Neverfall: Mark of the Hero (Book 1): (A Gamelit Lit RPG Series)


Four friends go on a quest to save players trapped in Neverfall Online, a virtual reality MMORPG, in this multi-book adventure saga.

Luke Stephens’ three best friends are leaving their hometown for college, but he must stay home to care for his mother, who is dying of cancer.

He has accepted his fate, but just as in the video games they love, Luke and his friends are given a real-life quest that changes their lives forever. Dr. Armitage, a secretive man linked with an immersive fantasy roleplaying technology, has tracked Luke down to give him a dangerous mission: to rescue the several-hundred beta testers who cannot log out of the cyber world, and believe that their in-game lives are real.

Luke’s companions won’t let him go alone. All four students are assured that they will be transported into the game at the highest level so they can easily defeat the Dark Lord and reset the world of Neverfall.

But when they enter the game, Luke and his friends all begin at Level 1: defenseless, poor, and powerless. The party must level up as though their lives depend on it, for it’s not just a game.

Luke, Cassie, Mack, and Christopher must stay alive because though the world is virtual, the deaths are very real…

My Opinion: 369 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited

There are hints at a good novel here but as LitRPG it was supremely disappointing and frustrating. The best parts of the story are the character developments moments. Especially the relationship between the main character (MC) and his mom at the beginning. Unfortunately, most of the other characters in the story come off as flat and two-dimensional.

Most of the novel however is just frustrating, mostly because you can almost see that it could have been good. The premise of the story is one that I’ve read at least a dozen times this year, and like most of those times, it’s not done well. People are trapped in a full immersion game and if they die in the game they die in real life. The only person able to save them is the MC. Why? Cause it’s suddenly discovered his dad is the CEO of the company and coded his only recently discovered son’s DNA into the game to give him access. Oh, the MCs dad is also trapped in the game and thinks he’s his character, a bad guy fantasy version of Darth Vader. Oh, also the only way to save everyone is to defeat his father, which for no explained reason ever, is supposed to reset the game. Yeah, that old premise. Also, the fact that the MC is named Luke and the dad thinks he’s a fantasy version of Darth Vader make their interaction pretty predictable. The added twist with Darth Vader dad aside, the premise doesn’t work and only serves to setup the fact that no one in the main cast is ever going to die because if they did, they’d die in real life.

The game mechanics in the story are shown throughout with character sheets, stats, HP, mana, and even damage notifications. However, they don’t really matter to the story. Time and again, the rules established are broken to stop someone from dying, or just cause it makes a fight more exciting. The MC is given gear that power levels him for fights he should never win, or in one particularly bad example, the MC just seems to fire off an stream of fireball spells when the reader was just shown he should only be able to fire off 3 at most according to spell cost and mana supply. Other squishy characters should die in several places but are saved because of conveniently missing damage notifications and a magically infinite healing mana supply from the healer.

Ultimately, as the story goes on, the part that made me actively dislike the story is that all the game stuff that was written just doesn’t matter and is basically filler. The MC discovers ‘Matrix’ like powers that let him create spells, portals, and other effects that have no basis in the game mechanics and that’s how he solves all the conflicts by the end. Also, the only real progress on the main arc of the story, confronting Darth Vader Dad, is accomplished with these sci-fi powers and have nothing to do with the RPG game. You could literally skip from the 35% mark (which is when the game stuff starts) to that point and the story would be the same. The adventuring game stuff before and after that point just seem to be there to fill space.

Overall, while I liked the character development of several characters the rest of the story was actively frustrating since the game stuff didn’t matter.

Score: 4 out of 10

Neverfall: Mark of the Hero (Book 1): (A Gamelit Lit RPG Series)