Eschalon: Book 1


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Eschalon: Book 1

JoshEschalon: Book 1, the debut title from Basilisk Games, will take you back to the nostalgic days of Ultima and Might and Magic. It's a turn-based, tile-designed RPG, a system that many fans of the genre are familiar with. Eschalon offers a rich, engaging and open-ended world to explore, with a similarly deep storyline. It's a modern-day tribute to the old CRPG's that fans grew up on, at a time when storytelling, adventuring and honing your character's skill took precedence over shiny graphics and cutting-edge mechanics.

eschalon.jpgEschalon is the name of the world this RPG takes place in, and you begin your adventure tucked away in a remote, abandoned area of the Commonwealth of Thaermore, the "continent" Book 1 takes place in. You awake with amnesia, virtually threadbare and unaware of your surroundings. A single note is the only clue you have to set you on your path. It's a bit cliché, but hey, it works. You're immediately thrown into the thick of it, as you explore your surroundings, defend yourself from low-level monsters and try to make your way to your starting town of Aridell. From there, you'll learn more about yourself and the world of Eschalon as you interact with NPC's and shopkeepers. You can wander the outskirts for a while, killing the wildlife and looking for scraps of treasure, or jump right in and start accepting quests from the townsfolk. And like most RPGs, quest completion nets you far more experience that monster-killing, so it's a good idea to keep your quest book full.

Much of your path will be influenced by the type of character you chose to roll. Eschalon offers a detailed character creation system reminiscent of the pencil-and-dice method. Although you can only play a human male, there's a wide variety of variables to choose from. "Origin" defines what part of the land you were raised in, with each choice having inherent attribute bonuses. "Axiom" is similar, but involves choosing between various spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof). And of course your "class" defines your combat and play style, each also possessing its own unique benefits. You can choose between a Fighter, Rogue, Magick User, Healer and Ranger. You can spend attribute points to strengthen those which will help your class the most, and even re-roll your base stats an unlimited number of times. Lastly the "skills" table is used to spend points on skills that will compliment your class, as well as uniques like Alchemy and Cartography. (I highly suggest putting at least one point into cartography, as it's the only way you'll be able to use your mini-map.)

The character creation alone gives an initial impression of how deep and complex Eschalon is; the gameplay features dozens of modifiers in combat depending on a slew of factors. Everything from lighting to distance to terrain is taken into account, and much more. There's a really complex engine under the hood, instantly running all those calculations that players used to need scribble out during combat on pencil-and-paper RPG's. Armor and weapons have their own attributes that factor into combat, although their effectiveness is dependent on your proficiency. This leads to a rather slow start in the game, spending half your time missing enemies or not doing an amount of damage that feels gratifying.

On the other hand, the interface and controls of the game are intuitive and easy to interact with. Movement is controlled by clicking the mouse button in the direction you want to go. There's no path-finding, although you can use the middle button to set it on auto-walk and course-correct as needed. For some reason, out of the eight directions of movement, walking up or down seems painstakingly slow compared to the rest. Your inventory, quest book, spell book and the rest are all accessible by a mouse click in the upper-right corner of the screen. Keyboard shortcuts are even handier, and luckily included. It's an adequate setup, overall, designed well enough not to hinder your playing experience.

eschalon2.jpgAnalysis: If you've enjoyed the new fad of games featuring quick dungeon crawls and hour-or-less adventures, but have begun craving something more — something deeper — then Eschalon is a game you'll want to try. In fact, even designating it as a casual game is a stretch, but it's designed so that you can adventure for however long you like, save your progress, and come back later.

Even though Eschalon was released just a short time ago, the graphics and overall presentation aren't anything to write home about, although it's certainly adequate to house the deeper aspects inside. This is no quick-play RPG like some of the casual flash and download games we've seen gaining popularity over the last few years (FastCrawl, Monster's Den, etc.). That's not to say that the game looks like crap, either. Gameplay graphics are obviously rendered of modern quality, and much of the still-screen art is uniquely attractive.

The world of Eschalon lies somewhere between high and low fantasy; tied together with a linear storyline but the option of non-linear play. There's a distinct overall feeling of good versus evil, although you're given the choice to follow your own path. As of the writing of this review, a sequel (Book II) is already in the works. So if you've been craving a deeper, more involved RPG — one that won't take up gigs of hard drive space or require and Oblivion-compatible graphics card — Eschalon might just be the middle ground you've been looking for.

WindowsWindows:
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28 Comments

Good game,reminds me a bit of Monsters' Den: Book Of Dread on Kongregate ;) .

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This demo would have been far more engaging if I'd managed to avoid spending twenty minutes searching wildly for the crypt (would it have been to obvious if the crypt had been near to the gravekeeper's house?) and giving up in disgust.

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Is this a 1 hour demo as usual? Because RPGs often take me 15 minutes or more just to read the instructions, roll up a character (why do we still have random stat generation in CRPGs?) and figure out the interface.

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@Konrad: Yes. I had the same thought, particularly because I'm not a very fast reader, and I like to read everything in this style game.

I can't tell you for certain with this demo, because I haven't exhausted my 60 minutes yet, but with some the 60 min. demos you can actually play well past the hour until you quit the game. Depends on how it was implemented.

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Oh, and 15 minutes? That's very fast! It takes me 15 minutes just to come up with a name...

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Would also like to agree with the randomly rolled stats - if you can roll as much as you like, what's the point? The only conceivable use of random stats is for roleplaying purposes - and let's be honest, the roleplaying can never quite take centre stage in a CRPG.

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ThemePark Author Profile Page June 16, 2008 7:12 AM

I think the randomly rolled stats in games like these are meant for people who do not want to meticulously setup a new character, but can instead roll a dice until they're satisfied with the outcome.

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fuzzyface Author Profile Page June 16, 2008 8:42 AM

"""It's a modern-day tribute to the old CRPG's that fans grew up on, at a time when storytelling, adventuring and honing your character's skill took precedence over shiny graphics and cutting-edge mechanics."""

I want to challenge that. Somehow it IMHO gives a false romantic. Game titles like Ultima VI *did* work on the cutting-edge graphics of the technical feasible in their time. People that really valued story telling abouth cutting-edge mechanics remained on text-only adventures.

I don't contest that the story were in fact still more deeper than most todays games. I don't know exactly why that changed, buts not that the leading gaming titles were also not the ones with the best graphics, so this movement began in the 1990ies already.

Ultima VI was the one and only game I really could immerse deeply in it. Where a playing session was just exploring this or that, without worrying about an overall game goal or supreme story line. I don't know if the games changes or I changed. Since I did replay Ultima VI later with the gamegoal in mind working it through with a walkthrough. Maybe my limited english abilities at the time of my first run into it made this immersion possible, as I hardly understood the games goal.

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AARG!

For some reason the game won't run. After the start screen has loaded (the initial screen right after you press the 'play now' button) and I press play, the game just goes back to the initial screen with the 'buy now' and 'already paid' buttons on it. This is very frustrating. I have an ok operating system, (Windows XP with average graphics card) and the only thing I am worried about is my computer having enough memory to run the game. As there are no error messages popping up, can someone give me insight into what is wrong?

Thanks

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Ozzy - check the directory with the game executable in it. Many times the developer will output an error log if the game runs into problems, and you might find what it is by looking at it with a text editor (if present).

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I'm having trouble getting the demo to play. I've download the file a few times (annoying) on my mac and then tried to open it with stuffit expander and the default (can't remember the name). What happens then is that it either says the was an error (stuffit expander) or it starts unarchiving? the file and then gets stuck about halfway through and stops. I'm not sure if I'm just being stupid or there is a problem elsewhere, but my computer fit the requirements. I'd really appreciate help on this.

And on a side note, this looks a lot like the spiderweb games like Geneforge and Avernum. All those games come with huge demos and the mac versions come out first usually, so they might be good weekend download games for mac users.

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mongolian June 16, 2008 8:20 PM

Maybe my memory is getting too old, but I really don't see how this game is similiar at all to Ultima?

The game had clunky clicking, slightly annoying interface, but great graphics to make up for it. Is is kind of sad that they couldn't make it to 100-200 min temporary version. 1 Hour is just not enough to want to play this.

Still debating buying it.. I guess I will have to try it a bit more.

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Anonymous June 16, 2008 8:39 PM

Question: Does anyone know if theres a way to resize the text in the gme?

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Kicks - Try downloading the file again. Maybe the first one got interrupted? I just re-downloaded the game (I have a Mac, too) and everything worked just as it should.

When you unzip the file, you'll end up with a single executable file called: "Eschalon Book I"

I hope that helps.

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If you get the game from the original author's site and not a portal, the demo is NOT time-limited, it's limited to a certain area. At least it was when I bought it way back in December. I explored for a couple of hours (loving every minute) until I ran out of area - then buying it was a no-brainer. This game is great and gets WAY better too!

Some tips:

- Get a BOW as well as a sword. Then you can shoot things as they advance, possibly killing them before they reach you. This really helps the combat.
- Beef up your mapping skill. The more you get, the more detail appears on the map.
- Later on you can buy skills from certain people, although often I was already high in certain skills by then or didn't want to spend the money.

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This is indeed very similar to Spiderweb's games, with the notable difference that the storyline presentation and writing are a lot better. I always find a limit with Avernum et al because I just can't deal with that many typos. The writing here seems a lot more polished, and the graphics and icon sets are huge improvements to boot. I don't know if that justifies the additional eight bucks for everyone, but it does for me.

One quibble is that inventory management is a bit awkward - I would have preferred the "body" map to be on a single page with the inventory slots.

I'm also not a fan of the random rolls just because the urge to roll until you hit a Yahtzee is so high. In this case, though, where the stats are so finely sliced, I think even if you're a roll-o-matic you still have difficult decisions to make about what sort of boost you want to give yourself.

All in all I look forward to this sucking my nights away for some time to come.

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ThemePark Author Profile Page June 17, 2008 6:38 PM

This reminds me very much of Diablo, which is quite a compliment in my eyes. So with that in mind, does anybody know if there are places in the game where you can store excess items if you run out of room in your inventory?

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ThemePark: you can store excess items in chests, and they'll be kept safe there - according to the manual, anyway. I haven't got to the stage where I need to use that, but soon I will. ;-)

I agree with you that this game is a lot like Diablo, on the outside anyway. The inner workings (rules, naming convention etc.) remind me more of Neverwinter Nights, a D&D-based game. Both are cream of the crop, and this one is engaging too, even with its amateurish faults.

My largest problem so far is that unlike Neverwinter, this game is not mage-friendly, for way too many reasons.

On the plus side, the graphics are great and the quick-save is very useful. I think I'll waste lots of time with this neat game. Thanks for the JIG team to bring it up! ;-)

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I am completly new to role playing games and am really enjoying this one. I have a question about buiding up your character's strenghts - can you have him do a bit of everything or do you need to specialize? A couple have been mentioned but are there other games similar to this?
thanks

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DeadWriter Author Profile Page June 18, 2008 11:00 PM

I have finished the game And these are my thoughts.

It's a bit like Ultima, AD&D,and Diablo, but with out much depth to the quests. I liked the game, but it isn't Baulder's Gate or Diablo. It is fun, and you can save at any time. It is re-playable, but there is not random generation of maps. It is more enjoyable the second time through as the documentation is nearly nonexistent (which adds to the fun). You can become a specialist in any skill, so you can make a mage thief like character, or a merchant fighter. The Alchemy skill allows one to make potions, improve weapons and armor. Perhaps Alchemy even allows one to modify other things.

~40 hours of play time.

You don't need a good memory, as all quests are added to a book you can look at any time.

Pros: Fun, OK graphics, isometric view, cost, game play.
Cons: DRM wrappers may cause glitches. Sound sometimes sounds like a loop.
Push: Poor documentation is both vexing and fun.

Items: Items dropped are lost for ever- even quest items. You can store up to 8 items in containers. Items are safe there.

Random items get better with advancement.


There are short cuts for traveling.

Quick travel to markers. Using pre determined portals. Using your own portal spells.

But walking, especially once one has "cleared" an area can be boring.
Character Creation Stats- No spoilers
You can roll and re roll with out penalty. Rolls land between 7 and 14 on a system that allows for stats above 30. The characters Origin will add to a stat, but will never take away from a stat. All characters also get 15 bonus points to distribute to any skills, or to be banked for later.
Character Creation Axiom- No spoilers
Selecting an axiom is like alignment and offers minor bonuses and penalties. An axiom of being agnostic offers no bonuses or penalties.
Character Creation Class and Skills- No spoilers
Class gives a character a one time bonus skill (Normally a skill costs 3 pts.) If you change class in the creator it costs 3 points, but you can context-click(right click) to subtract the skill. In addition, all new characters get 20 points to buy a skill (3pts cost) or upgrade a skill (1pt). No skill is allowed to go beyond 6 at first.
For those wondering about advancement

Every time you go up a level you get 3 points to spend on stats and 3 to spend on skills

A new skill costs 3 points. But

You can gain a skill for money from NPCs that are willing to train you for money (100xLevel) or by reading a book. Not all skills have books or NPCs that are experts. An expert will never get you past level 5 in expertise. A book can raise a character 1 or 2 points.

Skills vs. Stats/Attributes

The lower your skills level, the more attributes matter. Upping your pick-lock skill by 5 points makes a big difference, but upping your dexterity 5 points does much less (~5% so I figure)

There are no frivolous attributes!
It's possible to "multi-class" but warning

You magic points are only calculated from your initial class selection.

Puzzles

there are no complicated puzzles. Stuff goes into boxes. Numbers are selected from a slider. You may need to do a little math.

Power Players -How to max out booty, points, and battles (not really that fun- at least for me) Do not read if you want to figure this stuff out on your own.
Skills/Stats:

Re-roll until you have 13s and 14s in your primary skills, or most skills. Focus on leveling primary skills. Add skills through teachers first, and hold off on reading a book until you have a skill of 5 or more.

Gold/Items:

Save before you loot any body or container. Most containers randomly contain goods or no goods. You can re-open a character from the last save point and then open a container for better goods. If you want lots of cash, focus on Mercantile and Alchemy skills- but there is really no reason to do this

Alchemy:

You need only get your Alchemy skill to 10 because you can wear 2 rings of Alchemy that get your skill up to 16. Your skill level determines how successful you are. Hold off on using the skill until you get 2 rings of alchemy and a base skill of 10

Opening locks

You can bash open. Use Lock Melt spell. Or pick locks


On random items

Save before you kill a pirate or goblin. Kill it, and if it doesn't drop a bag, reload and kill until it does. This can take time.

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Has anyone figured out how to get spells? I tried to make a character with an elemental magic strength, but still just start the game with nothing but the sword!

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DeadWriter Author Profile Page June 21, 2008 1:27 PM

Some tips on particular skills

If you don't have a skill, getting an artifact or using a spell gives it to you for long as you have the artifact on or as long as the spell lasts. When upgrading, it still costs 3 skills points to add a skill if you only have it via a spell or device.

A bug/feature of Cartography (really annoying)

Using a spell or device that improves Cartography you will auto populate the mini-map. The problem is that if one uses a spell, one can get a lot of detail, but when the spell wears off, everywhere you walk will be downgraded to your lowest level of Cartography. There are two workarounds 1.) By spending points or using items, get your Cartography skill up above 10, or 1.) NEVERGet your skill above 0 or 1. The later works best once you get a spell that improves your Cartography.

Meditation

Is a great skill. As it improves (shortens), the time necessary to regenerate. The skill helps when sleeping (fastest), standing still (second fastest), and walking (slowest). A skill level of at least 10 is necessary for spell casters. I might even suggest building this skill up before other spell casting skills.

Mercantile

It takes a lot of work to get to a decent Mercantile score. In the long run, it may not be too necessary. You can get more money for items and the cost for buying items is less, but there is so much to find in the dungeons. At the end of the last game I had a gold surplus of 50k.

Skills that can only be gained by leveling up or character creation.

I have played the game a few times now and I have not found a person or a book that teaches Unarmed Combat or Small Blades

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DeadWriter Author Profile Page June 21, 2008 1:38 PM

Seeing In the Dark
How well you can see the world of Eschalon and how well you can perform tasks is affected by the lighting.

Daylight is best. Dungeon with out light worst.
Spell of Cats Eyes, green light, very poor distance, bonus- others receive penalty to hit you.
Torch- minimal brightness, last a short time. To smother torch just click the torch. Can be relit, placed in holders, but not dropped.
Lantern- Requires wicks that last 500 rounds. Bright, heavy and takes the place of the shield. To turn on, place in shield slot. To turn off, remove from shield slot.
Grave Diggers Flame- Lasts longer than Cats Eyes, is red orange. Good distance. Others can see you!
You can combine spells! Cats Eyes + Grave Diggers Flame is almost as good as a lantern. They augment each other and it makes finding hidden objects on the screen easier to see.
Predator Sight- outlines NPCs in green. Gives you a bonus to hit. If no other light is present NPCs get a penalty to hit.
Cartography spell and skill. While technically not a form of vision, it can allow you to navigate in the dark. At very high levels you can see treasure, bags, and NPCs on the map.

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Where are the spells!!

I am a caster and all I get is a lousy dagger.

Needless to say that even the smallest critters are too hard.

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If you chose a spell-casting character class, there should have been a spell scroll in the hollow stump in Elderhollow. Right-click to read it. Other scrolls can be purchased from merchants, or found randomly.
The spell-casting was a bit confusing at first--some clear instructions would have been nice.

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I am stuck and have been for a while now. I can not seem to get to the second level of eschalon or find the 4th key to the goblin citadel. I have killed every creature I can find except for the giants. HELP please?

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I am stuck playing Eschalon Book 1. I have all 4 keys, already inside Citadel, but couldn't get the gate to 2nd level opened. Someone please help me! Leave a comment here please.

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To MRJEFF (Last comment on November 24 ,2008)

Regarding your problem retrieving the 4th key,

DON'T KILL THE GIANTS , NOT ANY OF THEM ,

What you need to do is, retrieve a big skull
from a chest in camp Thorndike in the hunters lodge , but the problem is you first need to kill all the raptors , en then bring the skull to the chief of the giants (Omar) en in exchange he will give you the last key

It's as simple as that , i just bought the game and i really love playing it , but i am also stuck myself , i have the 4 keys and i have the crux of ages, but i still can not enter through the gate in goblin citadel (i mean , where the big stonekey is to get to bastion spire to put the crux of ages back in its place)
Would somebody please help me

Thank You

J.

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