LitRPG Podcast 070
LitRPG Podcast 071
September 29th, 2017
Hello everyone, welcome to episode 71 of the LitRPG podcast.
I’m Ramon Mejia. I’m here to bring you the latest LitRPG news, reviews, and author interviews. This week I have 8 new LitRPG reviews for you.
New Releases and Reviews:
(Play Music 2)
Emerilia Book 1 is FREE in the US and UK until October the 1st
Codename Freedom Free until Oct. 1st
New LitRPG Audiobooks
Desert Runner (Puatera Online Book 1) (Oct 4th, 2017)
Shadow of the Rogue: A LitRPG Fantasy Adventure (Hearts Book 1) (Oct. 5th, 2017)
A Game With No Rules (Perimeter Defense Book #4) LitRPG Series (Oct. 11, 2017)
Fantasy Online Polynya: A LitRPG Saga (Oct. 16th, 2017)
The Wizard (Dungeon Core Book 1) (Oct. 16th, 2017)
Nemesis: The Panguardia Online Saga Book 1 (Oct. 23rd, 2017)
The Pantheon Moves (Emerilia Book 10) (Oct. 24th, 2017)
Awaken Online: Retribution (Awaken Online- Side Story) (Oct. 31st, 2017)
Desert Born (Puatera Online Book 2) (Nov. 8th, 2017)
Shattered Lands 3 Demon Wars: A LitRPG Series (Nov. 16th, 2017)
Emerilia Book 11 (Nov. ??, 2017)
The Twilight Obelisk (Mirror World Book #4) (Dec. 4th, 2017)
Onto New Releases and Reviews
(Play Music 3)
New Releases and Reviews
Alpha Company (Alpha World Book 3)
Rejoin Alburet Two-souled as his journey in Alpha World continues. He has two quests that still need to be resolved; one that deals with Nobility, while the other is from the Dark Lord. Before he can deal with either of them, Mindblown brings down the server. As they are about to launch a mass scale immersion testing phase.
Gerald, Marysue, Karen and Fluffball are four of the lucky ones selected for the testing phase. Gerald plans to drum up recruitment for the guild, Alpha Company, during the meet and greet before the immersion testing starts.
The quartet of newly minted friends will meet for the first time in the real world. Will they get along or will something force them apart before the game goes back on-line with them immersed.
Welcome to Book 3 of Alpha World: Alpha Company. It is based on the newly minted guild getting its feet under it and seeing what they can do as hundreds of new long-term testers get used to the idea of long term immersion.
(This book still contains adult themes, like the first two did. if you didn't care for them, you probably won't care for this one either. You've been warned twice now, don't say I didn't warn you. The detail of the adult content didn't increase, but it is still present.)
My Opinion: 409 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
*Just an FYI, Adult themes exist in this story but they’re not a huge part of the story. Also non-traditional relationships are discussed in this novel.*
There are three story threads in the novel. 1) Guild stuff: Recruiting, guiding, Dealing with jerks, plans to grow, contests, raid plans. 2) Plot advancement: deal with nobles, heir thing, deadlands stuff, stuff with the dark one. 3) Personal stuff with MC. Polyamory stuff. Dealing with psychological issues. Personal stuff with Karen and Fluff.
The first two story threads are good. The new developments that happen with all the new guild members and plans to help the guild grow are fun and interesting. The main plot of the story advances too. These are good storylines and lots of great RPG action occurs in the story. There are plenty of cool fights. On it’s own, these elements of the novel would get a 7 out of 10.
However, the author does something in this novel that elevates the story from good to great. That third thread is so interesting and is developed in such a cool way that I couldn't help but give the story a score of 8 out of 10.
*Minor Spoilers ahead*
Ok. The details about that third thread of personal development are going to get minorly spoilery.
There are two things that I found utterly fascinating about this novel.
The first, is that there are several frank several discussions, mostly late in the story, about polyamorous relationships. Even though I personally, am not interesting in this type of relationship, it was still utterly fascinating to see these characters talk about it. It was almost like I was getting a transgressive peek into the pillow talk of a group of friends I knew. The dialogue in these sections reveals that each person has their own issues and hangups. They each also have their own specific needs both emotionally and physically. The attraction of the polyamorous relationship for these characters is as much about emotional needs/fulfilment as sexual desires.
The second extra interesting aspect of the story is the psychological exploration of the past of several characters by exploring their memories. Stacia, as a succubus, has some dream/memory walking power that allows her to explore a person’s memories. Think of the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and those memory explorations. It’s like that but less weird and more revealing of traumatic pasts. I mean, there are some serious revelations for some characters through this. The disclosure of these traumatic memories and their exploration in the story create a bond with the reader. I think it’s a great way to reveal backstory and hidden motivations of the characters.
Overall, I had a good time reading about all the normal action-adventure MMO stuff and the guild expanding adds some interesting stories. However, it’s the exploration and discussion of polyamorous relationship and the psychological exploration through memory sifting that pushes the story to a 8 out of 10.
Score: 8 out of 10
Apocalypse 2020: A Wasteland LitRPG
It's 1997 and Bran is one of the few people that gets to play the very exclusive new video game - Apocalypse 2020. He sits in front of his computer monitor and the world around him fades away. No more worries about school, his dad, or his future. He can ignore that life and let the game and his imagination take him to another.
In the game, nuclear fallout has turned the United States into a post-apocalyptic hellhole filled with cannibal mutants, psychotic bandits, and killer robots. Can Bran survive the big guns, fast cars, extreme violence, and permanent character death in this intense, action-packed LitRPG?
My Opinion: 397 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Full disclosure: The author sent me an advance copy for review. I purchased it when it became available. Also, the novel is set in 1997, so if some references feel dated, it’s on purpose. Also, the game stuff is not in VR but at a keyboard and mouse but you don’t notice it. The game stuff feels immersive and not key clicky.
The author describes this novel as a collective choose your own adventure story that he originally published on the Royal Road. He says that the readers didn’t change any major plot points but they did determine how the main character would progress through the game by choosing his game class and all the skill choices he makes. There are also other choices the readers made but I can’t tell you about them without getting spoilery.
The first few pages of the story start like Mad Max, with the main character Boothe strapped to the hood of a car being driven to his death by two madmen. He fails a strength check to break the rope, fails a charisma check to convince them to stop, but succeeds in a dexterity check to loosen the ropes. These checks are shown by a small percentage that reflects the chances for the specific special actions to succeed. If you’ve played Fallout, you’ll be familiar with this style of RPG mechanics.
And for the most part, the game stuff is really more like Fallout than Mad Max. In 1997, the main character Bran plays as a post-apocalyptic survivor named Booth on his dad’s old PC. In game, Boothe has to traverse the wasteland and learn how to survive and complete quests to become stronger. The class and gameplay mechanics are going to be super familiar to anyone that’s played. Each level gets you a stat point to distribute and several class skills to choose from that customize the character. The last 8% of the novel is actually a game manual that the author put together for the game Bran plays. It has tons of details about how he determined game rolls and skill checks, and class details. There’s more than enough cool game details there for anyone who’s into that stuff.
Storywise, there are two arcs. The first is the game story where Boothe goes on quest after quest to gain experience and play around in this amazing computer MMO with permadeath. The second is the real-life storyline where Bran deals with school bullies and his loneliness at not having any friends in the city his father and he recently moved to.
If I’m honest, the game stuff isn’t super interesting until the author makes you care about the main character by revealing something about him. That takes a little while (8% mark) so if you find yourself not giving a hoot about Bran at the beginning, just push through it. The author actually does a really good job of making the real-life issues of the MC matter, even in the game. The MC goes from using the game as a form of escapism from his lonely life to a way to grow as a person and establish social bonds and friendships with other players. There’s even a little romance.
The game story is ok. It’s mostly just the daily adventures of the MC in the game until about 30% into the novel when the game story actually develops and the quests get some focus. Combat is good and there are a huge variety of monsters and opponents that the MC and his group face. The tactics for each mission vary and some are even completed without the use of violence.
One thing that might bug some people is the abrupt cliffhanger ending to the story. All the story points are resolved but the every last few sentences of the novel just set up something and then it just ends. I assume this is something for the sequel but it will likely make a couple people throw a kindle in frustration.
Also, personally the whole thing with Lucas as an antagonist feels a little forced but that’s a minor complaint.
Overall, even though the story has a slow start. It became more immersive once I started to know enough about Bran and I could empathize with how he used gaming to find friends. I enjoyed the story and the Fallout/Mad Max/Borderland vibe the game world existed in.
Score: 7 out of 10.
An Adventurer's Heart: Book 2 of the Adventures on Brad
Having returned from their time with the Army, Daniel and Asin must now complete the Dungeon in Karlak. To do so though, they will need to get better gear,more Skills and higher Levels. Taking a quest, the pair must leave Karlak to travel across the Kingdom of Brad and learn a few life-lessons along the way.
The Tales of Brad series is a traditional fantasy story with LitRPG elements.
My Opinion:175 pages, $3.99, Not available on Kindle Unlimited
Daniel and Asin continue their daily adventures. If you really liked book 1 then you’ll enjoy book 2. I liked book 1 but thought the first half of that story was a little slow and didn’t get really good until near the end when there’s that huge invasion.
Book 2 doesn’t have anything like that invasion to make the story more interesting. It’s basically, ‘the daily adventures of Daniel and Asin.’ Which is not bad. Plenty of people are ok with that kind of story. I’m one of them. There’s still dungeon diving, advancement of skills, interpersonal character development.
The first 30% of the story is honestly a little boring as Daniel and Asin travel to another large town on a fetch quest. Once at the new town the the pace of the story does pick up and there’s some neat interpersonal development as well as good action as the duo quests and dungeon dives.
However, unlike book 1. There’s nothing in the story that raises the novel above a ‘daily adventure’s story.’ So, while I wasn’t bored with the novel, I wasn’t riveted either. It’s an easy read that you can pick up and put down without feeling any pressing need to continue the story.
Score: 6 out of 10
The Alchemy Worlds: Enter T(he)rap(y): A LitRPG Adventure
Matias Temno is a man with bad anger issues. After a tough childhood and a lifetime of petty crimes, he is arrested for a botched armed robbery and sentenced to a five year prison stretch. While serving his time, Matias continues to display his anti-social behavior and total rejection of authority. The last straw will come when he will injure one of the guards. As a result, he will be forced to take part in Doctor Calladyce’s rehabilitation project.
Now one of the test subjects in this new experiment, Matias will be immersed in a virtual world where he will have to face and address his violent ways. Playing as a peaceful druid, he will be given a chance for redemption.
However, upon entering the Alchemy Worlds, Matias will quickly realize that this is not the stupid game he first thought this would be. Right off the bat, this will turn into a race for survival, and Matias will have to learn to contain himself if he is to get out of there in one piece. Because if he always resorted to violence to solve his problems in the real world, here he is bound by the laws of the druids.
With no room for error (as death in-game means death IRL), will Matias be able to find the goodness buried deep inside and use it to save himself? Or will he fall victim to his rage one last and final time?
My Opinion: 237 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
The main character (MC), Matias, is a violent criminal in jail. He’s thrown in a fantasy VR game with a set class build of druid and told he’s stuck there until the overseeing AI is sure that he’s been rehabilitated. In game he tries to be just as violent as he was in prison but the game punishes him with physical pain and character stat penalties. He then goes on to find a town and ultimately go on a massive quest.
There’s also this supernatural theme mid-late in the story where the game and a bunch of monsters in the real world are really a quantum creation by a mad scientist gone monster. This thread seems wholly unnecessary and isn’t really developed.
The story premise has lots of promise but it’s never realized. The novel takes the idea of a VR prison and merges it with the idea of virtual rehabilitation. But then after the the 17% mark it sort of disappears and the MC seems to do whatever he wants. The MC is pushed and threatened into just about every potentially redeeming action and by the end of the novel he’s still essentially the same as when it started. This story concept could have been an intriguing speculative commentary on the where prisoner rehabilitation could go in the future.
RPG game mechanics in the story exist but most of the story reads as fantasy portal fiction. There are item and monster description and the MC gets all the way to level 4. However, aside from the informational aspect, the game mechanics don’t seem to matter.
The story isn’t bad but it doesn’t do anything to impress. Additionally, the there’s an abrupt end to the novel that does nothing to setup the next story or address any of the unfinished story threads.
Overall, I was disappointed that the story didn’t make good use of the virtual rehabilitation concept better and the rest of the novel didn’t impress.
Score: 5 out of 10.
City of Champions Online: Issue I: Origin Stories
Having found the tragic truth that an art degree is worth less than the paper it is printed on, Jacquelyn Jones is frustrated with her dead end work as a graphic designer for a marketing firm, finding new ways to try and convince people that this week's 50 cent off sale is actually worth driving to the store. She's tried other VRMMORPGs, but they've all been fantasy-based, with a couple sci-fi games thrown in. But she wants something more, something Super.
Superhero VRMMOs have had a... subpar reception in the past, in part due to the fact that the nature of most MMOs makes for fairly unheroic tales. After the couple hundredth time blasting the same group of mooks from the same faction on the same street corner of the same city, using the same powerset as everyone else because you only have a few options, it is hard to think of yourself as a hero anymore.
But then she heard about City of Champions Online. For the first time, a developer partnered with a tabletop RPG maker to use their system to create a VRMMORPG, and it was one of the systems designed to be used with superhero games! And despite the name, there was no getting stuck in the same city as all the other players. The game world was a detailed replica of the real world, down to having some of the same shops and restaurants in town. She could be whoever she wanted, whatever she wanted.
Now, she just has to find a way to become the heroine she's always wanted to be.
My Opinion: 125 pages, $0.99, Not Available on Kindle Unlimited
This is a Super Hero themes LitRPG story that has some political satire and deals with themes of racism. There’s also lots of curse words. Last 15% is glossary of game details, ability and character descriptions.
The game mechanics in this story are detailed but also mostly front loaded. They appear in detail during character creation for the main character (up to 14% mark). After that the mechanics pop up a lot less frequently and appear as saving throws, informational name tags, and whenever the main character gets a new power. I would have liked to have seen more game mechanic details in the rest of the story but what is there is consistant and the main character grows in power according to the game rules established.
The story is interesting. 90% of it takes place in the game where the main character is a vampire of color, with healing powers. The character herself has a good balance of powers and disadvantages. The early part of the story is the MC learning her created avatar background and learning how to use her powers. The mid part of the story establishes the villains, which are
White supremacists. There’s a larger conspiracy that’s revealed in the story that I thought was a nice twist. Also, the end of the story didn’t conclude the way I thought it would. Which was a nice surprise.
If you’re looking for a story that combines RPG with Super Heroes, then this is a good read for you. If there’d been more game mechanics in the main portion of the story or if the midsection had a little more variety in the villain theme (not everyone has to be white supremacist or nazi wannabe) it would have gotten a 7 out of 10. But as is, it gets a:
Score: 6 out of 10
SHARDS OF REALITY: A LitRPG novel (Enter the Realm Book 1)
Walter LePointe and Oswald Blackwell just woke up inside of the online role playing game Realms of Th’loria. With no memory of how they arrived, Walt and Oz soon learn the hard way that living in an epic fantasy world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. As level 1 characters with no skills or experience, nothing can prepare them for their new lives as they prepare to Enter the Realm.
My Opinion: 428 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
This is a trapped in the game story that has a slow build. The game mechanics of the story are revealed slowly (not all mechanics revealed till 55% mark) .It’s justified to the reader, and the characters, by saying the full immersion game is still in it’s beta phase and that the characters need to level first.
The adventuring in the story is interesting and the characters have distinct personalities. Walter is generally likeable but kind of a show off and wants people to like him. Oswald is a grump, especially as the story goes on he realizes he may not be able to leave the game but he’s also very loyal. Later in the story the two are joined by their coworker Karian, who Walter has a super crush on. Together the three explore the game their company made but find that everything isn’t as they remember.
That’s essentially the first 66% of the novel. Lots of wondering how they got there. Some beginning quests, exploration of the game world, leveling up, and gradual revelation of what that means for them. A bunch of character development stuff
At the 66% the trio finally get to the plot and the rest of the novel is spent on that major quest line.
What I really enjoyed about the novel is the attempt to portray what it would be like to be transported to a medieval game world. There are no hot keys for the characters to press to activate skills. Instead everything is learned and earned the hard way. Want to increase your sword skill? Swing a sword and fight some enemies. But beware that getting stabbed back hurts like hell. The characters truly flounder around in the beginning and it feels like they earn every skill they eventually get.
Overall, I enjoyed the novel. I would have liked more details about the game mechanics of the world but it still works well the way it is. Some people will not like the cliffhanger ending though.
Score: 7 out of 10
The Elven Captive: Complete Collection
The Elven Captive is a hot new erotic LitRPG adventure. Following the travels of Jason (who plays Hildran in the game), this series contains enslaved elven girls, hot taboo fantasy encounters, and MF scenes. 18+ only!
My Opinion: ?? pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Like so many other stories with graphic sex set in a VR game in them, this is not LitRPG. It's really just sex. Which is fine as that's part of what's advertised but it most definitely doesn't have any RPG elements and barely any text besides sex.
Score: 4 out of 10
The Star Dragon: A Fantasy LitRPG (Dragons of the New World Book 1)
When the real world is threatened, it’s up to the players in a virtual one to save it.
Van Vanyushin doesn’t see the point in ever leaving the beautiful digital world of the game he loves—and for good reason. In the industrial wasteland he calls home, it is often the only way people can experience life’s simplest pleasures. But his allegiance to the game is tested when an ambitious CIA agent named Sang Ngo calls upon him to help as she goes undercover in the game to investigate Draco—the corporation responsible for creating the massively popular role-playing game Dragon Kings of the New World.
Sang is a gifted hacker who feels nothing but contempt for those who waste their lives in what she sees as a false reality…but when people start dying in the game, she must find out why. Van, a talented gamer, is her guide to navigate the world, level up their newbie characters fast and get into some of the most dangerous areas of the game. He dreams of becoming a pro gamer sponsored by Draco one day, but his partnership with Sang threatens to expose secrets from his past that could jeopardize those plans.
Now, they will have to put aside their differences to discover whatever—or whoever—is killing players, but the truth they find is darker than either of them imagined….
My Opinion: 366 pages, $0.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
The author, Dante Doom, sent me a message earlier this month letting me know that his debut novel, The Star Dragon: A Fantasy LitRPG, was coming out. So, I go pick it up from Amazon and I found that reading the gaming stuff in the novel just felt a little off. For example, at one point early in the novel there’s just an oddly phrased sentence. “If he completed this quest, it would mean yet another leveling up.” Which while not technically incorrect, feels off. Like it should be ‘it would mean getting another level’ or ‘it would mean another level’.
So, I decided to look into the author and found that he may not actually exist.
Part of the author bio on amazon describes the author as ‘someone who didn’t touch a videogame until his 23rd year’ when he started to work at an arcade. Then last year he found and fell in love with LitRPG. While on a two week holiday wrote this 366 page book. Also, an updated description on Amazon says that if the 1st novel drops below #500 paid, the other 2 novels will both be released Sept. 29th. Which means 3 novels and an audiobook are ready to go now. Unusual for a new independently publishing author.
Additionally, the author Dante Doom contacted me on Facebook but his facebook presence is practically non-existent and shows he’s only been there for 6 months, has no personal photos, and has a handful of posts in that entire time. If there’s one thing the TV show Catfish has taught me, is that kinds of thing is highly suspect.
The copyright holder for the novel turns out not to be the author Dante Doom but Relaypub (it’s in the e-book). A quick search for that name took me to the website of a publisher and the artwork on The Star Dragon cover matches what Relaypub has put out for another series of theirs that has dragons written by Ava Richardson. Also, at the end of the book is promotional material for Ava Richardson.
All this stuff combined is a little suspect. If I was to guess, I’d say Dante Doom is a pen name for another author that works for Relaypub and part of their marketing scheme is to present this series an an idie work by a gamer. The scheme, if true, is unnecessarily complicated and deceptive. It just hurts the reputation of the author name and the publisher.
The novel, is also unnecessarily complicated. It starts off as a detective thriller story where the CIA sends an agent into a game to investigate some murders tied to a popular VRMMO then it spirals into plot hole riddled search for evidence that aliens are trying to communicate through game glitches.
The two main characters are also hard for me to care about or root for. The CIA agent thinks all gamers are ‘loser, pigs, and underachievers.’ Her guide in the MMO is a burnt out gaming addict who doesn’t want to be there but has to because the CIA has dirt on him. He’s pretty whiney.
The actual game mechanics in the story are solid and consistent. However, while the game is supposed to take place in this amazing futuristic full immersion VR system, the game mechanics feel dated. Like they were pulled from a game from the early 2000s.
The first half of the novel is actually just the gamer explaining every detail of the world to the CIA agent who’s supposed to be a super hacker. It got really annoying really quickly. Then the story abandons the murder plot and inexplicably turns into this search for evidence of aliens trying to communicate with people through the game. Seriously, one sentence the two are looking for vaguely defined evidence in game of a conspiracy to cover up murder and the next sentence the CIA agent is now looking for aliens.
While there are some interesting moments in the story, for the most part it’s kind of a mess. The plot doesn’t make sense. The gaming stuff, while solid mechanic wise, doesn’t actually matter to the story. The plot just sort of advances itself regardless of what quests the CIA agent has solved or her level.
Overall, I thought the story was meh. That plus the weird deception from the publisher, just left a bitter taste in my mouth and ruined what small enjoyment I did have with the story.
Score: 4 out of 10
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