Most helpful critical review
6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
New, fresh, fast, cheap, handy, simple!
on 21 October 2010
When I first read about the new essential lineup about d&d 4th edition I was quite puzzled. Do we really need, another 4rth ed? Or another x.5 edition of an rpg? Well, let's think about what the 4th edition really is.
It is not mostly a new edition of an old game, but a complete rebuild of a genre. 4rth edition has introduced such a tremendous changing momentum in the rpg genre that we still haven't seen all its consequences; the game is now team oriented, with every mechanics forcing people to really act together.
Yes, we all now that this has come with some "incidents": while claiming or being said to be simpler than 3.x or older versions, the 4rth edition has proved to be a mathematical beast, rough and though, that day after day has been tamed only via extraordinary methods, the character builder having proved to be one of them. Just try to seat down, smile at your player, and calmly explaining them the differences between a power and another, a feat and another... without the builder.
This is pure optimization frenzy. You have to be a little "einstein-inside" to fully like the math under the 4rth. It is not easy, it's demanding, but in term of pure (combat?) roleplay is simply fascinating, thrilling, exalting and rewarding when a good party plane comes together.
This has leaved many people feeling sad about poor out of combat roling options; as many of you may know, this is not completely true. This game is just so much another thing, that you simply will love or hate it depending on how much you are willing to take a leap of faith.
This said, why an Essential edition? because, yes, the math under the 4rth edition is though.
The most direct thing you can feel when you have this book it's his overall simplicity: the presentation of main rules, characters, classes and races has being bootstrapped and rewritten, and the final thing is a tighter, faster version of 4th ed: keep this in mind, everything is more accessible, easy to find, and all comes up in a fancy, very handy pocket edition (note: dear wizzy, please chose another printing company, the cover is of such a low quality). All the main mechanics are unchanged: you have the power system, the rest system, the race system, the skill and feat system of the 4rt edition. But everything is rethought in such a way that you get a new game and you retain compatibility with the "old" one. How? well, to make things simpler you have (at least in this book) only four classes, and only six builds (even if they are no more so called).
Of course, giving less options is a way to simplify a lot, but it's not all here: only 2 classes (clerics and mages) have daily powers, and all of the classes powers and management are so new that... well, they are new classes, they play different, and they still can buy a feat from old manuals and fight against the "old" monsters, and use old magic items! this is not a simple achievement, such a curios compatibility is, in my opinion, a great achievement. Some examples: the knight (one of the two fighter builds) is still a defender, is still working as the sticky-guy, but powers and class mechanic is totally rewritten - now you, basically, enter stances depending on the tactical combat you are facing. And you have auras (well, just one in this book) with wich you can threath enemies. This is completely different, but it sounds and plays exactly as the 4rt ed fighter - just with lots of twists to the main mechanics, and in a simpler, faster way.
Take the rogue: one big thing, ladies and gentlemen, backstab is back! it's now an encounter power that, added to the sneak ability, enhance the amount of damage with a basic attack. And... you only have basic attacks: all others are at-will that concentrate on moving and shifting abilities, and encounter powers that also boost your moving capacities. Just that: you focus yourself on moving, and then hitting hard and fast.
These (yes, incredible and deep) changes finally achieve a point: every class really plays different. No more "same dice damage, different text" sensation (even if not totally correct, but it's still there in any 4rt ed session), now if you are a cleric you buff, and everyone knows and sees that you are doing that, if you are a fighter you dominate the battlefield, if you are a thief you run-and-hit, if you are a wizards everyone should fear your crowd control abilities.
Back to the fundamentals of fun roleplay? I think we can say that. Still, it's designed for a very easy way to roleplay, but hey, it is called "essential" isn'it.
- presentation: 5 stars. Intriguing, new, radical, smooth
- quality: 2 stars. My Lord, the cover is so poor, the sheet type had to be "uso mano" (I think you say machinemade, in English, or handmade look) and not matt coated, for it is too heavy
- fun: 3 stars. Raise to 4 stars for those who liked 4rt ed
- flavor: 4 stars: nice format, intriguing differentiation of classes, overall sensation of "I wanna more of it!"
- global: 3 stars. Nice product, again a fresh start from the same publishers, interesting and finally handy format, cool and fast rules, but with the big issue of the printing quality; someone could still feel a little betrayed for having bought 2 to 5 rules manuals that this essential will potentially supersede.