It has been 7 years since ‘Eschalon: Book I’ was released and although fans of ‘Eschalo’n had book 2 in 2010, it has been quite a wait for the concluding part. For those new to ‘Eschalon’, as I was, it is a role playing, dungeons & dragons PC game where you get to guide your character through the landscape on various quests. For those who didn’t get to play Books I & II you’re lucky as they aren’t a prerequisite for Book III.
At the start, you get to name your character and specify what skills and physical attributes they have. For my first foray, I went for a chap called Merlin with Druidic ancestors and a penchant for the magic. Choosing the skills and appointing the various point’s values was straight forward with help being displayed as you make your choices.
Having completed the character specification you are taken to the next screen which isn’t immediately obvious as to what you’re supposed to do. The text in the large arrow pointing right says ‘Normal’. There are four boxes above this with two of them ticked. Ticking or un-ticking these boxes change the level of difficulty with levels ranging from easy to hard. I decided to stick with the default setting of Normal and off we went. There’s a brief introduction to explain how you have ended up at the top of a volcano with only one possession and no memory. Some of this is repeated in your Quest guide, which is available from the menu bar.
After all the opening introductions, you are finally shown the main game window where you can see your hero in his (or her) immediate surroundings. My first thought was, Oh dear, it looks terribly dated. In fact, it looks almost identical to the original ‘Eschalon’ released in 2007 and that looked dated even then. Perhaps I had been spoiled with the graphics in ‘Dungeon Siege’ but that was released five years before ‘Eschalon: Book II. Oh well, graphics aren’t everything I suppose.
Control of the character is achieved by placing the cursor in the window and pressing the left key. The character will then move towards the cursor. You are more or less guided by the trees onto the first object which happens to be a skeleton. If you guide the character right next to the skeleton and then click on said skeleton, a box is displayed showing what items are available for you to pick up. It’s also worth looking in any barrels you find. These are nearly always in the vicinity of the skeletons as though they died trying to protect them. The fact that there so many skeletons are just lying around the place might be a clue that all is not safe and friendly. Either just before or just after the second skeleton you will come across the bog roach. At somewhere between four and five feet long, they are hard to miss and no, they are not friendly.
Combat in ‘Eschalon: Book III’ is turned based so you get a go (mouse right click activates the selected weapon or spell) and then your foe get his (or its) chance to stick the boot in. Or the pointy thing. Or the jaws. Or the other nasty thing they have. They always seem to have something that today’s health and safety brigade would ban outright as it might just possibly hurt someone. Your only hope is to try and kill them off before they kill you. Running away doesn’t seem to do much good as they simply follow you before launching another attack. In common with most games of this ilk, the further you go the more nasty the baddies become. I especially liked the thing that was something like a swarm of bees (Tip: arrows aren’t very good against them).
As you travel, you will bump in to other non-player characters and providing they don’t attack you, you’re offered a series of questions and responses that you can put to them. It is a bit stilted and of course limited, but gets you the information you need to know. In fact there’s quite a bit you could criticise about ‘Eschalon: Book III’ (dated graphics, repetitive combat sequences, and limited interaction) but there is something about the game that makes it enjoyable to play. You can save at most points, combat doesn’t need lots of hard to remember key sequences and the various quests are interesting. I originally started playing ‘Eschalon: Book III’ so I could write the review and now I have done that I still find myself dusting off my book of spells and diving in for another go. That’s got to say something about the game, doesn’t it?
(pub: Basilisk Games. Distributor: Steam. Price: $19.99 (US), £14:99 (UK))