Cult Classics: Wheels of Fire

Following the success of Mad Max 2 was a handful of post-apocalyptic B-movies. Among those was Wheels of Fire (also known as Pyro, Vindicator, and Desert Warrior), a surprisingly decent take on the post-apocalyptic genre which takes a lot of inspiration from the perfectly hammy Warriors of the Wasteland. Despite some mediocre cinematography and acting, Wheels of Fire proved to be a fast paced, action packed, and overall interesting movie. If you follow our cult classics section regularly, you know how this works by now, we’re going to break the movie into four parts.

  1. The plot
  2. Interesting concepts
  3. Cinematography
  4. The ending

The Plot: First of all, this story is massive. Warriors of the Wasteland was just as long, but most of the movie was overextended fight scenes. Wheels of Fire always has something new happening. The scale is massive and so is the synopsis.

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Our story begins with typical not-Mad-Max archetype, Trace, entering a merchant village. Here we’re introduced to his younger sister, Arlie, and her annoying, controlling boyfriend. In the first five minutes, Arlie’s boyfriend fights in a gladiatorial arena where contestants wear car keys around their necks and beat each other with PVC pipes. Don’t think about it too much. It doesn’t matter. Continue reading

The Final Station: Dude, Where’s My Train?

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When The Final Station first hit Steam, there was a lot of excitement from people in the post-apocalyptic community. A game about a a weary eyed train conductor battling mutant hordes while rescuing survivors and gathering resources? Sounds great! On paper. In reality, I found The Final Station to be a repetitive and often confusing experience.

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The game has a complicated premise which is never fully explained. Our role in the story begins 106 years after something called the “First Visitation.” During this event, locomotive sized capsules, each of unknown make and material, fell from the sky. These mysterious devices dotted the entire planet. At least one capsule landed in every major city and noteworthy town. Shortly after this event, a mysterious spacecraft fell from the sky and crashed in the mountains. Humanity’s combined armed forces went to investigate the incident, but were completely wiped out. The capsules, many of which had dropped into literal city centers, then released an unknown gas. People exposed to this gas without protection gradually transformed into inky black zombie creatures. A century later, some believe the First Visitation is a myth (despite the zombie infestation and massive capsules that dot the landscape). Meanwhile, the surviving city-state governments have spent a century preparing their defense for the Second Visitation.

That’s a mouthful. At the outset, the game leaves an impression that it has a story to tell. Why else would a 2D twitch shooter have such expansive lore? Continue reading

Rick, Morty, and the Subtly of a Giant Arm

THIS DISCUSSION IS SPOILER HEAVY
You can watch the episode in question at AdultSwim.com until August 6th

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Since Rick and Morty had a Mad-Max style episode, I think it’s time to step beyond our normal comfort zone of Mad-Max and terrible B-movies and talk about it. This episode had some serious hype behind it following the April 1st season premier. After flushing three years of world building down the drain and alienating a member of the main cast in a series of increasingly intense action scenes, the second episode of Rick and Morty’s third season, “Rickmancing the Stone,” had a lot to live up to. Adult Swim published a behind the scenes preview of this particular episode portraying exactly what you’d expect from a Mad-Max parody: Cars, rusty shotguns, and lots of BDSM gear. Did “Rickmancing the Stone” live up to the hype?
In my opinion…not really.

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Before we get into why I think this episode fell short, I’ll give credit where it’s due. The art direction in this episode is fantastic. A lot of post-apocalyptic artwork falls into what I call “Apocalyptia Generica,” a style that never quite becomes its own, but rather falls between Mad-Max and realistic urban warfare. For a perfect example of this, see Wasteland Angel.

“Rickmancing the Stone” certainly avoids being generic. Everything has a uniquely 80’s sci-fi style with brilliant and vibrant color schemes. Every single wastelander has a unique character design, even when there are dozens of them on screen at time. I would seriously take any establishing shot in this episode as a desktop wallpaper.

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Player Agency and 60 Seconds!

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We previously looked at 60 Seconds!, a game I described as a combination between a point and click adventure and a sticker book. I criticized the game for being based around discovering random events, but not having enough to avoid repeating them in a single session. You’ll see the same few events over and over and over again, the only difference being whether or not you have the item needed to succeed. The more I thought about this element of game design, the more I thought that I had seen it before. Today, we’ll pitch the event-based gameplay of 60 Seconds! against two games with different settings, but similar design.

Repetition in 60 Seconds! was bound to happen as a consequence of basing the gameplay entirely around a limited number of events. You’ll get a note saying “we should have taken that trip to Nevada” 10-20 times per game. After two years of DLC, 60 Seconds! only has 40-50 events. However, I want to look at another 2015 title which has more in common with 60 Seconds! than anyone might initially suspect.

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60 Seconds! – Revisited

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I originally bought 60 Seconds! when it first came out, back in the summer of 2015. After about two hours of play, I requested a refund. However, after hearing that the developers put a lot of work into upgrading and balancing the game, I was willing to give it another try. Unfortunately, 60 Seconds! did not age like a fine wine, but rather like a discarded hunk of smoldering cheese left at the bottom of a radioactive crater.

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Deconstructing Fallout 3: Difficulty Curve

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When I first played Fallout 3 on my Xbox 360 way back in 2008, I found myself drawn to the hubs and the quests. Exploring the wasteland was fun, but ultimately I was looking for structure and a story. I’ve recently booted up Fallout 3 again, but this time on the PC. With extreme (but lore friendly) modding, I’ve found the exploration aspect far more enjoyable and the quests frankly lackluster. I want to deconstruct the quests in Fallout 3 to think about how they work in relation to an open world map and the player character’s development choices.

Let’s start with the basics. Not counting the three childhood quests, Fallout 3 has a total of 66 quests in the base game: 10 story quests, 18 side quests, 22 unmarked side quests, and 16 repeatable fetch quests. Again, I want to briefly break down each of these to see how they’ve made use of the new environment and the RPG elements.


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Fog of war stifles exploration and strongly encourages player to discover locations through dialogue

From a design perspective, one of Fallout 3’s biggest hurdles was managing the difficulty curve in an open world. Fallout and Fallout 2 addressed this by placing Vault 13 and Arroyo in the far north while crafting a narrative that relied on unlocking the location of new, more difficult settlements. In terms of structure, these games also benefited from a timer, discouraging players from exploring the vacant wasteland in favor of following the story.

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