Video Game Plotline Tester
Dark Herbalist Series, Book 1
By: Michael Atamanov
Narrated by: Eric Michael Summerer
Audio Length: 11 hrs and 42 mins
Release date: 03-31-17
Would you be prepared to work for free? How would you like to bust your hump for a large corporation 60-plus hours a week without a wage or a single day off for the vague promise of some mysterious perks in the distant future?
You’d refuse point blank, wouldn’t you? But what if the job in question was playing a state-of-the-art fantasy MMORPG game? And what if this was the only thing you’re really good at? Especially considering that your in-game partner is someone really special to you – and this person already lives a virtual life?
Knowing all this, would you consider the mysterious future bonus worth your while?
The description on this book does not do a great job setting up the plot. So, allow me to take you on a trip.
Our protagonist applies at a virtual reality company as an MMORPG plotline tester. Down on his luck, nearly broke, and supporting his handicapped sister, he really needs the work. He gets hired on a probationary basis. As such, he has to prove his worth to the company, hit level 20 and jump through a few other hoops, while forced to play a goblin herbalist, one of the worst races/class combinations available in the game world.
In doing so, he faces not only countless threats inside of the game, but numerous ones from the real world. Compared to the last LitRPG I read, I feel this book did a much better job balancing the drama and tension between the character’s in game life and real life. With great pacing, the book introduces new characters, most of which play an important role at some point. I enjoyed hearing how the protagonist successfully helped other employees struggling to keep their jobs as testers.
And the author does a fabulous job of coming up with numerous types of challenges for these characters to overcome. Some of these feel closer to a pen and paper RPG than an MMO at time (even assuming a future design with better programming), but I could just be nitpicking there. Of particular note, the fact that some of the human players felt profound feelings with an NPC died (which oddly, tends to be permanent in this game) pulled me a bit out of the experience. Yet the courage, cleverness and quick comebacks of the main character kept me pulled in. The various plots also did their part to uphold the experience. While one of them felt predictable, others left me scratching my head until resolved, or waiting to see how they play out in future books of the series.
LitRPGs are a relatively new sub-genre of fantasy fiction. As such, most of the books tend to fall short of a compelling experience while authors find their footing. However, Video Game Plotline Tester shows that great progress towards excellence and provides a compelling reading experience. Don’t believe me? My wife listened to bought the remaining books after reading the first one. On book three, she shows no sign of slowing down. My future reviews will reveal if I share her sentiment; however, this first book gives me much hope that I will. I can easily recommend this to fans of fantasy, especially the popular book, Ready Player One. With that said, I give this book 4/5 stars!