With the innovation of fully immersive virtual technology that links directly to the user's mind, the world of console gaming has evolved in five years beyond what all but the most ambitious of gamers could imagine. Unfortunately, that technology comes with a few... quirks.
When a young boy named Aaron Marcus got his hands on his first Neural Console it was a dream come true. He could finally join his other friends who had long since delved into the virtual MMO known as Omega Dream. It all turns to a nightmare when a tragedy strikes and he becomes unable to return back to the real world.
Discovering he is but another in a long line of players trapped inside the artificial realm, he resolves himself to do whatever it takes to make it out. He begins his journey through Purgatory, the server built to house the damned players cursed to spend the rest of their days inside “Omega Dream”. It isn’t long before he finds out just how difficult his quest may be. Only one player has ever escaped the virtual prison. Only time will tell if Aaron has what it takes to be the second.
My Opinion: 290 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
This is the debut novel from author Tyson Pernitzky as such, it’s understandable that not everything is going to be perfect and this isn’t. The game mechanics in the story aren’t the big draw and while consistently used through the story, they have issues. I’ll say that this story has all the pieces to be good, they’re just in the wrong order.
The game mechanics in the story are rushed and much of the information is presented in such a way that they feel like they’re being made up as the story goes. I’m not saying that the author didn’t put forethought or planning but rather that how they’re revealed to the reader feels rushed. The main character starts out in the story already in the level 30s, so there’s no opportunity to gradually reveal the mechanics the same way you would if the character had been freshly created and the player were discovering things with the reader. Instead, the main character call out his various powers as he uses them and sometimes also throws out an explanation. This becomes better as the story goes on but even game mechanics like factions and resource node capture, though cool, are presented as info dumps.
Fundamentally, this is an action story. Fight scenes dominate the first 75% of the novel and they’re pretty decent. The fights are the novels strength but also its biggest weakness.
As a strength, the fights are well written. There’s a nice variety of opponents. The types of fights the main character is involved with are also varied and go from tournament style, to infiltration, to flag defense, to full raids, and guild vs guild battles.
It’s the story’s weakness in the sense that that’s all much of this story is. A series of fights. The connective story tissue between fights doesn't provide a more interesting story or give you any reason to care about the outcome of those fights.
The story outside the fights is also a bit fractured. It goes from obsessed gamer to trapped in game, to virtually uploaded, then to die in game die forever. That lack of focus and planning in the story makes it hard to care about the characters. There’s an attempt at character development about 75% into the story when faction stuff is introduced but by that time it’s kind of late.
Additionally about this time the main character tries to be the hero suddenly by proposing a fundamentally different way of life for those perma players and it becomes a story about him convincing them by word or strength of arm. It’s a shift in the story that’s a welcome change from just action but again, it comes so late many people won’t have stuck around for it.
This could have been a good story had there been character development earlier in the story and more plot, for the majority of the story, than kill things for XP.
Score: 5 out 10