Rex has never really fit into this world. He always felt like the odd man out except when it came to video games, more specifically, he related to the back stories and literature he encountered while playing the games. While attending college, a computer science instructor named Professor Stone introduced Rex to a hidden pocket deep in the internet that contained a tantalizing opening sequence to a new game called Shadows Online. Not much is known about the game except to access it requires massive power and cutting edge computer hardware.
While watching the opening sequence on Professor Stone’s experimental computing system, Rex finds himself oddly drawn to the character of Thulen. Not only does the character look like a younger version of himself but he also begins to have flashes of memories from the young boy’s perspective. Professor Stone explains that in the real world Rex is safe while playing his video games, but there is nothing safe in the shadows! Rex is drawn into the simulation as the fantasy world beckons to him. A step, a surge of power, and Rex awakens as Thulen playing for his life in the game of Shadows Online.
Do you think you are safe?
My Opinions: 141 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Oddly, this story starts out in 2011.
A sucked into a game story where Rex is told he’s really from this game dimension. The game master tells him this dimension will work like a tabletop RPG, with dice rolls and everything. As he plays, he’ll get to decide his own powers and he’ll eventually come across the other player, who will seek to destroy him.
The story has two narratives that it switches between.
Thulen - Rex’s character in the game. He’s told he’s playing the evil side of the game but not tied to the storyline. He has the power to create spells and lots of flexibility in his playstyle.
Pymberly - The other player. A young woman that starts out playing on the good side storyline. A more powerful and easily leveled build but locked into a rogue class. Trains in the good people tower as a rogue but also that she is some kind of chosen one.
At times, the story feels like it’s trying to be earnest portal fiction, then the immersion of the story is broken when both players and NPCs start to do out of character speech. For example, near the beginning of novel Pym is supposed to follow a stuck up blonde girl to her room because they’re supposed to share it, but then the character suddenly starts to talk to Pym about doing the quest right and how they’ll both get new skills, then she goes right back into her stuck up princess routine.
This has been done before in stories like NPC and Critical Failure but it’s made very clear in those stories that out of character speak is rare and usually takes place in the real world with the players or the GM takes over the NPC temporarily.
The game mechanics are also not very well defined or fleshed out. There’s the standard character sheet with stats but there’s no detail what all that means in this world. There are a few spell or item descriptions. However, there’s also a lot of level skipping. With the characters going from levels 1 to 3 to 9 without much explanation about how they gained that much XP.
Overall, this wasn’t a terrible read, but it wasn’t that good either. The story feels like a tabletop game where the game master is heavy handed in trying to force his players down the story path he wants them to take. It just isn’t fun or immersive.It was pretty meh.
Score: 5 out of 10