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Hard Wired Island
Publisher: Weird Age Games
by Nicholas D. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/29/2021 07:38:49

Hard Wired Island is a really impressive product - 400 pages of vibrant art, a unique but straightforward ruleset, a cybertruckload of location-based lore, and a dedication to giving you the tools to tell some pretty pointed stories about creating and maintaining communities in the face of disaster, agressive commodification and rentierism, and the various bigoted agendas that are pushed through the gates of Troy hidden inside the bright tech optimism of the station's politico-media complex. It's a game that sells itself as "cyberpunk done right", and it makes a strong case for itself all the way through.

Player characters are residents on humanity's first freestanding space colony, which so far is speeding through the horrors of late capitalism quicker than even your worst scroll through Twitter. Your characters have deep roots in the world around them and are personally invested in the safety and wellbeing of their friends and neighbours (a post-cyberpunk trope, in opposition to the lone wolf protagonists and detached mercenaries of traditional cyberpunk), and this means putting up resistance against those who mean them harm. In very practical terms, this means doing heists, investigations, sabotage, civil disobedience, and creating a network of allies powerful enough to really strike back against the ruling class's casual cruelty.

Some standout features include a clever three-strike system for stealth and hacking, a suite of cybernetic enhancements with the optional devil's deal of getting them for free if you agree to have them loaded with adware, job apps that let you make cash doing deliveries or putting on a cat ear headband to do someone's chores, and a really comprehensive breakdown of several neighbourhoods that acts as inspiration for plot hook after plot hook. The humour really carries the back half of the book - I've enjoyed Ettin's writing style for a long time, and he's consistently at his best here. It's a book that's confidently funny in that it doesn't need you to laugh at all of its jokes, and while the references are fun if you get them, everything stands strong on its own as a lived world full of big characters and their reputations.

A strong five stars from me!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hard Wired Island
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