When Anthropos Games said that they wanted to come out with something unique, they weren’t kidding.
Early Dark is one of those games that is very hard to describe. The setting is dark and gritty and thick with lots of flavor. Each of the civilizations presented is fully realized and the legends of each people is a joy to read. The game actively encourages playing heroes of myth as opposed to the usual wandering band of adventurers common to fantasy gaming.
Characters are built well within the context of their civilizations, coming out as fully realized members of this society rather than “some dude with a sword.” It’s different from most other systems, and I appreciate the effort that they took to try and integrate characters into the setting as much as possible. Many games tend to overlook this, and player characters have to be encouraged by the GM to come up with hooks that tie them with the setting.
The combat is on the higher end of the complexity spectrum, with a system that actively brings up the need to make decisions that work both within the context of the story, and the mechanics of a character’s strengths. While there aren’t any grids or tactical movement, Early Dark doesn’t skimp on the need to make relevant choices in a fight, and players are able to switch tactics based on what kind of opponent they’re fighting.
That said, the game isn’t the most accessible to new players. There’s the occasional bout of page flipping involved, and while the diagrams and examples helped, I took a bit of time to finally come to terms with the all the small nuances and terminology fo the system. I can imagine that teaching this might take a while, and I highly encourage a test skirmish or two to get players used to the game before running a campaign.
Early Dark is a very good first effort from Anthropos Games, and I feel that they’ve mostly hit all their objectives. It’s a solid, crunchy, fully-realized game that caters to a very specific sort of setting and playstyle and does it well. So for those who are looking to try something different, while sticking to the dark fantasy sword & sorcery genre, then you should definitely give Early Dark a shot.
Early Dark is available on PDF from DriveThruRPG for $16.95 or roughly Php 731.00