I will be the first to admit I had my doubts about how fun Starfinder games would be. I have been getting burned out on d20 games and didn’t believe Starfinder could change my mind. Boy was I wrong. If you are familiar with Pathfinder or the old D&D 3rd edition or any d20 system there will be a lot of familiar aspects to this game. While the classes are loosely similar to old Pathfinder classes they give them enough new abilities and mechanics in the game to make them feel fresh and interesting.
So far I have played the Soldier, Solarian, and the Operative.
- The Soldier is your basic fighter and primary martial character. With the addition of Sci-Fi weapons and the ability to make multiple attacks at low levels adds an interesting aspect to this standard class.
- The Operative is a heavy skill user and Rogue. Though it’s equivalent to sneak attack appears much more useful, it seems to be some sort of Feint. I will be honest I didn’t fully understand what was going on with that aspect of it. I primarily used him to pilot and he was awesome at it.
- The Solarian had terrible skills but more than made up for it in combat. It had the same to hit as a Soldier and had a powerful area of effect attack at level one. It took three turns for it to go off but it was game changing when it did and could easily turn the tide of any fight.
However, all of this pales in comparison to the space combat. I was a big fan of Star Wars: Saga Edition but the weakest part was its space combat. This game feels like Saga Edition 2.0 and I am super okay with that. It takes all of the unfinished and unrefined aspect of that game and corrects it. The ship has five roles, captain, gunner, engineer, science officer and pilot. The captain aided other roles and could de-buff enemy roles. The gunner shot things, the engineer could repair the ship or buff the other roles, the science officer could scan and ensure which areas of enemy ships were damaged and the pilot flew around. The maneuvering of ships is intuitive and it was a lot of fun shifting the ship around into and out of firing arcs. I can not fully tell you the joy of working with your party to destroy an enemy ship, and the childlike delight we all felt.
Products from Amazon.com
The games adds a new mechanic called themes, were you add things like ace pilot or mercenary to your character and advance their abilities as you level. They also give you a bonus to your ability score so they are more than just fluff. They give very real and important benefits to your character and help you flesh them out. For example, with the ace pilot it was possible to have a plus 10 to pilot at level 1 (something pretty uncommon in games like this). So if you want your character to be good at certain skills and abilities, Themes will be perfect for you.
The game is also setting an ambitious target for playable races. There will be 80 new races in alien archives (the bestiary for Starfinder) and 20 races from it will be playable. While this isn’t a lot in terms of enemies and rivals this is an impressive list for players. Since they have also set a goal for building a brand new enemy of any CR in five minutes. I had a chance to play around with this at a panel and the rules are super simple and easy. So, as someone who likes to GM and make new races, this is pretty exciting. Plus, giving your players a bunch of crazy options is always fun. As a side note, Erik Mona had stated he wanted most alien race to be playable, including a brain in a charge. That sounded…a bit too ambitious for me but the designers did dramatically increase player options. If you want to have some fun with the developers ask them about it.
My overall impression of Starfinder is the same as Pathfinder, early heavy combat and spellcasting characters struggle with their lack of skills and only shine in specific situations. While this changes as they level up and their abilities become truly game changing, early on it’s a bit of a struggle to do anything well. All in all, this is a streamlined version of Pathfinder with new vehicle rules.
There is a lot more I could go into about Starfinder but my overall impression of the game is solid. The space combat is fun and engaging, and the classes all feel fresh, with new and and interesting abilities.