I need to preface this review by saying Encased isn’t a bad game—but it’s a strange game. It’s not strange in the sense that it’s a pretty standard isometric CRPG (short for computer role-playing game, a genre term that’s a bit outdated) but strange because it tries extra hard to be a game it isn’t. Even while Encased’s uniqueness stands out glaringly, developer Dark Crystal Games insisted on making a Fallout game. While developed as its own IP, I can’t help but think of Encased as an intended Fallout sequel that somehow got caught in legal wrangling and had to have all Fallout references removed. That isn’t the case, however. Instead Encased is more like homage to classic Fallout and other CRPGs.
Encased is an isometric role-playing game with turn-based combat. It takes place in an alternate 1970s where a strange dome has appeared, containing unknown and advanced technology and artifacts. The CRONUS Corporation has built up operations in and around the dome to study these technologies, leading to great leaps in technological advancement. Then, as is inevitable, something goes wrong. Known as “The Incident,” it changes life inside The Dome from one of corporate oversight to post-apocalyptic tribalism—you know, as it does. But that’s okay, because you are armed to the teeth, or skilled up the wazoo with Encased’s robust set of skills, weapons, and abilities.
If you like CRPG-style games, Encased ticks all of the boxes. There are rich character interactions, story moments with important decisions to make, and companions to help you lay waste to your wasteland foes. There are a variety of weapons and weapon types to discover and put skills into. I’d like to say that I had a chance to test all of the builds, but there are so many I just didn’t have the time—which is a good thing, and speaks to the potential for Encased’s replayability. There are many scenarios in Encased that can be approached from multiple angles. You can complete objectives with speech checks, sneak past enemies instead of confronting them, or go in guns blazing and let your guns do the talking.
While Encased takes place in a futuristic 1970s, I can’t help but see Fallout everywhere I look. Its bunkers sometimes look like vaults from classic Fallout games, and even the CRONUS logo looks a bit like the Brotherhood of Steel logo. There are even suits of power armor, called exosuits, that work more like they do in Fallout 4 than classic Fallout—meaning they are suits of mobile armor that stay where you leave them. The helmets on the exosuit armor even slightly resemble the NCR helmets from New Vegas. And that’s a problem for me, because no matter how much I want to be immersed in the world of Encased, I see Fallout. I’m not even trying to — it’s like there was a deliberate design decision from the gameplay to the art style to make this as close to Fallout as possible. It even has a dark humor closer to the style of the original Fallout games—at least, what I remember from playing them decades ago. Let’s just say that Encased has a severe identity crisis that managed to distract me from the world and lore it was trying to build.
And that’s too bad. Because Encased has a rich world with an interesting take on a more contained apocalypse. There are five distinct factions warring across the Dome, each once parts of CRONUS’ different departments, or “wings.” While creating your character you join one of these factions, but after The Incident you have a chance to change allegiance, or play factions against each other.
The Dome is a large open world full of mutated creatures and dangerous anomalies. Travel is handled (again) like classic Fallout—when you leave an area, you travel across a world map that represents all of the area inside of the Dome. Once you get into this more open world gameplay, Encased shows its full potential. Unfortunately, there are (potentially) hours of gameplay that are just setup, railroading your character through a lengthy tutorial section that goes on far too long. I almost wanted to give up on Encased until it took the leash off.
Encased is a good CRPG that is forever in the shadow of Fallout. It’s a competent game that is just good enough to warrant your attention, but might not ever be good enough on its own to get out from under its self-imposed yoke.
Encased is available now on Steam.
A Steam key was provided to us for this review.
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