Friday, November 19, 2010

Tommy's Take on War of the Dead: Chapter Two Week Five

The next installment of War of the Dead gets ready to drop on Monday, and I have once more been kindly given said installment to give you pre-release review.

To summarize: Week 5 just ratchets up the tension incredibly, introducing a new status quo (as much as this genre has one of those), a new enemy and a very foreboding presence. The "War of the Dead" begins to truly live up to its name and starts to shift from "survival horror" to "apocalyptic epic". Shame on you if you haven't signed on yet.

I'm sure spoilers will abound, so look for the review after the jump.

Everyone with me?

Last week, everything went to Hell once more, with the Pcs seperated from most of their allies and on the run from a zombie herd marching towards Hirshbeck Estates. The community has packed up and headed for Sanctuary, where the Estates have been getting their supplies from.

What the PCs get to find out is that Sanctuary...isn't what they thought.

The city is a city at war, with four factions struggling for control:

UNIMED is a giant pharmaceutical corporation that immediately brings to mind thoughts of Umbrella from Resident Evil.

The Survivors are the non-UNIMED humans who have taken to living in the sewers of Sanctuary.

The "28 Days Later"-like Ragers are actually creations OF UNIMED, victims of a hastily tested and released vaccination.

Finally, The Living Dead have suddenly got up and abandoned the city. Why? Because they have a "General" now, the former leader of the Sanctuary Survivors, and he is amassing an army of the dead around the city to attack UNIMED.

Nice set-up, really. I assume that Sanctuary will go a long ways towards defining Chapter 2...(though I could be wrong).

The opening scene of this week's adventure itself is INSANE...with the PCs having to plow through 60 Living Dead in their cars, with the possibility of sustaining damage along the way. Odds are really good that the cars will not make it, and the PCs get to fight through way through the hoard.

The option is there to use the Mass Combat rules, and luckily the Living Dead have Knowledge (Battle) penalties, because the PCs probably will as well. The other, important, upside is this: The PC's DON'T HAVE TO WIN...they just have to survive for a few rounds in order to make a break for it.

Once the PCs arrive at Sanctuary, they find that the city is not only surrounded by Living Dead, but genetically engineered dogs!

After another scene in which the PCs are on the defensive, they get back-up in the form of survivors and get to find out just what's going on in the city (at least as far as the survivors know).

The adventure calms down a bit from this point, with any infected members of the PCs' group being taken to a nearby tunnel, as the survivors wisely do not allow the infected to remain near them. This is one of those scenes where the PCs have hopefully invested in the NPCs they have been living with the last few weeks.

The calm doesn't last long, however, as the PCs are assaulted again, this time by UNIMED soldiers and attack dogs...the small comfort being that they aren't there to kill the survivors, but kidnap them for medical experimentation. It's another "overwhelming force" type situation that should end with the PCs pursued through the tunnels by UNIMED dogs.

Wow...what can I say? To me, this reads like one of the strongest installments yet, with the action and tension ratcheted up to some insane levels. You have PCs on the verge of complete collapse from exhaustion, a frighteningly powerful new foe (UNIMED) that makes the biker gangs and scavengers the PCs have been dealing with look like a cakewalk, and the eerie set-up with the zombies surrounding the city, which I assume will be at least a few weeks in the building before the payoff.

"War of the Dead" is REALLY living up to its name now.