Guess who we’re talking about today? Benjamin “Yahtzee” Croshaw, that’s who. Video Game’s very own Simon Cowell/Gordon Ramsay/Piers Morgan. I guess in today’s society, nearly every single art medium is required to have at least one grumpy, British, fast talking, smart mouthy critic, whom despite how much they universally despise humanity, humanity seems to love the crap out of watching them use words to rain destruction on everything that sucks about this world, and the few people who do hate them are usually bitter “victims” who either a.) can’t take a joke, or b.) won’t accept when brutally honest criticism is, in fact, not that far from the truth.
I myself have watched his lightning fast review segment, Zero Punctuation, every Wednesday for almost three years now, and despite having to listen through several instances where he would pulverize a personal favorite of mine (a few big ones being Uncharted 2 Among Thieves and Super Mario Galaxy 2) I can attest that his sharp wit and dark sense of humor has managed to be consistently entertaining every week. I have also come to the conclusion that given his style of nit picking every negative element he can find and not bothering to bring up the elements that are just okay, in addition to his history working as an actual game designer and dialogue writer, it would make sense that his reviews are more focused toward game developers rather than the people playing them.
Now that’s just my personal opinion on watching him as a critic, but that is not the nature of our main attraction today. Last year, Yahtzee published his very first novel with Dark Horse Books, and I have finally found some time to give it my undivided attention. A novel about magic, mayhem, villains, and would-be heroes. A novel that puts us in the mind of those undead henchmen we have slaughtered time and time again without ever giving a second thought. Gamers, bookworms, living and dead alike, welcome to Mogworld.
Mogworld (easily found at Dark Horse’s website)tells the story of Jim, an unassuming below-average mage attending classes at St. Gordon’s Magical College. Or at least he would be had his school not been invaded, resulting in his death caused by a feudal attempt to play the hero. No, turns out he’s actually been dead for nearly sixty years now, and just as he was getting perfectly comfortable with that, he was forcibly yanked back into his body, now a shambling corpse, by renegade necromancer Lord Dreadgrave. His troubles only begin there, as an inept thief known as Slippery John informs him of a global infusion that has prevented not just him, but anyone from dying. Random adventurers begin behaving in a strangely static fashion, not to mention that a ballistic priest named Barry with a personal vendetta against Jim is impractically growing in power and influence across the realms. So what is the solution our hero-to-be comes to? To seek out these angelic deleters and get them to erase him from existence so that he may die properly, once and for all.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. We quickly learn that Jim has absolutely no intention of saving the world. And I’m not talking about the typical emo “Boo hoo, I’m not strong enough, I don’t wanna be the hero even though I totally am” nonsense we’ve heard dozens of times. No, he absolutely despises even the concept of heroes. Here is an excerpt of him giving his own opinion on the matter:“Heroes are the kinds of people we used to torture. Those ***** who lit us on fire this afternoon, they’re heroes. They swagger into a village, sort out any problem that can be solved by whacking it a few times, make out with the blacksmith’s daughter, then bugger off long enough for the problems to come back. They load themselves down with armor and weapons and treasure because inside they’re empty, sad little people. In the long run they’ve never achieved anything, ever.”
If it is not already obvious yet, this is a Massive Online Gaming World (Get it? M.O.G. World) and Jim is stuck being the expendable cannon fatter. Here is where I think one of the most interesting concepts of the story comes in: Everyone complains about how crappy and limited AI (Artificial Intelligence) in games is in this current generation. Yet in this story, we get to find out what would happen if AI was as perfect as we wanted it to be. If all NPC’s had fully realized personalities, were smart and aware enough to make user controlled characters, with all their misdemeanors (fighting every creature that moves, swatting every pot and crate they see, t-bagging corpses, etc), then they’d look like the complete idiots they are. Within the story, there is a B-plot involving a team of programmers of said world, and what seems like the smallest actions they make to “fix” the game creates drastic, even devastating results to Jim’s world.
So there is without a single doubt that Jim is indeed a very original protagonist. However, it will be up to the reader’s prerogative to decide whether or not he is a “likable” one. He’s grouchy, hopeless, and selfish to the third power, whom we’re forced to sympathize with simply because he’s the one telling the story. Yet, on the other hand, he’s a freaking zombie! With a body falling apart at the seams! What could we possibly expect from him?
It’s also hard not to enjoy yourself when the writing itself is just that darn funny. For those of you who expect this story to be full to the brim with poop jokes, penis jokes, and several other lowest common denominators we’ve commonly seen on Zero Punctuation, prepare to be surprised as Yahtzee manages to show just how creative he can be with wordplay in this genre. Sure, there are a few lowbrow jokes, as to be expected, but they are in no way overbearing in the way that would turn people off. Heck, I even managed to get through the entire 410 pages without finding a single Bramston Pickle reference.
So without further ado (and before I spoil anything else), I hereby give Mogworld a strong recommendation. The story is just about as original as you are going to get, and the characters, despite whether you come to love or hate Jim, have a great sense of variety and deliver some surprisingly unique dialogue. It has been revealed on Mr. Croshaw’s website that he is currently working on a second novel. Do to his highly public bitterness towards sequels, prequels, reboots, remakes, or anything of the sort, I am almost certain that it will have nothing to do with this story and be a whole new idea all on it’s own. I for one greatly look forward to see what else he has in store, but until then, you can order Mogworld on Amazon or Amazon.co.uk.
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