Played this online at PaizoCon in high tier. This scenario is a blast - the sort of zany adventure that delivers on Starfinder's promise of "the kind of hijinx that Pathfinders can only dream of getting up to!"
The format of the scenario has the PCs following the trail of a travel vlogger who's stopped at some of the top destinations in Near Space. Each location entails an interesting set piece challenge or two where PCs get to use their skills and smarts in tourist trap-y areas, each with memorable NPCs and colourful obstacles. A number also end in combat encounters, so more martial characters will still get a chance to shine.
In its closing, the adventure does a good job of planting the seeds for some sort of resolution on the Envar Tamm through line, that stretches all the way back to Season 1. It'll be interesting to see if there's more in the Tamm story!
My only (admittedly minor) criticism is - what's up with the art for Jiana Varkol? That is one strange looking vesk - and there's already a lot of funky looking vesk in the Starfinder oeuvre! But, that aside - cheers to the adventure that has taught us the real reason why twine is banned on Pulonis.
I GMd this over VTT for a home group. It was excellent. I finished every session by saying, "...and next time, it gets even weirder!" and every time we met up again, the adventure did not disappoint.
--- SPOILERS BELOW ---
Any adventure that takes place inside the metaphysical mindscape representation of the hive-mind of a colony of interstellar murderous insects is gonna be bonkers, but the adventure never feels too silly. Highlights of the adventure are when the PCs' minds are shunted into the bodies of high-level Swarm baddies, letting them just smash face (very satisfying and cathartic, after being on the receiving end of the Swarm's attention for four books now!) as well as the PCs accruing "soul bucks" that they can use to barter with The Memories of Mercantilism that are still hanging around in the Swarm's subconsciousness.
My party of five relatively optimised PCs had an easy time with most of the encounters; in my opinion, GMs can crank the difficulty up a bit without much worry. There is a good ratio of exploration, roleplay opportunities, and combat, including some very thematic and visceral "theatre of the mind" encounters where you explore the Swarm's history, memories and motivations; but "funky combat in a mindscape" is the biggest slice of that pie.
The structure of the adventure is fairly linear, with the PCs tasked with taking the McGuffin to significant places to charge up its power, but the novelty and craziness of the setting and the tasks are more than enough to make up for any perceived rail-roading, I think. At no point in our playthrough did anyone at the table think "wait, that's what we have to do next? Sigh, boring, let's do something fun."
My players were feeling the weird mental vibe of the chapter, so I was able to lean into that, and personalise it a bit: instead of fighting representations of the Swarm's Doubts and Hesitations, they fought their own Doubts, Hesitations, and Personal Demons; I also let any PC attempt a Will save to try to impose their will on the Mindscape: with medium DCs for simple things like granting +2/-2 on a roll, getting higher for more complicated things like reproducing spell effects, instantly creating consumable items, and flashier, showier effects. Lastly, I stole the intro to the chapter from the Cosmic Crit podcast, and had each PC start the adventure trapped in their own tiny personal mindscapes, living out pleasant fantasies, and needing to snap out of them. Great for engagement.
Outside of the Attack of the Swarm! Chapter, there's also sections on Mindscapes (including write-ups of some notable ones) and Psychic Magic, with new spells, a new Mystic Connection focusing on shaping matter, and some new Technomancer psychic-y Hacks. Also, a fantastic image of a sullen Bear-ruler dreaming of a forest.
Overall, an great book, and my favourite Adventure Path chapter to date.
I played this in low tier at an online convention. Mechanically it was fun to play through, and my party found the fights challenging, but not lethal.
It seemed like the GM had a lot going on "behind the screen," in the second and third encounters, but it led to compelling fights with interesting changes and set pieces. It feels like the kind of scenario that really shines with a GM who has plenty of time to absorb the intricacies, but could flounder if they're running it cold or without ample prep time. Luckily, my table had the former!
What really makes this scenario stand out for me is the lore reveal.
On the identify of the Vault Lord:
This the Starfinders' fifth foray into Salvation's End, and we finally get to learn a bit more about its Guiding Intelligence, and the Vault Lord - and what a doozy that info is! I have said before that Starfinder is as its best when it can leverage the mountains of awesome Paizo IP in the whacky techno-magical future setting that Starfinder enables, and the Vault Lord is a great example of that.
The Vault Lord is a test subject that realized they're in a sim?
The Vault Lord is a super intelligent floating brain that realized they're in a sim?
That's bonkers; I love it!
The Vault Lord is a super intelligent floating brain that is brainwashed into believing itself a reincarnated Runelord from Lost Golarion?!
11 / 10, A++, would play again!
Can't wait to play through the next installment of the Salvation's End arc!
I played this scenario in the low-tier with 6 PCs. Since it's a pretty important meta-plot scenario, I then went back to re-read the scenario. What a blast!
No Spoiler One-Liner: a satisfying conclusion to Year 1 that builds hype to Year 2, with some time management needed to fit it all in.
Mild Spoilers Below!
I overall found the flow of the scenario to be fast-paced, and very slightly jarring, but crazy epic and full of high drama. The flow goes something like space encounter -> social encounter -> skill challenge in space -> fight -> skill challenge -> fight -> boss fight. It's a lot, for one scenario; we managed it all in just under 4.5 hours, which I expect is probably pretty good, all things considered. Good time management will be useful for this one. That said, the scenario really excels at highlighting all of the great things you can do Starfinder, and there's no "Bring X to Win" going on here - all of the encounters have multiple paths to victory.
The end to this scenario is very satisfying - a real treat, especially for those who've been playing along with the year's Scoured Stars meta-plot.