As people who know me will not be shocked to hear, I love cyberpunk settings. I am also a big fan of games that tell a compelling story about global conspiracies or mysterious, corporate/state intrigue. State of Mind, it just so happens, is set in a cyberpunk setting about a global corporate conspiracy tangled in the mystery of how a man’s family suddenly vanishes without a trace during a large gap in his own memory. Sounds like my cup of tea!
The large gates slowly trundled open with a grinding noise that reminded Cobra of a rock slide, heard even over the steady rumble of his engine. Beyond the widening opening, a second barrier was also sliding sideways to the right of the entrance; a heavy frame construction of rusted metal girders forming a wedge which braced the back of the gate itself. A precaution against ramming attacks. As it neared more than half way open the group got their first look beyond the walls, save for Tuc who had visited before on business. The old cracked road surface stretched directly ahead for about half a mile before reaching the opposite wall and another, equally fortified gate. The town spread to the left of the road around 100 meters before dipping down into the slope. They drove through the gates and along the road towards an old forecourt to the left that may formerly have been a petrol station or used car sales lot. The surrounding buildings seemed to be relics of the old world, maintained as best as can be expected after over a century of post-calamity neglect. At the slope and beyond the buildings were all constructs of salvaged junk, old shipping containers, ruined vehicles and even a large boat, capsized and beached at the edge of the slope. Small outcroppings of buildings had been built out of the upturned hull, clinging to the ship like barnacles made from scrap metals and wood. A short distance past the now-closing gates the group pulled into the old forecourt, each of them getting out and stretching their legs once more.
The mountains suddenly gave way to the vast and endless flatness of the plains beyond. The road stretched out across the world towards the dark stained flats beyond. Further into the journey, three dark looking dots resolved in the distant haze, resting by the roadside. Before long the distinct shapes of three bikes, riders by their side, came clear through the heat ripple rising from the cracked and dusty road. One of the figures separated, driving across the road and stopping sideways before stepping off Tuc slowed his van a little as Cin gave him a sideways glance from his passenger seat.
“What are you doing?” he said, slowly reaching for the assault rifle, now propped up in the footwell.
The broken and patchy road, snaking through the mountain range, seemed more determined to shake their vehicles apart with each rapidly passing mile. Both engines protested as their drivers attempted to encourage more speed from them: one, the haggard and sickly rattle of an aged beast of burden, fighting for each yard it travelled; the other, a throaty bellow of a well-cared-for and faithful companion, taking the uphill journey in its stride. Some way behind them, several higher-pitched growls filled the air, gaining ground with the steady determined pace of committed predators.
Cobra jerked the wheel to the right again before pulling back to the left. One of the three pursuers, a dune buggy of some old pre-Starfall design, locked its wheels as the driver jammed the brakes on to avoid the side-swipe from the larger SUV. The three assailants were from a war gang called the Bisons, as evident from the tattered banner trailing behind the buggy depicting a horned skull pattern emblazoned in dull red ink the colour of dried blood. The Bisons claimed a large tract of badland near the entrance to the mountain road. Just ahead of Cobra’s truck, the lumbering faded-green van they were escorting struggled with the rough road surface. Behind, as the buggy recovered from its skid, the other two pickup trucks closed the distance.
Intaki V – Moon 5, Astral Mining Inc. station
“And the next shipment?” enquired Darius. “I hope it will go better than the last one.”
“I have refitted our haulers.” replied the Vherokior on the other end of the holoscreen. “Should survive enough punishment to get to warp. So, yes. They will be fine. The production line ends in… another 4 hours. I will have them loaded up and begin moving them straight afterwards.”
“Thanks Haq.” Several seconds of silence followed.
“Gratitude.” Came the eventual reply. “If I didn’t know better I would say you were starting to like me finally.”
Introduction to the Apocalypse
“What the hell year is it, anyway?” Bogs dropped the last few inches to the dry, dusty ground from his improvised perch on top of the vehicle, his boots sending a thin cloud of earth up from the impact.
“The fuck should it matter?” replied Ranch, squinting out over the road below from the seat of his rusted buggy. “It’s today, and today we get paid.”
Bogs scraped his boot along the ground, sending another drift of dust and grit skittering behind him. “Haven’t you ever wondered, though? I mean, I know it doesn’t change much but surely someone would have kept track of it. I mean… hey!” Bogs whirled around to face Ranch as the rock struck him in the back of the shoulder. “Man, fuck you!”
“Shut it! Listen…” Ranch held up a finger as he leaned out over the steering wheel of the buggy. Bogs stood for a moment and let the world around him settle. The unmistakable drone of another engine echoed along the rock faces around them. It was hunting time…
Welcome to the apocalypse, mucker. I hope you came well prepared, otherwise the wasteland will rip you up quick.
Apocalypse World is a tabletop roleplay game, published by Lumpley Games and available at their website. The setting is, as the name implies, the post apocalyptic, though with no specific theme or setting. Instead the players create the world setting together, throwing ideas into the pot to cover several basic areas of world building and then they let the story unfold. Unlike many other tabletops games, where play is dictated by dice rolls and structured rules, the game is more about narrative flow where the game master only makes his own moves against the player as a result of their faulture in skill tests
If you are new to roleplay games and are looking for a good place to get started, but you are unsure about having to remember 400 pages of rule book, this is a good game to get started on. And the character play books are totally free to download on their site, so your players can get a free reference copy without needing to buy in themselves.
So, is this an advertisement or something? I know it is coming off as such, so thank you for putting up with it. Now, onto the writing part of this whole saga.
I ran a few sessions of this game with some friends before we were slowly but surely unable to continue playing due to personal schedules, and the story was just starting to get good. I did, however, keep all the notes about the setting of our particular apocalypse as well as scraps of ideas and background info for the different factions that inhabited the world. One day recently I sat down and looked at the files I had and felt a little sad that this world was not going to be explored further. Then I realised, though not in the spirit of the tabletop game itself, I could still continue to flesh it out in story form.
And so begins the writing of the Apocalypse Journals. Initially the stories will follow along with the adventures the group I played with had in the world of The Skid, with a little artistic interpretation thrown in for the sake of flow. After all, not everything is roleplayed in tabletop and some exposition is briefly thrown on the table for the sake of conceptualising the humdrum and moving on to more exciting stuff. After that I will continue with the ideas I had for future potential sessions and see where the story goes from there. Heck, I may even roll on the character sheets to see what happens as I write. One of the great things about the game rolling mechanic is that a failure does not always mean harm to the player. It just means something different happens to what they wanted, the tables turned on them and instead you continue telling the story with this in mind.
Going forward, I may also further explore other apocalypse settings and write more stories in the future with different flavours of the post-apocalypse. I have some inspirations I could work on, but one thing at a time. it has struck me that, outside of video game, TV, and movie settings there is not a lot of post-apocalyptic representation in literature. Let’s see if we can change that.
And I cannot be happier. Finally I can play as a Space Marine with bolter and chainsword hacking my way through a sea of greenskins with my brothers at my side.
Well, except I have kind of done this dance before with the Gears of War series and I guess this might taint thing a little. Especially with the release schedule fixed like it was this year. You see, once upon a time I grabbed a disk for my X-Box 360 called Gears of War after watching the trailers and being somewhat impressed with what I saw. And it took me all of 5 minutes of playing it to realise this is how it must feel to play as a Space Marine in Warhammer 40,000’s universe.
And the Duke is what we got!
OK so this review is way over due and I guess in keeping with the game itself. The production schedule was somewhat akin to that of the great pyramids and, as such, it kind of shows in the game itself. By now a lot of reviews have been out so you have all seen the slightly diverse pool of opinions on the game. I got it on release day and started playing instantly but it has been put down a few times for other game’s sake which I have also to review. Kind of like Gearbox, really, developing the game itself. I doubt anyone has been waiting with baited breath for me, though, so hey.
One thing noticed pretty early, is that Duke Nukem Forever does not take the plot very serious, giving you the usual farce of silly situations to face. If you can take this as it is then all is good, but if you want gritty reality and maturity in your shooters then this is not the game for you. In a way it is to FPS games what Monkey Island is to the point and click adventure. To put it bluntly, a little goofy…
I picked up Portal 2 at the release and quickly fired it up to see what it has to offer. And, to answer the title question, yes it was worth the wait. Though by wait, we should first look at Valve‘s innovative release system using the potato sack. Essentially, you could pre-buy the game bundled with a bunch of Indie game titles selected by Valve from the steam library, and the more people logged into the games the closer Portal 2 would come to being released early.
So, release mechanism aside, players of the first Portal game will know how it plays, and in short I will say to you guys, stop reading here because, honestly, the game is more of the same procedure. It feels and plays the same as before, though the look of it has gotten a little more polish since, as you might expect with the passage of time and Valve’s evolving Source engine.
Well, ok there is a little more on Portal 2’s table I guess, so keep reading a little longer and I will tell you where to stop.
Besides my BioShock review I mentioned before that I also bought Mass Effect 2 on the Steam sale over the holidays. In fact, playing Mass Effect 2 took over most of the time instead of BioShock to a point that I was not too sure which game review would hit the blog first. It has been interesting to play two heavily contrasting games side by side, especially as both involve some kind of super powers in their characters and dub themselves as Role Play Games.
I also mentioned before that I replayed the first Mass Effect to import a save game, something that once I got down to trying was fairly difficult. Mainly locating the obscure hidden holders where the save game was from the first Mass Effect so I could select it and import it. Feeling a little flushed about this, though, I started playing and pretty early on realised that there were a couple of perks to importing a game. One was an increase to the starting points I could assign to powers and abilities as well as a starting pot of credits, the other was less useful but might appeal to others in the form of an achievement. So I guess for the starting points and credits it was kind of worth it. I was also able to remap my character details a little to give him Biotic powers, which is something I have never done in the first Mass Effect so I decided this was the time to give it a try.
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