Hey there everybody! Time to take a short break from the world of video games to tackle something familiar. Something analog. Something…alien.
That’s right, we’re returning once more to the world of Free League’s Alien RPG. This time we’ll be looking not at a rulebook, but at a pre-built campaign, Destroyer of Worlds. So, let’s dive right into it.
First things first, we’ve got to discuss what this thing even is. Destroyer of Worlds is built around Alien RPG’s Cinematic Play system. For those who haven’t read my previous reviews, or who just don’t remember, Cinematic Play is a game play style designed for quick playthroughs (Destroyer of Worlds is designed to be played over three sessions in total) with a pre-determined plot and characters.
What does this mean? Well, mainly it means that if you’re looking for an open ended scenario with a lot of freedom, or if you want to make your own character, you’re out of luck. However, if you’re looking for something fast that captures the tone of the Alien franchise, then you’re in luck.
Cinematic Play follows JRPG rules more than it does Western RPG rules. Here you’re not playing as yourself, or a character you created. You’re playing as a specific character already made, though you do have the choice to pick which specific character, as there’s a total of seven pre-made characters ready for you to pick from. However, they’re all Colonial Marines, none of the other classes/occupations are available.
On top of that, the campaign is divided into three sections, called Acts. At the beginning of each act the GM hands each player an ‘Agenda Card’. This establishes what your character’s agenda and motivations are supposed to be for the section. On top of that, Destroyer of Worlds introduces a new element in the form of ‘Story Cards’. The book establishes certain events, and each time one of these events is triggered the GM hands one of these cards to a player. The card isn’t read aloud, but the player needs to base their behavior off of the card now.
There are benefits to following these cards closely. At the end of each Act the GM will evaluate how closely and how well you carried out the dictates of the Agenda and Story cards, and will award players Story Points in response. These can then be used at critical junctures to guarantee a good roll. So there is a point to them. At the same time however, I can understand if having not just your character but their motivations and actions pre-built and dictated for you would be a turn-off. It is, honestly, not why I personally play an RPG.
Hell, one of the player character options even has a chestburster inside of her, and you don’t know which one when you’re picking characters. I don’t mean the GM randomly decides, I mean the game has it set so that one of the characters will always have the chestburster.
Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just know that you’re getting into something that’s extremely pre-built.
There’s not a lot else to say about Destroyer of Worlds that I haven’t said already in my previous two reviews of Free League’s Alien RPG. Gameplay wise, aside from the aforementioned Story Cards there’s nothing really new here. This is a story set in the world of the RPG, not a new spin on things.
The presentation is rather good. Everything is clear, concise, and well laid out. The art is nice as well. The plot, a group of Colonial Marines sent on a manhunt on a moon on the brink of war, is good, with plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting. I didn’t touch on it much, because, well, spoilers, but it is a good plot overall.
Destroyer of Worlds is an interesting, well designed campaign scenario, that will give a group wanting to play Colonial Marines dealing with chaos and death a good time. However, its heavily scripted nature means that there’s not a lot of replay value here. While there’s some leeway to the actions of the player characters, every major NPC is going to act roughly the same way every time, and the plot is going to follow the same beats every time.
This isn’t a campaign designed to accommodate much improvisation. It’s tight, carefully focused and designed, and as such more than a bit inflexible. And since you need the physical copy for the character sheets and campaign specific Agenda Cards, weapons, and vehicles, that gives you a total of $36 for something that you can only play once (with some leeway if you have multiple groups or just a bad memory).
Is it worth it? Well, only you can really judge that. I’d be lying if I said this was quite my cup of tea, but it’s also far from bad. If you’re a fan of Colonial Marines and $36 for a one and done isn’t out of your price range, I certainly think you could have a good time with it! Just make sure you go in knowing what you’re getting.
Images Courtesy of Free League
Have strong thoughts about this piece you need to share? Or maybe there’s something else on your mind you’re wanting to talk about with fellow Fandomentals? Head on over to our Community server to join in the conversation!