" Someone's been drinking Dungapult's sock water again. "
Title: City of Angels by White Wolf
Format: Demon Setting Supplement
Reviewing Monkey: Genghis Kong
The Hype: When Demon, the Fallen was first released, it met with mixed reviews (this monkey's review included), but an oft-voiced question across the board was "Okay… so what do I do with this?" City of Angels attempts to answer that question and solve the issue of unclear setting and motivation, placing the game itself against the backdrop of the recently released Demon short-story anthology, Lucifer's Shadow. So did they answer the question? I answer that question below, my monkeys.
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Drama: City of Angels focuses (not surprisingly) on Los Angeles, a recent hotbed of Fallen activity. As per the events of the Lucifer's Shadow short-story collection, Lucifer himself, the long-absent Prince of the Fallen, reappeared for a few moments in the heart of Los Angeles itself. The event was captured on film and broadcast worldwide, witnessed by bystanders and felt by every Fallen in the world. The results were massive race riots, a brief state of martial law in the city, an earthquake, and a mass exodus of flesh-bound demons coming to find their long-lost leader for any number of reasons. While this is certainly an interesting story catalyst, the events are covered primarily in Lucifer's Shadow, whereas City of Angels contains information mostly concerning the fallout of this event and the vast cast of Fallen present within Los Angeles. Over one hundred Demon NPCs are presented at various levels of detail, bringing the level well beyond "meaty" into the "absurd" arena of content. The intricacies of local politics are presented and fleshed out, as is the system of rank and position among the Infernal Court, which is a definite plus. It's also worth mentioning that Lucifer himself is now a player, and you have to give credit to White Wolf for making the Devil himself a sympathetic NPC in one of the darkest settings imaginable. The book is mostly NPC background and political info, the former of which seems to take up too much space, and the latter of which… well, I'll discuss that in a bit. 3 out of 5.
Layout and Presentation: City of Angels is presentably printed, so it is by no means a horribly ugly book, but it lacks a bit in clever organization. This is mostly due to the oversized NPC section, but some of it is simply due to bad choices in layout. The artwork is poor to passable within the book for varying reasons. Andy Trabbold submits some very talented work that is marred by the preponderance of people with tentacles and protrusions sticking out of their heads for no apparent reason. Marko Djurdevic's art is impressive and clever, but sometimes blurred by overly black shading. Alex Lamas contributes the character art for the NPC section, submitting an unimpressive array of similar-looking profiles that seem to have been created with a facial features clip art program. The proportions are wrong, the shading is wrong; the images are bland like 1940's comic books. Mike Danza's work contains its usual smoky allure, but the images are somewhat uninspired, and as they're full-page work, the lines of the art stand out under magnification in a somewhat unflattering way. Andrew Robinson's cover stands out for its detail and style, but while it certainly makes a statement and sets the tone of the book, I highly doubt it's going to go down as his best work. Still, it's enough to leave you looking forward to future covers by him. Overall the book is slightly below average in appearance and layout--it just seems like White Wolf wasn't trying on this one, which is odd for a brand-new game line but not entirely odd for a setting supplement. 2 out of 5.
Playability: As a setting supplement, City of Angels gives players and Storytellers alike every reasonable bit of information they could want in order to set their chronicle in Los Angeles. It has history, city maps, backgrounds for NPCs, stats for major players, an Infernal Court, and even the missing details on the ranks and hierarchy of Fallen society which was lacking so heavily in the Demon core rulebook. These factors, along with the great story hooks presented by the Devil's Night riots in the wake of Lucifer's return, should have made City of Angels an extremely desirable supplement… but there is a problem. The entire system of the Infernal Courts smacks so heavily of the Camarilla from Vampire, the Masquerade that players will likely often ask "So why aren't we playing Vampire again?" Don't get me wrong, my monkeys--the Conqueror Ape thinks that Demon is an interesting and complex game line all its own. It just seems like White Wolf is trying to cash in again on systems of politics they established years ago by reprinting and rehashing Vampire concepts in Demon material. If they wanted to make this game its own separate entity, they got off on the wrong foot by making it Vampire with different character motivations. The two game lines are so similar now that as it stands, you can interchange one setting for the other with only superficial cosmetic changes, and that, my monkeys, is not a good thing. 2.5 out of 5.
Desired Content: City of Angels delivers two important things--the setting of Los Angeles as it applies to the Fallen, and the system of rank and hierarchy the Fallen follow. City supplements are usually fairly bland in the interest department, however, and while City of Angels does throw in a few new curveballs, the same basic story ideas could be gained from Lucifer's Shadow. In fact, the interesting characters from that anthology do not appear among the NPCs of this supplement, which is a serious letdown. Among one hundred new NPCs, no one made room for the established fictional characters created in the Demon core rulebook and elaborated upon in Lucifer's Shadow? Someone's been drinking Dungapult's sock water again. As for the Court system, I still maintain that it is so similar to that found in Vampire, the Masquerade that you could start calling the Infernal Court the Camarilla and people wouldn't know the difference. 2 out of 5.
|While not a bad supplement by any means, and certainly useful for what it contains, City of Angels came as a disappointment to this monkey because it wasn't at all innovative. It seemed to be a write-by-rote collection of missing story and setting elements that, while important, have all been used in various other White Wolf game lines.|
The Good: Plenty of NPCs, interesting setting information, and the structure of the Infernal Courts.
The Bad: Too many NPCs, setting information you can find in Lucifer's Shadow, and a court system copied from Vampire, the Masquerade.
The Overall Ugly: Helpful for the struggling Storyteller looking for a way to run a Demon chronicle, but frustrating for someone hoping for something new.
What it's Worth: Closer to $15 than the $19.95 asking price.