Starfinder Encountering Alien Archive 2 for Starfinder

Hello friends and welcome back to your Paizo news and reviews! Today we have an entire update dedicated to a single book: the STARFINDER ALIEN ARCHIVE 2! That’s enough preamble; let’s get to it!

First impressions, like the rest of the book to follow, are mixed. Paizo knows that presentation is vital in this business, and this book, like all the rest of the Paizo lineup, looks gorgeous. At the same time, it is surprisingly light and thin. While I appreciate a move away from giant back-breaking bricklike books, when I pick up a game book I’m conditioned to expect something perhaps a little more substantial. I don’t claim to be privy to the costs and logistics of printing and physical products in this digitally-leaning age, but I personally would by happy to pay more for a weightier tome (so sue me, I’m a traditionalist).

This mixed reaction carries on to the rest of the book’s contents. The Alien Archive 2 carries on the Paizo tradition of a two-page spread for each entry, which is a boon for layout designers and readers searching the book. You can even thumb through the top corner of each page and be greeted with not only the name of the monster in question, but also a portrait to remind you what it is.

To my mind, however, not every creature is as deserving of a two-page spread as others, and some beg for more. Why, for instance, do bodysnatcher slimes (while quite deliciously creepy) merit almost a full page of dedicated text, while dragons and the allip-inspired emotivores barely have the space to squeak in a small paragraph of description, sandwiched between walls of abilities and template grafts? Why are there lovingly detailed descriptions of a tentacled tyrannosaurus, and then two pages dedicated to generic dinosaurs? If there’s going to be generic dinosaurs, why fill so much space with stat blocks when there’s so much focus on template grafts?

The choice of which creatures to turn into playable races is a bit of a headscratcher. The perfectly-in-lockstep hive-mind demon-controlled embri are playable, but formians are not? If the otherworldly oni are playable, why not ghouls, or bone troopers, or corpsefolk? Not that I particularly mind; Paizo tends to overburden players with choice during character creation, so less is more in my eyes.

I do like that nearly every alien has an associated piece of gear, and that it’s included with the creature’s description. It does wonders to add to the flavor that’s already bursting out of some of these entries. That said, players might prefer to see all the gear collected again in the back somewhere, like the appendicized playable races.

Good details really stand out in a book like this. The entry on stone giants mention them carving supermassive ships out of asteroids, and I can’t wait to see an adventure or a map depicting one of those. I dug the bujeezus out of the living apocalypse and my only wish is that they’d made ‘em bigger. One of the few poor decisions I saw was the choice to make some of the uplifted bears actively trying to be “triggered”, which left a bad taste in my mouth. The developers should know better than to include something like that in this day and age. Do better, Paizo.

At the end of the day, I think this is a generally great book let down by its clearly restrained ambitions. Here’s hoping content wasn’t cut just to make additional books. Would I buy Alien Archive 2? Yes. Would I have bought a bigger version? Absolutely.

This article was contributed by Ben Reece (LongGoneWriter) as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. We are always on the lookout for freelance columnists! If you have a pitch, please contact us!

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Ben Reece

Ben Reece

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