Game: Earth: 2089
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Series: Armageddon: 2089: d20
Review Dated: 18th, August 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
The WarMek roleplaying game Armageddon: 2089 from Mongoose Publishing is glossy, rather slick and exceptionally crunchy. Armageddon: 2089 is allowed to be crunchy, it should be crunchy; it is a game which returns the war to roleplaying. If the original Chainmail was spawned by players roleplaying their favourite generals on the eve of battle and then again afterwards to divide up the spoils, in some ways, Armageddon: 2089 is the point where the evolutionary cycle begins anew.
With just a quick glance Earth: 2089 looks similar. The 128-paged supplement is in colour. The illustrations are of similar quality and style. Now, I think the illustration style is one of Armageddon’s sly successes. I’m not talking about the computer real images of the impressive WarMeks, they’re just eye candy for the tech-heads. I think the nearly-but-not-quite-anime style of some of the character portraits is a great way to broaden the appeal of the game. After all, I bet more people know of Gundam Wing than they do any RPG with “mobile dolls” in. This style, what ever you want to call it, is used again in Earth: 2089 and it continues to work. Armageddon: 2089 is glossy and green, Earth: 2089 is matt and metal grey but the appearance suits the mood.
The supplement surpasses the main rulebook on cartography. Armageddon: 2089 is pretty much map free but the maps in Earth: 2089 are top notch. Fantasy supplements do well to reprieve the olde worlde “‘ere be dragons!’ approach and Earth: 2089 does especially well to find a modern equivalent. All the maps are presented on a grid. There’s no clutter of geographical details, just blue for the sea, green for the land area in question and grey for neighbouring, out of focus, land area. Borders are marked and important cities are sometimes marked to. These are political maps, rather than geographical ones and that’s a good approach for the supplement to take. They’re political maps but with the reference grid super imposed over them then they’re just the sort of map you might imagine a general in missile command studying.
The IWN news casts are present in Earth: 2089. These are flashes of information from the in game world of Armageddon: 2089. They represent what the media has found out about what’s really going on. They represent what the independent news can get away with broadcasting. They add flavour and insight. In the perfect world Mongoose will make them all PDF available has free player handouts. I think the IWN news flashes are an excellent way to foreshadow encounters with rival Mek Companies.
The juxtaposition of in-game information, what people think is going on, and out of game information of what’s really going on is especially important in this supplement. It’s crucial. Earth: 2089 is a political/historical tour of the world and the events that lead up to the current state of affairs. Europe is at war with America. The United Kingdom is in civil war, split between its connections to both powers and its own interests. Russia supports the US but refuses to fight. Israel is a pariah state. China is in turmoil. The Asian cooperate conglomerate, the Tiger Combine, sells WarMeks to anyone who can afford them and there are rumblings from Africa. The front cover summaries this nicely. The Eiffel Tower torn asunder in a fiery explosion. The Tower, of course, was built by the USA as a gift for France (and received the Statue of Liberty in return).
This RPG has been published during a time when armies and politicians are on the move. It’s easy to extrapolate a doomsday series of events from our current state of affairs to the dangerous days of 2089. Earth: 2089 is a hard book to read if you find yourself getting hot under the collar in every political debate you bump into on the Internet. There are no “goodies” in Armageddon: 2089 and Earth 2089 takes politicians from today and casts them in the role of MacBeth. Well. So to speak. If you can’t bare to have a game hint that the Patriot Act will lead to a revanchist, right wing, America then Earth: 2089 might make you shudder. Similarly, you may be shuddering if you think such an “alternate history” is too close to the bone. It’s just a game.
I already have a RPG filled with humanoid tanks, let’s call them mechs, in addition to Armageddon: 2089. This alternative game started to annoy me years ago when every additional product for it was filled with bigger mechs, better guns, more damaging missiles and powerful enemies. Earth: 2089 does not make this mistake. You don’t have to buy Earth: 2089 if you want to pick up rules for the latest WarMek and so you’ll not resent having to. Earth: 2089 stays on topic.
There are prestige classes in the book – but that’s alright. The prestige classes are for WarMek officers from specific Academies around the world. You can play a character from the Sandhurst Academy. This works where a special new Sandhurst WarMek would fail because the inclusion or omission of the prestige class doesn’t affect the careful balance of the 2089 battlefields.
All this troublesome history gets to be a bit much a times. Earth: 2089 wasn’t a book I found easy to read from cover to cover. I don’t think it’s meant to be. Accept summary of the global state of affairs if that’s what you want and then only read up on specific continents, countries and cities if you’re researching them for a game. As I read how apparently isolated and relatively simple events cascaded into Earth shattering political and military aftershocks and side effects I started to worry about Armageddon: 2089’s plot line. How much of one is there? Mongoose’s D&D products tend to be plot neutral and both Judge Dredd and Slaine lines are protected by their graphic novel setting. Earth: 2089 makes me wonder whether there will be an Earth: 2031.
Earth: 2089 is there if Armageddon players want it. It’s a book that provides the default world setting for a beefy hardback rules book with little world setting in it. If you were left with a desperate need to find out more about the year 2089 then Earth: 2089 is a must buy. For the rest of us, for people who couldn’t care (just want to shoot Meks), who are happy or prefer to create their own backdrop, or are fairly indifferent then Earth: 2089 is a solid but not compelling purchase.