Publisher: Paizo Inc
Authors: Alexander Augunas with Joseph Blomquist, Michael Bramnik, Alison Cybe, Ivis K. Flanagan, and Andrew D. Geels
Artists: Rodrigo Gonzalez Toledo, Sol Devia, Ioannis Fiore, Ivan Koritarev, Denis Medri, Sophie Medvedeva, Guilherme Olivieri, Sam Perin, Pixoloid Studios (Mark Molnar, David Metzger, Gaspar Gombos, Zsolt ‘Mike’ Szabados, Janos Gardos, Laszlo Hackl, Peter Lerner, Orsolya Villanyi), Miguel Regodon Harkness, and Riccardo Rullo
Genre: Starfinder adventure finale to the Drift Hackers AP
Pages: 64 pages
MSRP: $24.99 in softcover or $19.99 in PDF
After a perilous journey, the player characters have almost reached those responsible for the Drift Crash, but the final journey is still fraught with peril as the Drift Hackers Adventure Path conclude with Into the Dataverse.
As nearly any dedicated Paizo fan will attest, one of the publisher’s greatest strengths is its ability to seamlessly scaffold supports into adventures, allowing GMs to run a game that meets their player’s expectations for challenge and crunch. In doing so, they model some truly superb adventure design, offering dedicated GMs plenty of tools for their own adventure creation. This final chapter of the Drift Hackers Adventure Path continues the trend, demonstrating how mechanics can support narrative and what to do when the mechanics in question threaten to instead hamper the flow of the story.
Into the Dataverse carries a unique mix of influences. While there is the heavy hand of more fantasy-flavored settings, there is also more than a hint of TRON and, oddly, the Wizard of Oz. Astute readers will no doubt draw the connection between the digital flowers that threaten to entrance the players with their nightmarish imagery of the drift crisis casualties and the deadly field of poppies that nearly puts an end to Dorothy’s journey in the classic film. It’s a delightful if unexpected –and perhaps unintentional– reference, but it doesn’t quite set out what it is presumably intends to achieve.
To be clear: Into the Dataverse is a compelling adventure. There are novel threats, cool set pieces, and a satisfying boss fight. In the hands of the right GM, there is a real opportunity for flavorful descriptions and the chance to give the term “uncanny valley” a new, far more literal meaning. However, the decision to set the adventure entirely within the VR realm severs it from the ongoing reality of the crisis and loses some of what made the two preceding scenarios so effective. While the flower field is an attempt to bring that emotional immediacy and weight into the scenario, it doesn’t have the same impact ― while the characters certainly are sparing millions, the decision to write on a larger, less intimate scale weakens the visceral impact for most of the adventure.
The finale ‒ which puts an end to the immediate Drift Crisis but not its impacts – may also draw mixed reactions. While there is the potential for a heroic sacrifice, the narrative also provides its own escape clause, allowing the heroes to emerge whole, if not unscathed. It’s a strong concept, but without any kind of foreshadowing or buildup, it’s a risky narrative turn to take for fans who may have been soured on similar premises from other media.
Into the Dataverse is thrilling and fun, but its divergence from the Adventure Path’s two preceding chapters means that individual mileage may vary on reception. For those who prefer a more fantastical, epic take on crisis management, Into the Dataverse is a clear win; however, for those who enjoyed the comparatively grounded approach of the prior installments, this may be a tougher sell. Nevertheless, it’s a solid conclusion to an enjoyable path and a fantastic jumping-off point to new, post-Crisis tales.
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