I sacrificed everything for my family. It wasn't enough. I lost my mother, and now I'm about to lose my brother.
I've got only one thing left to gamble: my life. Which is why I'm willing to play Euphoria Online in Death March mode.
If I survive six months in-game against a lethal array of wyverns, ogres, necromancers, and more, I'll earn my brother a pardon.
If I lose?
Well. I'm done with losing.
My Opinion: 300 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Full disclosure: I received an advanced copy of the novel for review. I purchased a copy when it became available.
The premise of the story is that the main character (MC), Chris, trusts his super evil ex girlfriend and takes a weekend pass to the latest and greatest full immersion VRMMO game. He plans to put the game on Death March mode, which if he survives for 6 in-game months, will grant him just about any wish he wants including a pardon for his brother who might soon be on death row for salvaging in underwater buildings. The only snag? If he dies in the game, he dies in real life.
The author has written over 15 other novels, many of which are traditional epic fantasy. He raised over $13,000 on Kickstarter to write the this LitRPG story, create a hardcover edition with extra artwork, and an audiobook. All that from fans who already know they like the author’s writing. This is his first LitRPG story and sometimes it feels more like a fantasy story, which might be for his existing reader base.
The short review, is that despite the issues I have with the RPG game mechanics and the premise, I liked the story. The characters are well developed, there’s good tension, and the fantasy action adventure storytelling is entertaining.
Continue reading for a more thorough review:
The game mechanics in the story are relatively light, are grouped together in summarizes after fights and in sections where the players talk to each other, and they sometimes feel less important than the ‘story’.
Game mechanics include traditional character sheets (only a few though), stats, descriptions of new abilities, and spells. Players earn XP and can spend it to purchase these new abilities and spells. At the same time, the amount of XP the characters earn gets them new levels and predetermined increases in their stats. You can tell the author choose to forgo anything that would require heavy math tracking and formulas. There are no health bars, stamina bars, damage notifications, or any UI interface with the game. Combat is always described in fantasy terms with XP handed out after an encounter is finished with sometimes inconsistent XP rewards. Additionally, the MC seems to often win or gain power through some lucky outside influence or wand wavy circumstance that prioritize the story over the game rules. Like the MC gets saved by someone never before seen before, or the MC just happens to find a magic stone that doubles his small mana capacity just before a big fight in which he’ll need to use a lot of spells. Overall, not bad game stuff. What’s there is used consistently throughout the story, but it’s also not a particularly deep system.
Storywise, this novel has one of the most confusing premises I’ve ever come across. Not only does it make sense on a story level, it doesn’t make sense on a math level. Ok, here are the many issues I had with the premise:
The game uses time dilation to let players stay in the game longer. Unfortunately the time dilation is not consistently described. Three sets of numbers are given in the story: 18 to 1, 45 to 1, and 80 to 1 (given as 18 min irl being equal to 1 day in game). Now, even at the most extreme one 80:1 for a weekend pass that means the MC will be in game for 160 days or 5.3 months making it impossible for him to survive for the required 6 months to win the big reward. So, broken premise right off the bat.
The motivation for pushing the MC to go in game and risk his life, stretches believability a bit. His brother is charged with a capital crime for salvaging? Even though there are other circumstances, the case hasn’t even gone to trail yet.
Also, why would you ever trust your evil, evil, ex-girlfriend?
Also, why would there be a voluntary death game in a normal MMORPG? I understand adding the ‘die in the game die in real life’ feels like it fits if you’ve seen Sword Art Online and is supposed to raise the stakes. But for me, all it did was tell me that the MC would never die or even fail in the story. While this is the default setting for normal novels, it’s not in a LitRPG story. Dying while playing video games is part of the learning experience and fun. Die, respawn/reload, and learn till you get good enough to not die.
It’s also just a big stretch of the imagination to believe that the MC wouldn’t even come close to dying once, facing an entire zone of monsters 20-30 times his level.
Storywise, once the main character is actually in the game, it’s an enjoyable slice of life action adventure experience. Just ignore why the MC is there, cause if your goal is to survive for 6 months without dying, risking your life all the time trying to level is a contradictory act. Combat is very well described and I enjoyed every visceral fight, it’s just often described in fantasy terms and not gamer terms. There’s good character and story development. You can see by the end of the story where some story threads are being laid for the longer series. Good storytelling.
Overall, even though I had issues with the premise and light RPG stuff, it’s a good entertaining story.
Score: 7.2 out of 10