I put about 40 hours into Fallout 4 when it launched in 2015 before I fell off, leaving much of the massive world and story unexplored. I’ve kept it installed on my hard drive ever since, deluding myself that I would jump back in to finish it some day.
After playing The Outer Worlds, I promptly uninstalled Fallout 4. The Outer Worlds’ tight pacing, excellent writing, and fun gameplay have completely satiated my first-person RPG desires – and it does it all in under 40 hours.
The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Phenomenal. The conclusion of The Broken Earth trilogy was everything I wanted and more. The emotional, epic climax between mother and daughter. The fate of the world. The history of the stone eaters. The slow-burn of the second book developing the relationship of Nassun and Schaffa paved the way for an emotionally-gripping finale.
I adored the intimate glimpse into the far-flung past (which is still our future) that sets up the cataclysmic world, how it broke, and how to fix it. Jemisin is an expert world-builder, yet always remains focused on the few but fantastic characters.
Every SF/F fan needs to read The Broken Earth trilogy, and I look forward to reading more of her work.
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The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I wish Goodreads allowed half-stars. As much as I still adore Jemisin’s writing and world-building, I didn’t quite love the second novel in The Broken Earth trilogy as much as the first.
*VAGUE SPOILERS BELOW*
I was fascinated with the character evolution of Schaffa, but his (and Nassun’s) storyline plods along slower than I would have liked. Likewise I didn’t expect Essun to remain in Castrima for the entirety of the novel, though I enjoyed the socio-political developments, interesting minor characters, and the climactic battle. The best parts were learning about the fascinating world and history, and a much deeper dive into the stone eaters, as well as the awesome and satisfying reveal of the first-person narrator.
Make no mistake, this is still a 5-star series, and an incredible blend of apocalyptic sci-fi, fantasy, great characters, and excellent world-building.
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Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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.
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I interviewed the developers at Sentient Cow Games about their debut tabletop game Escape from Dulce and their plans for an entire trilogy on their wonderfully weird Secret Unknown Stuff sci-fi universe.
An impressive ruleset that skillfully converts D&D 5E into a cyberpunk sci-fi setting, along with an excellent adventure that uses those rules.
Review copies of “Investigations & Androids” and “Off World Colony” were provided by the publisher. Find more tabletop RPG reviews on my website and YouTube channel.
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Designed by: D. O. Sebastian
I adore a good cyberpunk setting. Blade Runner. Shadowrun. Dredd. Altered Carbon. Even The Expanse, in some ways. In fact when I began DMing and playing online sessions via Roll20, we originally started with Shadowrun (and then switched to D&D 5E because Shadowrun’s rules are super ugly).
“Investigations & Androids” smartly takes the core malleable d20 gameplay of Dungeons & Dragons and converts it into a classic cybernoir theme. It’s extremely well written and organized, focusing on the most important changes while letting the original ruleset do most of the heavy lifting.
The 80+ page rule book includes four new classes, nine new races, four new backgrounds, new or altered techpowers (spells, basically) as well as biomods, weapon augmentations, and several new maps and NPC statblocks.
I’m also reviewing “Off World Colony,” a companion adventure that utilizes all of those rules. Sadly it’s only a part one of four (as yet unreleased), but the level 1 adventure includes three chapters that perfectly blends open world exploration within a structured environment, allowing for fun choices and character building within a space-staged murder-mystery plot.
Continue reading “DriveThruRPG Review – Investigations & Androids + Off World Colony”
Review of Clank in Space, and the Apocalypse expansion, by Dire Wolf Digital and Renegade Games Studio
Music by Kevin MacLeod
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The life of a cloned, intergalactic bounty hunter is about what I expected, though with a lot more loot boxes. Brig 12 offers an interesting mix of character class progression, tactical turn-based battles, and crew management, but it’s hampered every step of the way by free-to-play card mechanics that turn the gameplay into a repetitive grind.
The basic loop of Brig 12 is simple: Select a bounty target, track them using my crew—a fun mechanic I’ll talk about more later—then beam down with my landing party for a series of turn-based battles.
It’s been five years since the release of Mass Effect 3, and a controversy surrounding the ending that proved the passionate fanbase could turn on a dime. BioWare would infamously take this vitriolic feedback to heart, eventually releasing post-launch patches to update and tweak the ending. The ending of the trilogy is still one of the most divisive and sour notes in gaming, brought on because the Mass Effect series has become such an important cultural phenomenon for gamers.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the fangs came out for Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Star Wars is once again the crowning king of box office blockbusters. Star Trek has been rebooted and revitalized for a new generation. In just a few months we will see the highly anticipated next chapter of Mass Effect, arguably gaming’s best sci-fi universe.
But with a solid cast, near-future speculative setting and a fantastic book series, no one comes close to achieving the level of sci-fi greatness on television of Syfy’s The Expanse. Here’s why you need to be watching when season two arrives on Feb. 1.