A Nowhere Job, A Bootleg Game, and Luck Turned Upside Down
Hal Dix was stuck in an unlucky life. His wife's a successful engineering executive while his IT help desk job led nowhere. Even his daughter's daycare teacher thought he was a loser. He couldn't catch a break.
Then a strange woman at a flea market sells Hal a bootleg early release of the highly anticipated Fantasma game. It is just what he wished for and he can't wait to play it during his long weekend home alone. His luck has finally turned around, right?
Hal should be careful what he wishes for.
Whisked away into the game he only wanted to play for a weekend, Hal enters a world desperate for a hero.
Is Hal Dix that hero?
My Opinion: 332 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
The beginning of the novel starts with a ‘we must summon the chosen one’ scene and then it shifts into the ‘woe is me’ section where Hal, the main character (MC), laments about his dead end job, the bully at work, the wife that’s too good for him, and more self esteem stuff. The author does a good job walking the line between the MC reading like a whiner and just someone that would be happy if he could shift his view a little and grow a pair.
By the 10% mark, the MC has been transported to a fantasy world. He stumbles around like drunken tourist trying to understand where he is and getting into trouble because he doesn’t understand local customs and eventually discovers a game like interface that tells him that he’s a level 1 thief with high luck.
Game Mechanics: The game mechanics in the story are thoroughly described. The MC has a character sheet that he looks at fairly regularly. He gains experience points from killing and completing quests. He has stats that he can improve as he levels. He can learn skills either through use or by applying skill points to thief class oriented choices. Notification screens appear that force the MC into quests and give him experience when he completes them.
The majority of the explanations about game mechanics in the story come in the first 20% of the novel. After the midpoint, you start to see the game stuff a little less. They don’t disappear, but only show up during combat and when accepting and completing quests. I would have liked to see the game stuff apply to more than just combat.
Additionally, there is never a clear explanation as to where these ‘game powers’ come from. Are they a part of this world and apply to everyone? Are they some special aspect of the MC? If so, where did he get them?
I also have a tiny issue with the XP requirements of leveling and some of the XP given out for kills. Killing a human guard early in the story gets him 100 XP, killing a large spider gets him 300 XP, killing a guard later in the story gets him 1,200 XP, killing an assassin gets him 2,500 XP. It’s clear the XP is being adjusted to keep the MC leveling and while not a huge deal, does ruin some of the logic of the game stuff since none of the monsters or opponents have any indicators showing differences. No elite guard of badassness or level 10 guard. Just guard.
Other than that, really solid game stuff.
Storywise, the first half of the novel has the MC being led around on various tasks of increasing difficulty that reveal the game mechanics the MC uses to become more powerful. It’s not until the midpoint of the novel that the MC stops being led and starts to lead. From there on he gradually becomes more assertive as he gets used to new strength, speed, and skills he receives as he levels. The rest of the novel, without getting spoilery, follows an action packed path where the MC and his ally try to take back the kingdom from the corrupt bad guys.
The epilogue bookends the story nicely. Showing how Hal’s adventures have changed him and that ultimately we make our own luck in life.
Overall, a good read. The story is constantly moving and well written. Good action. Aside from the few small things I mentioned, good game mechanics.
Score: 7 out of 10