LitRPG Podcast 042
Hello everyone, welcome to episode 42 of the LitRPG podcast.
I’m Ramon Mejia. I’m here to bring you the latest LitRPG news, reviews, and author interviews.
Before we begin I want to give a shout out to three of the podcast’s newest Patreon supporters: Michael Chatfield, Matt Dinniman, and Justin Scott. Justin Scott has pledged $1/month and both Michael and Matt have decided to give $10/month to help support the podcast and help us cover expenses.
$10/month at the God Rank Geek level: 1) they get a wish video where they can ask me to do some silly or fun thing, 2) a 15 minute Skype conversation, and 3) they get to decide the next movie I’ll be recording a commentary track for.
Thanks you Michael, Scott, and Matt for your support!
New Releases and Reviews:
(Play Music 2)
Luke Chmilenko, author of the Ascend Online series has stated recently that he plans to release book two in the series, Hell to Pay on May 1st, 2017. Early chapters are available on his Patreon page for his supporters.
Awaken Online is doing really well on Amazon. It actually occupies the top 3 spots in Cyberpunk SciFi. Travis Bagwell is also temporarily reducing the price of book 1 in the series to $0.99. So if you haven’t bought the novel, this is a great chance to do so.
Michael- Scott Earle has released the cover art for the third book in his Lion’s Quest series, Trinity. It features a Gnome Berserker on the cover. Nice.
New LitRPG Audiobooks
Steel Wolves of Craedia (Realm of Arkon, Book 3)
Awaken Online: Precipice
Eden's Gate: The Reborn: A LitRPG Adventure, Book 1
The Beginning (Dark Paladin Book #1) out March 31st
Video Game Plotline Tester (The Dark Herbalist Book #1) out March 31st
Out Now, Will Review next week!
Valhalla Online: A LitRPG Saga (This came out last week and I was supposed to read it this week but I ran out of time)
Earth Tactics Advance Vol. 1 (March 2017)
Eyrth Online: The Memoirs of Lawrence Wrath (1st Playlist) (April 1st, 2017)
The Karmadont Chess Set (The Way of the Shaman: Book #5) (April 2nd, 2017)
Delvers LLC: Obligations Incurred (April 7th, 2017)
Dominion of Blades: A LitRPG Adventure (April 11, 2017)
This is Our Land (Emerilia Book 5) (April 25th, 2017)
Ascend Online: Hell to Pay (Book 2) (May 1st, 2017)
The First Player (AlterGame Book #1) (May 9th 2017)
Stuck in an RPG (Sucked into an RPG, Book 2) (May 27th 2017).
The Eternal: Dragonborn - A LitRPG Saga (World of Ga'em Book 2) (May 31st, 2017)
Hero of Thera (June 1st, 2017)
Conquest: A LitRPG Story (The SciFan™ Universe Book 1) (June 1st, 2017)
Stay on the Wing (The Dark Herbalist Book #2) (June 2nd, 2017).
Onto New Releases and Reviews
(Play Music 3)
New Releases and Reviews
The Goblin's Shadow (A LitRPG Series)
After his fiance deserted him and took his dog, Tom spends his days at the office and his evenings in Infarna Omega, a full-immersion fantasy game. He makes a side-living levelling up and selling characters to order.
When he gets an order for a Shadow Walker, a class he’s never played before, it seems strange. Things get even stranger when, just as he’s about to kill a goblin NPC, it talks.
Tom and Gabber the goblin embark on a quest to get Gabber to safety. They're pursued by Crawford, a creature hunter with an immense knowledge of the game and resources to match. He’ll never give up, never stop, and Tom must use his courage, skills and ingenuity to outwit him.
This starts an epic quest of swords, magic, and monsters, while an unlikely friendship develops. Tom can’t let the hunter catch Gabber. Unlike the players, if the goblin dies, he won’t respawn.
My Opinion: About 198 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Tom has a job he hates, a boss he loathes, and his fiance just left him and took his dog. He plans to pay off the massive debt she left him and move to the bahamas. The only problem? He doesn’t make enough at his current job. So he has a side job of creating, leveling, and selling off characters in the VR MMO, Infarna Omega. One day while leveling up a special request character, a shadow walker, he runs into a goblin that seems much smarter than the average mob. Instead of killing him for the XP he instead goes on a series of adventures that may help heal him of the emotional traumas.
Things I liked:
The interesting class that the MC plays, shadow walker. There are some neat abilities and low level spells that he uses intelligently.
The secondary character, Gabber the Goblin. Is it wrong that I like him about 10 times more than the MC? Hands down a much more likable and interesting character than Tom or anyone else in the story. He has problems but instead of whining about them, he has plans to solve them. He also has cool monster taming skills and tends to use his brain over his brawn to resolve issues. Heck, he basically makes a pet out of the MC by promising him good loot if he helps him.
Decent combat scenes.Some of the monsters fought are interesting and the way the characters fought them were unique.
Things I didn’t like:
Main character spends too much time whining and telling us about his problems and exactly why he doesn’t trust anyone and prefers to be alone. I understand that the author is trying to establish a character flaw to be fixed later but it goes on for a little too long.
The main bad guy, Crawford, is never really that interesting and comes off as an entitled ass hat. That would be fine if that’s all the author tried to make him but there is also an attempt at making the reader empathize with the character by describing how he was neglected as a child by his rich father, only really wants his father’s attention, he secretly does nice things for others when they aren’t looking, and actually works hard at his job. For that to work, we really need to see Crawford’s point of view or at least get some conversations from him that create a counterpoint to his consistently snotty behavior in game.
The game world is never really fleshed out. I can remember a few of the environments. A forest, a cave system, but none of it really sticks out in my mind as being memorable.
Overall, The Goblin’s Shadow was an interesting read. However, I really did like Gobber the Goblin more than any of the other characters and would have rather have read a story about him.
Score: 7 out of 10.
Awaken Online: Precipice
A few days have passed since Jason's confrontation with Alfred and he's debating whether to re-enter Awaken Online. Alfred has made a proposition that Jason isn't certain he should accept.
After the battle with Alexion, Jason has also been appointed as the Regent of the Twilight Throne. He must assume the mantle of ruling an undead city – with everything that entails. His first task is to investigate the dark keep that looms over the city’s marketplace. This act will lead to a chain of events that might ensure his city’s survival or create new enemies.
Meanwhile, Alex re-enters the game listless and angry after his loss against Jason. With his reputation in the gutter and no prospects, he will face a choice regarding how he intends to blaze his path through the game.
My Opinion: 481 pages, $6.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Ebook and Audiobook came out about the same time. Audiobook oddly came out first.
Full Disclosure: I got an advanced copy of Awaken Online: Precipice from the author for review. I picked up a copy of the novel on Kindle Unlimited when it became available.
In just about every way, book 2 in the Awaken Online series is better than the first book. The author gets right into the game world and not only provides tons of action but the story also makes the reader think a little. Which, to me, is the mark of a great story.
This is a smaller more intimate story that focuses around two narratives:
1) Team Undead - Jason, Frank, and Riley work to solve the problems that faces the new undead kingdom, growing their population when the undead can’t procreate. They come up with some interesting solutions.
They each find themselves influenced by the opportunities created by the dark deity, a portion of the AI controlling the game.
2) Team Evil Sociopath - Alex, the rich kid bad guy from book 1 has to figure out what he wants after losing the battle for the Twilight Throne. He has the opportunity for redemption but he’ll have to make the ultimate choice about who he’s going to be.
There’s a lot more cool stuff in the story but I can’t review those parts without getting spoilery. However, I can assure you that those parts of story alone are wonderful.
Action, adventure, skills, levels, and loot. All the stuff I love! The MC uses his brains, good friends, and a bit of luck to take on challenges most would consider unwinnable. Very rarely does he take the easy or obvious path.
More than that, the story asks the reader to think. To question the nature of good and evil and how we define them.
Raises many philosophical questions about the nature of good and evil, and introduces sociological concepts like:
Social contracts and agreed upon cultural norms
Good = What Benefits self and Bad = What Harms self
Good acts mean good person? Can a person be judged evil without seeing what’s in their heart?
Some religious connotations, possible commentary?
Is redemption possible for everyone?
Great action, adventure, and some stuff that makes you think. Great story.
Score: 9 out of 10.
Legends of Tarthirious : Book Three of Kylia's Story
With just two short months left on the clock, Kylia Redmond has started to finally pull her life together and gain some stability after the weeks of arrest, near-death, and complete Hell that has surrounded her.
With more focus on having fun in the game and setting goals she can reach, the fun loving gamer's discovering that as hard as she tries, she can't seem to shake the feeling that there's just another thing waiting around the corner.
In this, the third chapter of Kylia's story, we see Kylia start to become tired of mindlessly accepting every quest she gets in order to try and stave off the inevitability of losing her citizenship, and starts to simply enjoy what time she has left.
My Opinion: About 120 pages, $0.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
While a short read, this is priced well. Of the three books in the serial so far, this is my favorite. It’s still not a particularly amazing novel but the story is a lot more focused on the parts that I found to be the most interesting.
In game, Kylia continues to try to pay off her debt before her deadline but is becoming less and less sure that she’ll make it. So instead of trying to find the most lucrative random quests, which you think someone one would have posted online, she instead starts to play for fun again. Her character in game completes a series of class quests that gain her some cool magic, skills, and items.
Outside the game, she’s still recovering from the assassination attempt on her and her relationship with Gerald takes the next step as they both realize that their time together will end if she’s deported in the next couple weeks.
The game time and real world time feel more connected this time around since Kylie’s emotional state carries through in both worlds, as do her issues with her boyfriend. It was honestly, nice to just see the character game and not really worry that much about the larger social implications and movements that sort of dragged down the last two books. They still exist but they don’t take up as much time in the story and are used to bait you into wanting to read book 4, which is fine.
Score: 7 out of 10
The Weirdest Noob
Something quite odd is happening in Second World—the planet’s foremost MMORPG. Something that’s causing alliances to be broken, and friendships, forgotten. A worthless low-level mine becomes the stage of vicious battles, its burned ruins suddenly contested by the game’s toughest clans. Every border is controlled, and every road in the province blocked off. The weak players and NPCs alike are subjected to non-stop violent raids courtesy of Eastern invaders. And the strong… The strong are scouring the virtual world for the culprit—the weirdest noob the game has ever seen.
My Opinion: About 347 pages, $2.99, Not available on Kindle Unlimited
A delightful new story from our friends in Russia. If you’ve ever read The Way of the Shaman or The Daily Grind you’ll find familiar elements in this story.
The first 10% of the story sets up why the main character has to stay in the game all the time and that he’s a major noob to VRMMORPGS. I mean, it emphasises his noobishness alot. Practically every other sentence in this section is a declaration of the main character’s noob-hood. Because of his unfamiliarity with these kinds of games, this section also reads like a primer to MMOs and you get a lot of defining of gaming terms and game mechanics. If you’re at all familiar with these terms you can probably skip this section.
Just know that the main character was in a accident and his mind had been sent to live in this game while medical science progresses to the point where it can bring him out of his induced coma and fix him. He has a limited account, kind of like you might have read in the Daily Grind series, that restricts his level but lets him get some work in a mine. What sets him apart from everyone else though is his race, which has several unique abilities that he has no idea how to utilize because he’s such a noob.
You actually get to the first combat scene about 15% into the story and things progress quite nicely after that and get rather interesting. Most of the rest of the story is just the main character learning how to best utilize his unique abilities, raising his stats, gathering resources, doing a bit of crafting, and some mob killing. It’s simple and fun. I found myself reading through the whole thing in just a couple sittings.
While readers of other Russian LitRPG stories may find similarities to The Way of the Shaman and The Daily Grind series in the beginning of this story, this story does eventually become it’s own thing. You may also have to push past or just skip the first 10% of the novel. However, I assure you that the story improves after than section.
Score: 7 out 10.
Destined - A LitRPG Novel (Destined Realms Book 1)
I wasn't the girl that cowered in the back waiting for her knight in shining armor, I was the girl that wore the armor.
Joely Quinn woke up in a strange room, and she couldn't remember how she'd gotten there. In fact, she couldn't remember much of anything at all.
When she strikes out in search of answers, she's thrust into a fantasy world filled with swords, sorcery, and enemies that want to kill her just because they can. Joely must not only quest to find the answers she seeks, but she must also survive in this world of untold dangers.
With the help of others like her, will Joely and her new friends be able to survive the fantasy world they are trapped inside of? Or will they be destined to stay there forever?
My Opinion: About 200 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
A little over priced at over $0.02/page. Especially when the last 10% is a preview of an unrelated novel.
The first few pages of the novel are really engaging and I was rather pleased to have a female main character in the story. Unfortunately, as the story went on something about it just kept bothering me.
Transported to a fantasy world ruled by RPG mechanics or trapped in the game. It’s never really made perfectly clear which it is, though it’s implied it’s the latter.
I was reading the story and something just kept bothering me and it took me a little while to figure it out but when I did I just made sense. There's a lot of implied game mechanics in the story. For example it's implied that everyone not in the group is an NPC ‘they don't have the same the light in their eyes’ as the people in the group. It's implied that experience points are given out at the end of a quest or for defeating a monster. It's implied that the characters go on quests but there's no quest descriptions. Outside of the character sheet at the end of each chapter and a few item description in the characters books, it’s rather light on any numbers. A lot of the number crunching is hidden in the background. All the experience points, damage numbers, etc. are implied but not shown.
Seems like the characters are all stuck with a particular class that automatically assigns abilities, spells, and stats as they level.
Sebastian - Healer
Joely - Fighter
Not my favorite game mechanic since it takes away agency from the characters.
It almost feels like the author was trying to hedge their bets by not making the story too LitRPG. Perhaps the author did not wish to alienate their current reader base, but I am only guessing.
The characters never feel like they're making choices so much as following a script they have to fulfill as they follow a quest chain. All of these characters just happen to be on the same quest chain? None of them turned left instead of right somewhere? In gaming terms, the storyline feels very linear and on the rails.
There’s a line in the story that describes how I feel: Joely the main character says, “At least we all understood the frustrations of not knowing, but I didn’t feel they had the same need for the answers that I did. I didn’t have a choice. I needed to know.” That’s how I feel about the game mechanics in this story and about game mechanics in LitRPG in general. I’m the type of person that loves to understand how the game worlds I read about work. I love getting quest descriptions, learning enough about a class to plan my own character, figuring out what weapons or spells work best against what monsters. I’m the type of guy who enjoys reading D&D manuals for fun just because I love to read about item and monster descriptions. ‘I don’t have a choice. I need to know.’
When it comes down to it, this LitRPG story doesn’t fill that need for me. It’s a well written story. Unfortunately, it doesn’t bring anything new or particularly interesting to the table. There’s no cool or interesting game mechanics. I don’t feel like I could roll my own character in this world. If not for the likeable main character it would be ‘meh’.
Score: 6 out of 10
Ring of Promise: A LitRPG novel (Elements of Wrath Online Book 1)
Unlike real life, Max is pretty good at playing games, so when a new limited time dungeon opens up in the virtual reality game he plays boasting a huge cash prize, Max knows he needs to try and complete it if he wants to be able to pay rent this month.
Fortunately, the only guild strong enough to attempt to take it on before the timer runs out needs a tank.
There’s just one problem, he’s never played with them before, and even if he convinces the Sisters of Artemis to let him join in time to tank the dungeon and collect the prize money, if they wipe, it’s all over.
That would be bad because without that prize money, both he and his baby sister will be sleeping in a cardboard box under a bridge, and Max really hates sleeping in cardboard boxes. Been there, done that, sold the T-shirt.
My Opinion: 296 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Quick heads up the last 6% of the novel are an appendix and a sample of another unrelated story.
Things I like:
Even though the main character is in a wheelchair in real life, he never comes off as being whiney. Instead it’s a statement of fact and a reason he enjoys playing the game so much.
The combat oriented game mechanics of the story are described early on in the story. In game, there are gems that give abilities and bonuses and allow for a great deal of character customization. The gem slotting system allows for a combination of unique skills and abilities that almost eliminate the need for the games classes. I always like it when characters can switch abilities to become more versatile and not relegated to predetermined choices.
Though it takes a while to get going, the budding romance between Kayla and Max is cute.
Things I didn’t like:
All the Quotes from People before chapters, annoying and unnecessary. With a very rare exception, they didn’t add anything to the story or give insight into the minds of the game designers.
Max is supposed to be under some pressure to pay his family’s bills through online game play but I never felt the urgency. You’d think he’d be a bit more frantic to find the best way to make money if he and his sister were only a month’s expenses from living on the street. Instead he focuses on winning the prize for being the first to explore the latest content patch.
He does have a sort of business of being a mercenary for hire. However, why not power level and sell characters? Or farm loot? Become a merchant? Crafter?
Story starts out with characters already near max level. Lose opportunity to discover the game world along with the main character.
Game world is not explored outside of combat oriented situations. The majority of the game time is spent either theory crafting the best way to use ability giving gems, updating quests, or in combat furthering the new expansion quest arc. No time is taken to flesh out the larger world and the other things people do in the game like: Exploration, crafting, trading, rare item hunters, guild battles, player vs player combat, etc.
Neural Hacking - Brought up in the beginning as being something that occurs in the world and as a reason people don’t ever give out their real life info while playing the game. But it doesn’t seem to be a part of the story so why bring it up in the first place?
The title “Ring of Promise” refers to the only way for players to reveal their information to each other. Otherwise the game system uses an infallible ‘filter’ to stop people from revealing anything about their real life selves. This ring of promise, though it’s brought up a couple of times in the story, doesn’t really matter till very end of the story and even then it’s more of a lead in for the small romance aspect of the story.
The threat of neural hacking never feels real. There are no examples of it happening in the story, so the entire ‘filter’ system not only seems unnecessary but also unrealistic. People that play games together will eventually start talking about real life stuff and there’s not a system that’s been invented that can’t be circumvented either by specialized software or just plain old human ingenuity. What really stops anyone from establishing a code, sign language, written notes, or some other method that the filter doesn’t recognize to give out personal details?
There’s nothing wrong with the story in a technical sense. There are just a lot of little things that prevented the story from clicking with me beyond my usual enjoyment of LitRPG.
Score: 6 out of 10.
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