Val had returned from his latest tour of duty scarred in body and soul. Barely able to walk and drugged to the gills for pain, he thought his killing days were finally behind him.
He couldn't have been more wrong.
Endless Online, a hyper futuristic game where players could truly live another life.
Val loved the idea of starting over in virtual reality. But when someone he cares about turns up missing after chasing that same dream, Val quickly learns that Endless is no simple game.
And if Val can't figure out the dark secrets behind this realm of wizards, warriors, and intergalactic conquest, then it's game over. For everyone.
My Opinion: 330 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
I’m not sure if this is serial story or if it’s just one long story but it’s one that’s definitely been broken up into pieces and has a very abrupt ending that’s picked up in the next book. That bothers some people, so just an FYI.
The novel has a bit of an unusual beginning and the premise of the story shifts around alot. It starts out as a character development for an injured soldier who is a gamer. Then it shifts to cyber thriller. Then most of it plays out as portal fiction in a sci-fi/fantasy universe with RPG element that feel like they don’t matter to the story.
Now having said that, I also think that this is a well developed story. There’s lots of character development for the MC before he transports to the new world. There are scenes that do this in flashback form later but they really interrupt the flow of the sci-fi/fantasy world storyline. The sci-fi/fantasy world has deep lore with politics, histories, and defined relationships between magic and technology. Each of the secondary characters have interesting and unique personalities that make them memorable. The action in the story is also very well done.
But because the RPG mechanics don’t really feel like they have an impact on the story, it lessened my enjoyment of it as LitRPG. You can read more specifics on what I mean below if you don’t mind some spoilers.
Shifting premise and story
The beginning of the story starts out with a scene where the main character, Val, is playing an MMO with his friends. It’s fairly long scene and in the context rest of the story is meaningless but establishes two things. 1) Establishes the main characters gaming cred. Which is also meaningless since he never plays any other games or uses gamer logic or skills he used from the game again. 2) It establishes a connection to a girl that goes missing and is the focus of the first part of the novel. Which is why the beginning of this novel feels a lot like a cyber thriller. It’s sort of setup that way, with the MC being recruited to locate this missing girl by infiltrating the game company like only a gamer can.
Up until the 27% mark, that’s how this plays out. There are some really unexpected twists in the infiltration part that I thought were cool and a bit Jason Bourne. But what’s really a twist, is that this turns into slice of life portal sci-fi/fantasy fiction. That’s right, there’s a huge switch from Endless Online being a full immersion VR game to being a multiverse portal world and not even one ruled by RPG mechanics. Once on the new planet or in the new universe, the MC hooks up with a crew of mercenaries/tomb raiders that explain how their universe works and the group goes on some adventures through some caves and kills some stuff till the abrupt ending. I’m intentionally being vague about those adventure details because in their own rights are still good stories with good world building that I don’t want to spoil.
RPG Game mechanics
Once the MC gets to the ‘game world’ it really just reads like a science fiction/fantasy story with game notifications and breaks for leveling up that’s never acknowledged in much of the larger story. Now, to be clear, this is LitRPG. There are levels gained, skills learned, skill increases, and stats that go up after leveling. So minimum requirements met, I guess. But all that stuff feels like it’s an add on to this portal science fiction/fantasy story. The notifications and game stuff are all completely reactionary. What I mean by that is that they show up after the main character (MC) has done something notable, like magically learned psionic powers or a spell without any training or guidance. They’re fairly regular and even lengthy game notifications, so the author put a lot of effort into creating them. But it still feels like, to me at least, like the author wrote a good sci-fi/fantasy story and then went back to add game notifications to important moments. There’s not any application of these RPG mechanics to anyone other than the MC and the story doesn’t even acknowledge the concept for anyone else in the story till the very end, when he finally mentions something about leveling up to the people he’s spent most of the novel with.
Overall, I actually liked the portal fiction part of the story. I also liked the cyber thriller part of the beginning. I thought it was confusing and weird as heck that they’re in the same story though. But weird as that transition is, overall it’s an entertaining read, if you think of it as sci-fi/fantasy portal fiction.
When i thought of it in the context of LitRPG, overall there wasn't the same satisfaction. What I liked about the story wasn’t related to the RPG stuff, which sometime felt tacked on.
As portal fiction or sci-fi/fantasy, it would get an 7 out of 10.
As LitRPG, it just didn’t give me that same satisfaction. If you like your LitRPG stories with RPG mechanics that don’t impact the story or just light ones, or you’re looking for an interesting sci-fi/fantasy portal fiction story, this may work better for you.
Score: 6 out of 10