Available right now in the US, for free, you can say, “Alexa, play Starfinder” on any Alexa-enabled device and you’ll be thrown into an adventure based on Amanda Hamon’s adventure from the Starfinder Beginner Box. Written by James Sutter, Starfinder’s former Creative Director, Scoundrels In the Spike takes you to the belly of Absalom station to deal with a brewing menace. Full of great dialog and voice acting, the adventure was a fun two sessions, totaling maybe 45 minutes of play. (The press release says 30 minutes… I spent time getting descriptions of items, checking my inventory, messing with Alexa…)
The ‘Starfinder’ Skill (what Amazon calls Alexa Apps) will be available in many more countries mid-January.
No, Alexa is still quite a ways from actually replacing a real, live, actually-intelligent gamemaster (GM), but the Starfinder Alexa Skill provides yet another way to enjoy the rich Starfinder universe. In an experience that falls somewhere between a choose-your-own-adventure book, and an old-school, text-based adventure such as Zork, you play as one of the Starfinder pre-generated characters, making choices at many points in the story. You can either manually roll dice, letting Alexa know your score, or just let Alexa roll for you, and Alexa will say the roll, roll with bonus, and result. At some point in the game Alexa asks if you want to continue hearing the numbers, or a sped up version with just results.
The experience is audio only. While I was wishing my Amazon-supplied Alexa Echo Show 5, which has a screen, would provide images, most Alexa devices are audio only, so it makes sense.
As a player I could make choices such as using diplomacy, or going in guns blazing. The appropriate skills would be used, sometimes with me picking the skill I wished to use. In combat I had two actions; each of which I could choose, moving, taking cover, staying put, and for one of the actions, making an attack. The battle grid was pretty simple, with objects, “within arm’s reach,” and in increments of 30 feet away– Alexa stating your current situation like, “Raia is within arms reach, space goblin is 30 feet away.” The rules are an extremely pared-down version of the Starfinder Beginner Box rules. At one point my companion NPC gained the “Hampered” condition. While I did not experience any other conditions, the mechanism is there for adding more rules, and I’m sure we’ll see the ruleset grow as episodes come out.
The voice actors, including a narrator and a different voice for each character, describe the actions, provide dialog, and results are accompanied by sound effects. After each significant event the game is saved and you’re asked if you want to pause, or continue playing.
If you stay within reasonably expected answers, Alexa is pretty good with her responses. At one point I was asked an open ended question, and said to an NPC, “What happened to you?” and the response was a very appropriate, “What happened? I’ll tell you what happened.” When I tried more off the wall responses, or tried attacking characters I shouldn’t, Alexa would just say that the response was invalid, keeping you within the bounds of it’s story.
Again, while not a replacement of a GM — we’re a long way from that in any non-human medium — the Alexa Starfinder skill is a great way to get to know the Starfinder pre-generated characters and setting of the Starfinder universe.
Did I mention that this episode is free? If you don’t have a dedicated Alexa device, Alexa is available as an app on Android and Apple devices, so there’s really no reason not to try it out. While the first episode is free, further episodes will have a cost, to be determined. In the future episodes you’ll have a wider selection of characters, and you’ll be able to carry your inventory forward through episodes.
Not a Starfinder player? Get a taste with the Alexa Starfinder skill. If you like it, the Starfinder Beginner Box is an excellent place to hop in. It’s hours of easy-to-learn fun and materials in an affordable package. Interested? Check out our review of the Starfinder Beginner Box.
Disclosure: Amazon provided an Echo Show 5 to try the experience. All Amazon links are affiliate links.