*UPDATE* – Episode 2 is now on sale at the Gamecrafter! After you read our (incredibly well-written) review, head on over to https://www.thegamecrafter.com/crowdsale/the-captain-is-dead-adrift to pick up your copy!
Andrew: The Captain Is Dead is still one of my favorite co-op games ever. It’s got beautiful art, excellent gameplay, and a difficulty curve that has been described (by us) as ‘punishing’, ‘brutal’, and ‘seriously, what the hell, game?’. As tough as it is, we love this desperate sci-fi struggle for survival, and we have spent many sessions frantically patching the Jump Core as alien hostiles rain down plasma on our ever-dwindling shields, and we’ve even occasionally, sometimes, rarely, won.
Now the Gamecrafter is preparing to unleash the second episode in the sci-fi epic that is The Captain Is Dead, and they were awesome enough to give us a sneak-peek. Did we make it out of the battle with our alien foes? What new terrors await us? And is the Captain really dead after all?
All these questions answered and more as we try to survive a special preview of Episode 2: Adrift!
Last time on The Captain is Dead…
First Officer’s log, galactic date 20150330. In our desperation, we managed to activate our Jump Core and warp away from the enemies which had surrounded us, but our escape was not a clean one. Many of the alien hostiles remain on board, and our crew is fighting tooth and nail to regain control of the ship. Worse still, our reckless jump has landed us in a massive asteroid belt and the Jump Core, only barely repaired, has taken an asteroid impact, rendering it inoperable. Until we either get the Jump Core back online or, by some miracle, manage to drift safely through this asteroid belt, our lives could be ended any moment by screaming asteroids or the nightmarish alien probes which are still tracking our ship…
Andrew: ::Deep breath:: The Captain Is Dead – Episode 2: Adrift ::pant pant:: is the first planned expansion for TCID. The original game, hereafter referred to as Episode 1, introduced us to the crew of the ship and the brutal menace of the attacking aliens. Episode 1 was a constant struggle against invading aliens and their attack vessels. Episode 2 sees our ship barely escaped from those aliens, now being battered to pieces by a seemingly endless rain of asteroids.
Some of the substantial differences between Episode 1 and Episode 2 are evident immediately in setup. For starters, your ship beings absolutely overrun with aliens, which need to be cleared out before anyone can truly begin to repair the ship and use its systems. The Alert Deck is all new, trading out alien boarding parties and attack ships with asteroid strikes, nightmarish new anomalies, and the occasional alien probe, which attach themselves to your ship and end the game if a second one appears while one is already in place.
The asteroids are merciless, relentlessly pounding the ship into submission and often damaging both the shields and critical systems simultaneously. Adrift also introduces damage tokens, which get incrementally added to systems and cannot be removed under normal circumstances. Once a system has 3 damage tokens, it is offline.
The news isn’t all bad, though. The crew of your ship, galvanized by the experiences in Episode 1, have all gained new abilities. These Veteran cards are drawn at the beginning of the game and give some very cool powers to your stalwart crew. At the moment, some of these perks feel a little imbalanced (Flash gives you an extra action every turn, which is *amazing*, but some don’t shine nearly as much), but it is possible these will be retooled slightly before release, and anyway, none of them are at all useless.
Another big change in Episode 2 is a second victory condition. Though the Jump Core is one again (hilariously) offline and in need of repair, if you and your crew can survive the asteroid belt, you can consider yourselves winners. That means enduring the entirety of the new Alert Deck, though within a few asteroid impacts, that’ll feel next to impossible. Still, the ability to shoot down asteroids and thereby negate their effects is a valid strategy (assuming you can keep your fracking External Scanners online for more than a single round…). This second victory condition ends up adding a lot of playability to the game, as it suddenly becomes possible (though incredibly difficult) for a crew without strong repair capabilities to be viable, making all those non-orange roles that much more exciting.
Also exciting are the Alert cards which are tuned to both starting/current difficulty level, as well as Alerts which do not trigger specifically in 2-player games. As 50% of a gamer couple, I can say that there were definitely some Anomalies in Episode 1 which would significantly bog down the game for 2 players. Several of the most annoying Anomalies in Adrift get discarded in a 2-player game, making it that much more playable (but don’t worry, another Alert gets drawn in its place – no free rides for couples).
Episode 2 of The Captain Is Dead doesn’t introduce any new roles, though the base game has a ton of variety there, so it hardly feels like a loss. The new damage mechanic makes it possible for the game to pepper you with harm without leaving you feeling utterly overwhelmed (at first), which adds to the already high level of tension. It would have been nice to see some new or alternate tools or possibly a couple more Battle Plans (Adrift introduces 2), but we were not disappointed with what Episode 2 delivered.
The Captain Is Dead Episode 2: Adrift is exactly what it says on the tin (clarification: It does not come in a tin, so rejoice, all you tin-haters). It is the second episode in the ongoing narrative of the core game. It does not revolutionize the game, it continues it, providing enough of a change in tone and tempo to justify its own existence while keeping the core experience of the original, and that’s a great thing.
If you like The Captain Is Dead, then you will absolutely want to pick up Episode 2: Adrift to continue the saga. If TCID isn’t your thing, then Episode 2 will not be the expansion that changes your mind (though you should, because the game is awesome).
The Captain Is Dead – Episode 2: Adrift is slated to come out sometime this April. As soon as it’s out, we’ll post links!