This week I’ve been way deep into ruined worlds. I’m not really sure why it turned out that all of these came up for me at the same time, but boy I’ve been having fun with media that looks at awful, broken societies.
Chuck and Anthony: Ragnatalk
This one is a bit of a stretch on the ideas of ruined worlds, so let’s get it out of the way first!
I love Thor: Ragnarok. It is one of the most fun movies I’ve seen. I love the colors and the humor and the action and the energy and everything about it.
Recently I started listening to a podcast called Chuck and Anthony: Ragnatalk, which is hosted by Chuck Wendig and Anthony Carboni, and it’s made me love the movie even more. In essence, the guys go through the movie and discuss it in ten-minute segments for each roughly-one-hour long episode, and a lot of the conversation has focused on the ruined planet of Sakaar (see, it’s relevant).
They have actually just finished up their discussion of the movie, and are soon going to be back with a similar, story-focused discussion of other properties. If you haven’t listened to this show and like Ragnarok, get to it. It’s very, very bingeable.
I don’t have a lot to say about this show except for that it’s a ton of fun, and has made me even more of a fan of what might be my favorite Marvel movie than I already was. I actually haven’t rewatched Ragnarok since I started listening to this show, but I’m very much itching to do so now.
Gone by Michael Grant
If you’ve been following my blog at all, you know I’m a huge fan of The Animorphs, which was co-created by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant. After finishing off the series a few months ago, I decided to look at other books by the authors and ended up getting into Gone, the first in a series aimed for slightly older readers by Michael Grant, and I’ve really, really liked it!
There are three major elements that happen early in the story of Gone that predicate all of the craziness that happens in this book (slight, early spoilers):
- Everyone over the age of 15 spontaneously disappears. Poof. Gone (omg, like the title!).
- Animals are mutating (like seagulls developing talons or cats teleporting) and some kids are developing weird superpowers.
- There’s a 10-mile radius bubble surrounding a small, California beach community, a boarding school for troubled kids, and a nuclear power plant.
The first book only takes place over the course of a few weeks and is absolutely bonkers. The book is part Lord of the Flies and part X-Men, with plenty of body horror and mystery thrown in for good measure, and is absolutely bonkers. As the story went on, I was constantly surprised by new events, and completely baffled as to what the heck was going on, and that continued right up to a crazy ending that left me wanting more. It looks like there were six books released between 2008 and 2013, and then a new “season” of three books started in 2017, with the third book in that group scheduled to come out this year.
I’m so excited to have a new series to dive deep in to, but I’m taking a short break before going into the next book because, man, this was an emotionally exhausting book, in the best way possible. If you are sensitive to body horror, child injury, or bullying and cruelty you should probably stay very far away, but if you like sci-fi, superheroes, mystery, and thrillers, you should definitely check it out, especially if you grew up loving The Animorphs.
I really, really liked playing through Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas when Bethesda studios took over the series back in the 360 era. After loving those, I tried playing the original, very different games in the series, and couldn’t get into the mechanics. When Fallout 4 came out on the PS4 I was super excited for it, but then couldn’t get into it either. Something about the way the world and the missions were put together kept me from feeling a push to go from one area to the next but also didn’t really motivate me to explore. I’ve still got the game, but haven’t done much with it at all.
Enter Fallout 76. I was excited about the initial announcement, then less enthused the more that we heard about the game, and the more it looked like a multiplayer expansion to Fallout 4. Eventually, I decided I would pass on it at launch, and wait for a deal. A few weeks ago I found out that my local library had a copy available, and decided that getting to play the game for free was too good of a deal to pass up.
This weekend I got the chance to try it out with some friends on stream, and had an absolute blast!
In terms of the mission structure, 76 definitely feels like an expansion on 4, which is to say that for some reason I’m still not feeling much of a pull from one mission to the next. However, because I was playing this with friends, just exploring the world became more fun, and I found myself going back to the missions just as a guide to help me explore the world.
One of the big complaints about this game is the way that it tells stories. In past games from Bethesda, a whole lot of the world building comes from talking to non-player characters in the world, both to get missions and to solve problems through conversation. The premise of 76 is that you are the first people emerging from the Vault after all the humans outside have died, which means there are no NPCs to interact with. Instead, missions and storytelling come from interacting with logs, recordings, terminals, and a few robots wandering around. This makes the story feel way less interactive, especially since the game is built to be played with other players who you are, you know, talking to! In the several hours we played together, I probably took in about 3 minutes worth of story, because the rest I pretty much ignored.
Mechanically, the V.A.T.S. system went through some changes that were totally necessary for the switch to multiplayer. In the past few games, V.A.T.S. allowed you to freeze time and target a specific body part on an enemy. In 76, time can’t freeze because of your companions, so instead V.A.T.S. just snaps your aiming to enemies automatically, and can still do the body part targeting with some upgrades.
The upgrade, or S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system, also underwent some changes. I don’t know that I’d say these ones were as necessary, but I do think it’s an interesting change. In essence, instead of permanently choosing perk or ability upgrades, you get cards as you level up that you can equip that change your characters abilities. What’s nice about this utility is that it makes it easier to adapt your abilities to fit different group makeups. For example, if you are playing with a full squad, there are abilities that will give your whole team boosts, while if you are solo you can emphasize cards that just strengthen your character. The random nature of the cards also means that each player in a group is going to have different options available to them.
Overall, I really liked playing this game, but I think I would hate playing it solo. Or, rather, I just would lose interest, like I did with Fallout 4. Playing in a group does wonders for smoothing over a mission structure that just doesn’t grab me, even if it makes the already uninteresting story even more difficult to absorb.
On top of all this, I’m still making my way through The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past over on my podcast, and should be finishing the apocalypse side of that game soon. Broken worlds are always a popular go-to in genre media, but it’s weird that I’ve spent so much time with them recently, and now I’m not sure where to go next. Maybe it’s time to finally go back and revisit Fallout: New Vegas, or I could finally watch that most recent Mad Max flick, or is it finally time to read Y: The Last Man… there are so many options for the end of the world! What do you think, what’s the best apocalypse story I should visit next?