This 'universe book' for Amazing Engine opens with the complete core ruleset as described in the Amazing Engine System Guide (so you don't need to buy that) and so can be regarded as a complete game. You do, however, have to create a Player Core if you don't already have one before making your Player Character - the Player Core is a high-level overview of the type of character you prefer to play (the assumption being that you go for the same type all the time and irrespective of setting) which allows you, for example, to transfer experience between your characters in different universes (as defined by the various universe books)... even though you cannot actually transfer an entire character from one universe to another.
The remainder of the book, the actual setting or 'universe' part, is made up of two parts. One, marked 'Players' (but GMs need to read it as well) covers common knowledge about the setting, character creation, equipment, and the game mechanics pertaining to combat and net-running. The second part, for Game Masters only, provides notes on the sorts of campaigns and adventures you can run, talks about the various power groups involved, and has a collection of NPCs (including AIs), as well as sample locations.
The notes on the setting present a confusing picture of a world beset by many problems yet with great potential for progress. Much of the world as we know it is decaying and collapsing, automation taking over, plagues rampant, economic warfare wreaking havoc, and ecosystems collapsing. Terrorist action introduced computer viruses into the banking system that brought it down. Genetic manipulation and implantation technology twist the very basis of nature. Glimmers of hope include AIs taking over governance (surely they'll do a better job that politicians!), raw materials flowing in from the asteroid belt, and electronic communities restoring communications between people. The player-characters are supposed to be part of a microcorporation attempting to survive amidst the turmoil, troubleshooters seeking to overturn dystopia and restore hope for a future fair to all.
There's a lot of information to take in, but it paints a vivid picture of a dystopian future. The netrunning rules are particularly impressive, with a wide array of options and a slick system for dealing with hacking and online combat. The GM section includes loads of adventure ideas, but they'll need to be developed into a fullscale scenario before use.
It all makes for an exciting world in which to adventure...
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Reviewed: 13 March 2018