Categorized | Reviews, RPGs

Hell on Earth: Reloaded Review

Posted on September 4, 2012 by spikexan

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    I have to make a confession: I’m not overly familiar with the original Hell on Earth setting. A friend who had both it and Deadlands offered our gaming group at the time the promise of a storyline that would stretch from characters in Deadlands all the way to the far flung future of Hell on Earth. We never made it to the second-tier of his story; other games came a’knockin’. That said, I had a faint overview of the setting, strong familiarity with the system, and powerful motivation for the revised material.

    Hell on Earth (HoE from now on) is a large (209 pages) full-color bear with tons o’ teeth.

    The cover art, which depicts a less-than-thrilled Templar getting religious with what I assume to be Bloats (thought they could be one of the other harrowing horrors of HoE), is indicative of what readers and gamers can expect inside the covers. The two-column layout looks like it is etched out on layers of metal (street signs, grating, and so forth). I like that the former street signs are put to the good use of chapter headers (every other one is shot up for good measure).

    The font is typical for a Savage World book, though some variations exists for block toppers and icons (nuclear symbols are used for Wild Cards). The artwork feels like it comes from a multitude of inspirations. I see hints of video games like Fallout and Bioshock, sci-fi flashbacks from pulp comics, and more. These are great things to mesh together and it relates to a fantastic looking book.

    For those players who only read the section of the book they are supposed to, HoE gives them 70 pages against the usual 30-40 pages. There is a lot of material for players though beyond just their character options. There are devices and weapons to consider, the known troubles of various areas of America (for creating a good backstory), and so on. The Marshal lucks out though because their half of the book reveals a great many secrets about the ripped-up world.

    HoE: Reloaded breaks down like this:

    1). Introduction (30 pages): Besides the famous Gazette, the known history of the world is laid out for players to absorb. Raven’s story and how it plays between Deadlands and HoE sets the stage for a very strange 2097.
    2). Makin’ Heroes (10 pages): Always one of my favorite part of any Savage World setting. HoE offers several choices beyond a simple gunslinger. Templars, Junkers, Toxic Shamans, Sykers (psychics), and Kevin Costner (the Postman) are all playable options. It permits a great mix for a gaming group. You can take Mad Max, the Postman, and Tank Girl all out for a joyride just to see if it would make a better movie.
    3). Equipment (24 pages): Want to know if something exists in the future? Best stop here.
    4). Setting Rules (3 pages): Scavaging and a few other setting adjustments are made here. The biggest one is Counting Coup, which allows players a chance to absorb the essence of their defeated, dying enemies. Who wouldn’t want to imprint a little demonic energy for a chance at more power? It smells a little like Rippers, which is okay because that is one awesome game.
    5). At this point we hit No Man’s Land and spoiler territory. Best turn back. There is a terrific amount of material for each of the character types, America (not so much for going abroad), and the varied quirks of living in 2097. Also, there is a juicy chapter on the many things that go bump in the night. Some are totally new (and spew radiation), some are twisted (twisteder?) Versions of monsters from Deadlands, and others are just nasty human threats with an axe to grind.

    I’ve always appreciated the writing on the main Savage Lines books. HoE obviously received much support in its creation because the end result is excellent. I happen to know that old friend of mine recently picked up the Deadlands: Reloaded and ran a game for some people in his hometown. Maybe he still has that decade old idea sitting on a backburner waiting for a revival.

    All in all, this is a great game, probably an Ennie winner next year. The art is perfect for the setting and the writing sets up an amazing world that begs players to leap into it. Even though I dug through the PDF, I intend to buy the dead tree version at GenCon just because of the page count. If you’re a fan of the Savage Worlds’ engine, then this game could be excellent by itself or tied to the mythos of Rippers or (by a stretch) SlipStream.

    Review by Todd Cash

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