LitRPG Podcast 104
LitRPG Podcast 104
March 16th, 2018
Hello everyone, welcome to episode 104 of the LitRPG podcast.
I’m Ramon Mejia. I’m here to bring you the latest LitRPG news, reviews, and author interviews. I have 9 reviews just for you.
New Releases and Reviews:
Axillon99: A LitRPG Novel (06:27)
Warden (Nova Online #1) (16:23)
(Play Music 2)
Episode 103 - An author interview with Christopher Keene about his novel.
New LitRPG Audiobooks
Accidental Duelist: A LitRPG Swashbuckler (Accidental Champion Book 1) (March 23th, 2018)
Unlucky Dead: A LitRPG Adventure (Liorel Online Book 1) (March 24th, 2018)
The Province: A Futuristic Dungeon Core (The Laboratory Book 5) (March 29th, 2018)
The Land of the Undying (Dark Elf Chronicles Book 1) (March 30th, 2018)
Betrayal: A LitRPG Adventure (Monsters, Maces and Magic Book 2) (April 4th, 2018)
Absalom’s Fate: A LitRPG Quest (The Everlands: Book 1) (April 10th, 2018)
The Hobgoblin Riot: Dominion of Blades Book 2: A LitRPG Adventure (April 13th, 2018)
Countdown (Reality Benders Book #1) LitRPG Series (April 23, 2018)
You're in Game! Book #2 (Моre LitRPG stories set in your favorite worlds) (April 30th, 2018)
Blind Gambit: A GameLit LitRPG novel (May 10, 2018)
World of Karik 2: (The First Crusade) The LitRPG series (May 17th, 2018)
God Mode (AlterGame Book #3) LitRPG Series (May 24th, 2018)
Kingdom Level Five: LitRPG (May 27th, 2018)
The Dead Rogue (An NPC's Path Book #1) LitRPG Series (May 30th, 2018)
Onto New Releases and Reviews
(Play Music 3)
New Releases and Reviews
Axillon99: A LitRPG Novel
Death isn’t a big deal in the virtual world of online gaming, but after poking her nose where it doesn’t belong, Dakota Marx finds herself running for her life―and reality doesn’t come with a respawn.
At twenty-two, she’s still slinging coffee at an Amazon Cafe despite having a degree in programming. It’s not because she’s unlucky, unmotivated, or even that she fancies herself an underground activist crusading against evil corporations… hunting for a ‘real’ job would take time away from her game.
Axillon99 is the world’s most popular multiplayer online experience, with a universe containing billions of planets to explore. Ever since video games broke the screen barrier, plunging players fully into their characters, reality just can’t compete.
Cognition Systems International announces a ten million dollar prize to celebrate the release of the next generation Neurona 4 interface helmet. After her crew decides to try chasing the money, Dakota discovers a sinister intent behind the new technology. Going public threatens the lives of her friends, but keeping CSI’s secret could destroy the very fabric of society.
My Opinion: 568 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Definitely one of the better stories I’ve read this week. An interesting mix of slice of life MMORPG adventuring, video game contest, with a bit of thriller mixed in.
The main character (MC), Dakota, is a twenty-something working as a barista. She spends all her free time playing the best sci-fi VRMMORPG, Axilon99, with her crew of friends. When a new immersion helmet is put on the market, the game company also announces a contest with a $10 mill prize. When the MC finds the quest chain it’s no big deal, just about everyone is getting it. But when she figures out the first clue before most people then her friends enter a race to win the contest. Unfortunately, they stumble onto something shady along the way that put their real lives in danger.
The game stuff in the novel are completely spot on. The game mechanics are familiar but also fleshed out enough that you can pick out a class you’d like to play in this VR world. Personally, I think I’d go with the technomancer class.
There are tons of insider gamer jokes from both sci-fi games and MMOs. Heck the very first quest the MC is shown playing at the 1% mark reminded me of the stealth and sci fi stuff from Deus Ex. From there it’s a lot good world building of both the game universe and the real world. The story jumps from the MC playing the game slowly explaining the various mechanics, and lore, to showing her real life and building up her backstory and creating someone the reader can empathize with.
About the 25% mark, the contest stuff kicks in and the pace picks up as the MC and her friends find goal to their level grinding and gaming. This also about the point where you get hints of the thriller aspect in the story.
Overall, a good story. I never felt like the story was forced. Every decision, even some bad ones, felt natural for the characters to make. The quests, even the ones not related to the contest, are interesting and I never minded a single side quest. All round fun read. If you’re looking for a sci-fi story with a strong female lead, this is up your alley.
Score: 7 out of 10.
Blademage Beastmaster: A LitRPG Series Book 1
Charlie Naylor is a good guy, but he's never been great at multi-tasking. When Larynk, the God of Corn, sends Charlie into a fantasy game, he just can't help himself trying. By combining his love of daggers, magic, and animals, he becomes the Blademage Beastmaster.
With a dangerous new pet, a deadly selection of daggers, and some awesome spells, he must make allies and kill monsters as he walks his path to glory. If he can do that, then he might just create a legacy for himself.
He used work in an office where he pushed paper, filled in spreadsheets, and made coffee. Now, he casts, conjures, stabs, and tames.
My Opinion: 272 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
This is kind of a XP grind story. The main character (MC), Charlie, gets transported to a game world by some gods who have a bet. Once there he grinds for XP. Whether that’s doing quests, killing monsters, or something else that’s mostly what the story is. It’s very slice of life, in that there’s no save the world plot or anything. Just follow the MC as he unlocks skills, increases his magic, gets ever increasingly good loot, makes some allies, and basically grinds out the XP.
Fun if you’re in the mood for an uncomplicated action oriented story. I thought things went a little too easy for the MC. Everything just worked out to him without him taking chances or ever failing. Heck, technically the MC can die in this game world and would respawn, but he never does. Still, not bad.
Score: 6 out of 10
Warden (Nova Online #1)
Ready Player One meets Halo
Imprisoned for a murder he didn't commit, Kaiden's only hope of early release is in serving as a Warden inside the game-world of Nova Online.
Playing as a unique class while surrounded by aliens, pirates and warring guilds, he and his squad are tasked with protecting new players and enforcing the rule of law.
But Kaiden has other ideas; he is intent on proving his innocence. The keys to his freedom lie hidden in the game's seedy underbelly. And as he'll soon discover, the bloody trail that led to his arrest is more twisted than he could have ever imagined.
My Opinion: 384 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Full disclosure: I got an advanced copy for review. I purchased the novel when it became available.
While I think the novel description Ready Player One meets Halo is a big stretch, on the whole I liked the story.
This is a nice action filled space themed novel. It takes place in this semi dystopian future where one group, The Party, controls the government. The main character (MC), Kaiden, comes home one day to find his neighbor dead and then he’s not only arrested for the crime but convicted without getting to defend himself. In prison, he’s found eligible to participate in a program that can shave off time in jail, the Warden’s program. The MC finds himself in a VRMMORPG game playing a Warden, the MMO’s version of cop. He has to fight in-game for a place in the program and eventually gains allies that are trying to figure out who really killed the neighbor and why. Not only is the MCs freedom at stake but something more.
The action is great and are a highlight of novel. The fights are tough and varied. The game mechanics, are decent. While I wished I had more information about other classes (or even seen other classes) besides the Wardens, the info about that class and how it develops is thorough. You get a variety of powers and specializations that make a leveling up feel meaningful.
The plot itself is fairly predictable. It ended the way I thought it would but the journey there was fairly entertaining. The only real complaint I have is how forced the story was sometimes.
I mean, the MC just happens to qualify for a VR game in prison where he meets the one person who’s interested in proving he didn’t do it? Then she gives him a description of the guy in game that killed the neighbor, and a chapter later, the same guy happens to assassinate someone in front of the MC and his group? Along the same lines, the XP that the MC gets and some of the missions are clearly meant to level grind the MC up to a level where he can face off against the higher leveled antagonists. It’s not something that ruins the story by any means, but it takes away a little something knowing that the MC won’t ever lose or die in the game because then he can’t resolve his situation (he’d be locked out of the game for 7 days).
Overall, I liked the story but couldn’t quite give it a 7 because of the issues mentioned. I think alot of that will be resolved in the next novel in the series and I look forward to getting a look at both the larger real and game world when I read it.
Score: 6 out of 10
The Legacy Builder (The Chronicles Of Lincoln Hart Book 1)
Barakdor, a virtual fantasyland packed with elves, dwarves, gnomes and trolls.
Barakdor, a world sliding helplessly to war.
Lincoln wanted to be a warrior, a rogue or a mage, but he'd made a promise to himself, so he chose builder. He wasn’t supposed to play the game on his own, but now he wanted to build a legacy for Joan, a sanctuary in a virtual world.
It was supposed to be a place where folk could come to get away from the terrors that the land held, a utopia he would create with his bare hands. It was supposed to be Joan’s legacy. But as the growling thunderheads of war gather, he begins to think it might be a last refuge. He begins to think it might be the land’s only hope.
Fantasy collides with LitRPG in this first novel from The Land of Barakdor.
My Opinion: 306 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
A pleasant surprise. The cover art is a little off putting but the story is good. The first half of the novel is a lot of introduction to the world, world building, character development. The main character (MC), Lincoln, is in a VR RPG game world and wants to found his own little kingdom. But first he has to find the place, attract some allies, and survive the adventures it will take to get there. The building part of the story doesn’t start until after the 50% mark of the story but the journey there is still fun and full of adventure.
The game mechanics in the story are standard. The MC gains experience points, levels, and can assign his stat points when he does. Skills and abilities can be taught or learned from practice but require earnest effort to train up. The town building stuff is more a matter of resource management and follows the path of an RTS. Yet, even once the kingdom building stuff starts, the story is still interesting and there are plenty of problems to solve for the MC, though they are more social quests.
While not an action oriented story, overall, a good read. Though if you don’t like a bunch of lore and world building info, the first half may be a bit of a drag for you.
Score: 7 out of 10.
Ghost in the Game (Dream State Saga book 3)
Noah has made a deal with the devil. In return for access to Wona’s inner circle, he must guard their Dream State game. It could be worse. After all, the Dream Engine saved his life, even if it ended so many others’. But his new alliance didn’t come without a cost. It turned many of his friends against him. Luckily, the company has assigned him a new team: Catastrophe.
But leading Catastrophe takes a dangerous turn. At the grand opening of a new game zone, a vicious attack puts even the Wona President on edge. As Noah digs deeper, he discovers hacking beyond anything he’s ever imagined.
In order to protect his virtual refuge, Noah must repair his broken friendships and work with Wona’s own lackeys. If Noah can't stop the hacker, more than the Dream State is at risk. Dark secrets lurk behind this mystery—secrets that go back to the creation of the Dream Engine itself.
My Opinion: 244 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
It’s been a year since book 2 came out and I honestly forgot who everyone is. Thankfully, the author does a good job of reminding you of not only the ongoing plot of the series but who each character is and their relationship. Though it took a few chapters to sort it all out for me.
Book 1 in the series told the story of Noah, who was in a car accident, and had his mind connected to a immersive fantasy VR game. He had to stay there and not die, or he might die in real life while the doctors tried to work out how to wake him from his coma. It introduced a thread about who crashed into him and a evil company hiding secrets.
Book 2, shows Noah back on his feet, but trapped in an asylum. He’s rescued by the friends he made in the game and together they search for the evidence to bring down the game company that was doing evil research on beta testers. Only Noah makes a surprise decision to side with the game company, turning the story character a bit evil.
Book 3, Noah and Chloe work with the game company to figure out where these new Screamers are coming from, who’s really been behind all the illegal beta tester experiments, who arranged for car crash that killed Noah’s girlfriend. There’ plenty of dungeon diving, fighting, and cyber thriller mystery in this third novel in the Dream State Sage.
Basically that’s what this is, a cyber thriller. There’s no real level progression since all the main and secondary characters have maxed out their level to hero class. But all the game stuff from the first two novels is still there. There’s lots of dungeon diving as Noah and his friends try to solve the mysteries they are presented with. The group searches in game and out, mostly in game for clues, for the people responsible for this whole thing. I won’t spoil the mystery for you but it likely not who you thought it was if you’ve only read book 1.
I had a good time going along for the ride.
Score: 7 out of 10
Perma-Death Online: A LitRPG adventure: Book 2
Sorry, no logging out
What if the log out button stops working and you get forever stuck in a VRMMORPG?
Rohan and his friends continue their struggles against Death13 and the Kartoshi gang, and they must find the pieces of the artefact that can be used to destroy Death13. The odds are against them but their only option is to push on.
In this second installment of the PermaDeath Online trilogy, Rohan must deal with mobs, Kartoshi gang members, kill pterodactyls and even fight in a tournament.
It's not going to be easy, but Rohan must not lose hope at any cost...
My Opinion: 158 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
There are still the same non-native American writing issues. There are also similar technical writing issues. However, I’ll admit, this one is better than book 1. I think a lot of that is that the reader finally gets to understand what the heck is happening with the AI Death13. There whole thing is explained in the first pages of book 2, which starts moments after the cliffhanger ending of book 1.
Most of the novel is questing and the main character (MC) and his friends trying to figure out how to beat the AI killing perma players without endangering their own IRL lives. The quests are Indian themed and are fine. Though the end is a little bit forced, I don’t mind because something that I appreciate here is that the MC can fail and still figure out a way to come through.
Overall, there’s a kind of charm to the MC’s earnestness and willingness to fail, even if means starting his character over. The technical writing issues are plentiful enough that is does lose a point though.
Score: 6 out of 10
The Metropolis - Futuristic Dungeon Core
Emma has come far since being the artificial intelligence housed in an underground laboratory. A full city is now at her command and with that strength comes the need to maintain it. Resources are in short supply and the threats out there in the world are bigger and more dangerous than ever. It is time for some upgrades.
My Opinion: 208 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Now Emma is in charge of a whole city. Not only does she have to now manage a scarcity of resources but she has to deal with the demands of her new district lords, some of whom were enemies only a short time ago.
Emma also has to face the attacks of someone that has the ability to rewind time and in avoiding a particularly brutal attack, opens up a pathway to new research opportunities and some godly powerful foes.
A good read with the action and pacing you’ve hopefully come to enjoy by now. There’s not really anymore dungeon creation but there are still resource management issues, research projects, and the creation of new weapons and soldiers.
Score: 7 out of 10
Chronicle of the Eternal: Volume 2
Departing Grand Theore, Regal and his squad venture out to experience the world. A world where the Immortalis rule through either power or deceit. True intentions are hidden behind a smiling facade and the bandits that riddle the trading routes are the least of their problems.
My Opinion: 341 pg, $3.99, Not available on Kindle Unlimited
I’m a fan of D. Wolfin. He’s one of the first LitRPG authors I interviewed. End Online is one of the first LitRPG stories I ever read. However, I won’t fib. This story is a little bit jinky. It is written in 3rd person present tense. That choice plus the semi regular technical writing errors (missing words or tense changes) are going to put off some readers. But after a little while, I stopped noticing and the story grabbed me.
I liked this story. It's a bit slice of life. Which is expected of something that started as an online serial story. But it was still fun to read about Regal and his buddies fight, level, craft, and try to avoid the plots of the town leader. The group is growing up. They’ve graduated from the academy and are out looking for a community to learn from. Unfortunately, they find out the hard way that not everyone has their interests at heart. People want to use them or discard them.
Overall, good stuff. But this is not the kind of story you can into. You really need to have read Volume 1 to understand the game mechanics, magics system, the whole soulless thing, and even who everyone is.
Score: 7 out of 10
Akillia's Reign (Puatera Online Book 4)
Taking the day off work to surprise, Andy, with a ticket to the hottest fantasy VRMMORPG. Emma returns home to find his cheating ass in bed with her sister. Throwing them both out, Emma sits slugging back the wine they’d just shared. Drunk and devastated she almost blows his gift, but watching the adverts for the amazing fantasy world depicting monster’s mayhem and adventure. Emma keys in her name and details – Akillia-F-22 and decides to take on Puatera Online.
My Opinion: 349 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
This novel was so frustrating I nearly pulled my hair out. At one point, I just had to put the book down and walk away or my kindle was going to get thrown across the room.
Part of my frustration may have to do with my expectations for the story. I enjoyed books 1-3 in the series with the main character, Maddie, an AI who becomes self aware and fights to break the expectations of others, and her own programming to accomplish a goal and save the dragons and the player she cares for. I could ignore some of the lack of RPG mechanics because she was an NPC and the world she lived in was just a world to her. There were still RPG stuff happening, she got quests and rewards for completing those quests including XP and levels. In book 3, you even get to see her character sheet as she finally gets access to it and spends all the points that had accumulated since her creation.
Here, in book 4, the story is about a player Emma/Akilla. She has a bad real life break up. Her husband cheats on her on their anniversary and she uses the amazing VR gift she bought for him for herself. 6 months on an island playing a full immersion game that will feel like 2 years in-game. There’s hints that there’s also a romance thread that will develop, and it does eventually. But the story is about the MC rediscovering herself, building back up her confidence, and finding a way to be happy again (with the help of that hot dude of course). Those parts of the story are done well. The strong female lead, is also written well. She starts off feeling bad and lacks confidence but by the end of the story is leading a whole complement of warriors into battle.
Where the story is supremely frustrating is in the game mechanic department. There’s a section early in the story 10-15% mark, where a bunch of game mechanics are explained in detail. Loads of great information about how dice rolls work, actions, abilities, aspects, aptitudes, karma, and more. Lots of stuff.
Only none of that stuff really shows up in the rest of the novel. The most you get is one view of the MC’s character sheet at 47%. She spends some karma points a couple times. And there are lots of notifications in the early part of the story about her ‘discovering an action’ that really amount to a running gag. She discovers the actions: breathing, walking, jumping, and projectile vomiting. But even that aspect mostly disappears after the 30% mark.
Combat is almost non existent most of the story, with a highlight early on being the MC slowly pushing a sword through a goblin like creature’s chest as it stands there and doesn’t fight back. Combat picks up a bit in the last 10% of the story but this isn’t an action story.
The most frustrating part of the story is how forced it feels and how thing occur that just don’t make sense.
Ex 1) This new player, for some reason forces herself into this big quest to get the magic dragon poop. And for some strange reason, becomes a decision maker for where they go and how many people are taken with them over the ocean. Never mind that the other NPCs that live there advise her to do otherwise. Then she decides to take a child with her for some reason on this dangerous journey, cause her ‘feelings’ tell her too.
Ex 2) To get access to a ship, the MC must convince come cat people to take them across the ocean. The cat person she meets refuses to give her his name since a person’s name can be used in bad spells (not established in book by the way). Not two paragraphs later, the same being is telling her his name and announcing that she’s now part of their family so of course they’ll help her.
Ex 3) Later the same MC saves the grandpa cat guy from a heart attack by telling his granddaughter to use her eclectic spell to jump start his heart. Only, the MC doesn’t actually know anything about how magic in the world works or if the grandpa is having a heart attack (no medical training, she works at a law firm). Of course it works.
Ex 4) As a reward for saving his life grandpa then gives the MC a family heirloom, a special necklace whose item description says it lets the wearer talk to sea life and command them (A bit OP but ok). Then in the next scene, the MC used that same item to create a vast magic shield to prevent the ship that’s being put into the ocean from crashing and hurting people. Later this same item is used to contact the dead, speak with guardians of the land, and even talk to the game itself. All of which is not in it’s item description. Basically the necklace becomes the doo-hikey of problem solving.
Ex 5) Things get so contrived, that even the other characters in the story have to some up with a reason why it’s all happening. At one point, the MC is thrown off the ship (she could have just talked to the sea creature attacking but she didn’t) and finds herself washed up on shore. Another player eventually finds her and confirms that he talked to the developers and that she should have died falling into the brutal storm ravaged sea full of monsters. But it’s explained away that ‘the game itself seems to be changing to keep her alive, because she’s the chosen one to save things and travel to a special place’. (Oh, also her cheating ex made a bet on her dying and she made a counter bet that she wouldn’t, so of course she can’t die.)
There’s a lot more but I think you get the idea.
To finish the story without pulling out my hair, I had to think of it as a fantasy story. Where any logic inconsistencies are just waved away as ‘magic’. Which for the record is also never described as a system and is just ‘I want a thing to happen, so it does’. But once I thought of it in those terms, it was easier to read.
Overall, as LitRPG, this was supremely frustrating. Not only does that well described game stuff in the beginning disappear as the story goes on, most of the events just don’t make sense logically.
As a straight fantasy story, it would maybe get a 6 out of 10.
As LitRPG is gets a 4 out of 10.
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