What I’m Reading: Rust: The Dawn Bringers
Rust is essentially the world of Halo with a omni-nerd in the role of Master Chief and a brain-spider-alien, “Cassie,” in the role of Cortana. In the aftermath of an intergalactic war, Master Nerd must explore a planet/spacestation created by the ancient Dawn Bringer aliens, who probably created both humans and brain-spider-alien’s race. Only, turns out, these ancient DawnBringer aliens were defeated by The Rust, an interphasal parasite that takes over bodies and converts them into red-fluid copies of themselves. Master Nerd and brain-spider-Cassie must work together to stop them.
Oh, for clarification, while technically Cassie is an alien spider that latches onto host brains and controls them, for convenience she spends most of the book inhabiting the body of a sexy young woman. Who has blue skin and hair. For reasons.
There’s nothing wrong with the book copying Halo, really. Halo itself is copying elements from other, older stories, and Rust is sufficiently different in terms of characters’ motivations and methods to be its own story. In sharp contrast to Halo, the story is more about overcoming the hatreds of the old war and solving things via brainpower vs shooting stuff in the face (which makes for a great game but would not make for a great book). It’s sort of amusing once you realize the similarity, but it’s a good setup, and none the worse for having been made before
The larger problem I have with Rust lies in its romance plotline. Blue-alien Cassie is just so beautiful, so accomodating, so incredibly head-over-heels in love with this teenager who developed the virus that massacred her people. She’ll do anything for him, help him in any way, never gets remotely upset or impatient with him. There are just the barest threads of a life outside of her obsession with the protagonist. There’s a moment–a short portion–of the book where you think this is intentional, simply a ploy to get close to the protagonist, but then it turns out that no, she’s just really that much in love with him because he’s just that amazing. Everyone says so.
How amazing is this protagonist? Well, like most nerds in fiction, he’s good at everything. He helped to create the virus because he’s a whiz in xenobiology, but he did it partly with the aid of his interest in archaeology. He has access to all computer systems, because he’s just that good at hacking, and is able to engineer a weapon that baffles even his super-genius grandmother, using his knowledge of zeta radiation.
I mean, like I say, omni-nerds are nothing new in fiction. Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, Donatello, and Twilight Sparkle. Especially in group ensembles, it’s common to have one character who stands in for all intellectuals. And Halo is in some ways a power fantasy, so it makes sense for this adaptation to be a nerd fantasy. It’s just a… little too obviously fantastical.
Apart from that, the story’s not bad. The pacing is good, the exposition is handed out in digestible chunks interspersed with action, and plot twists are effectively foreshadowed. It’s engaging–I read the second half of the book in one sitting–and the main character is identifiable without being blank–though he is prone to very odd swings in conviction which make him harder to believe in.
But the fantastical romance is a real problem. I very nearly put the book down because of how sappy-over-the-top it was, and continued on mostly because I thought there was something else going on. Turned out that no, it was just that over the top.
I mean, I still finished the book, because as I said, it’s good at keeping the action going and the character’s story is fun. But it makes it hard to take the book seriously. It feels in some ways like the male equivalent of Throne of Glass in its wish-fulfillment factor.
What I’m Playing: Run of Mydan
Run of Mydan is a VR on-rails shooter game set in a ruined empire, and in a way that feels oddly fitting.
Run of Mydan is a good game. You can find quite a few playthroughs on Youtube–the gameplay is a bit simplistic, but the environments are beautiful and it does some really clever things with level design. And the sense of scale is amazing–one of the things that’s always terrified me about VR is how big everything is. Enemies are no longer limited to the size of your screen, if there’s a whale next to you, that whale is huge. And Run of Mydan uses this very well. Everything feels like it’s towering over you, even the empty horizon dwarfs you with how enormous it is and how tiny you are. TribalInstincts, the VR Reviewer who I mentioned on here earlier, said multiple times in his playthough how much he loved VR and how this game showed some of the great things you could do only in VR. He also said that the game was too short for its price tag, and that he hoped it would grow to justify the asking price.
It did not. It will not. The game is now being offered for free, and currently has very little of a community.
Run of Mydan came out in 2017, relatively early in the VR gaming scene. It was relatively well-known in 2017, but as with most games being released then, there was not a very large market. It was very hard–nearly impossible–for games in this period to make much of a profit, which meant no big-name studios were interested in making games, which meant that everything was down to indie developers of 2-3 person teams. Which in turn meant that games were very… bare bones. Content was a problem. Run of Mydan faced the problem that countless other games faced–how do you justify people buying a game that they can finish in a few hours?
It came up with the answer most of them did–you add in multiplayer and hope players create their own games. And as most did, they found that that didn’t really work when the market was already so small you couldn’t rely on a good return.
There are a handful of success stories from the early days, where games like Iron Wolf or others hit everyone in the community just right and it became a beloved classic with appeal that’s endured to people just entering the genre now. But there are many, many more games like Run of Mydan, beautiful ruins, the stages of what-might-have-been.
Perhaps they’ll come back. Perhaps, as big-name studios look at these early classics, they’ll headhunt these early pioneers to lead big-name reboots of their games. Heck, we have a modern Shadowgate coming out, a “classic” NES game that I still fail to see the appeal of.
I hope Run of Mydan gets another chance. It’s a beautiful game that you can tell a lot of sweat and tears went into, and it feels impossible that all that should be simply lost.
(Oddly, I’d planned this week to watch The Last Duel and review that. Except I didn’t. I was lazy this week.)