Alpha Omega - Mindstorm Games
I apologize in advance if this belongs in the Product Review area, there was no heading for this game.
I was walking through my local game shop a little while ago, and I came across an oddly shaped book. It's about 8" x 12", but it's bound on the short side of the book rather than the long. The cover art is minimalistic, but really sharp and intriguing, so I gave it a once over.
Every page was a nice, heavy, glossed, colour sheet! The artwork is professional quality, high detail colour, seems to be a mix of painting, inking, airbrushing and CG. The book has some heft at 3lbs, but it contains 404 pages of material. It's a sci-fi, dark future setting, with something like a dozen different character concepts, I was sold.
For those of you who have some idea of Alpha Omega, you probably know the hook. The world of the future has become inundated with celestial races, aliens who strongly resemble angels and demons. For me this was a disadvantage, I have In Nomine, it's a good game and fulfills that niche well...I didn't really like the idea of mixing sci-fi with heaven/hell. Despite this (and having bought the book ) I gave the game a chance. The second thing I noticed...there is a lot going on in this book, almost too much. If a game is going to touch on the return of celestial beings to our world, that's usually all they cover. Alpha Omega hits that, plus the current political landscape, warring human nations, the addition of AI and rogue computers, environmental hazards, criminal undergrounds....it's like having several Several Supplements shoved into a Core book...a bit overwhelming.
After a first browse, I decided that this game didn't know what it wanted to be and was trying to be everything. I actually asked myself, what were they thinking! And then it sort of hit me. They didn't want to tell a one-dimensional story about these alien races of Angels and Demons. Unlike a typical anime style story, they didn't want their world to be a Utopia destroyed by the arrival of these beings...they wanted a funtional fleshed out world to exist and the Aliens to be sort of the final piece....
Taking a second look from that perspective the book made better sense. In the future there would be Artificial Intelligence, so what would that look like, what would it do and subsequently what characters could be made from that. Bio-research would have moved forward, how would that affect genetic manipulation, test-tube soldiers or spies. Small scale wars will have taken place, would nuclear weapons be used? Biological, Chemical? What would be the result on distant generations? Mutations for good and bad? Ofcourse with the arrival of aliens could there be cross breeding?
All of these questions are asked and answered within the pages of Alpha Omega, giving the game world a real sense of depth.
In addition to all this there are some nice little touches as well. The game has a large section for equipment where every weapon has been rendered with high quality art...including close-combat attachments for ballistic weapons. In a world where your opponent can close in quickly or ammunition run short, having a carbon-fibre axe head on the end of your shot gun or punch spikes on the end of your smg can be invaluable!
Admittedly, the system is a little crunchy, and a bit out there at times, but it isn't a bad one...it just takes some time and patience to get your head around. Character generation is more complex than most games, but that sort of comes hand in hand with character variance, the more characters differ at their base levels, the more complex the system becomes for representing those characters....which is really another way of saying that they are trading simplicity for a more realistic Feel.
If you like good, in-depth sci-fi set in a dark distopia you'll probably be interested in the setting.
If you like games systems that step away from D20 cookie cutters, you'll have a blast with the rules.
If you like generous amounts of eye-candy and inspiration for your games, look no further.
Worth picking up if you want a refreshing new twist of a distopic future or if your looking for some fresh inspiration for your current sci-fi campaigns. If making a switch from D20 to Rifts rulesets made you tear your hair out...you'll want to avoid this system as well. (which is not to imply this system is REMOTELY like rifts, it is cosmetically similar only)
"A hunter of shadows, himself a shade"
Homer, The Odyssey (II, 572)