I guess I could take the easy route with this and just say WEG Star Wars and be done with it. It has been years since I last played it, and I am unlikely to play it again anytime soon, but I don’t want every one of this posts to be about that game, so I will go with Alternity instead. I really enjoyed Alternity at the time, it was an attempt to have a universal game for science fiction the way that AD&D was a universal game for fantasy. This was a few years before 3rd edition and the advent of the d20 system that was set up to handle them both. From a rules perspective Alternity kind of existed in a wierd place between chaos of AD&D and the unified mechanic of d20. It moved towards the idea of having a standardized task resolution mechanic, but the mechanic itself was still pretty fiddly. It wasn’t a bad system for the time, but it is not one I see myself going back to today when I have choices like GURPS 4th edition and Savage Worlds.
The best thing about Alternity was its campaign settings. My group used Alternity for Star*Drive, Dark Matter, and Gamma World. I think that Dark Matter was the strongest of the three, it was an X-Files style setting that came with a lot of details on possible conspiracies to include in your game. The setting book was very strong in its depiction of an alternate, conspiracy riddled Earth. We had played a similar style game with GURPS Black Ops, but Dark Matter was much more evocative.
Star*Drive was an excellent space opera setting that was just different enough from the other available space opera settings to make us want to play it. It was kitchen sink space opera, it accommodated Alien-style horror, Star Trek inspired exploration, cyberpunk trappings, and old fashioned blasters and star fighters. It offered the opportunity to play in all of these styles while still providing a strong, coherent setting. I am glad that Wizards of the Coast decided to develop this new setting instead of defaulting to their old Star Frontiers setting. I like Star Frontiers, but it was more limited in scope, and honestly of a different time.
Speaking of defaulting to old settings that were of a different time, Alternity also offered a version of Gamma World. To be honest, Gamma World was not a great match for the Alternity rule set, and it was not a good match for the late ‘90s in terms of tone. We did play this a bit, but it was ultimately forgettable.