Dark Galaxy: Extreme Future
Author: Brett Fitzpatrick
Page count: 74
Price: $9.99 (PDF)
Where to get it: DriveThruRPG.com
Dear readers, we get a lot of unknown and unloved role-playing games to review here at Diehard GameFAN, and they can’t all be gems. Actually, very few are. Some of them are enjoyable to read anyway, or at least present a novel concept or something that is kind of neat about the game. This game has none of this. There is nothing new or novel or exciting about this game. I did not have fun reading through it, and I couldn’t imagine having fun playing it even if I did figure out how to play it (which I couldn’t). So I will try to make this review fun for us as we talk about a few of the aspects of the game.
As with most games that are presented as complete systems (not sourcebooks or adventures or maps or whatever), it is hard to do a really comprehensive review without making a ridiculously long and probably boring article. So, to save your sanity and mine, I present some salient points that I found worthy of mentioning.
Players, stop reading at page 7
I shall quote this from page 7 of the rules manual: “Players should stop reading here. Most things in this section are best explained to the player characters by the gamemaster.” That’s right players, you keep your prying noses out of the remaining 67 pages of this book. Actually, this message is doing you a great service, as reading the remaining 67 pages is…not desirable. Look, I don’t want to be overly mean here, but if you’re going to go through the trouble of writing a whole RPG and then put it up for sale for 10 bucks, with many professional products available for a comparable price, I’m going to expect something interesting.
So what is it I don’t like about the game? Well, for one thing this game tries to be a huge, encompassing space endeavor, but by no means does it have the material needed to tackle that banana effectively. If that last sentence didn’t make any sense, here’s another one: there is too much subject and too little coverage. This game has little paragraphs all over the place talking about this or that thing and almost none of it needs to be there. I don’t need to be told that when flying around in a space vehicle occupants will be better served if they are strapped in (page 11, “Passenger Safety”). First of all, who asks players upon entering a space vehicle “are you guys all going to strap yourselves in securely, or are you going to hang on to the back of the co-pilot’s seat and let your junk fly around?” So many things are described in this book that I do not need descriptions of. I would call a lot of the little rules in this book rather heavy-handed. The author may think that they are doing a service to GMs by including little rules for all of these situations, but I think a better approach is to give guidelines and leave the specifics up to the GM for the particular situation the players may be in.
A 4-Page Description of Vampires
In the bestiary in the back of the manual, there is a 4-page description of vampires (or, vampire-type aliens). Allow me to quote one small paragraph: “A vampire can leach 1d6+3,000 calories from a healthy victim, leaving them suffering from advanced hunger, thirst and anaemia. The victim will also often look perceptibly thinner, and lacking in health. This feeding process takes 1d3 hours.” Since when after the year 2000 has this myopic level of crunch been fun? 1d6 + 3,000 calories…so if I roll a 6 that’s 3,006 calories? Crap, if the vampire gets less than 4,000 calories a night he or she becomes “hungry and distracted” with a “-10 to all rolls” (page 69). That sounds like a cranky vampire to me, and no one likes a cranky vampire.
There is a small chunk of the book that has setting information. I can’t knock setting information, it just is what it is. On the other hand, the rules after setting govern world creation, which is a whole can of worms especially if you are already focusing on something waaaaay bigger than you should be for such a small book that focuses even further on small rules. In the “Designing Planets” section, you can read over a terrain type called “Paper Rock”, which has the following description: “This looks like solid terrain, but is fragile and will collapse on a failed reflexes roll. It can cover an enormous area, and seeing a huge area collapse is an awesome, but dangerous experience.” No, I did not make any of that up. This entry is just above the entry for “Sandy Dessert”, which I will steadfastly refuse to read and only assume that it is a terrain type resembling a fresh sundae that has been heaved onto a beach.
What Do I Do Now
My last big complaint is going to be about game direction. Ok, so I have this game and I’m reading it and I want to play it (I don’t, I’m just presenting this very hypothetical situation as an example), I don’t even know where to start. The book is like a collection of situational descriptors with no unifying elements. Ok, so it’s in space…so what? Why don’t I just write my own game since you didn’t give me anything to go off of? Why should I use your rules and setting information when they are as general and scattered as brown rocks in a desert? There is a game called Dungeons & Dragons, which is primarily about dungeons, and sometimes also about dragons. Sometimes the dragons are in the dungeons, but then sometimes there are no dungeons at all and certainly no dragons. Yet, that game retains a feeling of unity and purpose (*cough* tactical combat *cough*) that Dark Galaxy does not. Dark Galaxy… what’s so dark about it?
Alright, I think I have done enough damage here. Again, I don’t mean to be a total ass, but damn it this book really has very little worthwhile about it, and I will not stand around and pretend that it is ok to pay ten dollars for it. Writing pages and pages of stats, and blurbs, and little mini-crunch rules, and generalizing everything while focusing on things that don’t matter is just crappy.
As a side note, hey Rogue Games, this guy has original artwork! Admittedly, he did the art himself (or failed to credit the artist!) so it was zero cost…but seriously, artwork. Actually, the artwork is very nice, the cover is actually exciting to the prospective buyer and might make you think there is a good product here, but there isn’t!