Encased preview (PC)

Koch’s new Prime Matter label has a slew of upcoming games that were recently announced, and we’re previewing Encased today – a CRPG features a mysterious otherworldly dome set against an alternate reality backdrop.

What we know

When Koch recently announced the launch of their new publishing label Prime Matter, one of the standout titles in their lineup was Encased, an isometric RPG that feels heavily inspired by the likes of Fallout because of the dystopian wasteland it’s set in. There’s a retro-futuristic element to Encased as well, as everything takes place in an alternate reality based on the 1970s where an extraterrestrial dome has landed on earth.

People are allowed to enter, but no one has ever come out. The CRONUS corporation’s mission is to investigate the dome and all the new and alien tech associated with it, and as a result it’s grown to become very powerful. You’re just a lowly worker in their ranks as you’re sent into the dome, but as the story progresses you start playing a part in a larger plot.

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Even though there are five divisions in the corporation to start in, and five factions rule the world under the dome, you have a lot of freedom to choose who to align with – if that’s what you want at all. You’ll also be able to develop your character in many different ways, emphasizing stealth, melee or long range combat or your ability to persuade others in conversation. This will not only affect your playstyle, but also your standing with the various factions.

Encased launched into Early Access back in 2019 and is due for a 1.0 release later this year and is a PC-exclusive game. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, it’s now been picked up by the Prime Matter label with Dark Crystal Games developing the game.

What we saw

We played a new build of Encased that hadn’t been publicly released at the time, consisting of both Act 1 (which is in the current Early Access version) as well as a big part of Act 2, which is currently unreleased.

What we thought

Encased is heavy on stats and character creation before letting you actually venture into the dome, which is overwhelming on your first playthrough but feels more comfortable once you have more game time behind your belt and know what you’re going for. Our advice would be to just go with a preset the first time, and have the game ease you into its mechanics as you go along.

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That first restart could happen quickly as well, as the game starts off with you at the start of your first work day, which kicks off with a training program. This introduces you to the game’s turn-based combat mechanics as well, which feels a bit rough around the edges compared to the more polished experience you’d get from the likes of XCOM or Phoenix Point. Using cover and line of sight effectively is part of what makes those games great, but the implementation in Encased is nonexistent or unpolished at best.

The narrative-driven RPG part of the game fares a lot better, with a great deal of world building to draw you into the interesting and mysterious backdrop of the dome and the struggles for power that it has caused. You get offered plenty of narrative choices along the way as well, which to a degree affect the story but definitely add to how you define and shape your character. Depending on how different the story branches are, this should be great news for future replays.

No matter how interesting the characters you meet are, however, the biggest ‘protagonist’ here is the dome itself. Closing the people inside off from the outside world (though they can communicate) is causing people to behave differently, assume new social standards and form alliances and habits that only exist inside the dome. It’s an almost Stephen King-like premise and the writing pretty solid as well, and it’s what kept us pushing on just so we could find out more about it. The gameplay thus far feels less engrossing though, but perhaps that’s just the slightly underwhelming turn-based combat. Hopefully these next few months will see the experience get more streamlined, as Encased has a narrative we can’t wait to jump back into once more content is added.

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