Okay, Rifts Chaos Earth. If youíve played RIFTS, you may or may not have heard of this one before. For those who havenít played it, RIFTS is a post-apocalyptic game in which players play characters in a world where humanity is just starting to regain what it had lost after a cataclysmic event that shook the earth and brought magic and demons back into the world. This, however, is Chaos Earth; a stand-alone spinoff that takes place in the same earth, but not so post. That is, the cataclysm is not a bygone time; Itís NOW. And now, Itís time to look at the book and the game.
Okay, looking at the book, we see a wonderful full-colorful picture of the Glitterboy, RIFTSí most famous robot power armor, holding a tattered American flag, with the title of the book placed on top of this picture in white. The back cover holds a description of the book, along with some advertisements for other products by Palladium Books (a common thing to find on the back of most Palladium books and supplements). All of the pictures in the book are black and white, but are well done, and tell much about the scenes they depict.
After a small blurb by the author and owner of Palladium Books about the game, we go right into the game world itself, describing the events of how the great cataclysm begins. Following the background info, we go into setting, as the game describes the Northern Eagle Military Alliance (commonly referred to as NEMA), which is a tri-national volunteer military/special police/FBI/CIA for Canada, United States, and Mexico. This group is the focus of the game, and who the characters hold their allegiances. This may give players a sense of being force to play a role, but the game is all about character development, so this hsouldn't be a problem
The book then goes into the various Occupation Character Classes that you may choose from (those who play RIFTS will be disappointed in finding that there are no Racial Character Classes in this game, at least not yet). Occupation Character Classes, as the name suggests, are the different roles that players may choose for their character to have followed as professions during the course of their life.
You may have noticed that I havenít really mentioned anything about chapters. This is because there are only TWO chapters; the world/classes/equipment chapter, and the game rules chapter. The work is written in a way where you get pretty much all the information at once, one item after another. However, the book is written in such a way that what youíre looking for can be found pretty easily, even if you havenít looked at the book before (and good thing too. Thereís no index).
System-wise, the game is complicated and daunting if youíve never played it before. After youíve gotten a character or two under your belt, the game will come quite easily. Character classes are mainly a long list of skills that represent what the character has learned in their occupation and in their free time. The skill are percentile-based (roll percentile dice. If you get under the number, you succeed at the skill) and are varied and many, and this adds to the daunting nature if youíve never played before, as youíll be positively swimming in the choices and number of skills you get. However, after a few sessions, youíll realize that all of these skills are required. If the GM is doing his job right, youíll be using every single skill during the game. Combat, while a main part of the game, is most definitely NOT the most important part of the game.
In fact, the system is designed so that players who plan and use skills and role-playing will level far more quickly than the combat monsters will. You get more experience for plans and role-playing than you do for killing monsters. And most creatures in this game use what is known as Mega-Damage Capacity (M.D.C.) as opposed to Structural-Damage Capacity (S.D.C.). This is the most famous part of the system used in any game made by Palladium Books; a form of hit points that show how powerful some items are. S.D.C. is the standard type of hit points/damage that humans possess, while M.D.C. is a far more powerful type of hit points/damage; something that tanks and more powerful weapons and armor possess. To Protect themselves from M.D.C., many powerful weapons have been made by humans in order to survive, mostly in the form of humanoid robots and powered armor.
And now for what I donít like about this game. If youíve ever played any Palladium Games before, this will be familiar ground. The fact that you are getting such a large selection of skills will most likely throw people off of the game (I just showed the CHARACTER SHEET to my players and they balked at the game). Most players will be so bogged down by the choices that it will take at least four hours per player to make their characters (unless you have multiple copies of the book).
If youíre into combat, you have better choices than this game. The combat system involves players having many actions during a turn, which lasts 3 seconds. If players are out of combat, and are running to help their fellow players, they may have to wait several turns before they can enter the fray, and this can be several minutes (as many as 30) before the players can enter combat themselves.
If youíve played RIFTS before, this game may put you off a bit, as there are no magic or psionics actually listed in the book. In fact, they suggest using the spells and psionics from the RIFTS book until the supplements come out. The gameís focus is on humans and their technology, with the burgeoning magic and psionic abilities put on the back-burner as an afterthought. This gives the book a slight feel that itís actually a supplement, rather than a stand-alone game by itself.
Of course, given that Palladiumís flagship game, RIFTS, is meant to playable with material from all of their other games, this isnít surprising. The reason I keep mentioning RIFTS is for this very reason. If you want to play the game as a stand-alone spinoff game, go ahead, if you want to move characters from this game into rifts, you can do this too. In fact, many books from RIFTS are mentioned at the beginning of the book to be used with this game, further hammering in that this is more of a supplement than game by itself.
If you like rifts, and want to play in that world on a far more focused heroic storyline, this is the book for you. If you intend to have a supplement for RIFTS, then this is STILL the book for you. No matter which way youíre looking, this is a good buy for anyone who plays Palladium Games.