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Friday 27 July 2018

Free RPG Day 2018: Midnight Legion – Last Recruit

Now in its eleventh year, Saturday, June 16th was Free RPG Day and with it came an array of new and interesting little releases. Invariably they are tasters for forthcoming games to be released at GenCon the following August—or later, but others are support for existing RPGs or pieces of gaming ephemera or a quick-start. Then there are outliers, something unexpected from a new publisher and something a little different. Midnight Legion – Last Recruit, which describes itself as ‘An Interactive Adventure Where You Decide What Happens Next’, is an introduction to a new roleplaying game, but not designed for a Game Master and her players, but just the single player. Published by Studio 9 Games, Midnight Legion – Last Recruit is a solo adventure book in which you train to survive the end of the world!

Essentially, Midnight Legion – Last Recruit is a prequel to Book 1: Operation Deep Sleep, itself an interactive story designed for solo play, but with a two-player option. That opens with the character waking to find himself on a medical bed, hooked up to a number of tubes, but with no idea where you are, how you got there, and worst of all, who you are. Midnight Legion – Last Recruit provides some of that information. You control the fate of a young man or woman who has been recruited into the Midnight Legion, a clandestine organisation dedicated to preserving human civilisation after its inevitable collapse. As a recruit, you have learned that the Midnight Legion has been preparing for years, laying plans, building fortified bunkers, and so on. Having recently been fired from your last job, you have signed up, knowing that it is a one-way mission. This is seen as crazy by the world at large and the Midnight Legion itself is seen as a cult rather than as an organisation offering a last chance to survive the coming disaster.

The adventure begins with the unnamed character on his last night before he joins. Depending upon the player’s decisions, a couple of seemingly random events occur—perhaps they might be connected to the wider storyline, perhaps not—and then it is onto Alpha Base for the character’s training and eventual graduation as an agent. Here there is opportunity for a little intrigue, this definitely tying in with future events, and a secret or two to be revealed about the setting. It does not make clear what the nature of calamity is, although it hints at some kind of ongoing war. 

Midnight Legion – Last Recruit amounts to just forty-one entries. It can be played through in about ten minutes—longer if a player decides to explore the other avenues presented in the story, although these are relatively few in number. The complexity is further reduced by there being no real mechanics or an action resolution mechanic. The one point where a character is tested, success or failure is measured on how well he has improved his few stats in previous encounters. This makes Midnight Legion – Last Recruit more akin to the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ series rather than a Fighting Fantasy adventure a la The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Anyway, this is what the  character I played looks like having gone through the events of Midnight Legion – Last Recruit.

Physical Conditioning 7
Stealth 5
Sixth Sense 7
Memory Points 10

Vitality Points 10
Energy Points 10

Physically, Midnight Legion – Last Recruit is decently presented. There is a character included inside the front and back cover, but it really is not needed unless the player is going to play beyond this prequel. The layout inside is clean and the sparse artwork is decent with a cartoon quality.

As well as introducing—or at least hinting at—the setting of Midnight Legion, there are a couple of things that Midnight Legion – Last Recruit also does. One is to serve as means of character generation. Each of the books in the Midnight Legion series provides rules for character generation, but Midnight Legion – Last Recruit also provides some past experiences too. The second is to provide some insights which may affect the events described in those subsequent books. Completing the story also unlocks an otherwise hidden scene in the last book of the Midnight Legion trilogy.

As an introduction to the Midnight Legion setting, Midnight Legion – Last Recruit is slightly underwhelming. The lack of mechanics mean that it does not feel as dangerous as you think it should and the lack of background sort of places it in a bubble. There is an explanation for this, but before then it does leave the player with a sense of helplessness. Nevertheless, Midnight Legion – Last Recruit is enjoyable to play and its hints are intriguing enough for the player to want to look at Midnight Legion further.

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