War is coming.
The government must accelerate their super soldier program. They have pushed beyond what was thought possible and developed a new Virtual Reality system; the perfect tool to weed out and train recruits. There is another problem. Every soldier has already been sorted and those found to possess the "talent" are already in training. There just aren't enough. That is why Codename: Freedom has been developed. It's time they looked outside the military. Failure is not an option.
Against all odds, Lucius, a semipro gamer who was raised by his Artificial Intelligence Bot named Destiny, is selected to participate in Codename: Freedom, a VRMMO that promises to push Virtual Reality to the ultimate level.
The Game Developers are kind enough to hide a key feature. 100% pain. There are no pain dampeners. He finds himself among the other participants of Codename: Freedom who are thrown in with hardly any time to get their bearings before the entire player city is under attacked.
With the world watching live, Lucius is faced with the opportunity to gain a following and impressing sponsors. After years of hard work to move up in the gamer ranks, this new game will challenge Lucius to the point of breaking and beyond. Will he quit, go mad, or find the motivation to fight when it becomes painfully clear that this is far from just another game?
Warning for those under 18: There are some mature themes that deal with pain, death, and violence.
My Opinion: 379 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Originally a hobby project on the Royal Road, author Apollos Throne has crafted this online story into a full-fledged novel. If you read there, do yourself a favor and read it again on Amazon. Things have changed.
This is a good story. Even though this novel only covers the first week of the players in game experience, it's packed with action. Each and every day and night, the players must defend their starter town from hordes of increasingly difficult goblin raids. With pain settings at 100%, this means players have to make a serious commitment to the game.
One of the highlights of the novel is the realistic approach to combat. Skills and fighting techniques have to be learned and honed with practice. No one starts out using their weapons or armor well. They all have to learn to use them just like they would in real life. Success in combat depends on skill, tactics, and luck. Injuries suffered in combat are realistic, graphic, and above all painful. The pain setting for the game is at 100%. So players feel every broken bone, every stab, and every death.
One of the things that have changed from the rough draft of the story is the expanded exploration of what suffering real physical trauma from combat can do mentally and physically to a soldier.
Of course, there are also clues about how what’s happening in the game will impact the real world and how the government is actually changing the players as they game.
Game mechanic wise, those options are gradually unlocked as the player's progress and level and the amount and type of abilities they get are chosen by the players. Again the emphasis is on a more realistic approach to combat and playing. Players are rewarded for hard work with increases in stats, regeneration is amped up so that wounds heal much faster, an inventory system exists, and monsters drop loot. There are character sheets but they remain informational for most of the story. A reflection of players current abilities and capabilities.
There are hints that in book 2, in addition to trainers being unlocked, player abilities will be unlocked too. So we might see more fantastic skills or maybe even magic.
Overall, a good action filled combat story that I read in a single sitting, even though I’d already read the royal road version twice.
Score: 7 out of 10.
Rough draft Royal Road Version http://royalroadl.com/fiction/3967/when-vr-gaming-hurts