[EDITORS NOTE: If this is your first experience with the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, you may want to consider starting with our previous review of the Core Rulebook. -dc]
I started my writing process for this review by going back to see what I had to say about the first edition of Starfinder’s Alien Archive. It was the first sourcebook to be released for Starfinder, and just under a year following its release, it’s kind of interesting to go back and see my thoughts.
Of all the creatures in that volume, one of my favourites was the Skittermanders. My adoration for these fuzzy little miscreants and my excitement to potentially use them as a Player Character was apparently not unique. Some months later I discovered that the first Free RPG Day adventure for Starfinder featured a group of Skittermanders. I also mentioned that the in-game historic link to Pathfinder was very important and seeing the evolution of many of the creatures from that game was inevitable. This continues in Alien Archive 2, not only with things like Giants, Golems, and more Dragons, but also with some less obvious evolutions. The Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Bestiary, and later Bestiary 5, included the plant-based Ghoran. Their evolution sounded fascinating and made me go back to find out more, which says a lot about how well many of these evolutions have been done. There have been more than a handful of sentient plant-based species so far, and there is the potential fascinating storyline around them in the future.
Not all of the creatures in this book are appearing for the first time. Many, like the Akata, Void Zombies, and Garahhakal, previously appeared in the Dead Suns Adventure Path and are expanded here. While others, like The Swarm, present new options for creature types we saw in the first Alien Archive. None of these things are particularly unexpected, nor is it a thing. Many players will never pick up a single volume of an Adventure Path, even fewer will collect them all. So including them makes sense for those people, and expanding those entries makes sense for those dedicated few that do get everything.
I maintain that the books that show off creatures are the single most important sourcebook for any RPG system, and the Alien Archive books are no different. There’s so much to love in this book, but there were a few things, albeit minor things, that worry me. I don’t know if someone missed a layout step, or if changes are being made going forward, but I’m hoping it’s the first one. Until now the righthand side of every two-page spread has included what is essentially a graphic version of the Table of Contents, showing where you are in the book in relation to the other sections. In the first Alien Archive, the top right corner had an avatar-style picture and the creature’s name. That part is still there. Below that, it showed the different Appendixes, and that part is gone. There is still a generic header block that says “Appendixes” but that’s all. They also monkeyed with what is in the Appendixes. There is a separate Appendix for Playable Races (as Player Characters), which was previously just noted on the Table of Contents listing. The Index of Creatures has been removed and replaced by three Appendix sections, as well as a few other changes. Several Appendixes get crushed together onto a single page, I assume to maintain the 160-page standard that Starfinder has been using, which may be part of why they didn’t include the full drop-down graphic.
Do these subtle details spoil the book for me? Actually, they sort of do. But that may be just my own personal quirks. That being said, the content is amazing and the Glass Serpent entry alone is worth having this one.