Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Thursday, May 03, 2007

So close, yet so far...

UFO: Extraterrestrials is apparently being released today. Basically, the game is an X-com clone. Not 100% X-com, but it looks really really close. It's been in the works for something like 5-6 years, I've been following it at least 2.

So, apparently it's finally done. It supposedly went gold about 2 weeks ago and was supposed to be out May 1st. I had an order for it at But that was delayed another week, to the 7th. So I cancelled my order from there, and placed one at Gamestop. Then they changed their date to the 9th, then changed it to June 1st.

In the mean time, apparently the game is out in English in Russia. Reports about the game have started trickling in. And presumably it's been pirated already, since a bunch of people (who are not Russian) are talking about it on Gamefaqs.

And today, it's being released on Matrix games as a digital download. Which would be great, except I'm still stuck on dialup, and the game is something like 2 gigs. They also mention that stores in NA won't be getting retail copies until the 21st of May. Which is better than GS's date, but later than I hoped. And Matrix themselves would be selling a boxed copy, but theirs won't ship until the 18th.

Sigh. I was really hoping to play it at least next week. But guess it won't be for another 3 weeks. I really hope this wasn't part of a deliberate plan, trying to push download sales of it. I asked the retail publisher, Tri Synergy, to comment on it, but I doubt I'll hear from them.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Sewers of Redpoint

The Sewers of Redpoint

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The Sewers of Redpoint is a fantasy module from Dark City Games's "Legends of the Ancient World" line. If you aren't familiar with that, basically, they are small, self contained modules which come in a little baggie which are meant to emulate the old "Fantasy Trip" adventure or minigames. Indeed, basically it is a minigame, besides the adventure, you get a small rules booklet, a board map, and a sheet of counters. All you really need is some d6s and pencil and paper. You don't even need other people, you can play them solo, if you want.

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The rules are only about 8 pages, and are fairly similar to that of the Fantasy Trip (and its successor, Gurps), and if you have those rules, you can play with those instead. But these rules are certainly serviceable. Just to recap:

Characters have 3 stats, Str, Dex, Int. Skills, including attacks, are generally handled by rolling under the associated stat on 3 dice (but sometimes 4 for more difficult tasks). For most things (except combat), additional skill levels add 1 to the number which you have to roll under, for combat skills, ranks in that increase how much damage is done on a hit. How much damage a character takes is determined by his strength (ST). Armor stops damage.

Some characters can use magic. They have fatigue points equal to their intelligence (IQ). To cast a spell, they have to succeed on a 3D IQ check. There are quite a few spells, which a character has to known to cast. Each spell has a different fatigue cost. There's just one magic type (no arcane/divine like in say, D&D), but the healing magic isn't terribly powerful.

There's not a huge amount of non-combat skills, maybe 30 or so, plus reading/writing languages. Some of them do come into play into the adventure, so they shouldn't completely neglected.

The module itself

This is the 4th one of these I've played through (3rd in their fantasy line), and they range from the fairly easy to the fiendishly difficult. This is very much on the easy side, indeed, while it's not labeled as such, seems like a beginner module (although it's not for beginner characters, standard beginner characters have 32 ability points, the ones in this start at 36).

Essentially, in the city of Redpoint, a somewhat Lovecraftian cult (followers of the "Worm God") has kidnapped a holy child from a good church, and has disappeared with him into the sewers below (I think this was also the plot of a bad Eddie Murphy movie). Your party of characters must explore the sewers and retrieve him (unharmed, hopefully). Basically, it's a fairly straight forward dungeon crawl. There are almost 25 areas or rooms in total.

The exploration of the sewers isn't too linear. You don't have to go through all 25 areas. Indeed, there seem to be 3 main paths, with some branching between them. To get to the final showdown you do need a couple keys to open a door, so you might have to go through more than one path. Though it's possible to get them in at least one route.

One very interesting touch is there is a fairly extensive post-game process. That is, during your exploring of the sewers, you can pick up "plot words" which are basically like flags in computer programming, that tell the game whether you did something or not. Some are used during the adventure itself, but quite a few are for things after the adventure. This goes a long way to make it feel less like a "one-shot" and more like part of an ongoing game. (Although, you can earn a lot of money in the game, there isn't much in the rules set to spend it on)

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There's also some background info on the setting used in their "Legends of the Ancient World" setting, mostly mentioning how after the "Mage Wars", civilization apparently mostly consists of scattered city states built on the sites of old ruined mage towers. Redpoint itself is an exception, and for whatever reason, has a somewhat Roman flavor to it.

It's a bit confusing, because a nearby city-state is named "Demeter", which of course is a Greek goddess.


Once again, the cover art by Nicole Cardiff is excellent, although the nitpicky will wonder why the guy is swinging a shortsword like that (since they are usually stabbing weapons).

You get a map of the sewers as well. It's essentially a flowchart, but beautifully illustrated, illuminated is really the word for it, like the old medieval manuscripts. Including a map definitely helps you run the adventure for other people (like a traditional RPG), as well as helping you not stay lost, but for the most fun, it's best to make your own map, and consult the one in the book if you only get really really lost (which probably shouldn't happen in this).

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The sheet of counters basically features smaller versions of some of the art you see in the booklet. While they perhaps aren't the super high quality counters from say, Fiery Dragon Press, they're definitely comparable to the old fantasy trip ones, and good quality.

One trouble I had though was that there didn't seem to be any obvious counters for your characters, or rather, I couldn't tell which ones were meant for such. I think later modules from them solve this problem by using a slightly different background, but I'm not sure of the chronological order of their products, since they aren't numbered.

Final Thoughts

If you are interested in getting into these games, this would make a pretty good introductory module, because it's straight forward in terms of gameplay - like I said, it's basically a dungeon crawl. The other two in the line I've played were more varied in environment and more complicated in the gameplay itself.

It also puts you right into the action, so to speak. The other two (Island of Lost Spells and Gates to the Underworld) started off with you in a small village, where you walked around and gathered background information on what was going on, and shopped for stuff. In this, it starts at the entrance of the sewers. Which isn't necessarily better (in fact, I liked wandering about town), but again, more suited for someone new to these.

It did seem a little short, but the stuff coming after the adventure helps make up for that a lot.