Alpha Omega by Mind Storm Labs
The publisher’s blurb:
“Alpha Omega is a thrilling, comprehensive, and adaptable role-playing game. Alpha Omega provides players a unique and innovative rule set with optional layers of complexity. These optional rules are presented to add realism and strategy, but can be set aside to simplify and expedite game play.
Players find themselves in a richly detailed, post-apocalyptic Earth where mankind stands on the brink of extinction. Our planet is about to become the battleground for otherworldly creatures of incredible power as they wage an ancient war. The End of Times seems to have arrived. Are angels and demons walking among us, or is there a larger chain of events unfolding? All is not lost… Alliances are forming and mankind is learning to evolve and unlock its hidden potential… Heroes are emerging… heroes like you.
The Core Rulebook is a 404 page, full colour illustrated guide with hundreds of pieces of fantastic art, created by some of the most talented artists in the industry, that truly bring the world of Alpha Omega to life.
Are you ready to create your character and enter the world of Alpha Omega? The Alpha Omega Core Rulebook has everything you need.”
I normally don’t add the publishers pitch to my reviews because usually they are overblown statements that end up disappointing. However this pitch is pretty accurate, apart from one subject. I will go into it in a bit.
First things first, the book. It’s amazing. Totally and absolutely amazing. I love it. Thick and very hard hard-covers. Very nice paper, full colour illustrations. The lot.
The layout of the book is a standard two column formatting with very clear font that make the book easy to read. The illustrations are consistent in style with either full colour paintings in a very modern and gorgeous to look at style, or pencil style drawings. Absolutely fantastic.
The indexing system, although a bit complicated to get to grips with to start, it’s a terrific idea. Every chapter has its own logo in the top half of the page and below there is a list with the sections in the chapter. No page numbers, but the chapter/section/sub-section indexing system works very well and the graphic design of all the logos is just wonderful.
To make matters better, the chapters are also in a very logical order. You get to grips with the world first, from history to geography. Then types of characters, how to create your character and then the rules.
The world history is very well detailed, and although it’s difficult to believe that humanity would go through so many changes in just 280 years. Nature blights the planet, then there is a nuclear war and decimates the world population, new species of sentient humanoids come into the scene, a war between “angels” and “demons” is discovered… A lot to cope with and, to make matters more difficult, humanity is now mostly gathered in massive mega-cities and archologies spreading thousands of square miles and going miles up into the sky.
Outside the cities, a massive wasteland with dangerous mutated animals, product of the nuclear war that blighted the Earth in the past.
In short is a world full of potential. It seems like the designers have made a list of what sort of elements would make for a cool setting and have added all the elements together. The thing is, though, that they’ve done it very well. Even the magic system, called Wielding, has been integrated in a way that makes sense and doesn’t feel out of place.
The selection of character races is tremendous. Without going into the typical fantasy ones, they have managed to create enough variety without sacrificing originality. Although all the races are humanoids, there is potential of creating non-biped characters with the mutations and the Artificial Intelligence (robots).
The chapter of equipment is also very comprehensive. The range of weapons and vehicles is enough to keep you busy for a while and indeed to inspire you to create your own items. However not much notice is given to magical artefacts or magical equipment.
Character creation is simple, and the chapter on that subject is organised in a tutorial style with clear instructions on how to create your character, from concept to execution. There is a lot to do, though… characters are full of stats and abilities, so you’ll have to generate quite a few before you’re comfortable with the process. However you end up with a very comprehensive character able to do whatever you need.
Then we get to the rules… and there are lot of them. At the start of the book, the prologue tells you that you might need a calculator. It is right!
Although the rules have been organised, and the book makes that very clear, in a a way that allows you to use different levels of complexity. From storytelling and descriptive way of playing, to the near-wargame style of gaming.
I will admit I was disappointed with the rules. Although I am by no means a rule-player, I find them useful to fall back on if controversy enthuses in a game. However these are so complicated and difficult to understand that I wouldn’t know where to start. The level of detail is so high that one can get lost in all the information, or forget a lot of it too. Although the authors have provided with plenty of tables to aid in the process, they’re scattered around the book and there is a lot of page-flicking to do.
The book doesn’t come with a bestiary either, so initial adventures have to be played in the cities with the provided races. That is a shame, because the bestiary published by the same company is incredible and this book could do with having a few monsters and animals to populate the planet.
The lack of an initial adventure is also something I can’t understand. It would have been a nice touch to have some sort of adventure that would take you between two cities to give a good range of encounters and a good glimpse into the inter-city politics and dynamics. Having said that, there is more than enough material in the website, though I don’t feel that’s an excuse for poor content.
Despite the shortcomings in the excessive complexity of the rules, lack of bestiary and lack of adventure, this is a terrific game. Even if the world is a bit clichéd and all the boxes have been ticked, it has been done so nicely that everything comes together seamlessly, thus making it very easy to understand how things work.
The level of detail is in the places that matter. The characters. Everything else offers more than enough information to get you going, but also enough freedom that you can make the world your own. Lots of free space in the planet to create your own mega-city, jungles, settlements… It can all be there.
The potential to expand the game is huge. There is no mention of psionic powers in the book, and that is something that would fit is very, very nicely. Likewise with alien races.
Do I regret buying this game? No! Will I use the rules as the stand? No.
If you’re looking for a post-apocalyptic world and don’t mind getting dirty with rules or are happy ignoring them, Alpha Omega is a game worth buying. The looks are so incredible that’s impossible not to be inspired by it. The support in the website is very good indeed, with plenty of forums, adventures, books and artwork to help you out.
I hope there will be another version of the game, maybe situated another 100 years in the future or so, with psionic powers and also more streamlined rules to make it more accessible to beginners. In the meantime, this deserves four stars and the only thing that keeps it from the 5 is the complex rules and the lack of bestiary and adventure.
Well done Mind Storm Labs!