In the near future, robots have wiped out jobs for ordinary humans. Dashiell, a former tech employee, is one of the many casualties.
He returns penniless to his mother’s trailer and drowns in darkness. During his struggle, he discovers the Crystal Crusade, a popular VRMMORPG played by over fifty million gamers around the planet.
In the game world, a mysterious crystal plague called the Reepo infests the lands and mutates organisms into vile creatures. To make matters worse, a powerful syndicate has found a way to harvest the Reepo and uses the crystals to fuel their airships and mechanized army.
Dashiell has to ally with rival players and build his unique character skills to battle both the crystal plague and the deceptive syndicate.
In his epic quest, Dashiell will uncover the mysterious origin of the plague while fighting to survive in the virtual AND real world.
My Opinion: About 250 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Full disclosure, I received an early copy to review but purchased it when it was released.
Dashiell is an out of work young man living with his mom in a trailer park. He lost his computer job to robots and now spends his time playing full immersion VR games. As he plays he finds the A.I. NPCs more complicated and life-like than he anticipated. If Dash decides to make a go of trying to earn a living playing the game, he’ll have to lose his a reputation as a bad player that lets NPCs die and become powerful enough to attract a sponsor.
The beginning of this novel is great. It drops you right in the game world where the main character takes his first quest, an escort mission. However, instead of saving the NPC he’s assigned to, Dash steals the NPCs axe and leaves him to be killed by monsters. When Dash returns to the academy, he finds that because of the choice he made, he’s lost reputation not just with other NPCS but the other players are starting to ostracize him. The addition of morally relevant decisions to the quest was refreshing. This gave the decisions that the characters made in the game world weight. Unfortunately, that aspect of the story disappears after the MC goes on his field mission and leaves the academy. It’s still a good story but it becomes more of a standard rising hero story.
You feel the Final Fantasy influence in the story with rideable Chocobo-like birds, Sword guns, antidotes, high potions, and X- Potions. The sci-fi action is well written, especially the last battle. The game mechanics in the story were very familiar but not as detailed as I personally would have liked. There are very few hard numbers. There is enough game mechanic information that the reader can understand how each class functions in a broad sense. The WarTech class that the MC chooses is cool and I can see several mechanics from real video games I love, in the class. The real life villain, the government agent was thoroughly annoying and got under my skin, so he did his job.
Overall, I had a good time reading the story. While I would have like to have had the ‘moral consequence’ mechanic from the beginning of the story continued through the rest of the narrative, it was still a good read.
Score: 7 out of 10.