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25/04/2011 Artistic Novel Gamer Podcast
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Brutal Legend 360

Brutal Legend



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This is Brutal Legend, a review in the form of a short story. Given a new lease of life by his death, Eddie wants to do things his own way. But isn't there a reason things are done the they are?

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Eddie Riggs found that his death marked the first day of the rest of his life.

As a roadie he was accustomed to living in the shadows while other players took the limelight and the glory - that was his job and his vocation. For some reason Eddie had an unbreakable enthusiasm for being in one of the most lowly positions the music industry had to offer.

Perhaps it was because Eddie was a believer: a believer in the power and sanctity of live music. The kids he had to run around after these days, though... it was pushing the definition of "music" if not also pushing the definitions of "live" and "sanctity" at the same time.

Anybody would have told you that Eddie would have died in the service of any of the greats: Black Sabbath, Motley Crue, Slayer... Eddie would have hurled himself under a bus to buy any of those guys an extra five minutes on stage.

Somehow, though, Eddie managed to get himself killed for the kind of band that end up on teenager's mobile phones at bus stops - but this didn't stop Eddie. He found himself awake in a world he had literally dreamed about. It was like the beautiful vinyl album covers of bands like Judas Priest or Motorhead had leapt off the page and become real in front of him.

Most people would have been traumatised, having been crushed by a heavy object only to awake surrounded by demons with long swords and bleeding mouths, but Eddie took it all in his stride with a casual "cool."

If there was any part of Eddie's mind that was troubled with the fantasy he now inhabited it would have confirmed the criticisms of any passing opponent of Heavy Metal music, he ignored it; or at least drowned it out by decapitating a few more bondage-apparel-wearing demon nuns.

In fact if Eddie had described the world he was in to anybody else they would dismiss it as the wish-fulfilment of a lonely adolescent: the women were all size 8 beautiful rock-chicks; the men were brawny axe-wielders to whom no complaint was ever made about their dodgy facial hair. He even met a girl that was perfect for him. Okay so there was some other guy she mentioned, but even without being a rocket scientist, Eddie could tell that in this fantasy things would work out well between them. It was an almost painfully obvious sure thing.

Even if it was a dream, Eddie thought, at least it's my dream. Nobody ever created a world before which so perfectly catered to his love of Heavy Metal, fantasy artwork and action combat.

Driving around the beautiful landscape was a joy at first. There were roads, for sure, but Eddie found that he could drive pretty much anywhere he liked. This was the true meaning of open-world, Eddie thought. Go anywhere, do anything.

In spite of the enslavement of the humans and the ever-present threat of a demon-led totalitarian state, people were pretty laid back about his approach to their salvation. He was in no hurry to take on quests: there was cool stuff to find and rockin' music to listen to.

It was when he tried to focus his efforts that things actually began to become more difficult. While he could, theoretically, go anywhere - there were actually places he didn't seem to be able to traverse, either by car or on foot. This wouldn't have mattered to Eddie if these restrictions were consistent, but he found that sometimes it was just because he was driving at slightly the wrong angle.

It was the same when he finally decided to start questing. He had a handy GPS which allowed him to set a marker for his destination - but that was all the help it gave. He could see a point of light in the distance to aim for, but short of trying to drive to it in a straight line (an approach which caused significant injury) it still didn't help him get there and he had to keep pulling over to examine the map.

The sparse roads were very badly signposted and in some cases had been maintained so poorly that he could barely identify them as thoroughfares. Surely he couldn't be finally living his dream only to be frustrated by the poor civic maintenance of the local council?

His fears were heightened in the middle of an epic fight: a quest to capture and tame three terrifying wild animals with fire for breath. He wasn't sure where these creatures were to be found so he was scouring the forest only to find a curious sign. He was driving along the road when suddenly a message appeared telling him he was leaving the area and should turn around. It seemed like an odd way to provide assistance on the hunt. Did the creatures also obey the signs?

Still, he got on with the task of building his army. It wasn't as arduous as he had thought. He only had to free a few captives and the others all just came along for the ride. Soon he had enough followers to mount a huge battle to take on the enemy.

A battle of his own, Eddie thought, with infantry and vehicles and specialised units and upgrades. What a surprising twist to his own - hitherto lonely - quest! On the eve of battle a guy called Mangus, who was one of the road crew, had approached him.

"Here you go, Eddie," Mangus said before handing Eddie a ruler and a pair of dice.

"What's this for?" Eddie asked, confused.

"It's for the battle, man. Surely you can't run a battle without a ruler and dice? How will you manage the strategic decisions?"

Eddie shook his head, "no way. I don't play that kind of game."

Mangus looked crestfallen and not a little confused, "umm should I get you a mouse and keyboard, then? I hear that's all the rage with the army commanders where you're from?"

Eddie raised a fist in the air with determination, "I shall do things in my own way. I shall ride forth upon the battlefield in person and issue direct orders to my army. I shall wield my mighty axe and when I see my soldiers in trouble I can wade in and dispatch the enemy personally! It will be a way of leading armies that no other commander has tried before!"

There was an awkward silence.

Eddie looked at Mangus. "What?" Eddie asked.

"Oh," Mangus tried to shrug it off, "nothing."

Eddie wouldn't be put off, "no, really, what?"

There was an awkward look in Mangus' eyes, as if he really didn't think it was his place to be pointing out the flaws in Eddie's plan. "It's just... don't you think there's a reason nobody else does it this way? Having to actually approach your units in person to distribute orders? That's gonna become really awkward to manage once things get a bit gnarly out there. Also, if you're on the battlefield in person, what happens if you get killed?"

Eddie stuck out his chest with determination, "then I shall be healed!"

Mangus agreed, "sure. But, what happens with the battle on the field while that is happening? Plus, the medical station is way at the rear. You'll have to get yourself all the way back to the front line just to rejoin the fight."

There was a sad look on Eddie's face. Mangus relented a little, "hey! Don't be put off, man! It's a great idea, really. I'm sure it'll be fine."

It wasn't fine. Eddie found himself on the battlefield surrounded by the enemy and having to juggle several jobs at once. Not only did he have to select targets and assign orders as well as try and fight for himself and protect his life, he also seemed to be the musical accompaniment to the battle.

His troops fought much better when he pulled out his trusty guitar and peeled off a few licks, but it was awkward trying to remember an awesome solo while a cowled figure on horseback chopped at his ankles with a scythe.

Eddie tried to order his army to advance. "Charge upon the enemy towers!" he yelled, sounding every bit the campaign-hardened general.

"Pardon?" came a dim voice from far away at the back of the field.

"I said, charge upon the enemy towers," Eddie repeated.

There was a pause.

"I'm sorry," came the distant reply, "you'll have to speak up. I can't hear you."

Eddie sighed. "Why don't you come a bit closer?" he called.


With a gasp of frustration, Eddie unfurled the mighty demonic wings that had been granted to him and flew across the battlefield to his army, huddled near the back of the field, far from the action. He strode up to one of the units and shouted closely in their faces, showering them with spittle.

"I said, charge upon the enemy towers!" he yelled.

"Woah, man, say it don't spray it," came the response. "You don't have to come that close to give orders!"

Eddie seethed, "well, how close to I have to be?"

The unit thought about it for a moment. "Dunno man," he replied eventually, "not as near as this, but not as far away as you were before, I guess."

Eddie gave a scream of frustration and started to walk off the battlefield.

"Where are you going, man?" one of the units asked.

"I'm going to my room to listen to some music," Eddie snapped back.

A few hours later, after driving around, listening to a great selection of tracks - and killing some of the local wildlife - Eddie had calmed down and had met up with Mangus to chill out and talk.

They were by one of the observation points - a little like the old sea-front telescopes that you used to put 10p in to view the scenery. He thought they were a nice touch, as this world had a number of great vistas to enjoy.

They sat on a rock and watched as birds circled high above a giant replica of a broadsword which towered above them. Mangus was the first to break the silence.

"You're thinking of leaving, are you?" Mangus asked.

Eddie thought about it for a moment, "It's a shame, there's so much here I enjoy" he told Mangus, "The music, the freedom, the exploration..."

Mangus said, "I'm hearing a 'but' at the end of that?"

Eddie sighed, "the battling is just not for me. Back in my own world I tried to play battle games but I'm a man of action, not micro-management. I can't get my head around picking out the right people for the right job and sending them to the right place."

Eddie stood up and looked down and Mangus.

"I'll be around," Eddie told him, "you might see me driving out somewhere, looking for more music, learning about the world. But you're going to have to manage the battle tour without me."

Mangus got up to shake his hand, "then I guess this is the end of the road. We had a good time."

Eddie agreed, "the best, man. It's a shame it has to end this way, but I've got good memories to take away."

They stood together and watched the sun fall behind a giant statue of an armour-clad metal warrior.

Mangus looked at Eddie, "we didn't even do a joke about anything going up to 11..."

Eddie looked at the floor, sadly. "I know, Mangus," he whispered, "I know."

Written by Chris Jarvis

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Chris Jarvis writes the Novel Gamer column.

"I write stories to say what I think about games, for me it's the only way I can really communicate what I feel about them. Do you ever have a response to something that's hard to put into words? I find that sometimes I have something to express that can't be communicated by trying to explain how I feel, directly."

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