Eschalon: Book II Review (July 13, 2010)

Posted: July 13, 2010 by Mike Hubbartt in Software Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , ,

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Eschalon: Book II
Version: 1.04 (Updated July 14, 2010)
Publisher: Basilisk Games
Price: $24.95 (Download), $35.95 (DVD)
To contact them via email: info@basiliskgames.com.
Free Demo via Download: click here.

Role Playing Games (RPGs) have been around for a long time. The first RPG games needed books that had stats for players, treasure, and obstructions. In the book-based version of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), a Dungeon Master (DM) drew the map of the site of the action on paper with obstructions, treasures, and Non Player Characters (NPCs – essentially extras that can provide help when asked). I played D&D in college and we had an excellent DM (Smaug the Unpleasant) and a great group of players that spent hours exploring and fighting (Beaudrow the Elf) and opening doors (Aragon the Strong).

RPGs were among the first games produced for home computers, and my favorite type of software was D&D. I played simple versions of it on the Commodore 64 and more advanced versions (graphically as well as depth of play) on the more advanced Amiga. I played Dungeons and Dragons, Ultima, and Might and Magic and really liked them, so you can understand that I was looking forward to playing Eschalon: Book II.

Basilisk Games says that Eschalon: Book II is “a turn-based role playing game” based on the RPGs of the 1980s and 1990s. Like the classic games, Eschalon players have attributes that affect how well they do, there are objects scattered throughout the game that are useful, and there are missions to undertake where players can improve their character attributes.

The game system requirements are:

  • CPU: 2GHz or faster
  • RAM: 512 MB
  • Video: 3D Accelerated
  • OS: Mac OS X 10.3.9 or greater, Windows 2000/XP/Vista, Linux
  • Display Options: full screen mode (1024×768) or within a window

Getting Started

I downloaded and installed (expanding the downloaded .dmg file and dragging the folder into the Applications folder) the software on a new 13.3” 2.26GHz Intel Dual Core CPU Macbook with a 250 GB hard drive. No problems during the installation and it takes up less than 300 MB of space on the hard drive.

I started the game and like the options/info at the initial startup screen, which has good information that can help Basilisk’s support in the event of problems getting the software to run on your machine. I selected Launch Game to get to the intro, which I can skip it after learning the necessary story background, but do suggest first time players watch the intro.

Per the manual, my first task was to create a character, so I created Doc Beaudrow.
Basilisk gives each character an extra 20 attribute points beyond the main ones generated by the game (Strength, Endurance, Wisdom, Perception), which I used to enhance my elf’s fighting abilities. After Beaudrow the Elf was ready, I went to the game rules screen and selected the easiest options to see how the game plays.

The game starts in the character’s home, where I found items in the drawers in cabinets inside the house and took them for my adventure. A tip… take everything (including the journal) from all of the drawers in the house, look in the barrel outside the house (it sometimes has gold), and don’t forget to take a drink and fill your water skin at the well before leaving. Characters need to eat and drink. Upon leaving the house I found a message from someone that wanted to contact me, so I set off to an inn in a nearby town. I stopped along the way and bought some supplies and weapons, which I would need very soon.

I spoke to NPCs that I met on the trail and in the buildings of the town (this is how you learn about additional adventures for each level) and then made it to the inn to meet the person that left the message at my home, and he just gave me enough to get me interested when he was killed. I set out but had forgotten the  RPG player’s prime creed: save early and save often. I had accumulated money, resources and experience but my poor elf was about to journey to the afterlife. I encountered some nasty dragonets that easily overwhelmed me, so Beaudrow was no more. But, to my chagrin, I lost everything: the character and the experience, so I had to create a new character and start over.

Armed with knowledge that a lesson learned is not a bad one, I recreated my elf, picked up all the goodies in and around the house, then saved the elf before heading to town. This time I bought the supplies and weapons, found more gold, met the person in the inn, and saved my character before going any further. I now had a starting point, plus a point where I had some experience points and no damage.

I went to a home under siege by dragonets, barely evading them and entering the home of a man that needed someone to find and destroy the nest of these creatures. I used a game feature to take a screen shot of the game at that point. My elf stands by a table while the dragonets (they look like oversized dragonflies, but their bite is much worse) are buzzing about outside the home. These creatures attack fast, and the best way I found to kill them was to use arrows, so make sure you buy plenty when you get the chance on the way into town.  Your character status (damage and ability to continue to fight) and available weapons are easily accessible on the screen. Note the floppy disk icon at the far right of the list of icons – that is you way to save the game at the current point in the adventure. As I’ve said before, save early and save often. Also note the map with visible and hidden regions at the top right area of the screen. It shows where you’ve been in each level of the adventure.

I think you get the idea now. This RPG is like others from the past. It is simple to learn for people already familiar with this type of game, yet also easy to pick up if this is the first time you are playing it. The screen layout is useful yet not overwhelming.

I have explored most of the first level and am going on to the others as time allows. I intend to continue playing the game and will update this article from time to time. If any readers want to contribute tips (just hints, not explicit instructions) for other readers, please feel free to post them here.

Positives

Excellent manual – I was impressed with the desktop publishing, as well as the way the game information is covered so well and yet without being too much to wade through.

Very minor system requirements to play the game, so people with older computers can enjoy the game as well as people with new, cutting-edge equipment.

Reasonable price, and available as a download or on a disk for installation.

Viewing the game full screen or in a window is a nice touch, especially for those playing (during breaks or lunchtime, of course) while at work.

I really like first person shooters, but a good RPG should be more than just chopping down opponents. Basilisk provides good background information in the manual and the intro that make it an adventure with goals to accomplish

Configurable Difficulty Modes – this makes it so easy for a newcomer to learn how to play the game without getting bogged down in details that are more important to experienced gamers.

Finally someone is making an effort to get decent games to people running Linux. I would like to hear from anyone that runs this under Linux – any issues with a particular version/type of Linux, like/dislike, and general impression when compared to other Linux games.

I love how easy it is to take screen shots within the game – what a great way to help reviewers as well as people that post their players on a blog or website.

Negatives

One minor problem (missing material on page 2-explanation for Left Ctrl at the bottom of the page) with the manual, which does not affect the quality of an otherwise outstanding piece of  documentation. I wish the manual had page numbers (which I added), as it is necessary to sort through it to find useful tips throughout the manual.

I’d also prefer that it was easier to find details like the location of saved games and screen shots. For example, mine was located in /Users/mikehubbartt/Library/Application Support/Basilisk Games/Book 2 Saved Games.

Conclusion

Fun, and I recommend it as a good value for the money and a good buy. If you played any of the older RPG games like D&D, Ultima, Might and Magic, then you will enjoy this game. If you are new to the RPG genre, download and try the trial of this game. You just might be pleasantly surprised.

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