After a week with the implant, Ripcord Online had translated all of my memories, hopes, and dreams — all of me — into binary code. I was ready for the uplink. There was just one thing I had to do first.
I had to die.
Ripcord was a revolutionary new product that launched people into a virtual reality world just moments before death, sparing them their painful end-of-life memories and allowing them to live in a video game utopia for all time.
At least, that’s how it was advertised. No one ever came back to say whether Ripcord lived up to its promise. It was a one-way ticket for those lucky enough to get in.
Well, maybe “lucky” isn’t the right word for it.
My wife had been in Ripcord for two years. I was finally ready to go find her. When I got there though, it was nothing like I had expected and she was nowhere to be found.
Oh, and did I mention something is killing everyone off? “Griefing” players that are already grieving.
If I ever wanted to see my wife again, I’d have to get a lot stronger, learn how to level up in this strange new world, and hope she found a way to survive this long…
My Opinion: 262 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Full disclosure, I received a copy from the author for review but purchased it once it was released.
In this story, people have a techno afterlife feature that downloads their mind into an MMORPG game when they die. Cale’s wife died two years ago and he was never able to get over the loss. So, he commits suicide and follows her into the game she was uploaded into. Now he’ll cross the game world and face any enemy to find his wife again.
There are alot of things in the story that stretch the bounds of believability. It reads like a novelized version of What Dreams May Come, that Robin Williams movie where he traveled through heaven and hell to find his wife after she dies.
While the story is supposed to be set in an MMORPG, it feels more like a traditional fantasy world with some RPG mechanics. Most of the RPG stuff is limited to Cale and his progression of power. The rest of the world feels like fantasy realm under siege by a new malevolent force. It just really doesn’t make sense that any MMO controlled by a game company would ever let the things that happen in the game occur, much less intentionally program their possibility. Things like: drug addiction, the option for one player to corrupt and use the rest as puppets, permadeath, player slavery, or child murder. If these were features of a game people voluntarily signed up for that would be one thing but the story presents all this as a huge surprise to every player in the realm. Something they discover once they’re dead and there.
The main character, Cale, chooses the path of green magic (plant magic) during character creation. To most people, it seems like the weakest of class choices because of non-existent combat options associated with growing plants. However, as he progresses in his levels he learns to maximize the abilities and skills his class gives him and becomes a power to be reckoned with. Honestly, my favorite part of the story was seeing the intelligent ways that Cale used his plant powers and the new skills and abilities that were unlocked as he leveled.
Combat in the story is mediocre. Even though there are fights sprinkled through the story, none of them were particularly memorable or thrilling.
A big part of the story revolves around an addictive drug called Lite that is in the game. When chewed it makes players relive their happiest memories. It’s an interesting drug, and I see why a drug dealer would want to enslave a plant mage like Cole to grow more of it. The situation of him being held captive does force the main character to think of ways to use his powers in combat, so it has a place in the story. However, it’s another example of how I have to suspend my sense of disbelief a little too much to accept that any developer would put such a drug in an MMO and it just feels like an odd thing to have in the story.
Most of the story is devoted to Cole’s search for his wife, traveling around the game world, helping people he meets along the way, and constantly fleeing The Scourge. A player that’s somehow warped the desperation others feel into a way to enslave them to him. The Scourge travels through the world like a force of nature, either killing players or adding them to his mob. It’s never really explained in game terms how any player can do this and is another example of why I feel this world feels more like a fantasy world than an MMO world.
The end of the story is fairly predictable but still cute. It also leaves the opportunity for more storytelling. Though it’s satisfying enough that you won’t pine away for a sequel if it never comes.
Overall, it’s just an ok story. The best part was seeing how the main character would use his plant powers and the upgrades he got. However, most of the story feels like a fantasy novel take on What Dreams May Come and then it was gamified sometime later. For me, it wasn’t satisfying.
Score: 5 out 10.