I picked this up because it’s narrated by Travis Baldree, love that guy, and it’s a LitRPG. As my last couple reviews have mentioned, I hit a reading slump around October and have beeen struggling ever since. I’ve been reading a lot of LitRPG to get me through it. It’s got a ton of good reviews, too, so why not?
In this world VR gaming isn’t new, but a fully immersive sensory experience is. All of the VR games up to this point don’t have much in the way of sensory input, but a brand new game that requires state of the art pods just hit the market. As a marketing ploy, they offered 15 slots ahead of schedule as a sneak preview for a lucky few.
Well, the MC, Ned, is super extremely wealthy and buys all 15 reserve slots in a massive dick-move. He wants to make sure that he’s the only one who can level up during this advanced play stage and give himself a major leg up in the game. He’s not a particularly likeable person at the start of the book.
However, he sort of begins to realize this game was meant to be played with friends and allies… and he has none. This is particularly bad not just for raid and party quests requiring more than one person, but also because everyone wants him dead. Not just because he acted as a gatekeeper keeping everyone else from playing, but because the developor also gave him a one of the kind tool, a guide of sorts. It’s a sarcastic, antagonistic axe that gives you gameplay hints as you go along. The higher a level you achieve the more secrets you unlock with the axe. It’s droppable, so if someone kills you they get the axe. The axe’s name is Frank and he’s the most realistic AI that Ned has ever encountered.
So now our MC is pretty fucked and has to try and get allies, and that’s basically where the plot takes off. He does become much more tolerable as time goes on. He starts the game out choosing villian like options for classes, magics, and plot points but the NPCs are so real, and his actions make them suffer at times, and he sort of changes his tune and grows a bit of a conscience through the course of the game. I also really liked how the relationship developed between him and the axe. It’s a frenemies relationship since Frank hates magic, and our MC wants to play as a mage, lol.
The gameplay mechanics, the way the class structure works, the combinations of classes and races to create new and unique builds was really neat. I really enjoyed how this world works. With that said, this is a very stat heavy book, for people who prefer lighter stat LitRPGs, this is not that. One of the really neat aspects of this world is the NPC untrustworthiness, these NPCs don’t give you the “true” lore of the world. They give it to you from their perspective of events, so you don’t always know if the person you’re getting a quest from has the right of the situation or not, and Ned has to navigate the world through what he thinks is best. I really liked that part.
The pacing was a little touch and go, it’s a long book for a LitRPG with the audiobook clocking in at 24 hours. For reference, most of this genre that I read fall between 9 hours and 15 hours for an audio. At a couple points I thought perhaps this was three shorter stories rolled into one big story? I can’t be sure, though, it’s jsut how certain chapters wrapped up really neatly with some “ending dialogue” where you could have ended the story there and said book two was coming. I don’t know if I’m making sense, lol..
Anyway, I found this to be a fun romp with a good audiobook.
- Plot: 11/15
- Characters: 12/15
- World Building: 13/15
- Writing: 13/15
- Pacing: 11/15
- Originality: 11/15
- Enjoyment: 7/10
Final Score: 78/100