A Flames Rising Review:
a|state is a game, designed by Contested Ground Studios, that deals with finding that soft, white light of hope in the murky depths of poverty, crime, and The City.
a|state’s setting is post-apocalyptic futurism, but with a few twists. Unlike other post-apocalyptic settings, there are a lot of unknowns. Something happened, something that ripped the fabric of modern-day reality off from civilization’s spoiled body. Technology is limited, identities are a luxury, and survival of the fittest is a way of life—not just a catch phrase. The City, assuredly a conglomeration of some things that “were”, has no name. In this place with no name, you battle against your greatest enemy—yourself.
Thematically, a|state reaches to a place that rests within all of us. It is a place that houses a faint glimmer of hope that somehow, some way or another, begs to be let out. This is not a game about combat, who gets the most stuff, or who levels up the fastest. This isn’t about redemption or loss; you can start out the game with nothing. This is a game about tension. If you make the wrong decisions, the whole society comes crashing down.
Creatively, a|state manages to take an idea (post-apocalyptic) and forge it into something new. “Religion”, as we know it, is not addressed at length in this mythos, but it doesn’t have to be. Too often western religious ideologies are the root behind post-apocalyptic speculations. As a result, some futuristic musings exclude non-Christian traditions. a|state disregards our current society in terms of its inner workings. Instead, it seems to have created its setting in this manner, “What kind of technological advances would happen hundreds of years from now? Okay, now disaster strikes. What is left over? Speed it up another few, hundred years. What would it look like?”
Having played a|state a handful of times, I can say that a|state is a game about playing the hero. Actions speak louder than words, and carelessness will be rewarded with oblivion. a|state is not about physical rebirth (or The City’s Rebuild) rather, it is about spiritual growth. It acknowledges that every person is a part of bringing hope, and it rewards players that do so—even if they bring it in the midst of so much self-pity and sorrow that the players, themselves, may not even realize what they are doing.
a|state is an extremely playable stand-alone game that works well for short, as well as longer-term, adventures. Whether you are rescuing children, or breaking up a crime boss fight, there is lots to do in “The City.”
Review by Monica Valentinelli
Read the full review at FlamesRising.com: http://www.flamesrising.com/astate-role-playing-game-review