Press Start: A litRPG Saga (SOL: Tutorial Book 1)

PressStart.jpg

Unique spells. Strange companions. Unforgettable adventure.

After her brother's death, Terra was going through his things when she finds an old gaming gear. Logging into his account out of curiosity, she was tossed into the vast new world of SOL for the very first time.

Playing as her brother's male character was awkward, but SOL was the perfect way to add fun to her boring and routine life. She goes on exciting quests, defeats powerful monsters, and explores exhilarating new environments.

But as Terra discovers the secrets her brother was hiding, she must deal with the problems he caused, and survive the countless players that want her dead, because there are consequences to being known as a legendary player killer…

 

My Opinion: 141 pages, $0.99 till 1/13/18, Available on Kindle Unlimited

Full disclosure: The author sent me an advanced copy for review, I purchased the book as soon as it was released.

This is a was a super frustrating read. Mostly because the game mechanics in the story just don’t make sense or weren’t explained enough to make sense. There were so many times that I would read something in the story and think “This doesn’t make sense.” After I finished my notes on the story I went back and counted how many times I wrote that down, 27 times. I wrote that about the story 27 times all the way through the entire story. There were several times I wanted to stop reading the novel, I felt so frustrated.

The first 2% of the story is a great. It has an efficient setup that establishes empathy with the main character (MC) Terra. She uses her brothers VR immersion game rig to log into his account and access his character, a dude. The jokes in the story start from the very beginning. Load time and patch time jokes, then jokes about the MC suddenly having a penis because she’s using her brother’s male game character. Then finding her doppleganger since her brother made a AI companion modeled after her. Funny stuff that I liked.
Unfortunately, once the MC steps out of her brother’s home in game, things get super confusing. It’s a mixture of the MC exploring this new immersive world with superman like strength and the awkwardness of a newly born giraffe. So many things just happening and never getting explained.

-For example, in the starting city, the MC gets a charm spell laid on her that forces her to adore a player vendor. The MC calls the vendor a cheater, saying it’s a cheat to use spells like that on players. Except, the MC has literally never played this game before and it’s explicitly stated that she doesn’t even like these kinds of games. So, how can she make this kinds of judgment? She’s given knowledge she shouldn’t have.

-At another point, the MC runs forward but goes so fast that she crashes into a tree crushing her character’s nuts and causing herself 500 damage. I get that it’s a joke but self inflicted damage doesn't make sense in game terms.

-A little later the MC accidently snaps a level 0 rabbit’s neck for 5,547 points while petting it. Again, no context and it doesn’t make sense. Especially, when you compare it to later in the story when some high level characters are attacking level 15 hogs for 99,999 damage, the max possible. Again, something the MC shouldn’t know.

-Later the MC is attacked by a player and almost killed in real life because he ‘disabled the safety protocols and she’ll die for real if she doesn’t answer him.’ Again, this event almost kills her but nothing like it is seen in the story again and it’s never explained how it was  possible in the first place.

It’s not until the 30% mark that you get any kind of explanation for any game mechanic in the story. Yet, even after that, there were lots of places where the story just didn’t make game logic and it lessens what would have been a really enjoyable story.

For example,

-Reset to level 1, the MC kills a group of level 10 monsters without taking damage and evades every attack because she has a level 1 enchanter’s haste spell. She’s able to kill the monsters because she knocks off their mushrooms, each doing a static 10% damage to the monster.

-One, this is not an MMO or RPG mechanic. It’s something you’d see in a Mario or Zelda game. Two, there’s no way two level 1 characters with starter gear should be able to kill a group of level 10 and 15 monsters.

-There’s a lot more things that don’t make sense game mechanic wise but it all sort of amounts to the same frustration that stems from a game world that never got the setup it deserved.

Now, some positives to the story. The author has a sense of humor and there are jokes galore in the story. Some funny, others odd, but there are lots of jokes.

I really liked the real world described in the novel. The MC lives in the future on another world under a dome that turns the sun blue. Resources are scarce and she lives in the Junkyard which was only intended for the other domes trash. But the plucky people that live there now used that trash to make buildings, build teleporters, and sustain life for the poor people that live there. It’s honestly better described and makes more sense than the game world of SOL that the MC plays.

I mean, even this part has its flaws though. The biggest being that after describing how poor the dome is and how crowded everyone gets trying to get to work, the MC doesn’t go to some job doing menial work like I expected. Instead, she goes to a gym where she works out, chats with some cyborg friends, practices boxing, and then goes home. She gets free food, has a free home, free power to play her game and use a holographic entertainment center, and doesn’t seem to work. Yet, she complains about how bad she has it.

My frustration with the novel likely stems from the opinion that the story could have gotten a 8 out of 10 had it been developed more. There are some really cool themes in the story. The most unique, is that the MC, a girl, plays the game as a guy. The opportunity to explore gender relations, stereotypes, and social dynamics is only touched upon and mostly just as  a joke. The opportunity for the MC to live in her deceased brothers shoes by playing a game he loved. Exploring the future domed world and how it connects to the game or players ability to generate real world money. Even the game play had potential but it could have been a great adventure with cool fight scenes.

Overall, I can’t say I had a good time with the story. Even if it’s for the sake of parody and joking around, much of the story doesn’t make game sense. There’s no foundation setup for the game world that makes sense so even through there’s plenty of humor and parody in the story it’s frustrating to read about because my gamer brain keeps yelling ‘that doesn’t make sense’ as I read. Also, if the 7% of the story that describes the real world is more interesting, detailed, and makes more sense than the other 93% RPG world your story uses, there’s a problem. At least for me.

Score: 5 out of 10

Press Start: A litRPG Saga (SOL: Tutorial Book 1)

http://amzn.to/2CqmvX3