(At the time I write this review I notice that the torg eternity folks have dropped the price of this title.. I would argue it was worth the purchase price back when it cost the same as say the godbox, fires of ra or revenge of the corredon and now I would argue at the new price point it qualifies as a must-buy where you get a ton of value for your money... for GM's really looking to stretch their dollars you could wait until the Black Friday sales, typically occurring close to USA's Thanksgiving day, when the price drops by a few dollars more on certain torg titles but honestly rather than waiting that long I would just grab this now at the ten dollar dollar price it's selling at instead of waiting for the seven dollar price come Black Friday if history repeats itself).
Much like the other mega-length extended adventures for each cosm... like the fires of ra being the companion book and in a real sense "part two" to the nile empire sourcebook... blood on the blasted sands should be continued the companion piece and "other half" of the tharkold cosm sourcebook. It does an excellent job, more so than the isolated scenarios found in the delphi council rising storm book, of really bringing tharkold to life and highlighting the feel and nature of the realm .. in this case a nightmarish, apocalyptic techno-horror realm. Very close to the beginning of the adventure - after of course the PC's have to go through the trials and tribulations of simply getting into the warzone that is the Tharkold conquered realm on earth which is also well done and drives home the nature of war-torn Earth in Torg ... the scene after that alone (second scene of the many acts in the book) is wonderfully evocative and descriptive, something I go into more detail on below.
I particularly appreciated the sections at the end of the book which go into greater detail on the Tharkold invasion of Ukraine
(and yes I know, given the current real life situation in Ukraine in the year 2022 as I write this I feel awkward even just typing this ...the writers had no idea when they wrote this in the year 2020 what would happen in Ukraine two years later.. I talk about this more in my review of the Tharkold cosm sourcebook but my way of dealing with this is making the Ukraine resistance fighters the true heroes of the region and beacons of hope against the forces of evil )
and a detailed explanation of the area there as well a more detailed look at the former seat of government power in Russia, the Presnensky District now split in a three way power struggle between Volkov, Thratchen and Jezrael . The write up of two higher ranking thralls who answer directly to Thratchen and Jezrael will no doubt be of use to the GM (though I found Jezrael's favored thrall's write up as far as stats to be surprisingly "wimpy" and I would personally increase her "8" attribute scores to "10" and give her more adds in reality and her combat related skills) and the Volkov faction section answers a question I had posed in my review of the tharkold sourcebook ... Volkov's soldiers do in fact use the higher tech tharkold weapons like alph sprayer energy weapons and diffrax armor but rather than this being the case for the everday average soldier of Volkov's, such equipment is reserved for highly trained special forces operatives whose stats are also given in this section, something else that will prove useful to GM's.
Tbe inclusion of a technodemon who has come to care for the thralls kept in a "herd" village until Thratchen has use of them later on and who has become an aspirant (a technodemon who's turned his back on his inherently evil nature) is intriguing but the reason why for this is made even less clear than in Chut's case, a technodemon aspirant who's allied herself with the delphi council and who's given a write up in the tharkold source book... see if you like my review of the tharkold sourcebook for my additional suggestions on how and why Chut turned her back on a lifetime of technodemon culture and outlook... I would argue the same principles could be used to explain this technodemon's change of heart.
Also very intriguing to me was, in his typical fiendishly brilliant way, Volkov's use of the Tharkold version of the cyberpapacy's godnet... basically tharkold's version of hell albeit one that serves as their infernal version of the "internet".. Kur as an asset, specifically to generate hack-proof Russian electronic currency/money that can be protected against even say cyberpapacy agents who might try to hack into Russian computers and undermine Russia's economy - Volkov even has technodemons specifically dedicated to monitoring and running the part of Kur dedicated to this purpose and stats are provided for said specialist technodemons.
What's confusing here is given that the technodemons dedicated to this are not listed as having the computers skill is exactly how they assist in this process.. given their description of having "armor - coded protection +3" in the book I am guessing the technodemons materialize inside Kur and specifically handle financial transactions within Kur as a virtual presence but it would have been nice if the writers had been more clear on this. Given that they're demons I found myself wondering at first if technodemons could simply naturally vanish and materialize inside of Kur but this is where the information from Act four comes in handy in it's description of a technodemon inside Kur who the PC's may end up having to fight - the technodemon is described as spending far too much time in Kur while his physical body withers away implying that he probably has a grid jack occultech implant (oddly enough not mentioned in the list of occultech for him ... he could also be using the more painful non-implant method of the device that pokes needles into your eyes, ears and other soft tissue in your head to access Kur but you would think given how much time he spends in Kur he'd just get the occultech implant to let him do this instead).
Much like the revenge of the carredon, I would recommend the GM actually skip to those final two chapters of the book and read them first in order to better understand the rest of the adventure as the GM is reading through it. The Tharkold adventure generator chapter is a welcome addition to the Tharkold cosm sourcebook with a lot of great ideas for GM's who have the time and inclination to write their own adventures, but even better are the excellent and detailed adventure generators in say the Living Land or Orrosh cosm sourcebooks which go into even more detail (both of which are in my opinion the best torg cosm sourcebooks and well worth the purchase price - either one should be your first purchase as far as the cosm sourcebooks, see also if you like my reviews of those two books)....though in all fairness the torg eternity writers raised the bar so high on those two books that other torg cosm books are going to have a hard time following in their footsteps to begin with.
One thing that stood out to me was Volkov's typical calculating, evil, manipulative approach, not only "justifying" the invasion of Ukraine as necessary to secure it as a bulkhead against the neighboring aysle and cyberpapacy invaded formerly core earth territories but also painting the rule he's imposed as preferable to Jezrael's "wrecking ball" approach where she seeks to destroy wherever she goes and spread anarchy and pointing to the structured by comparison rule he maintains in the area of Ukraine under his (not Jezrael's) control. Obviously it goes without saying that if Volkov was really that concerned he would have simply sent Russian soldiers to assist the people of Ukraine instead of engaging in a blatant power grab.
I was pleased to see this is a beta level clearance adventure that takes place in the second half of the first year of the timeline established in torg, allowing the GM to run players through say the Godbox or the Fires of Ra and/or the various adventures in "delphi council rising storm" (see if you like my reviews of those first two titles and I'm working on a review of the last one) to "level up" to beta clearance.
While the mega length adventures by torg eternity tend to, given their breath and scope, not cover the NPC's personalities and backgrounds as much as I would like I was very pleased to see the notable NPC's the PC's run into often have a more fleshed out background and personality than they did in other torg eternity mega length (godbox, fires of ra, revenge of the carredon) adventures. I still have some ideas for areas I felt the adventure could have used some more detail in given in my blogger post below as well as suggestions for maps which, like the other mega length adventures, are sadly lacking though there are a few scenarios where the writers give a wonderfully evocative description of a combat encounter.. but then there's no map to go with it, that very same wonderful detail making it impossible for me to find a map that matches the written description so there will be a few situations where GM's and players who are fans of battle maps will have to just "wing it" and do without (the GM should warn the players about this in advance since players who are used to maps letting them clear plan out combat battle tactics might be annoyed at this).
Much like my other reviews I, regretfully, cannot seem to express myself as concisely as I would like to the point where my review exceeds the maximum length allowed for drivthru rpg reviews but if you want to read the entire thing there's a blogger link below but hopefully the part that you do read here will convince you that this is worth the purchase price.