Mad Max (the Game): Is it any Good? (Spoilers)

Mad Max (the game) is one of the best licensed games I’ve played. In theory, it’s a prequel to Fury Road, but I don’t think the story is canon. The game starts with Max getting into a fight with Scabrous Scrotus, losing his Interceptor, and is left in the wasteland with nothing but his torn up clothes.

Enter Chumbucket, the deformed hunchback who believes in the Angel Combustion. He’s a black finger (a master mechanic) and thinks Max is his warrior saint. Max needs a new car, and Chum promises to build him the Magnum Opus—the car you will be upgrading throughout the game.

Max’s goal is to create a car that will be fast, durable, and able to carry enough fuel to get him to the Plains of Silence. As you get upgrades for your car, you’ll meet stronghold leaders, lunatics, scavengers, and a whole crapton of war boys.

The gameplay consists of two major parts, car combat and ground combat. Both are equally fun, but have their own little quirks and issues.

***SPOILERS BELOW***

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Flash Fiction Challenge: The Ritual of Souls

This flash fiction challenge, posted over at Chuck Wendig's terribleminds.com, had one stipulation: incorporate "there is no exit" in some way. Thematically, as literal dialogue, or whatever.

And so I whipped up The Ritual of Souls (in 1.5 days, so go easy on me). It ended up like a Saturday morning cartoon, but slathered in blood (which is pretty cool). 

***

Blood rushed to Kelly’s head as she hung upside-down, hands tied behind her back. She stared into the emerald eyes of Nagazhul.

“You can’t stop it now,” Nagazhul said, his voice echoing deep in his throat.

The swirling violet crystal behind him hummed, emanating light to the chanting acolytes encircling it. Beyond, Kelly could see the cityscape, each window like the light of a firefly. Those people had no idea how close they were to death.

“Ritual’s not done yet,” Kelly said, writhing against her bonds. She shimmied her hands to the knife hidden in her belt.

Nagazhul reached out with a clawed hand and ran blackened nails along her cheek, he inhaled, as though smelling her scent. But Kelly knew he was tasting her soul, just the edge of it. Being an agent of the occult, Kelly had an iron will that meant shitheads like Nagazhul couldn’t work their magic on her.

“Eight million souls, agent Kelly, all in a matter of seconds.” Nagazhul turned his back to her, staring out of the skyscraper's windows. “It will be death on a scale so sweat, so unimagined. I will ascend. Can you comprehend this? Godhood awaits me, in a matter of moments I will be a breaker of worlds, eater of eras. And you will be my mortal witness. You’re terror will ripple throughout purgatorium. It will taste so sweat,” Nagazhul inhaled. “There will be no exit, no escape from my will.”

He turned to Kelly, his emerald eyes glimmering with delight.

Kelly stabbed him in the eye.

He reeled, clutching his bloody socket.

Kelly, arms free, cut the ropes around her feet, hit the floor with a roll, and charged at the ritual crystal. It hovered in the air, spinning faster and faster, radiating blinding light.

Nagazhul roared, his voice echoing with the power of a thunderstorm. “Kill her.”

The chanting acolytes turned as one, staring at her from shadowed hoods, jagged serpentine blades held high, screeching.

Kelly drew her boot knife, twelve inches of carbon steel, and slammed it to the hilt in an acolytes gut.

They swarmed her, kicking and biting and stabbing. Kelly’s blade flashed, arcs of red splattered on the floor, on the ceiling, on herself. She reached into a shadowed hood, and felt the chill void on her flesh, and then she clutched his windpipe and squeezed. A soft, wet gurgle escaped the acolyte.

Kelly broke bones with kicks from her steel toed boots, her knife dug through robe and flesh. And Kelly shoved the bleeding acolytes aside, charging for the now spinning crystal.

She reached up, an unspeakable force pushing against her, trying to drive her back. Her fingers inches from the crystal. Just. A. Little. More.

Got it.

Kelly tore the crystal from the ritual circle with a crack of thunder. Nagazhul bellowed, but she was already running for the window, crystal under her arm.

The acolytes leaped for her, trying to grab her arms and legs, and each time she barreled past them, kicking and punching them aside.

And then she hurled the crystal into the window. The window shattered, and the crystal pin wheeled to the street below, exploding into a thousand pieces.

“Rituals done,” Kelly said.

Nagazhul stared out the window, hand outstretched, mouth agape. Then, his brow furrowed, his features contorted into a bestial countenance. He inhaled, and as one the acolytes bowed to him, their souls draining away like blown mist, spiralling up into Nagazhul’s mouth and nostrils. The acolytes slumped, their bodies drained, dead. Nagazhul glowed with their power, glowed from the surge of strength it gave him.

He set his emerald eyes on Kelly and breathed deep.

Pain lanced through Kelly’s body, piercing from the inside out. Her hands melted away, dissolving into mist, pulled into the wide maw of Nagazhul. Then her legs dissolved, her torso, and it crept up her neck until her sinuses burned and her eyes watered, and then blackness.

Solid blackness beneath her, miles upon miles of blackness surrounded her. Kelly breathed, and no air entered her lungs, but somehow she lived.

Nagazhul tilted his head, a beacon in the darkness. “Curious,” he said. “How do you persist?”

Kelly was an agent of the occult, her spirit iron willed. And unlike the others Nagazhul had eaten, Kelly’s spirit was weighted with the will of her determination.

Nagazhul hadn’t expected Kelly to lunge, but he especially hadn’t expected her grasping hand to have weight, to clutch his robe, and to throw him to the ground. Nagazhul shrieked, confused. Kelly drove her knife into his heart, and his face contorted into a visage of primal pain.

The blackness below him opened. Tentacles thick with bloodshot eyes writhed and wrapped around Nagazhul. He pleaded, begged for mercy. “Don’t send me back there. Please. I can’t take it anymore.”

“You don’t have a choice. Enjoy a century of nightmare, fucker.”

Kelly twisted the blade, and Nagazhul was pulled through the rend, consumed by the writhing, bulbous mass of the eldritch domain.

And then she was alone. The blackness crowded around her, pressing against her like water filled sacks, suffocating her. She dug her fingers into the darkness, pinpricks of light emerging from her finger holes, and she tore it in twain.

Nagazhul’s flesh fell to the floor, shed like a false skin. Kelly stood in the skyscraper, bathed in blood, surrounded by bodies, hair whipped by the broken window.

Just another job done.

Guardians of the Galaxy and Narrative Structure

There’s a lot to love about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, but what pulled me in was how intertwined all the character arcs were. Each character had room to shine and grow, as well as moving the plot forward. None of it felt bloated or needless.

But I want to talk about a few of my favourite aspects of the movie.

***Spoilers Below***

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The Writing Schedule

THE PLAN

Over the course of three or so months (including June*), the plan is to write about 90,000 words of my current work in progress. I’ve been using a word tracker app to set monthly goals, it shows how much you have to write each day to hit your word count goal, and it’s been extremely helpful in motivating me to stay on track. (The app I’m using is an old one called WriMo Demon, I don’t think it’s available for download anymore, but I’m sure there are other similar apps.)

After I finish the first draft, I’m going to set it aside and hunker down to finish The Underbelly War. My goal will be to write another 30,000 or so words. At that point the story should be finished, and then I’ll set it aside.

After that, I’ll dive back into the inevitable mess that the 90k novel will be, and start rewriting/editing it.

Throughout this I’d like to carve out some time to write a few short stories that’ve been knocking around inside my head. 

 

THE GOAL

Get some shit published.

So yeah, that’s the current plan. I might provide some progress updates along the way.

Are you working on anything, from a short story to a beefy epic, and if so how have you planned out your writing schedule? 

 

*I started about a week into June, but as of today I’ve written 23,000 words of the 90k novel.

E3 2017 – Highlighting some of the Smaller Games

E3 had some awesome announcements this year. Stuff like Assassin’s Creed Origins, God of War, Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, a Beyond Good and Evil 2 cinematic, and a weirdly good looking Mario + Rabbids tactical RPG.

But, there were a lot of other awesome games that are flying under the radar. So, setting aside all the big announcements, I’d like to highlight some cool games that aren’t getting much attention.

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Wonder Woman is Really Good

I finally got to see Wonder Woman (later than everybody else), and it was really good.

It was nice to see one of the DC movies have a hopeful hero. One that isn’t bitter and angry at the world. Wonder Woman even touches on that at certain points by having [minor spoilers] the realities of war threaten to turn her into the equivalent of a brooding Superman [/minor spoilers].

I could gush about the movie endlessly, both Gal Gadot and Chris Pine were fantastic, as well as the whole supporting cast, but you don’t need me to tell you it’s a good movie.

I hope the other DC movies learn something from Wonder Woman, because right now the only DC movie I’m interested in watching is Wonder Woman 2.

What did you think of Wonder Woman? And where would you rank it compared to the other superhero movies?

Tarr of Tarrs

This story takes place in the same world as The Horned Scarab, but follows the Tarr and one of his bodyguards trying to evade an assassination attempt. Other than sharing a secondary world, the two stories don't connect in any way. Although, in theory, Tarr of Tarrs takes place while Arn and Rohqim are dealing with the Horned Scarab.

***

Tarr Oben, Tarr of Tarrs, regarded the land of his empire from a balcony of his temple fortress. Green fields spread before him, cut by mountain ridges and deep valleys. The mighty swing of the river Rund touched the horizon.

Eldara watched from behind silken curtains. Light from the noonday’s sun gleamed off her bronze cuirass. The Tarr had power, a power that was unseen to the eye, but heard in the depths of his voice, and perceived in the stride of his gait, the set of his shoulders, the pits of his eyes.

Tarr Oben turned from the balcony and strode into his chamber, robes embroidered with gold and silver trailing behind him. His necklaces and bracelets sang a soft clangour. Eldara followed, silent, and stood at the study’s entrance with Dula, another guard. 

“Eldara, come and look at this.” The Tarr’s voice resounded deep in Eldara’s chest.

Eldara obeyed, approaching the Tarr’s side, peering at the maps on his desk. Eldara gave the Tarr her counsel, in a soft, quiet voice. Her lips brushed the Tarr’s ear. He nodded to her, and without another word she returned to the doorway and stood alert. She noted Dula’s sideways glance.

Eldara’s eyes darted to a flicker of movement near the balcony. She took a step forward, and the first arrow flew. Her shield was up in time for the arrow to ping against its hardened bronze. Guards lurking in the shadows leaped forward. Four assailants in black cloth stalked into the Tarr’s chamber, bows at the ready. But the other guards did not engage them.

“What are you waiting for?” Dula said as he charged forward, shield upraised. But before he could reach the black clad men, a guard sliced open Dula’s throat. Dula fell to his knees, blood pulsing from his throat.

Their eyes alighted on Eldara.

She dashed into the study, swung the heavy oaken door shut, and slid the deadbolt into place. The Tarr was on his feet.

“What has happened?”

“We’ve been betrayed.”

He ran a hand over his beard. Then, he regarded her with a questioning gaze.

Eldara said, “the secret passage, it’s the only way out.”

Tarr Oben nodded, and together they moved the large desk to reveal the trapdoor beneath.

They darted through the secret corridor. They came to a barrack’s door. Eldara opened it just enough to peer through the gap. Her heart froze, a pile of bodies was all that remained of the fifth quarter guards. Their weapons and armor stolen.

Tarr Oben lightly touched her arm. “Whoever did this will suffer the Tarr’s justice.”

She turned from the gruesome sight.

Eldara continued down the corridor. “I know an unused passage to Counsel Orla’s chamber, there you will be safe until we learn how deep this betrayal’s roots are.”

“I trust Orla, but I will not hide. Together we will weed out the scum that mean to mock the Tarr.”

A side door opened, and a guard adorned as she was stepped into the passage. Her grip tightened on her sickle-sword.

“Hail,” the guard called. “We’ve trapped the traitors in the Tarr’s chambers.”

How long had they been walking for? This passage cut through complex networks of rooms and servant-ways. Would the guards in this quarter of the temple fortress know what had happened in the Tarr’s chamber?

“Have you notified the fifth quarter?” Eldara asked.

The guard hesitated, “yes.” His hand drifted toward his belt.

A dagger twirled through the air—not at Eldara, but at the Tarr. Eldara leaped in the way and felt the force of the dagger slam into her cuirass. She reeled into Oben’s arms.

He gasped. “Eldara…”

The man lunged. Eldara deflected a strike with her shield and used the deep curve of her sickle-sword to hook the man’s ankle and pull it out from under him. He went sprawling. She struck with the edge of her shield, and the man’s skull crunched and squelched under the force of her blow.

She turned to the Tarr. He leaned on the wall, rattled, but unharmed. Eldara pressed a hand to Tarr Oben’s shoulder. His eyes danced for a moment, and he gave her a weary smile.

She led the way, her shield dripping brain matter.

They came to the door of Orla’s chamber. Eldara opened it slightly and peered through. Orla, hunched and gray bearded, spoke quietly with one of his personal guards. Instinct held her back. Instead, she strained to hear the Counsel’s words.

“Is it done?” Orla asked.

“He escaped into a secret passage. Below we found a dead man, and no sign of the Tarr. He must have turned to a passageway unknown to us.”

“This damned place is hollow with rat holes. Unsurprising he would hide in one.”

Eldara’s heart thrummed. It was Orla who had killed her companions and tried to murder the Tarr. Oben—who had heard Orla’s words as well—nodded to her.

It was in silence that she emerged from the secret passage, and without joy that she struck down Orla’s guard. He did not have time to draw his blade.

Orla screamed. Eldara swung swift and true, and Orla’s head was severed from his shoulders.

Tarr Oben pulled Eldara close and whispered, “bring me Orla’s firstborn so that we might learn how deep this betrayal’s roots are.” His lips brushed her ear.

Monolith

This is an oldie I wrote a couple years ago. It's set in a world that I never fully fleshed out, where a native species of scaled creatures called Goras fight off an invading alien force. And throughout the Goras' planet are these ancient monolithic structures that they revere. Honestly, I can't remember what role the monoliths were supposed to play in the overarching story.

This piece is far from perfect, but I've decided to post it as is. I only gave it a very cursory edit for minor typos and errors. Otherwise, it's presented in all its pockmarked glory. 

***

The monolith touched the clouds. They swirled around the top of the massive gray column like the clouds of a mountain peak. At the very top, Arlon thought he could see specks of snow. Around its base were skeletons of Goras that had come before him, their corpses mangled and twisted in on themselves. I will not fail.

The monolith had been here since time before memory, since time before time, and all the while it sat silently contemplating. Arlon, feeling the chill seep between his green scale plates and seek out his flesh beneath, reached out a hand and touched the monolith.

Nothing happened.

Am I not worthy?

Arlon had travelled through the grand forests and swamplands and into the realm of the Gora’s enemies, all the while hoping beyond hope that he would be chosen by the monolith. But no visions came to him, no whispered words found his ears, no otherworldly beings reached out to touch his flesh.

Arlon shrugged, his scales screeching against one another, and he craned his head to look toward the monolith’s peak. Perhaps, he thought, perhaps there is a way to show my worthiness.

Arlon marched around the base of the monolith, it was so large it would have taken him days to make a full rotation, but after a few hours he found what he had hoped for--a stair. A series of horizontal stones jutted out of the monolith’s gray stone. They were not connected, and some were farther apart than the others, but Arlon could climb it.

And so he did, reaching one hand above the other to grasp the stones and use those below him as footholds, he climbed. And climbed. And climbed. Arcing through the sky, the twin moons shone on him with soft pale light, and the sun rose once more. And still Arlon climbed, heaving from the effort, never stopping. How many days past he could not know, but soon he felt the cold chill of the monolith’s peak, and reached an opening at the very top of the monolith. Arlon crawled into it, hauling himself over the caves lip and falling to the ground, panting and heaving. And before he could bring himself to his feet, he passed out from exhaustion. How much time had passed he did not know, but he awoke to the sun high in the sky and its light warm on his scales.

Arlon now looked into the cave, it was a smooth and perfectly round tunnel, the sun’s light illuminated it from holes in the ceiling. He took the bladed chakram from his hip, and holding it firm in his hand began the long march forward. It was long and slow, but soon he came to a grand opening that led into a circular room. And in the center of this room was the decayed skeleton of a Gora, one such as him. He approached the skeleton, reached a trembling hand to touch its surface, and felt nothing but dry bone. The monolith had been his faith, the one thing his people could see from all their land, the one hope of another, a better place. And now he had climbed this ancient and holy place to find nothing but a corpse. There were no answers for his people here, no secret knowledge, no whispers from the afterlife.

The room led nowhere, there was no other stair, no secret room. And it was a long and slow walk back to the cave’s entrance. And as he stood at the lip of the cave, he thought, how can I return to my people? How can I tell them everything we believed was a lie. He couldn’t, because he couldn’t bear to break the hearts of a thousand generations with the truth that he was now faced with.

And so, with a hollow place in his chest and a tear in his eye, he stepped out over the precipice of the cave--and fell.