Written by: Cavan Scott (from a story by Jim Groves), Directed by John Ainsworth
In which Valeros, Harsk and Merisiel accompany Ezren on a journey to the Osirian city of Wati on a mission for the Pathfinder Society – after 2,000 years, the Necropolis of Wati is being unsealed to adventurers from all over Golarion to uncover lost treasures and discover ancient secrets. But while they cross paths (and purposes) with another adventuring party, another man with his own sinister agenda awaits the Necropolis’s reopening…
After the success of Rise of the Runelords, the Pathfinder Legends audio dramas have now expanded from one CD per chapter to two CDs, and the difference is readily apparent. Events feel less rushed in The Half-Dead City, and unfold in a more organic manner than they sometimes did at times in Rise of the Runelords. And since this story takes place in a different part of Golarion – the Egypt analogue of Osirion – this is a good thing; as the protagonists are in the same boat as the listener (strangers in a strange land), the expository dialogue doesn’t feel nearly as forced as it occasionally did in the previous six installments.
Not quite as convincing, however, are the adventuring parties’ attitudes towards dungeon-delving. Knowing full well that they’ll be investigating trap-laden tombs, do either of the groups make use of a rogue skilled in finding and disarming traps? Nope! Even Merisiel’s chances to show off her skills in this regard get overshadowed by Valeros’ actions. And when you’re entering a necropolis – which by its very name suggests it’s an area likely to be teeming with the undead – why wait until almost sunset when your potential foes are likely to be at their strongest after dark?
Fortunately, Cavan Scott ramps up the tension in this story by constantly cutting between the main quartet and another rival party of adventurers (known as the Scorched Hand) as they each penetrate the Necropolis on their separate missions. By now, listeners ought to be used to the main characters’ brand of good-naturedly argumentative banter, but the dysfunction between the Scorched Hand’s three members – two of whom are romantically involved – is even more engrossing.
Threaded throughout The Half-Dead City are the actions of a third faction whose agenda only crosses the other characters’ in this chapter’s closing moments. Accompanied by two memorably ghoulish servants, he and his single-minded agenda promise to bring trouble to our heroes and the citizens of Wati – one of whom delivers what has to be the most understated reaction to being eaten alive that’s ever been committed to audio…
Verdict: An energized start to a new saga which plays to the strengths of its expanded running time. 8/10
John S Hall