LitRPG Podcast 096
LitRPG Podcast 096
Feb. 16th, 2018
Hello everyone, welcome to episode 96 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 7 new LitRPG reviews for you.
New Releases and Reviews:
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Jeffrey Falcon Logan, author of the Slime Dungeon Chronicles, is making a video game based on his story. It’s still very much in the development stages but it is really exciting to see someone do this.
Charles Dean - LitRPG author had this YouTube thing this past weekend. He, Jeff Hays, and Blaise Corvin talked and drank together. They all got really drunk and it became highly entertaining.
Charles also has another one with Harmon Cooper
LitRPG Podcast is running a contest to celebrate 100 episodes
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Grand Prize: A $100 Amazon gift card which will be given out on episode 100 of the podcast.
I’ll be giving away prizes each week until episode 100.
*look up original review. Might skip*
New LitRPG Audiobooks
IMMORtAL_Kalika Episode 1 (LitRPG): The Speedrunner (Episodic Kalika) (Feb. 16th, 2018)
The Lionheart: a LitRPG Novel (No Respawn Book 1) (Feb. 27th, 2018)
Kingdom Level Four: LitRPG (Feb. 28th, 2018)
Avatars Rising: SILOS I (Feb. 28th, 2018)
Duel Reality 2071: A Dystopian LitRPG Cyberpunk War Novel (Feb. 28th, 2018)
Outpost: A LitRPG Adventure (Monsters, Maces and Magic Book 1) (March 7th, 2018)
Sicora Online: The Sorting: A GameLit Adventure (March 9th, 2018)
The Crown and the Key (Epic LitRPG Adventure - Book 8) (Fayroll) (March 12th, 2018)
Perma-Death Online: A LitRPG adventure: Book 2 (March 15, 2018)
Akillia's Reign (Puatera Online Book 4) (March 16th, 2018)
Ghost in the Game (Dream State Saga book 3) (March 19th)
Onto New Releases and Reviews
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New Releases and Reviews
Clans War (The Way of the Shaman: Book #7) LitRPG Series
Not long ago, Daniel Mahan, known to everyone as Shaman Mahan, thought that he had taken his sixth and final step in the Barliona gameworld. Yet life has other ideas. The Corporation decides to resurrect the Lord of Shadow and his entire host. The Corporation's CEO personally pushes the reset button. Geranika and his Dragon of Shadow spring back to life as, meanwhile, the Corporation makes an offer the Shaman can't refuse.
My Opinion: 341 pages, $5.99, Not Available on Kindle Unlimited
This is the final novel in the Way of the Shaman series. According to the author and the company that publishes them in english, there will be more stories set in Barliona, but that will come after the author finishes some other projects.
This novel however, is a rollercoaster ride of plot twists and story development. To me, book 6 in the series capped off the series wonderfully with a happily ever after kind of ending. Sure, there were some unfinished story threads but overall it was a good ending. It was a lot like the scripted ending of a favorite RPG game.
However, Book 7 is the downloadable DLC that changes that ending and gives you one last crazy adventure with the characters you love. There are so many new big quests, revelations, Mahan finally uses that spider eye he got in book 1, and more that an invasion from a rival continent is the smallest event in the story.
Overall, I had a good time with the story. There’s some not entirely justifiable twists both in game and IRL but it’s an interesting last ride with my favorite shaman.
Score: 7 out of 10
Seventh Talon I: Dragonrider's Fury
Beware the Dragonrider’s Fury; even the gods fear its justice. - The First Dragonrider
-Boh’s Journal, March 13th, N167
It started with a card in a cafe. An invitation to an exclusive world called Seventh Talon, and it only asked one question before I agreed. Do you want to be a Dragonrider?
It said nothing about guns, magic, or heavy metal, those were just added incentive. It also said nothing about the secrets, betrayals, and politics of a dragon run society. Dragons that would rather eat me than listen to what I had to say, horrible way to win an argument in my opinion.
Nor did it tell me that the biggest enemy I would have to fight was myself.
Author Note: The main character of this book does not leave Seventh Talon. If you are curious about the first chapter, Odditek Online, and Neuroma, then please read my Office War series. Office Wars takes place in the same world, just a different part of Odditek Online and follows a different character arc. It provides a lot more information about Neuroma, Odditek, and the sectors.
Also, I do add in easter eggs from the various books too. It is a fun way to reward my readers.
My Opinion: 444 pages, $4.99, Kindle Unlimited
Note: An unusual number of spelling and grammar errors. Even some unfinished sentences. It may bother some people.
Just a quick warning. If you’re expecting anything like Office Wars, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s set in the same Odditek universe, but is in a separate VR world that the main character never leaves.
Having said that, I would have liked a little more connection or explanation about what the Odditek universe was in the story. Even just a paragraph in the beginning about it being a VR multiverse would have made the introduction into the story a little smoother. Having read Office Wars, I got it but someone new to the series might have a harder time understanding what’s happening.
In general there are some really good things in this story. The magic system and game mechanics are in depth and rather cool. I loved that there’s a kind of starter zone where the Champions are tested to see who they are and how that affects their stats. It was sort of disappointing that none of the antagonists from that starter island show up in the rest of the story, they were pretty unlikable and I would have liked to see them get their just desserts. Still, there are dragons and dragon riding, and it’s hard to beat that.
Much of the story after the testing island reminds me of Naomi Novak’s Temeraire series, since it combines dragon riding and guns. Though magic is a big thing in this world and it veers more heavily towards fantasy. Still the threat from evil forces creates a good excuse for some great fights against some unusual monsters.
Now, those are the good things I really liked about the story. Unfortunately, the thing that I didn’t like, stopped me from really enjoying the story as a whole. The main character (MC), Boh, is really tough, stubborn, and sometimes grating. These attributes would normally be part of a character development arc where a MC becomes a bit softer or shows some vulnerability over the course of the story, balancing out their personality. You know, the jerk with the heart of gold. While that show of vulnerability comes, it doesn’t occur until more than half way into the story, and then it never really happens again. Yeah, Boh is supposed to have MS but it’s not something the reader ever sees. It's just something referred to and it’s not something that impacts her game play at all, so it’s not something that softens her character at all.
**note: Turns out that there’s a reason the reader doesn’t see her with MS. The author messaged me after he read my review on Amazon and let me know, Boh is totally cured. I just missed the paragraph in the story that reveals it.**
I like strong characters, but it’s hard for me to love them if there’s no vulnerability to show their humanity. Think of all those Clint Eastwood characters. Strong, gruff, even jerks. But somewhere along the way there’s something that shows their actions in another light and some kind of vulnerability to them that softens their behavior bit. That just didn’t happen here with Boh.
Additionally, the whole relationship between Boh and Malinite felt, no pun intended, forced. I liked the story so much more before their stories came together for the 2nd time. Her forgiveness of his part in what amounts to a kind of magical invasion and assault of her, seemed uncharacteristic. Their reconciliation feels like it occurred so there would be some weight to what Malinite’s does in the last scene of the story (I know I’m being vague, I don’t want to spoil things).
Overall, a fine story that a lot of people are going to like. The issues I mentioned with the main character’s development and a few forced plot points just stopped it from being good for me.
Score: 6 out of 10
Respawn: Lives 1-5
You are no one. Level zero. Empty of mind and memory. Even your past has been stripped from your brain by the inscrutable System.
A long, difficult road lies between you and remembering any part of who you are. A road punctuated with one death after another. You are too puny to survive by might alone. Information is the single resource that might keep you alive, but the brainless “digis” have none of it. Only those with experience can give you what you need, but most care nothing about you or your plight. In fact, some make it their mission to kill you.
So die you will, again and again, your life counter clicking lower and lower. Even the creators do not know what happens when your counter reaches zero, but many are sure that your last life here is just that. No more respawns.
You are not the first player in the world of S.T.Y.X., and you will not be the last. You can only hope luck will be on your side. The luckiest players are those who find a vulnerability in the System. Those they call cheaters.
Perhaps cheating is the only way to win.
Enjoy your game
My Opinion: 329 pages, $5.92, Not Available on Kindle Unlimited
The story starts out with the man with no memories setup. The main character (MC) doesn’t know who or where he is. He quickly dies fighting a monster only to be respawn in the same place he woke up. While the MC tries to figure out what’s happening he gets strange messages about stats, levels, XP, and a bunch of other RPG mechanics he doesn’t understand.
Welcome to a story I best describe as digital apocalyptic groundhog day with RPG powers.
The first half of the story focuses on the MC trying to figure out the many RPG rules of this world he finds himself in. He gets some help from other people like him but mostly he has to figure it out through trial and error (dying and respawning). However, with the aid from a woman who’s managed to level up more than him, he starts to get the hang of surviving and how to increase his power.
The second half of the story is more about the relationship of these two survivors and a group of evil players that hurt others.
The novel is a weird mix of apocalypse survival, monster killing, and RPG progression that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But I enjoyed it.
Score: 7 out of 10
Sicora Online: The Ringer: A LitRPG Adventure
What do you do when your game is too tough? Bring in a ringer.
On his first night as a beta tester for Sicora Online, twenty-one-year-old Galen Cole meets the clone: Prairie 'Ringer' Powell. He isn't sure what to make of Prairie; she's engineered for violence, a maestro with a bow, and a real wild card. But they need each other. Galen and Prairie are two of the first batch of testers for the game that has a tendency to stomp its players.
Fresh from debugging, Sicora Online is an ever-shifting world whose AI has been programmed to alter its level based on the personalities inside it. But Sicora needs to feed before she can blossom into an MMORPG: she must learn human behavior, motivations, and reactions to setback.
Enter the level crawl.
Ten days. Ten unpredictable worlds. If Galen survives, he’ll be granted his heart's desire: a lifetime of free access to Sicora Online.
But first he has to survive.
My Opinion: 149 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Galen, a guy, is the main character (MC) of this story, not the lady on the cover. He is one of 24 testers of a new full immersion game called Sicora. They’re supposed to test the game in some way and if they make it through all 10 levels they win a lifetime subscription. Honestly, this part of the premise is pretty thin and is described very poorly. After all no directions about what it takes to beat the 3 levels is shown. The MC is just dropped somewhere and he has to do stuff.
The early part of the story introduces this premise and describes the MC’s infatuation with Prairie a clone and I can only assume, the lady on the cover. She partners with him for no reason that is ever given.
By the 8% mark, the MC is dropped in game world and he finds himself meeting magical creatures and helping them to stop the bad guys killing them. Along the way, Prairie is found and joins him. This part of the story is also where both the MC and the reader get most of the information about the RPG game mechanics of the world. Character sheets, stats, health and mana bars, item and skill descriptions. Nothing special but it’s at least thoroughly used in this section.
Unfortunately, even though there’s a bunch of info given, it also seems like the game mechanics don’t mean much when it conflicts with desired story progress. At one point an NPC centaur one shot kills 5 players with a bow and arrows, even though he struggled mightily to kill the MC, a level one player only a few hours before.
The entire scene in this fantasy game world is abruptly shifted forward in time without any transition to suddenly find the NPC centaur dead, and the MC, and prairie at 1 HP. This kind of sudden time jumping is an annoying event that happens repeatedly in the novel.
After that the MC is pulled out of the game because someone else beat the level (not explained how). After the 33%, the novel ceases to be a LitRPG story. Instead, its becomes this poorly executed attempt at creating a VR version of West World. NPCs being repeatedly killed in game then their characters being recycled in the next level/ temporal scenario. A threat to Prairie getting stuck in the game as another NPC character. Heck, the 2nd level of the game is set in the Wild West which really doesn’t make sense when character sheets are clearly geared towards a fantasy magic world.
Also, starting with this 2nd world, Outside the character sheet update and distribution of stat points, most of the RPG game mechanics disappear. You see an occasional item description or loss of health. From this point on, the mechanics of the game world don’t matter to the story and almost feel inserted after the story was written.
The 3rd level is a modern world set in the year 2102, but again, the game mechanics disappear mostly. Instead, anything in the game world feels more like a VR simulation with a few game notifications added in post.
I sort of liked the first 30% of the story and think that part had potential to be very interesting. But after that the story loses me when it stops feeling like a LitRPG story and becomes a VR simulation that’s mimicking West World. Had the game mechanics continued to matter in the rest of the story or even been more present, it would have improved the score. But the shifting rules and time settings of the story still would have been an issue.
Score: 4 out of 10
Eloria's Beginning: A LitRPG/GameLit Epic (Enter The louVRe Book 1)
One life, stolen memories. Gaming has consequences when the AI won’t let you leave.
In the battle to save his race, Scarhoof is the last guard standing. If the old shaman fails to protect Sunset Cove, the defenseless minotaurs in his care will fall into the enemy’s scaly clutches. But on the other side of the VR console, far more than Scarhoof's game world is at stake…
Adrianna and her team of programmers are in for some long nights on the job. Epoch International’s latest immersive game wasn’t supposed to release for months, but the AI had other plans. Now, it's trapped players in the simulation and holds their memories hostage. If Adrianna can’t hack her way back in, Scarhoof and the other players could be lost forever…
My Opinion: 491 pages, $5.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
There are two stories here. They don’t ever interact or crossover either. They’re separate the entire novel.
The first story is a thriller about an A.I. that was created by a game company to create the next generation of full immersion VR. This A.I. takes over the company and launches their planned game ahead of schedule. This story is about the company trying to spin the launch and them learning just how much control the A.I. has, even trapping and memory wiping players. This is roughly 8% of the overall story.
Everything else is the second story, which takes place in the game world launched by the A.I. It’s told from the perspective of a player whose mind has been wiped and whose memories has been replaced with game backstory. He thinks he’s lived in this world his whole life and is only now being blessed to become a shaman. He goes on adventures, quests, and fights in some pretty neat battles later in the story.
Not a bad concept for the 2nd story. But the actual execution is not as neat. Because the MC believes he’s been apart of the world and he has a whole life of memories as this cow-person, the story ends up reading like fan fiction for Tauren race from World of Warcraft. Only it’s written as a straight fantasy story with game notifications that feel like they were inserted sometime later during the 2nd draft. This is mostly because while the game mechanics are present in the game storyline, they’re often not acknowledge by the main character. This shifts a bit later in the story and when the MC is forced to group with other players, but for the most part that’s how it felt.
The author makes quite a bit of effort to create an interesting backstory for the MC and he even creates history and culture. But all that feeds into the feeling that the story is more fantasy.
The two stories also don’t ever interact or crossover either. They’re separate the entire novel.
Overall, I liked the 1st story better, the 2nd just didn’t work for me and honestly most of the early part of the game storyline was boring slice of life adventuring. Pick flowers, collect item, talk to so and so. It eventually gets a bit more focused and action driven but that doesn’t happen till well after the 50% mark. Past the point where many people would lose interest.
Score: 6 out of 10
Rogue Online: The Devil's Gate: A LitRPG adventure (The Rogue Lands Chronicle Book 1)
To survive you must win. Nothing else matters.
Max is a top-level gamer, a battle mage with enough fire-power to level a city. Or a small village at least. Lots of people want to be him. A few want to hire him.
But most just want to kill him.
At least, in the game. Things in real life aren't so easy.
After double-crossing the all-powerful Corporation, the shadowy tech company that runs the world’s biggest gaming tournaments, Max finds himself on the run. His only chance of escape is to enter the world of Rogue Online, a prototype full-immersion game that just might let him evade his enemies.
But he soon discovers that Rogue Online isn’t the safe haven he’d hoped. Especially when he’s been stripped of all the abilities he’s worked so hard to build.
If he wants to get home, Max must use all his skills and ingenuity to level up and uncover the dark conspiracy at the heart of the Corporation. A conspiracy that threatens not only Rogue Online but all of humanity as well.
My Opinion: 198 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
The first 10% of the story is the best part of the novel. It recounts a big raid fight led by the main character (MC), Max, against the reigning champ Nightshade. Anyone that’s played an MMO will find things well described and relatable.
The story becomes RPG portal fiction after that. Max is supposed to throw the match and when he doesn’t he’s chased down by people that want to kill him. He meets a mysterious stranger that offers to help him escape by sending him to a new world where he can be ‘the chosen one’. (Actually what it says)
May agrees and is sent to the Rogue Lands, also called Rogue Online for some reason. Unfortunately, this is where the story falls apart. In this new world governed by RPG mechanics, Max finds a bunch of familiar RPG mechanics: A character sheet, stats, mana, etc. There’s a lot of text devoted to the description of how the game mechanics work in this world. It’s a shame that none of that really matters because the game mechanics don’t really matter to the story. Additionally, the story itself is very ‘on the rails’ and the MC is just led from one event to another and makes almost no decisions the entire novel.
The RPG Game Mechanics in a LitRPG should feel like they’re an important part of the story and like they affect the world. In this story however, even though things like character sheets, stats, quest notifications and item descriptions occur throughout the novel, they don’t feel meaningful. A good example of this is how health is treated. Even though there are actual stat numbers used on character sheets, health is represented in a fight as a percentage. There’s no reference point to what each characters actual health is, just that a % is lost from an attack in a fight. It doesn’t matter who’s attacking or who’s defending or what that characters shown stats are, it’s always a % lost in health. And often that percent doesn’t even make sense. One chapter, the MC one-shot kills a bunch of mercenaries with a bow and arrow when he has stats of 1-3. But when the MC fights a troll with str 25, he magically avoids all attacks or only takes 10% health damage.
The mechanics in the story have a host of other issues including: never giving the reader a baseline for a good attack damage, stat increases never reflecting any change in the character, item descriptions not making sense, and much more. It almost feels like someone either wrote the story first and added in RPG notifications after, or they just got tired of the creating a RPG system half way through.
The first 10% is a nice section. The game play in the MMO raid feels like it’s based on someone’s personal experience. Authentic.
The premise of transporting the MC to a new world, is a little looser. He didn’t lose the game, so now the game company wants to murder him and a stranger sends him to a new world? Sure, I guess.
Once there in the Rogue Lands, the MC is told he’s the chosen one and can’t go back home till he beats the game and saves everyone. Only he’s given no direction, no quest, not told who he’s saving or from whom, and literally told ‘it’s something you’ll have to figure out on your own.’ So, it’s understandable that the story feels like the MC is wandering around just doing what people tell him.
Worst of all, is that I was never given any reason to care about any of the characters in the story. Not a single one. There’s almost no character development.
For me, it wasn’t necessarily bad. It just felt half done. So, it wasn’t entertaining.
Score: 5 out of 10
One young woman hungers for status in a harsh, feudal future—but her greed could become her downfall.
In the desolate future city-state of Verre, King Leopold and his lords rule with absolute authority. There’s only one way for oppressed serfs to rise in rank: the MMORPG called ‘The Grind’. Once a year, players in this virtual game can fight for the opportunity to raise their standing by gathering as many points as possible. Peasants can become Nobles, Lords and, with enough skill, sometimes Kings…
Savannah “Savvy” deForge is a Grinder—the lowest of the low, who earns a living racking up points for players by “ghosting” them in the game. When a wealthy client named Timon comes calling, she sees him as her ticket out of the classless limbo of Grinder life.
But when her father vanishes into the game, Savvy will have to choose between the advancement she craves and reclaiming the one she loves. As virtual deaths start to become terribly real, Savvy realizes there is much more at stake than status, and it may be too late to save anyone, including herself.
My Opinion: 558 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
From author Dante Doom, who is presented to readers and the LitRPG community as a gamer and LitRPG lover who wrote his first novel in two weeks, self published, then put out a whole trilogy within a couple of months.
Who I heavily suspect is a person made up by Relay Publishing as a ‘gamer author’ to appeal to readers. Which I wouldn’t have a problem with except if the company were honest about it.
-See episode 71 of the podcast, where I lay out the evidence for that. A link in the show notes (https://youtu.be/LJFVz_DbVa8?t=2587 )
Now, putting that aside, the review for this novel is a little mixed.
The novel starts out wonderfully. It has a great opening scene that not only catches the reader’s attention with a mix of sarcasm and action but at the same time describes some of the gaming elements in the story.
The main character (MC), Savannah, is a Grinder. Someone in this future post rebuilt society that illegally power levels anyone that can pay for the service. In the society she lives in, ranks earned in the game determine one's place in society. If you do well during your game run and get enough experience orbs, you can even be king.
It’s a great setup for not just the game, but also for why it matters in this society. I was genuinely surprised by how much I liked this beginning. Which made my disappointment with the rest of the novel that much worse.
As the novel continues, the MC gets a new client. This noble needs to get a good rank in the game to help maintain his family’s power at court. It’s a way for the author to take the reader on a newb journey and explain more about how the game works and how it matters to this society. Unfortunately, it turns into this argument between the two about whether it’s good to be a noble and how the MC wants to be one of them to live the good life.
Afterwards, the story devolves into this Wizard of Oz kind of story where she goes through a series of decently described fights and collects a group of magical friends (one of whom is a total tin man rip) to defeat the evil king before he can take control of the game. Now, that on it’s own wouldn’t be a bad plot. But the story then tries to mix in so many other ideas and plots that the whole thing gets muddled and uninteresting. The author adds a plot to kill nobles opposing the king, then the MC is forced to try to kill the king, then back to killing the nobles, then she’s looking for her father who’s been stuck in game for 30 years in game time. Then it shifts again to the MC trying to reset the game world. Then a political trial. Then a test to stop the city from killing everyone during a rebellion. So. Many. Plots. By the end I was just struggling to stay interested in the novel and finish it.
The game mechanics, while consistently used in the game, don’t have much depth. The experience orbs that convey rank don’t mean much in game. Powers that the characters use can be purchased and are not earned. Same with the weapons, though those can be loot drops. There’s a health bar. But that’s about it.
Overall, this was a disappointing read after such a good start. That mostly has to do with the unfocused nature of the plot. It just couldn’t seem to stick to one storyline or purpose and just kept shifting around.
Score: 5 out of 10
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