Fantasy Flight Games has managed to take all of the fun out of the end of the world
I have to admit, I was a little excited about Fantasy Flight Games new RPG series of death and destruction – kicked off with The End of the World – Zombie Apocalypse. This was the first of a series of RPG’s dealing with things such as alien invasions, zombies, Ragnarok, etc. I was actually excited about the release for a few reasons. One, there was a gap in modern military combat games since the slow demise of Twilight 2000 Unless you played Shadowrun, there just weren’t a lot of RPG’s where you got to use serious firepower out there. Second, FPG promised a game system where you could play yourself in the game. That sounded cool and somewhat innovative. Finally, I was looking for a good game system for zombies running amok where laying waste to dozens of the creatures could be fun. I was looking forward to a long list of zombie creatures, weaponry, and role-playing carnage.
The End of the World – Zombie Apocalypse proved to be more of a disappointment than what I was hoping for.
First, as a military game, it is horrible. There’s no catalog of firepower available, no weapons stats, none of that. So even if I break into the National Guard Armory, I don’t know what I have at my disposal. As you know reading/watching Walking Dead, a single bullet can count big time. All we get are generic weapons classes: Pistol, Shotgun, Single-Shot Rifle, and Automatic Rifle. That’s it. Snore.
The game system works, but is not something that you can get excited about. You have six characteristics. Physical (Dexterity and Vitality); Mental (Logic and Willpower); and Social (Charisma and Empathy). Characters also have Features (positive and negative) which are defined by the player. So you can have one called “Well-Read” or “Bad Back.” Damage is tracked on a series of stress tracks. I did like the feature where you can go insane (when your mental stress track is exceeded) or catatonic (if your social stress track was maxed). Stress can lead to Traumas, which can take a long time to resolve (like Amnesia). The pro side of the game system, is that it is relatively simple and focuses on characters role playing more than stats and skills. The bad news is it is simplistic at the expense of detail of play.
I was geeked about creating a character based on myself. In this I was disappointed. Since this is not a skills-based RPG, you essentially have the players vote using dice to determine if your stats are right. The system that I was looking forward to exploring which would analyze me as a person and transform that to a dull character sheet simply doesn’t exist. What I read in the rules does not exactly encourage you to embrace the system, yet FFG treated this as a big selling point.
Moreover, if you are not playing yourself, I struggled to figure out how to create a character. So your choice is simple – you play yourself.
The game is geared for running as single sessions – not true campaigns. There is one single page on running campaigns and advancing your characters. Two-thirds of the book is about the Zombie scenarios. Example: The Night of the Meteor is about a meteor that streaks across the skies one night and the dead start to rise as a result of its mysterious radiation. No Room in Hell is, well, about the dead simply rising up, hungry for the flesh of the living. There are five of these scenarios which account for the majority of the book. There were some cool variations of zombies, like the animals that are infected in Under the Skin. But for the most part, these scenarios are a lot of flavor text for relatively basic concepts as to why the dead are rising
Stepping back from my expectations being shot all to hell, the quality of the game is good. The mechanics are sound. The artwork is watercolored washes of scenes of destruction that lack a lot of color and detail I would have enjoyed much more. Some of the pages have a dot on them which is part of the art effect (grain) of the book, which actually collides with text making some words blotted out. Since the grain layout doesn’t add a thing to the book, I found it annoying.
The book didn’t have to be a hardcover given its length. The price of this 143 page RPG is a painful $39.95. Bear in mind, you are purchasing a game that you will run once or twice (with little potential for a detailed and prolonged campaign). While the game system works, I feel that it simply didn’t live up to the potential – so I give it 2.5 stars. I will NOT be purchasing other books in the series since, in all fairness, I have the rule system already.