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The fourth Expanse book almost has the opposite problem of the third book, it sets up the characters, setting, and conflict in an exciting way, then drags on for most of the second half of the book.
Cibola Burn tackles early settlement of the first of the new worlds opened up by the gates at the end of the third book. A renegade group of Belters were the first through the gate, and by the time a giant corporation ship from Earth arrives to document, research, and set up facilities, the squatters/settlers are already entrenched, leading to political conflict, especially when the squatters sabotage the newly arrived ship.
In comes James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante to mediate. The human drama take precedent over the exotic alien planet, but the new characters (including a returning old one from the first book) are all solid new additions, particularly the villainous Murtry and passionate scientist Dr. Elvi Okoye.
A cataclysmic event separates the two halves of the novel, and the second half slows to a crawl as we transition into man vs nature. There are two main storylines, and the orbiting ships in space becomes way more interesting and action-packed than the plodding survival story on the planet’s surface.
I still love this series and the characters are fantastic, but so far most of them could benefit from better pacing and about 100 fewer pages.
In 2014 Triumph Studios revitalized the niche 4X strategy series Age of Wonders with the excellent Age of Wonders 3. After two solid expansion packs the studio quietly began working on their next project, and was acquired by Swedish publisher Paradox Interactive, known for big, densely packed strategy games.
Age of Wonders: Planetfall is the long-awaited next step in the franchise. It’s less of an evolutionary leap forward, but builds upon the successes of Age of Wonders 3 along with several smart and fun gameplay improvements and dozens hours of replayability.
The Slayer is a monster hunting ranger-rogue player class with five subclass specialties.
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Designed by: Jacob S. Kellogg
Another new player class, and another attempt to remake the oft-lamented ranger. “The Slayer Class” adds a new hunter class that follows the typical route of combining fighter, ranger, and rogue into a single monster-hunting class. Including five subclasses is impressive, but they’re all a bit too short and simple.
The party finally levels up to 6, so naturally the DM throws a freakin’ dragon at them.
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Mannix, level 6 Human Inquisitive Rogue/Wizard
Khaless, level 6 Half-Drow Assassin Rogue
Gillian, level 6 Triton Bard of Whispers
George, level 6 Tortle Battle Master Fighter/Rogue
Therin, level 6 Hill Dwarf Druid of the Moon
The party finally levels up to 6 and arrives in the smokey, ash-filled Shilku Bay, marking the end of their ship-borne excursions around Chult. But the final leg of the trip is cut short when a red dragon descends upon the ship.