I am really sad having to give this product 2 stars. I bought it several months ago, and was super excited to run it for my group in a one shot adventure. Now, don't get me wrong, the artwork is absolutely amazing, the setting is great, the rules are easy enough to understand, and combat can flow quite easily.
It is true though, that the JumpStart Kit does not hold your hand, or offer much replayability, but I kind of saw this as a sort of "Early Access" play test. Now, I ran this for my group last night, and we quickly realized a few things that felt off about the product. I will cover each area seperately.
Combat: 3 round bursts are broken. Simple as that. We don't know for certain in this kit how much ammo a gun holds, but even if we gave real world averages, a three round burst has the potential of murdering an average character in 1 turn, and that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but it is TOO EASY TO HIT WITH. At short range with an assault rifle, difficulty 12 to hit with a three round burst. For each +1 over 12, an extra bullet hits. My goon rolls... 15. 15 is not really a hard roll, so all 3 bullets connect and almost instantly murder the player character. I feel that if that was to become more balanced, it needs to either require a higher incriment between each bullet that hits, or at least just make the 3 round burst difficulties require the same difficulties as the single shot ranges, but at a +X difficulty. Also, punching people in the face apparently is far more effective then stabbing them with a knife, as long as you are built like a refrigerator. If I have to choose between 1d6 damage (knife) and 4d6 damage (fist), why would I ever stab? Shouldn't your melee weapons get some sort of damage bonus according to your Body maybe? Maybe that is just me, but it feels unbalanced.
The Characters: Pregenerated characters. Ok, I like the fact that they added a little wiggle room to see what stats you end up with, but the stats are super varied in usefulness, where some rows are just simply worse then others, making you feel super ripped off if that d6 roll gives you the worst row (which 2 of my players got). I did like the extra flavor of the lifepath system (I bought Cyberpunk 2020 to see how it was in that edition, and am super enthusiastic about how that was done too. This one version seems a little more streamlined, but thats ok, its also just a starter kit). Now lets talk about balance. My Netrunner Player felt absolutely useless in the scenario. They were expecting to be able to access and hack alot more different things, what was offered. It seems there arent enough things that have nodes, and having to get so close to hack becomes a detriment. Now I know they changed it so that Netrunners become a real member of a team, and have to go WITH a group to get to a node to make their hacks now, but the pregenerated character does not have the survivability to do so. With only a bare minimum to actually do with her netrunning skills, the Netrunner ended up hiding when bullets started flying, because they already took one wound earlier, and could not risk getting murdered in a straight up fight while being useless. I feel this could be fixed by maybe adding smaller nodes for smaller things that could be hacked, and maybe hacked a slightly bigger distance. Like say "Oh look, auto turrets! Sure each has a node, and you could try to hack one at 20 squares and take over and try ot use it to help the group!". I dunno, minor things, maybe with higher difficulty because of range? I understand the Netrunner had to change so that we didn't send the rest of the group home the moment they jacked into the net, but now it's like sending the Netrunner home whenever the group wants to get serious.
WARNING! THE FOLLOWING SECTION HAS SPOILERS FOR THE SCENARIO INCLUDED!
The Scenario: Ok, let's talk about the scenario, shall we? I am really on the fence about it being the best "starting point" for any Cyberpunk game. I like the idea of a kind of house warming party and getting the characters to know eachother and neighbors, as it is a different way of groups meeting that are less cliché? But you are giving starter characters alot of power and riches that they normally wouldn't have when one of them suddenly inherits an entire apartment building that adds to their income. Ok the idea of a Corp wanting to take the place and use for a comm tower, also not too bad. The execution of this scenario? More then a little sloppy. After introducing about 8 to 9 NPCS that are at least a little more memorable then the walking faceless meat zombies that are the rest of the buildings tennants, we are told by the scenario about how someone might notice the car outside and the suspicious behavior. Fine. Once that is investigated, the players get information or not, fine. When they get back, and things get really dangerous? Thats when things fall apart. You have several different possible approaches from the CORP at your disposal, and all of them seem silly when you look at what is REALLY in that building. I feel a Corp would do their homework better if they found out that a building has potentially 2 Solos (one PC and one NPC, if a player chose a Solo), a Rockerboy, a Nomad, a Netrunner... you get the drift, the player characters alone would get them to think "we should re-evaluate this", but now the NPCs add an entire BOOSTER GANG to the mix that could defend the building (The Handersons) along with the previously mentioned NPC Solo, and possibly even the Local Fixer getting involved if he is nearby. Apparently, every single NPC in this scenario will take up arms when the building is attacked, making the whole 5 strike force members that the scenario offers to throw against the building feel silly and lackluster. Sure, the scenario offers to throw more then one possible outcome at them... what happens then? An all out royal smackdown of dicerolling that would get a potentially new group and GM absolutely frustrated, for the amount of NPCs needing to be run in combat, that are probably doing most of the potential heavy lifting. All the while, the Netrunner only has something to do if you choose ONE of the outcomes. Considering my Netrunner almost got murdered by going out onto the street and trying to see what those people were up to, I kind of went with another outcome, because with them down to almost half their health, if they had to go up against another NPC Netrunner that was using the SAME STATS AS THE PREGENERATED NET RUNNER PC, then they would have been obliterated. With absolutely NOTHING else for a Netrunner to do in the building while her allies are having a grindfest, they end up just sitting there, possibly flickering lights on and off.... at best. I think that GMs need to adapt the scenario ALOT in order for it to be more fun for a group. Maybe install another level or two into the Net with "Cameras" or "Door Locks" or something... ANYTHING that could make the Netrunner actually feel like they could contribute to the session more then turning sprinklers on and off.
END OF SPOILERS
End Result: Maybe fans of Cyberpunk will be better at running this then me. Maybe I failed as a GM. Maybe I am not familiar enough with the setting, or the rules. But, look at it this way. If a GM new to the setting has all of these concerns, it might be concerns that other new players or GMs have. I know this is supposed to be a gritty world that tosses characters into a constant meat grinder... but if that is the case, we should make sure they are somewhat equiped for it, no? As the system is right now, I sadly cannot quite recommend it. I feel some of the combat system, and the "classes" need some work, in specific, the Netrunner.
I wrote this review with a heavy heart, because I really wanted to love this game. I mean the rules are far more refined (in my opinion) then Shadowrun.... now if we could fix some ballance issues, I am sure I could potentially LOVE this game.
[2 of 5 Stars!]