There’s always somewhere to go, someone to defeat! At least that’s what Ryan believed until he ran out of challenges, adventures, and stories. Bored with his life as a casual player, he slipped easily into the lifestyle of a professional gamer.
After reaching the pinnacle of success, an email arrived from the mysterious Beta Academy. With his best friend and self-proclaimed bodyguard, Dimitri, he decides to take a chance and accept the strange offer contained within. Overconfident in his skills, Ryan thinks he’ll defeat this game as easily as every other, but that confidence is shaken and shattered within the first fifteen minutes. This wasn’t a standard game with haptic chairs or gloves; this was the real thing.
Ryan and Dimitri must learn the heights of the Peaks of Power… and what it will take to achieve their summit.
My Opinion: 360 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Full disclosure: I received an advanced copy of the novel for review, I purchased the novel when it became available.
This is a review of the updated version of the novel. So if you pre-ordered you may have to redownload to get the new version of the story. The original review pointed out many inconsistencies in the plot and game mechanics which were fixed.
Storywise this turns out to be setup for character development, a ton of training, and a tournament that loses its purpose for existing. While I’d say much of the story isn’t bad, it is predictable and some parts are heavy handed.
The beginning of the story was originally one of the hardest parts of the story to get through. After the setup where the main characters (MCs), Ryan and Dimitri, are in-game, Ryan is just written so unlikably that he almost becomes a caricature of a super flawed person. He full of bravado, overconfidence, he challenges everyone, is constantly rude, gets angry over everything, and is really a jerk to everyone including his best friend. While I understand that the character is intentionally written this way to give him something to fix and improve on as the story goes on, he’s such a jerk that he’s hard to like at all and he isn’t written with any redeeming qualities.
However, after the original review, the angry caricature version of Ryan got some nice revisions and while he’s still a jerk there are small hints at reasons for him to act that way and there’s enough character development between Ryan and Dimitri to make Ryan’s personality shift at the 28% mark feel more natural. It may be enough to create some level of empathy for Ryan that was almost impossible before. So, if you can stick it out, you may eventually even like the character.
There is also a ton of training in the story. It’s probably the best thing about the story and has lots of detail about special martial arts techniques, skills, and magic. But something like 50% of the story is just training and little else. I mean there is some character development but it’s mostly a big block of training in both combat and magic, smack dab in the middle of the story. I would have loved to have seen some of this training broken up by some small adventures or even some fighting with monsters to show just how that training was paying off gradually. Instead, you get a ton of training, then a tournament where the MCs are so overpowered that it takes the fun out of it all. Especially with the villains suddenly introduced so late in the story and the tournament itself no longer seeming to have any real purpose other than to resolve some minor conflicts introduced with those villains.
Now, the game mechanics in the story were originally much worse and had many inconsistencies. Though the inconsistencies have been corrected, there are still issues and the game mechanics are still one of the weaker elements of the story.
Readers aren’t shown a character sheet, instead there are a handful of times that the characters tell each other what there stats are but not reference points about whether what they have is a lot or a little.
Characters learn skills and magic, but even though you see notifications and skill increases they don’t seem to mean much and some skills you never see increase even though they’re constantly practiced.
Magic, though a big part of the story, feels less game like and more fantasy or possibly cultivation oriented. Additionally, there are a couple of scenes where you can tell the author was watching a lot of Avatar the Last Airbender while he was writing.
The characters level, but it’s a system that seems to change mid story. At the beginning, someone levels and they get 10 free stat points to distribute. Then about midway through they level and just get a blanket +5 to all stats. Which is equal to 20 stat points.
In the latest edition, this shift in leveling is explained much earlier in the story as something that is going to happen so it feels less awkward when it does happen. However, there is never a real explanation as to why the shift happens.
Ultimately, neither levels or stats mean anything though.
There no shown XP in the novel and levels seem to be arbitrary given as the character accomplish something whether fighting or training or just attending a lecture.
When stats increase, there is usually some description of the characters feeling stronger, faster, smarter, etc., but stats lose meaning because there is no quantified increase in damage/stamina/hp because none of those exist in the story.
So even though the MC’s strength may increase from 20 to 25, his punch is still described pretty much the same. Really high stats are eventually just used to kind of justify how OP the characters eventually get.
Overall, while there were some marked improvements made to the story from early drafts, it still has pacing and storytelling problems. The middle of the story lacks variety since it’s almost all training and the end didn’t feel like it meant anything other than a place to show off how OP the characters got. The writing isn’t bad on a technical level and the fights are actually well written. However, most of the story just didn’t work for me. If you can overlook the issues mentioned or just really really love blocks of long training, you may like this story more than me.
Score: 6 out of 10