Video Games – Eschalon Book 1 (Part 1)
I bought this game a while ago from Basilisk Games. Never got around to playing it for whatever reason. But now I’ve played it!
I’ve played it so you don’t have to! Because you don’t want to! Because it isn’t good!
Eschalon is promoted as one of the ‘old school’ style RPGs. You’ve got stats to increase and skills to increase and items to collect. Sounds nice.
Well, here we go.
No wait, first let me talk about how all my saves just up and vanished, and none of the tricks on the Eschalon forums worked to get them back and I lost 16 or 17 hours of game-play. Actually, I just told you everything you need to know. All of ‘em, straight-up gone. I guess that’s true-to-form for old school games, though. So maybe this is a feature, not a bug?
Oh, and now I can’t save any game at all, I keep getting error messages about it. So, really fantastic. I’m going to keep fighting with it – I think I have a thread on the problem – but for now, I don’t have many screenshots. (FIXED, check the way bottom. It isn’t important. Don’t rush.)
I fire it up. Right off – excellent music. And I mean excellent. The title track got me to just sit there and listen. I cannot even remember the last time I did that with a game. It really got me in the mood to smash some dumb goblin faces.
Making a character is simple to do, but there are plenty of complexities if you want them. There’s five or six weapon skills. I’d pick one and just max it if you’re going for a fighter like I did). I kept missing even when I had a 72% hit rate, and enemies kept hitting consistently with a 37% hit rate. Maybe pick up some light armor proficiency – or heavy armor, but there’s Encumbrance.
Oh, there’s one of my complaints. If you use a weapon or armor that you do not have the skill for, you get a penalty. It is never said what the penalty is, or how severe it is. Am I not getting any benefits (like an increase in damage) from the weapon, and then also a penalty on top of that? Is the penalty exactly equal to the bonus, so that I just get nothing? Or is the penalty less than the bonus, so I’m getting a bonus to, say, damage, but it isn’t what the weapon would normally do? This is important information when I’m comparing gear.
Another thing – the game won’t tell you, but if you don’t take Divination as a skill, you cannot heal yourself. You’ll have to spend waaaaaay too much money on healing potions – unless you’ve put points into Mercantile. You also miss out on a bunch of buff spells that I found necessary later in the game, fighting minotaurs or whatever the game calls them (Taurax. Jesus, past-Sean. Do some editing or research, you lazy piece of shit). Bless alone is excellent. Haste is fantastic, as it is in all games. Stoneskin is nice. I found Fleshboil and Poison Dart less than useful.
The spell system is nice. You pick a spell, and then a spell level. To pick higher levels, you need a higher skill in either Divination or Elemental, which are the two spell schools. So as you increase in levels and put points into the spell skills, you can use the same spells to greater effect. Old spells don’t become useless – I really like systems like this.
But there are also some restrictions on what spells you can memorize. For example, I think I had to put a point or two more into Divination before I could memorize Haste. It isn’t a big deal, I’d just rather not have to carry the scroll around until I level up.
And scrolls don’t weigh much, but the game has an Encumbrance score. So weight matters – in fact, if you are near enemies, you can only cast spells if you don’t have a certain amount of weight in your hands. For example, I had a sword and gauntlets on – no shield – and I could only cast spells if the combined weight of weapon, shield, and gauntlets weighed less than 11 pounds. Any time I wanted to cast a spell with an enemy nearby – not in combat with an enemy, but with an enemy nearby – I had to go into my inventory and unequip my sword. It was a hassle, and an unnecessary one. It doesn’t add anything to the game, it just annoys the person playing. Me. It annoys me.
And I think that’s the crux of the problem (Eschalon: Book 1 joke! You’re looking for the ‘Crux of Ages’ ha ha ha moving on). There are things that should stay in old school games. I play games to relax, to engage with a good story, and to punch goblins because I hate goblins. Like, I actually hate goblins, in an unhealthy way that should worry my friends if they aren’t already concerned.
I don’t play games to be annoyed, irritated, or to feel like my time is being wasted (I play them ti kill goblins). And by and large, I felt all those things when playing Eschalon Book 1.
At low levels, I had no money for healing potions, so I felt like I had to put points into Divination. But then I had to unequip my sword any time I wanted to heal near an enemy. Locked chests can be broken open, but sometimes my weapon broke when doing it, which is odd – I can smash my sword at full strength into enemies wearing metal armor, but when I try to break or pry open this chest or rotting wooden barrel, my sword disintegrates? And it isn’t like weapons have durability scores. It appears to be a totally random chance that the weapon will break.
Oh, and there are enemies that burst into acid when you kill them, and they also have a random chance to demolish any piece of equipment you are wearing. I kept reloading because I didn’t want to lose the only good belt I had found, or the only set of boots I had proficiency to wear without some secret penalty.
I reloaded a lot.
EDIT: I found out how to restore my lost saves! I have actually just finished the game, and I have more complaints but also some compliments. It turns out that I’m not sorry I played it, in the end. Next week that’ll be up.