The Greystone Chronicles: Book One: Io Online

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In the latter half of the 21st century, Alexander and his guild mates play Io Online for fun and to earn a living. It’s the largest VRMMORPG on the planet, and the source of income that supports families around the globe. While completing a rare “First Kill” dungeon in hopes of epic loot, they discover that demons, who have not been seen in the realm for ages, have once again invaded Io.

Given the chance to test a new experimental immersion system, the friends must give up their high level characters and begin again at level one. As they work through the noob zone quests, they discover that the new immersion system allows them to play in ways that hadn’t been possible before. Casting is faster. Movement more fluid. Even magic itself behaves differently.

They quickly run afoul of a party of player killers, and become the targets of an entire PK guild bent on spawn camping them until they leave the game. War has been declared.

The fight expands into populated areas, where innocent citizens are murdered, and player accounts are terminated. The guild works to help citizens rebuild what has been destroyed, but are repeatedly forced to stop and defend against enemy attacks.

After the gods of Io and a powerful being of darkness get involved, Alexander and his friends learn the hard way that their in-game actions have consequences, both in the game, and in the real world.

 

My Opinion: 650 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited

*Full disclosure got advanced review copy, I bought the novel as soon as it became available.

Additionally, the author is a Patreon Supporter for the podcast. I’d honestly forgotten he was until I was posting an episode of the podcast. It’s one of those cases of a LitRPG fan becoming a LitRPG author. His Patreon support has no bearing on the review. If the novel sucked I’d still say so.

-As a matter of fact an author once tried to buy a good review from me by becoming a Patreon Supporter and I had to ban the guy.*

The authors debut novel is entertaining but has some issues that slow the story down sometimes.

The story starts off in an action scene with the main character (MC), Alexander, playing the world’s most popular VRMMO with his three friends. The author does a good job of introducing RPG mechanics from the very first pages of the novel. From there novel spends the first 25% of the novel developing real world backstory, world building, planting story threads, and justifying why the MC and his friends will be spending the rest of the novel in game, long term.

From the 25% on, the majority of the story takes place in-game with only occasional drops back into the real world. The MC and his friends go on adventures, use their new full immersion rigs to develop some great skills in game, and use intelligent tactics to beat foes both PK and NPC. In addition to dungeon diving, there’s a little crafting, town building, magical theory, and PVP action.

One of the true highlights of the novel are the combat scene. They’re particularly interesting, not because they’re visceral, but because the author describes some truly great tactics. The MC and his group take on opponents consistently higher level than themselves, but instead of using some ‘magic sword of unbeatableness’ they instead combine their skills in intelligent ways to create powerful combos. This intelligent exploitation of game mechanics reminds me of the magic and combat system of Divinity Original Sin, where combining different magical abilities creates effects more powerful than their individual parts.

There are also some very very funny scenes. I won’t spoil them but who knew rabbits could be so vicious and simultaneously funny. I’m also a huge fan of the funny character Fibble and only wish he’s been introduced sooner in the novel. Pew Pew.

However, not everything in the novel is perfect. Which is to be expected of a first novel. This is a monster of a story. Over 650 pages. When faced with a novel that big, it’s sheer size can be intimidating. There are also a number of scenes in the story that are quite simply unnecessary. I’m not saying they’re poorly written or uninteresting, they just don’t move the plot forward and instead slow the story down.

Two examples.

Mid-story, the novel cuts away from the story to a historical recounting of making real world money from playing MMOs. The author describes gold farming, various ways players sell gear, power level other players characters, and a slew of other similar options. He then goes on to describe the way game companies have dealt with these practices and forced them into the black market and how this game company decided to allow players to make real world money apart of their game. There are even math models described. Really interesting stuff but it also takes up 3% of the novel or 18 pages of the story.

Another example of this are the many small scenes where there is character development for NPC character instead of the main characters. There’s an early scene with a head guard and his alchemist wife that is the earliest example of this. But a better example happens later in the story when the King, for no apparent reason, decides to visit a town the MC and his friends are helping to rebuild. It’s a cute scene that shows exactly how great a king he his and how much he cares about the well being of his people. But it also takes up another 3% of the novel or 18 pages. There’s not that much story devoted to some of the main characters in the story, so why spend it on a side character?

There are more examples but in total I marked an easy 100 pages that could have been edited out to improve the pacing of the story and get to the great action or humor scenes.

Overall, this is a good story and even the things I mentioned aren’t complaints as much as they are things I thought could be improved. There are lots of things I enjoyed about the story. Some very funny scenes. Good intelligent fights. Good characters.

Score: 7 out of 10

The Greystone Chronicles: Book One: Io Online

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