After a mission gone awry, secret operative John Taggart’s identity is compromised. He needs to go into hiding until he can afford the surgery to get a new face. All the cash he had left, he invested to buy a hacked virtual reality collar off the black market. For a wanted man such as himself, this is the only way to make any kind of money without further jeopardizing his location and identity.
There’s a problem though. When he first logs into Eternal War Online and chooses his faction, the network detects his unauthorized device and generates a bunch of critical errors. Immediately, there’s a hotfix that is applied and which erases all his selections. John is sent into the Eternal Battlefield, the highest level PvP area of the game—obviously, with no chance of survival.
Limited to one character by collar, John finds himself in a dire situation. With no faction to back him up, he’s a free target for everyone. And with no fighting skills and no gear (except for a pair of cotton briefs), he’s no match for any of the players.
John will keep dying and respawning in that impossible location. But as he tries to keep to the shadows and stay alive, he will soon find that his strange predicament is not without benefits. For one, his lack of ties to any faction allows him to loot every corpse—which will lead him to unlock secret classes, like: Salvager and Smuggler. Secondly, while every faction has its own language that prevents players from different groups from talking to each other, he’s not restricted by that constraint and can understand everyone.
Unable to join the fight, as every blow sustained results in his instadeath, John will discover that his only chance to start earning some cash will be to partner up with the criminal underworld in the game and set up a salvaging operation. For a fee, he will loot you and return your soul-bound items—allowing you to skip the 6 hour waiting period before they materialize back in your inventory. Also, he will experiment with crafting and creating weapons and enchantments that will start to shake things up in the game.
Obviously, not everyone will take kindly to his bold moves and John will attract the wrath of a few powerful players. But then, you can’t expect to please everyone when you’re making a name for yourself as a Merchant of Death!
My Opinion: 342 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
The cover art is nice and I like the idea of LitRPG story about a merchant. But the execution here was disappointing eventually. It starts out decently but eventually I realized that even though the story has lots of notifications it often feels like the game mechanics are dictated by the story. New rules or exceptions are created to push the story in a particular direction and eventually even those game aspect disappear as the story head to its conclusion.
The story follows one player who gets a glitched character he has to keep. One who can't join the game's three factions and who can't level via combat. So he has to figure out some other way to level and stumbles upon the profession of scavenging and smuggling to get him some levels. You follow him as he tries to make connections between the criminal factions to make money from his unique situation and try to build this criminal empire. Because the MC early on has his ability to fight cut off, there's a distinct lack of action that isn't replaced with anything. Eventually the story loses steam and you get more and more summaries of events eventually leading to a rushed ending that was just disappointing.
On the game mechanic side, the story is technically LitRPG. The MC starts off with a broken character, but levels up and gets some professions, gains stats, and there are lots of item descriptions in the first half of the story. However, even though these elements exist, as the story progresses you can tell that the game mechanics don’t matter. The story really lost me around the 40% mark. It’s where I first started seeing that the game mechanics of the story getting ignored for some story element. The MC is on a quest to get a rare ingredient and dies over a dozen times. The death penalty that was such a big deal at the beginning of the story (XP loss and penalties and cause his inability to level via combat) just seems to dissapear. Or the MC taking and even using soul bound items that he doesn't meet the level requirements for. As the story progresses past the 66% mark, a lot of the game mechanics and any relevance of level and stats for the MC disappear entirely. There are still some notifications but the RPG progression ceases to exist.
Overall, I like the idea of the story of a merchant focused LitRPG character with a criminal element, the RPG part of this story just didn’t seem to matter to the story and eventually disappears. So, I lost interest cause that’s the part of LitRPG I like. The RPG stuff.
Score: 6 out of 10