Eschalon: Book I

Eschalon: Book I

Twelve hours of rest? Your character must be a teenager.


Eschalon: Book I, the first title from indie developer Basilisk Games, is branded as a traditional RPG, a stereotype fulfilled here with a vengeance. Unfortunately, problems with skill choices and movement, and an uninspiring story line may turn that vengeance into slaughter for anyone who might not be a hardcore RPG fan.


You wake up in Eschalon with no memory of who you are, clutching a strange letter about some type of conspiracy. Hours of play later, you’ve followed a bread-crumb trail of letters, notes, and side quests, but feel no closer to learning what your part in the world is and no real connection to the people around you.


Eschalon is all about the numbers. When creating a character, you roll as many times as you like for your basic statistics (Wisdom, Intelligence, Strength, and so on). When you’re happy, you choose a class; each comes with a predetermined skill. Your place of origin and Axiom (morality) can have positive, negative, or neutral impacts on your stats, so choose wisely.


After you’ve created your character, you can only upgrade skills when you level up. Unfortunately, you can’t see how much each skill costs until you’ve picked them, and worse, if you don’t have enough points to gain a new skill or stat level, the game doesn’t tell you how many points you need to get. Finally, there’s no in-game tutorial, so when starting out you have to read the manual and learn from your mistakes.


Eschalon is a turn-based game, so nothing happens in real-time. Even walking is completely mouse driven. Combat is based on an initial assumption that everyone has a 50-50 chance of hitting something, after which the game applies your attack-based stats and bonuses and subtracts the enemy’s defensive stats and bonuses. This system is strange, since we can pretty much guarantee a better than 50-50 chance of hitting a rock.


For a tile game, Eschalon’s 2D graphics are quite beautiful to look at. So is the level of detail, with torches, rugs, and wall-hangings decorating every room. The game world has many people to interact with, some with little to provide and others who will spill information or be willing to trade items. The music is standard, yet creates a beautiful fantasy atmosphere, with immersive in-game audio featuring tweeting birds and the sound of water. If you like what you hear, you can import the game’s music into iTunes and listen to it when you’re not playing.

The bottom line.
Eschalon: Book I tries to be everything to the hardcore traditional RPG fan, but problems with its character creation, story line, and movement keep it from appealing to everyone.—Omaha Sternberg


COMPANY: Basilisk Games


PRICE: $27.95 download/$39.95 CD

REQUIREMENTS: 1.8GHz or faster CPU, Mac OS 10.3.9 or higher, 256MB RAM (512MB recommended), 3D accelerated graphics card

Beautiful graphics and music. Game world has dense, interesting history. Universal binary.

Story line needs to draw player in better. Mouse movement only. Character-creation inconsistencies.




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