Currently playing: Nox Archaist

April 13, 2014

Eschalon: Book III - A fresh start

I have to admit. I yielded before I was finished with Inquisitor. I bought Eschalon Book 3 now when the patch 1.021 was on the way. My patience for trying to complete Inquisitor failed. The game is huge and I´ve probably already put over 40 hours into it the last months and even though I am in Act 3, It feels there are a lot more to do. That´s why this blog has been so silent this year.

There is no coincidence that I have talked highly about the Eschalon series before on this blog. Actually, Eschalon is the reason I first became interested in playing old-school RPGs again. In autumn 2010, in one of my longer consultant jobs I had to endure very long waiting times for zip files to unzip or be transfered across networks. It was then I first heard about Eschalon. A game that said it was made with the old-school RPG feeling in thought. With a heavy story and skills and attributes that decided the outcome rather than your leftclicking finger, it was said to be challenging.

The title screen is accompanied by very good music

As the manual states: 

Eschalon: Book III is what we call an old school role-playing game. What does that mean? Well, to us it means we’ve tried to capture the feeling of a classic RPG from the 80’s or early 90’s, often referred to as the “golden era” of computer role-playing games. 

Those RPGs were mechanically simple to play yet featured deep single-player storylines and complex character stats, as well as an open environment to explore. 

If you remember playing any of the outstanding Might & Magic games, or wandering through Britannia in an Ultima game, or marveling at the detailed stat system of the Wizardry series, then you should have a good idea of 
what we’ve tried to make in the Eschalon series.

To cut it short. I bought the game. But not the first one. I started out with Eschalon: Book II. I got totally hooked by the charm it offered. I also bought and completed Eschalon Book 1. Ever since, I have been waiting for the third and last installment of the trilogy and it is now here.

So let´s take a look at the game and see what it can offer in 2014. Hopefully there are readers out there that have never heard of, yet alone played any of the Eschalon games. Then I could just congratulate. If this last episode is as good as the first I can promise you much enjoyment. But I will allow you to judge that for yourself since I am now ready to start up the game....

Character genereation

...which begin by creating your character. This is a single player experience so choose carefully. You could re-roll your stats until you are satisfied. You then distribute your 20 available attribute points freely and choose a gender, origin, axiom and class. Each part gives you different advantages or both positive and negative sides.

I choosed to play a female enchantress-mage called Ranja and spent my points on intelligence and perception. Both are important for a mage since the first controls how fast you regenerate mana points and the second how much mana you start out with. Endurance is always important for a mage since your hitpoints is dependent upon it. Concentration is also required for spells so that cannot be neglected either. I had to sacrifice strength, dexterity and speed. I have very faint memories of how to build a strong character here so I am only guessing at this stage.

You can select certain rules that will make the game harder depending on how much score you want to aiim for. I choosed to go for normal difficulty which means that water and food will be a factor and equipment will degrade.

The last game ended with me being beamed by a creature called "The One", resembling what we today call Grays from the modern UFO litterature. The beam hit a very powerful crux of fire gem instead of me which meant I was teleported to what seems to be another world. I wake up in the middle of a jungle without a single equipment on me. My first task is to find out where I am and try to reach the nearest village, as well as finding out what power lies in the crux of fire gem I have.

Not the best place to wake up at

What strikes me quickly is the clear and detailed graphics the game offers, despite only being played out in 1024x768. It is clear it is as improved as it can get since it is the same underlying engine that was used in Eschalon Book 1 from 2007.

My inventory is empty and I have no spells at my disposal. Fortunately, a quick search in the nearby surroundings let me find a scroll of sparks which is a weak but functional offensive elemental spell. I also pick up some gold and food while I had to follow the only way that leads through the djungle to a swamp river. Here and there giant beetles attacked me but by preparing a level 3 sparkspell I was able to take them out in only one shot. I had to make camp a few times to restore my mana and during that time your food and water levels depletes quickly. Fortunately I found a waterskin as well. I had put three points in foraging so occasionally I find some cabbage I could eat but other than that I really had no reserves of food at all.

This is my equipment table and character sheet

You can only make camp if you have enough space and is not near any danger

My exploration of the surrounding land revealed a few chests and barrels. Some chests where locked but I found keys for them or I could try to destory them with my spells. But that is seldom worth the mana cost.

I found several skeletons or remains from humanoids and many of them had a few items I could use to my disposal. I found some armour and a bludgeon weapons but since I lack skill in both of them I couldn´t use them.

You move by holding down the mouse button or by using the arrow keys. Since the game is turn-based you cannot point to a location and expect your character to walk there. I eventually reached the town Rockhammer. It was a small mining town consisting of a tavern, blacksmith, gemstone expert, the mayor and some houses. I was looking for work so the Mayor said the dwarven mine had been infested with cockroaches (have we heard that one before ?) and if I clear them out he was willing to pay me some gold.

After that, I picked up several subquests like retrieving a crafting hammer for the blacksmith or help get back some debts. Even though I could leave the town at any time and in any direction - this game is not linear -, I preferred to go down through the mines.

Darkness plays a role not only for aesthetic reason, but it will be more difficult to hit if you find yourself in darkness. That goes for the enemies as well. You could pick up any torches you find on the walls. If it is raining it will be difficult to light them and they could even go out. It is small things like this that make this game stand out.

Observe the lightning effects
In the mines I disposed of all cochroaches and scorpions. I had to rest a lot to regain my mana and food is never plentiful. Fortunately my forage helps me out to now and then give me something edible to eat. When I returned back to the town I got some very hefty experience points and quickly rose to level 4. Each time you level up you have the chance to access the level up button. You get 3 skill points and 3 attribute points for every level and you can save them until next level advancement if you wish but you could only enter the level assignment process once per level. I really like this feature.

It allows you one use to allocate your points when you need them but you have to wait until progressing to the next level until next time so you could not exploit it ruthlessly. In Inquistor for example, you can allocate your points whenever you need them which has made me running around with points worth 10 levels of advancements. Just to be sure...

Environmental descriptions are presented in the bottom textfield and when you enter conversations you get a small portrait of the person in question and several dialogue options. The system is quite simple and there are few dialogue trees. Most of the time you could go back and select one answer in a row. It works without any problems though and so far the texts has been well written. It is definetly more advanced than the Dark Disciples series.

Eventually I found a map that helped me locate my position in the world. This is not to be confounded with the automap that requires the skill Cartography (or the spell reveal map). I am obviously somewhere far away but still in the same world as before.

I begun to explore the western parts of the realm and found a stranded cargo ship, a guild overrun by evil rogues and a lot of small places of interests. I have to say I am very content of playing a mage. I was wise to invest a maxium 5 starting skill points into elemental which means I could cast level 3 sparks. That was enough to take out anything out in the wild in the beginning and by increasing my elemental skill to 7 at level 2 made me cast level 4 sparks that could take out cockroaches and scorptions with a few hits. That is not to say it is too easy. I constantly need to retreat and regenerate mana after downing a few enemies which means the drain on my food supply is heavy. That´s why I invested in the forage skill from the beginning. That alone is not enough though. I feel I have to return to town to buy more food as the situation is right now.

I alter entered the ship from the western side

It is often worthwhile to look everywhere.

So what about the mainquest ? Well, one of my first things was to get more information about the gem I had, the very valuable crux of fire. I found a gemspecialist in Rockhammer who said that a women asked about a person just like me some weeks ago and left a message for me to meet her in her camp in the west amongst the dunes. I am slowly on my way overthere but have decided to complete every subquest in order.

I haven´t met any special puzzles yet, although to open the entrance to the Seawardens guild required me to use two cranks on two separate nearby wells. I have also come across traps in the dwarven mines. There are skills for discovering them but I suppose my innate attributes helped me because I could see faint traces of them before they sprung.

Moneywise, I have around 500 gold crowns. There are a lot of things I want to buy like better magical scrolls, light armour and magical items but for the money I have I can at best get two items right now. Better to save them until I really need them. I invested 3 skill points on a level upgrade to get the light armour skill at 1. That allows me to at least wear the most simple light armour I can found. What I want to say is, that the economy balance works very well until to the point where I am.

So far the enjoyment is top notch, like the previous games in the trilogy. I really like the neat and clean interface, the font used and most of the userinterface. The sound effects are clear and plentiful with many environmental effects like rain or thunderstorms. The title theme is also very good. I´ll return more to the music further on in the game because now I have another 3 cups of coffee waiting for me and the game to start up again....


  1. > since the game is turn-based you cannot point to a location
    > and expect your character to walk there.

    This is my main problem with the games - up to an "this is unplayable" feeling. I think Spiderweb solved this much better, turn-based combat combined with point&click walking is great.

    1. This is how it was in the Fallout series as well. Combat was turn-based, point & click real-time movement otherwise. I hope you're enjoying this one. I've read it's not so great compared to the first two.