Review: Powers Beyond

d-Infinity Staff

d-Infinity recently received an evaluation copy of "Powers Beyond", published by Epic Age Media, and so the Playtest Monday crew did what it does best, tested it out! The full video of our experience can be found above, but the following is a summary of the crew's impressions of the game for those looking for the highlights. We would like to extend hearty thanks to James Shade, the designer behind Powers Beyond, for sending us his excellent game to play through -- we all had a great time with it.

Brenda's Impressions

Having seen both Powers Beyond and Galaxy Prime, I can tell that a lot of love goes into James' games. The content is fun and engaging, and I was pleasantly surprised with how much variety there is in play styles without a lot of mechanical bulk or overhead. The rule book is heavy on content and light on crunch, but I think that is to the game's benefit, as James clearly has a great mind for setting design. Many cues have been taken from other superhero style RPGs -- three core ability scores for example -- and I think that helps make Powers Beyond feel familiar and approachable. I definitely have to commend James on resisting the temptation to create one-off rules for all his powers (and there are a lot of powers), instead he sticks to his core mechanic and that helps the game move right along.

My gripes with the game, if I have any, have to do with the way information in the rule book is laid out and presented to readers, and not really the game itself at all. Some very important numbers and mechanics are hidden in plain sight within the paragraphs of descriptive text -- you can see the bits where we struggled in the video. Take this with a grain of salt, however, as the crew and I picked up the game for the first time ever and were up and playing it within a couple of hours, and I have no doubt that someone with the time to read the book front to back would definitely find all of the necessary information to do a better job than we did.

Clint's Impressions

I liked the character creation system a lot more than I expected to - AND it was pretty quick. The setting had a LOT going on, which seemed too much with our dive in, but offered a lot of options that were pretty well reasoned out. The system was obscured, and hard to pull out of the book, at least how we approached it. I think a good content editing, from another Game Designer, would help clear a lot of that up.

Overall, an interesting and promising game.

Chris' Impressions

I think if James was there hosting combat for us it probably would have been different, maybe we overlooked something, but it did feel like the melee characters seemed powerful, with high KO/Fatality and at the same time putting out a fair amount of damage, but while playing a mage character I didn't do too much. Additionally, because I could only take non-combat skills, again, I felt like I didn't contribute as much in combat

However, as for the system as a whole, character creation was simple to pick up and all the skills and powers to choose from were expansive.

Jesse's Impressions

So I'll echo what a few others have said - I really enjoyed the character creation. I felt the process was set up so that it was streamlined pretty well, although I didn't really grasp what any of my attributes meant in gameplay terms until much later. I also generally hate rolling for stats, but that's a personal preference.

I enjoyed the vast amount of fluff and worldbuilding that was included, and it was impressive how expansive the powers list was. However, I felt that a huge number of powers were effectively palette swaps of others (Fire/Ice/Lightning/Fart/Whatever), and a bunch didn't feel worth it unless it provided a flexible narrative effect (time manipulation), or a flat, raw attribute bonus (Hyper Anything).

And while I feel that combat was generally lackluster, my biggest issue with the game is  that at no point did I feel like my character was particularly "Super." It's a well established fact that I enjoy making stupid one-trick pony kinds of characters in one-shots, but this was the first time I've ever felt like my character didn't do his "one thing" substantially better than anyone else.

There's a disconnect in how the attributes seem to transfer to in-game power, and I felt kind of robbed that because I had only 19 Muscles, I missed out on a large number of substantial bonuses offered at the 20 Muscle threshold. It makes the game feel like power is in steps or tiers, rather than a scaling factor. I was substantially stronger on paper than virtually everyone else's character, but I was dealing the exact same level of damage as someone with 10 Muscles. And that's assuming I even hit my target given the arbitrarily low accuracy of striking a "supervillian."

Games aren't fun when players perform actions to have those actions do absolutely nothing. Action failure should be on the part of the player or their target's wit and abilities, not on the whim of a d10.

Sam's Impressions

I thought the character creation was really cool. I didn't have an idea of what hero I wanted but after throwing together some abilities that were interesting I got to develop a story and an origin. Definitely a fun way to do it. That being said, I felt the combat was a little thrown together.

Additionally, I think just about all of the rules we needed were available, but they were difficult to find. The most egregious of this being that the colorful tables containing important rules were not well referenced. It would have worked better as plain text tables with titles.

Overall it was fun to build my character and plop him down in an interesting and well developed setting, but I didn't really know what to do after that. 

Mike's Impressions

Obviously the guided character creation process is one of the things new players respond most positively to in “Powers Beyond” and what allowed us to jump into the game as quickly as we did! In particular I liked the 10 Origins, mini-templates that form the basis for each character and help to structure a player’s concept for it.

Another thing that made this game readily accessible — perhaps more from the point of view of a GM than a player — is that “Powers Beyond” it a self-contained RPG, with integrated mechanics and setting, as well as tools like a scenario generator.

Some things made the game a little less accessible to us, notably trying to figure out the combat system, and I am not sure if we ever got it completely right. I do not expect, however, that would be a problem moving ahead, as we learned the system and received any necessary clarifications from the publisher or designer.