“Raise your blade. Take up the mantle of Slayer.”
Adam’s life was anything but easy. With people at both school and home eager to make his life a living hell, the only place that he felt like himself was in the virtual world. At least there he had some control.
When the newest VRMMORPG title gets announced, Adam and his best friend Max are more than ready to dive in. Launch day arrives quickly, and Adam is plunged into a world that’s more immersive than anything he’s experienced before. Although the game offers a bevy of character choices, Adam quickly chooses the title of Slayer, a class that specializes in taking down stronger, more difficult opponents. Adam begins his adventure, but its not long before he realizes that there’s much more at stake when taking a life in this new game. The pain is very real and death… is permanent.
Now, trapped in a virtual world, Adam must take the mantle of Zander Darkblade and brave the dangers of the Aether Gate. It is a world of mighty creatures and fallen gods. A world where powerful familiars bond with their masters, granting them extraordinary powers that they wield with uncanny force…. and as Adam and the others will soon discover, it is a world of secrets that have laid hidden for far too long...
Welcome to Aether Gate Online
My Opinion: 304 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Note: There is an early typo, that the author has submitted an update for, with the years in the story seeming to change from 2077 to 2099. 2099 should be 2077. So the novel doesn’t time jump 22 years, just one day.
Now, while in the correspondence the author sent me, he says the typo doesn’t change the story much, I disagree. A 22 year time jump completely changed the way I looked at the main character (MC), Adam. In my eyes, he went from flawed child with troubled home life (2077) to grown adult graduating college (2099) who’d been shaped by those problems into a man. I actually thought it was neat for the author to write that way. But it’s just a typo.
However, the miss of that typo also reflects the biggest issue I have with the story, it has a lot of mistakes and problems with the story. While there are a few technical writing issues, like the date thing, there are a lot more with the game mechanics, characters, and the story itself.
Game mechanics. The majority of the problems that drove me a bit crazy had to do with the math and the game mechanics in the story. Initially when the game mechanics were revealed, not bad. On the MC character sheet, you see Health, Energy, normal stats, skills, and abilities. All normal good stuff. Except the entire energy mechanic, the pool that fuels special abilities, disappeared from the story. Not only does no ability get an energy cost or cooldown, thus making it spammable and overpowered, but the pool itself actually disappears from future character sheets. It’s likely that the author decided to drop the game mechanic from the story but forgot to delete the words from the text. Additionally, the numbers given on character sheets are inconsistent or just wrong. It’s established that each level gained gives a character 2 stat points to distribute. So at level 7, the MC should have added 14 stat points to his character sheet. But when we see the character sheet at level 7, the MC has 21 stat points distributed. Some of these can be explained away by a few item bonuses but the other extra ones are never accounted for. Also here, the MC just gets powers that are never described to us, they just show up on the character sheet without any explanation, ever.
Many of the other game mechanics in the story also feel made up on the spot and don’t balance with other mechanics or are even consistent. For example, in one scene the MC and a group are sneaking around and one of the group members suggest they just knock out a guard and wear his uniform. The MC tells him that’s not allowed in the game engine unless they have a disguise skill. How the MC knows this is never explained, but then the group continues to sneak and hide past guards. Something none of them have either class abilities or skills for. Other game mechanics, like the familiar system, just seems made up as the story goes on. It becomes a big part of the story but it also feels like there aren’t rules for it and thus a bit wand wavy.
Combat, is just a mess. On the action side, it’s fine. Fights are decently described. But on the logic side, they’re a mess. Because of the permadeath in the game, the reader knows instantly that no one important is ever going to die and its proven out in just about every fight. The MC and his group fight groups of monsters double and sometimes triple their levels and yet they magically win every time. It’s especially frustrating when the damage numbers and descriptions show that character should have died. An early example of this is when the MC and his two group members face off against an opponent who’s level 10. The MC is level 3, the other members are level 2 and 1. The damage descriptions show that even a casual blow from this enemy knocks off half of the MCs health. Yet, level 1 guy not only tackles the level 10 to the ground but takes repeated blows from him to his head, yet never dies or even seems injured. These magical victories happen throughout the story and make combat seem unrealistic and not grounded in the game mechanics.
Storywise, the premise is a direct pull from Sword Art Online. Day 1 log in, everyone is trapped in the game and die in the game, die in real life. However, unlike that story, there is no clearly defined way to leave the game, thus no motivation for any players to go forth and quest or risk their lives fighting monsters. After that, it’s basic slice of life. Follow the MC as he travels to a city to kill a bad guy and collects other players, levels, and gets never before mentioned game powers.
Other big problems in the story include:
-Inconsistent motivations and reactions from characters. At the beginning of the story, everyone is crying about the realistic pain in the game and fear of permadeath. Yet, everyone continues to fight and risk their lives without ever even acknowledging any reasons why they do it or that they ever even feel pain again. Characters are brave one scene and complete cowards the next. Even the bad guys motivations are conflicting, he wants to save everyone from losing people like he did, but he traps them in a game where they die permanently?
-The MC in the story, again and again, knows things he shouldn’t. This is a game on day 1 of its launch. The MC has never played it before, at least we’re not told he has. Yet he knows what actions players can/can’t do without a particular skill, he regularly describes/names other player’s powers he’s never seen, and knows lore/history about the world that he’s never shown learning.
-The main character, Adam, doesn’t seem to have any flaws that make him relatable or make me root for him. He beats all the bad guys, never loses, and personality wise, he’s a bit bland. His familiar Razyr had ten times the personality.
Overall, I could not like this story. Even without all the problems listed, the story would only be ok. With all the problems, it was very frustrating to read. There are some interesting characters and story moments but they’re overshadowed, at least for me, by the problems and errors the story has.
Score: 4 out of 10.