Saturday, July 12, 2014

Retro Review: Terra Primate

Terra Primate is an extremely odd duck. It was produced under Eden Studio's Unisystem rule set. Eden once held the license to produce the Buffy RPG, which I touched on briefly, here, but these days they are better known for their flagship game, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, which ranks up there with I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream as one of the all time great titles. 

As the title suggests, AFMBE is a zombie game. The core book is extremely solid, and has several "deadworlds", each of which have a different type of zombie. There are the classic Romero zombies who started it all, but that's not the only possibility. Maybe they're alien parasites, a la Night of the Creeps. Or maybe it's some kind of bloodborn pathogen. Or fertilizer inadvertently tainting the soil and causing the dead there to reanimate.  Or the Wheel of Reincarnation There were a lot of possibilities, and Eden Studios explored them as only fans who really believe in their property can.

Then there were the expansions. Enter the Zombie is one of the all time great sourcebooks, in my opinion, and it was followed by rules for Pulp, Wild West, Future, Fantasy, Professional Wrestling.  You name it, they had it.

AFMBE arrived in 1999, at the perfect time to take advantage of the zombiemania that is still sweeping pop culture. I don't know if this was calculated, or just a fortuitous coincidence, but it worked out great for them, with timing, quality and enthusiasm all combining to make a product that still sells well today.

In 2002, they released Terra Primate. It's like All Flesh Must Be Eaten, but with apes. Maybe they were hoping to capture the zeitgeist with what they expected to be a similar "Ape-mania" in the advent of 2001's Planet of the Apes movie.

I don't know how it sold, only apparently not well enough to justify additional support for it. (I couldn't find a picture of the cover much bigger than a thumbnail anywhere on the internet. What you see at the top of the post is a scan of my copy.)

There are "Apeworlds", but a big part of the problem is that there's not a whole lot of mechanical differentiation between the Doctor Moreau apes compared to the Post-Apocalypse Apes or the Planet of the Apes apes. Certainly not to the extent that there a mechanical differences between PHADE zombies and Sacred Soil zombies.When you've seen one ape, you've seen them all.

It's not a bad game at all. I happen to like Unisystem, and I think it's pretty great for a generic resolution system. I think, now that I'm looking at it twelve years after its release, that it would have worked better as a big supplement to AFMBE rather than a standalone game. It's an interesting footnote in the history of RPGs, however.

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