The game is life.
Asher Duncan lives for the hours he spends in Toterra Online, his favorite MMORPG. His job and apartment are barely worth noticing, but he logs into the game and all that fades away. When Toterra Online announces the Camlan Challenge and chance to win one of only twelve spots in their newest game, Asher is determined to beat them all, even if it means quitting his job to play.
Camlan Realm is full of all of the best parts of a fantasy game -- goblins, mysterious loot, magic spells -- and if it weren’t for his constant obsession with the Camlan Challenge leaderboard, Asher could just play.
But once logged in, Asher realizes that playing against both the game and the other eleven gamers might be more than he is ready for.
He’s put everything on the line just to be here. Can Asher compete against both the professional gamers and the game’s own trials to win the Camlan Challenge and not lose it all?
My Opinion: 266 pages, $3.99, Available On Kindle Unlimited
This is a VR game contest story that doesn’t get particularly interesting and focused until about the halfway point in the story. The game mechanics in the story feel undetailed and only half cared about sometimes. Combat is mostly mediocre. The story isn’t bad once you get to the halfway point but the ending twists feel forced, out of character for the main character (MC), and only there to get you to read another book.
This is the most frustrating thing about the story. The game mechanics. Somethings are consistent, others seem to be randomly implemented, and others feel like they were cut out because it was too big of a hassle to keep track of.
Quests are one of the more consistent mechanics. The MC gets a notification with quest details and rewards every time he gets a quest. However, who’s giving the quest feels random. Sometimes it’s an NPC, other times the MC just gets a quest from thin air. For example, early in the story the MC wants to make a canoe and magically a quest is generated for him to try woodcraft. It’s never clear if it’s the system reading his mind and giving him the quest or if there’s some personal AI watching him, or if it’s the game designers.
Crafting in the story feels like a box the author felt they had to check. It amounts to the MC holding sticks in one hand and waving his other hand over them, then magically transforming the sticks into a club, staff, or boat paddle. That’s it.
One of the mechanics that I felt was eliminated from the story because it was annoying to keep track of for the author is the MC’s health and mana pools. I wouldn’t mind this except that the author makes it a point to show that the MC loses health in fights. “A light nip on my ankles tells me it means business. [-12 HP]”
Is losing 12 HP a lot for the MC? The reader never knows because nowhere in the entire story is the reader told how much HP the MC has. Not on the character sheets or in the story text. So all those damage notifications have no context. Oh, also, the reader only gets damage notifications for the MC not the monsters. So you never know how much damage the MC is doing in a fight.
There are a few well detailed combat scenes in the story but most are just poorly described. In most combat scenes the MC swings his weapon and just magically kills everything.
“I halt my paddling for a moment -I have enough momentum to at least continue floating slowly in the correct direction- and arm myself with one of the ten Clubs I have stowed. [+30 XP] [ +28 XP ] [ +37 XP ] A quick knock to the head and the eels fall away.” (21% mark of the story)
The first 17% of the story begins with the main character Asher, SirAsh3r in game, winning a contest to get early access to a new expansion area of his favorite VR game. This section goes on a little to long and while it does establish backstory for the main character (MC) much of it feels like a waste since it never comes up again.
By the 18% mark, the MC is in the game competing against the other winners to get the highest level and win even better prizes.
There are some decent stakes setup in game. All the contestants are told if they die in game then lose everything they’ve gained in the early access period. They lose all loot and levels gained and will have to start back at level 10. Not bad, but the risk is really mitigated by half heartedly implementing PVP. Players can hurt but not actually kill each other.
Unfortunately, even from this early point in the game the game mechanics in the story feel unfinished or undetailed
The story doesn’t become particularly interesting or focused until the 48% mark when the MC reaches what seems like the one village in the game. There he finally has a reason to quest. The MC is given a quest from the Mayor of the town that has some meaning and provides the plot for the rest of the novel. Other quests in town get the MC closer to being the top player. But before the MC reaches the village, most of the quests seem random, irrelevant, and unconnected.
The story from the point where the MC gets to the village is pretty good and it feels focused. Every quest plays into the fulfilling the MCs goals.
However, the ending of the story was just dumb, out of character for the MC, and felt like it was there just to be a twist and then twisted again to justify a 2nd book.
Overall, this is not a bad story. But it just didn’t get entertaining for me till it was half way done. The half hearted implementation of the game mechanics in the story also lessened my enjoyment of the LitRPG story. Other people may be able to ignore the things that bothered me but I couldn’t.
Score: 6 out of 10