, and the “enchant weapon” buffs that turn Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the Destroyer also work on ranged weapons, too.

    Actually, with Enchant and Enkindle Weapon (weapon-buff spells for the cleric and mage spells listsm respectively), playing an archer makes for an extremely powerful character. Much more so than, say, NWN2.

    Just about any character can benefit from a few points in Pick Locks, too.

    And a brave, and patient, veteran player can do some “Navarro Runs” through lethally dangerous territory to run straight for the best weapons and armor one could possibly get without needing to fight for them. Even if it means running like a madman through high-level dungeons. This was a glorious option that Oblivion denied me, and I still spite Bethesda for it.

    *Spits at the mention of the level-scaling system.*

    But I digress. Playing a “pure” class, of any sort, makes for some tough times–but, to be honest, those tend to be the most interesting.

    Of course, playing my new Merchant/Cartographer/Brewmaster whose only combat-geared skills include single ranks in both Elemental Magic and Light Armor makes for some, er, *very* interesting times, indeed.

    Those streaks of lucky 14’s and the Perception score I notched up to 30 in Character Creation aren’t helping nearly as much as I’d hoped.

  24. Scott says:

    My almost exclusively thief character did extremely well during the first playthrough. Hide in Shadows, Short Blades, Bows and some Magick. (predator sight FTW!)

    You could just stand there and let enemies run around you while you stabbed them… If your Hide in Shadows was high enough.
    And it was dark.

  25. Henebry says:

    I just finished the game playing an all-magic character. No melee or ranged ability whatsoever. The game’s help file suggests that a pure wizard won’t work, but it works fine so long as you exploit the game’s built-in weakness (i.e. monsters don’t pursue you off the edge of the current game map, and you can heal up in safety, then return to kick ass). This gameplay style is a bit lame, but I suspect that the melee characters have to exploit it at least as much as the casters.

    I should add that the game’s failure to make a distinction between everyday travel (during which it makes sense that you heal and restore mana points) and fleeing from monsters (during which you inexplicably heal at the same rate as ordinary travel) also lends itself to abuse, as I was able to outrun every monster in the game, and that (far more than save/load) got me out of more than one tight encounter.

    Late in the game the Wizard becomes a license to kick ass, since you can get the portal spell, which allows you to teleport in and out of the final goblin citadel, effectively ending the limit imposed by mana points. Kill a minotaur, portal out, camp overnight, portal back in, kill another minotaur.

    I’m both proud of having beaten the game and ashamed of having so blatantly taken advantage of its loopholes.

    I guess I’d prefer a game that’s beatable without such blatant exploits, but I’m not sure such a game exists. That’s why, in the end, I prefer tabletop roleplaying, as a human GM keeps everyone honest.

  26. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    You know,its kind of weird how the games evolved:
    Due to lack of good AI,the games resort to throwing bunch of enemies at you.But this becomes too hard to beat from time to time,so players resort to exploit the system the game uses.This leads to games again being to easy,so they need to throw even more monsters at the player.And the cycle seems endles.

  27. gandolf says:

    Ok, I am a novice. Where is the amulet??? I have been all over the vault, killed everything in sight, obtained two keys, looked for more secret doors, pulled all sorts of levers. Where is the inner crypt where the amulet is supposed to be??? Help!!!

  28. Robel says:

    I just finished it too, and to be honest I didn`t have to resort to any exploiting the somewhat simple game system. I had a virtuous healer who was actually the skull bashing kind of healer, with only a few points in divine magic for self buffs. Rest of it strength, dexterity, blunt weapons and heavy armor. Killed the last guy in one hit before he turned into a spider and then a few more hits. Anyway, the story was at best mediocre but as Shamus said, the best thing is the stats system. It made me reinstall Oblivion (yes, Morrowind is better story-wise but the rest is just much better on Oblivion).

  29. Love says:

    Hi..Can you help me to find the last ( the third ) easter egg?….Where should I go?…So Many thanks for your help then…..please send me an email ……wait you…

  30. Hayden says:

    Helloo there….Does anyone here knows how to get pass the 4 gates inside Goblin Citadel? I tried throwing A LOT of the Demon Oil II and used Fireball Level 5…but..nothing happen. Many thanks and Merry Christmas..

  31. me says:

    the third easter egg is in tangletree ossuary

    the goblin citadel just needs the 4 goblin keys and then you just follow around to the right and hit all of the levers

  32. acabaca says:

    Played through this a long time ago. Some impressions in no particular order:

    1) Bats can’t see in the dark. Wtf?
    2) Save-scumming (saving before opening a chest, then reloading if you didn’t like the contents) is way too easy and rewarding.
    3) Despite being turn-based, the game isn’t any more tactical than Diablo to my disappointment. This is because almost none of the enemies have any attributes other than hit points, or any combat behavior other than “move towards the player, attack if he’s next to you”. A simple Haste spell (that lets you move twice in a turn) makes you invincible.
    4) The quick item slots in the lower right corner of the main screen were too damn hard to notice for what they are. I beat the game before I figured out that I can put items in them.
    5) I don’t really see why they didn’t give the option of playing a female character. All they would have had to do was make some very minor dialogue tweaks and draw a bunch of female faces.

    Other than that, the game was likable enough.

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