The main thing about this game is that it's not a game where a group of adventurers go on quests, get gold, and then spend it on items from NPCs. Granted we do actually do that, but it's not the focus. The Isles is a wholly functioning world with a comprehensive economy, where your character has to worry about finding (or buying) food, guild dues, taxes, and occasionally investments. I know that doesn't sound like much more fun than balancing a checkbook, but it gives a lot of character options, and requires creativity in thinking about how your character would survive in this town on a planet being colonized. Fighters can kill things and get unrefined items, which they can then learn to refine or sell to someone who can refine (it's better to do the first). Healers are now feed by the Empire, something I appreciate as a healer, but look for research and mercenary-protection contracts to make money in general. There are some pure production people who have no combat skills at all, and their focus is either on scientific/magical/spiritual research and/or making money. If your idea isn't already in the skill sets (and there's a comprehensive skill set list), you can send in a note to the GMs saying, "I want to be a painter. Create a skill I can buy for that" and they'll do it unless it's way out there. I'm thinking of becoming a Tibetan thangka artist, selling mini paintings in-game after doing spiritual research and imbuing them with stamina or karmic effects for the owners. It would be nice not to worry about money.
In terms of the plot, I have to say that morality is very nebulous, more than I've seen in any game, not just because characters are good or evil but because there are morally nebulous situations all over the place, with the colonizing of the planet, and some characters choose to be hopelessly naive about what's going to happen to the native population as we essentially plunder their resources and others simply sell the natives weapons in secret so the native tribes can kill each other off. We haven't done smallpox blankets yet but we've been close to openly warring with a couple tribes in the previous campaign, and then there was that whole "Sculizi tribesman torture scene" thing. Like, this session, most of the PCs had just moved to the town of Purgatory Station and a tribe came in, said, "Hi, we saw what you did to the Western tribes 70 years ago, it totally sucked, we have your number and we have guns and if you overfarm we will shoot you." Essentially. And my response when they were gone was, "Boy, do they have our number or what?" even though my character is non-violent and not part of the Empire.
The meta plot is a little lacking, and the opener didn't capture the horror of certain moments in the opener of the Isles 1, but it's there, and it'll grow based on player interest in various plotlines. Certainly if you like figuring out translation puzzles there's a lot of those, but basically it's what PCs follow-up on that determines future plot-based modules. Beyond that is the grind of "a miner is stuck in a mine shaft and spiders are attacking her" - which we end up being really appreciative of because we get resources and money out of it.
Anyway, I had a good time, surprisingly as a healer (I do have a club to swing but I didn't end up using it), and I made another sand mandala, but I rushed it because I didn't want to spend the whole weekend on it and the light in the tavern where I was situated was bad, but I definitely wanted to do one for the opener. This is definitely a game where you get what you put into it, and I'm going to give it my all in June and September, then miss the October event because it's either over Succot or Simhat Torah (I'm not sure which). But I always miss a Fall event because of either holidays or because Shabbos just starts too early for me to get there in time in the late Fall, so that's fine. 3 out of 4 is a good number.
I do have to say that the drive is getting to me a little. I can do it in 3 1/2 hours if there's no traffic whatsover (there's usually about half an hour of traffic), and I did OK on the drive up, but on the way back I was sick with a sore throat and a little more tired than I wanted to be, so I had to keep stopping to refresh myself, and I almost exhausted my Lovecraft audio collection - which has since been expanded. I wish I had someone to ride with me, even if I always drove. It would really help. I'm just glad I can make it up and back on a single tank most of the time.
If you're interested in playing the Isles, it's in Charlton, MA, and the website is here.