Sub Terra II: Inferno's Edge - choose your own path.
From the makers of Sub Terra comes an adventure like no other...
Well, actually it's a bit like Indiana Jones - if instead of triggering a large rolling rock, Indie had unleashed a terrifying torrent of red hot lava. Between 1 and 6 intrepid cavers will adventure through underground tunnels, dodging hazards, outrunning guardians and working together to 'liberate' the ancient artefact - no doubt they will put it safely in a museum where it can be 'properly appreciated'.
In true Indiana Jones style as soon as you lift the artefact even a fraction, it all starts to go wrong - the volcano shudders and one wrong step now will see you fleeing for your lives ahead of lava which cascades through the pathways obliterating everything in its path.
The name of the game is misleading - it sounds like a sequel but it isn't, which is just as well as 'sequels suck' (remember Randy Meeks in Scream?).
Now then - for your own path:
I've played Sub Terra - go to Part 3
I haven't played Sub Terra - go to Part 2
But, is it a sequel though - go to Part 4
It doesn't matter at all that you haven't played Sub Terra. This is a stand alone game - the mechanics of the game are reasonably quick to get to grips with even if you haven't tried this kind of game before. The instruction book is clear and helpful.
To begin with you must choose your adventurer. The characters offer a very pleasing range of ages, genders and ethnicity and to be honest that in itself is a selling point for me. In a household of three females and two males I get seriously fed up of having to be an old man because all the female characters have gone. There are 10 to choose from - a pleasing number for a 6 player game. This straightaway gives you a number of replays with varying combinations of special abilities. Each character has two abilities such as healing, protecting others, sniping enemies, blowing up walls, rerolling dice. Some of the abilities last all game and some have limited use.
On your turn you take two actions which combine revealing tiles, moving through the tunnels, healing, picking up items, attacking enemies and digging your way out through collapsed tunnels. If, after you have taken your actions you decide to take another action you can, but it will cost you a health point.
Then comes the hazard phase- roll the die to learn your fate. There are many hazards that can befall you in the tunnels from spike traps to poison arrows that can fire over an alarming distance, cave ins, red hot lava to unsure footing which can also cost you health. And then there's the Guardians. The Guardians have been appointed to guard the treasure - they are not on board with your museum plans. At the end of each round they advance towards the nearest explorer and if you roll the dice badly they will kill you. They've been down there years though and between you and me, I don't think they're as sprightly as they used to be. Sometimes they reach your tile but are too knackered to attack until the next turn giving you time to counter attack while they lean on the wall, panting.
Each round you count down towards the eruption of the volcano. But once you lift the artefact from its place everything intensifies. Instead of rolling one hazard die you now roll two, and if the volcano tracker still has spaces left you count down twice as fast. You have to reveal all the tiles and collect three keys in order to reveal and pick up the treasure and then still escape so timing is everything.
Once the volcano tracker is on zero, as soon as someone rolls hazard dice for lava, the volcano erupts. If you haven't already grabbed the treasure, it's game over. If you are in possession of the artefact, you need to run! Every time someone carelessly rolls lava you must flip over all tiles that are adjacent to lava. Yes ALL adjacent tiles - it cascades. And the worst thing is that the opening tiles are four tiles in one! It's alright though, if you're lost to the fiery fury of the caverns you still get to roll the dice so you can still intensify everyone else's misery. After all - just because you're dead shouldn't mean you get overlooked.
The game looks gorgeous too - there are nice touches like the trace of the disintegrated bridge on the flip side of the tile. Last time I checked kickstarter there was talk of ultraviolet touches.
Go to The Conclusion
Randy Meeks resident film critic in Scream postulated that successful sequels must stick to 3 rules:
"1. the body count is always bigger
2. the death scenes are always much more elaborate - more blood, more gore...
3. never, ever, under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead"
Inferno's Edge definitely delivers on the intensifying of the death scenes. As well as the cave-ins we survived in Sub Terra, now we have to face spiked traps and spring loaded spears which fire an impressive distance. The cowardly reveal won't save you here. You might as well explore - leaping fearlessly into the unknown.
So far our body count has been bigger. The lava surges at an alarming rate spilling over onto other tiles. You'll never be more glad you chose the Rogue with their bonus sprint action!
As for rule 3, while the horrors of version 1 can leap out at you at any point, the lava and the cave ins even destroys their equivalent here. So it doesn't deliver the full horror of the constantly resurrecting killer but to be fair it's just as well - you've got enough on trying to run faster than lava.
Despite this compelling evidence it isn't really a sequel as such. The game does have many of the same basic mechanisms making it quick to learn. It is still co-operative and you are still trying to escape a cave system while fleeing from some of the same kinds of hazards. If you enjoyed Sub Terra then you will certainly enjoy this twist on it. It is different enough and fleeing the oncoming lava is both thrilling and infuriating!
On your turn you can still take two basic actions - for instance for one action you can reveal a tile which just involves placing it down or you could explore where you reveal a tile and immediately step onto it.
There are keys that you need to collect on certain tiles - without those you can not retrieve the treasure so there is a clear time pressure evident. Every round you count down to the eruption of the volcano and as soon as you grab the treasure, this intensifies.
One of the most important things for me is that true to form the diversity of the characters is bang on. I had hoped to see the same characters pursuing new adventures but there are 10 different new characters with a variety of genders, ages and races so you should never be in a position where all the female characters have gone. This has happened to me more times than I care to mention. It makes me so happy to see representative characters as standard. Each of the characters has two special abilities - some of the standards are there like health, protecting others, digging through rubble, sprinting. But there are new ones too: bonus reveal actions, re-rolling dice a limited number of times and my favourite - sniping. You can now take out a guardian that is in your line of sight but up to three tiles away.
I didn't like Sub Terra / there are elements of Sub Terra that I really didn't like - go to Part 4
How is it different? - go to Part 5
If you didn't enjoy Sub Terra I would still urge you to give this a go. It genuinely is different enough and not just because we have different characters with some different abilities to choose from. This is not a sequel, rather it is a stand alone game with some mechanical and stylistic similarities to the original game.
But, how is it different? - go to Part 5
From the outset, you have a different purpose. Whereas in Sub Terra it was all about escaping, in Inferno's Edge you must first venture under the volcano to retrieve the treasure and then you must escape. Double the game but it isn't twice the length, it just packs a lot of action in.
You can still exert yourself to get an extra action but whereas before you rolled to see if you lost a life, this time you just pay for the action with a health point. And if you run out of health points you no longer just lie around and wait for someone to rescue you - once per turn you can crawl painstakingly either towards the exit or the rest of your party.
The cards from Sub Terra are replaced with hazard dice. Pre volcano eruption each player rolls a hazard die at the end of their go, triggering hazards. A new hazard - stumbling - has been added, this costs you a health point. Post volcano eruption you must roll both dice - you really don't want to stumble now. There's something satisfyingly tactile and tense about the dice roll that I don't get from turning cards over.
In Inferno's Edge it is Guardians rather than horrors that pursue you through the darkness. As well as activating twice at the end of the round, Guardians, who guard the treasure and want to stop you getting your mitts on it, can either move towards the nearest player or spawn depending on your die roll. They move in such a way that sometimes you get a stay of execution - a guardian will have exhausted themselves getting to you and waits for the next turn to launch an attack. I like to imagine them leaning on a wall, panting whilst breathlessly ranting about treasure and certain death. You can also destroy guardians by attacking them and rolling 4 or more as long as you do it before they get their breath back.
You get the same high quality components and the same style of artwork which I really like but this time the pathways are very clear - especially when you flip to the lava side of the tiles. I know this was a concern raised about the Sub Terra tiles.
Inferno's Edge is a gripping game. I love the characters and their abilities; the fast flowing lava and the challenge. Each game is different as you are still at the mercy of the randomly generated path and the random hazards. But the balance of abilities that you choose gives you enough strategic power over the game to let you believe that if it wasn't for that one decision (usually made by someone else, I hasten to be add) you'd be attending a special preview night at a museum somewhere in London where people marvelled at your tales of bravery and derring do. While, in the wings some guardians wait to strike and take back what is rightfully theirs in what could well be the sequel.... just as soon as they've got their breath back...