Apr 28, 2017: Disclaimer: It must be revealed that the author of this story wrote a post for my fiction during the April Fool’s Day Swap 2017. The work Unice5656 produced was amazing. I shall endeavor to keep my bias in check and maintain objectivity during this review.
Introductions: We all know that MMO’s secretly—or not so secretly—control the world at this time. Most everyone has either played one, tried one out, or knows someone who is hopelessly addicted to one. Think of a future where these kinds of games are the norm, only instead of a nice rig in a secluded room, you’ve got a full virtual reality rig that you can plug yourself into at any time. Instead of lag, twitchy fingers, and complaints on forums about limited game-play . . . You are now a part of the game, fully. You live through your character. You grow as they level up in the game. Your stats soar with every hour of your life you sink into this alternate and augmented reality. Welcome to the world of VRMMOs. Welcome to the world of LitRPGs.
Summations: A young woman by the name of Arwyn manages to get her hands on a copy of a game she’s been waiting forever to get. The fabled game of Fantasia. A game world of high fantasy and excitement. Where adventures abound. A world filled with Humans, Clerics, Wizards, and numerous types of Elves. It even has Avariel! Seriously, if you didn’t know who I am you might not realize how much of a Forgotten Realms uber-geek I am, but seriously . . . Frickin’ AVARIEL!
. . . Anyway, back on track. The first few chapters of the game get you started on what it’s like for Arwyn to plug into the game and prepare her augmented self in the game. You get to see first-hand her choices and then later how well they affect her in game. You grow attached to her, her other players, the NPCs in the game, and the fantasy world that is explored around them. You also get to see what life is like for Arwyn outside of the game during her normal life. Quite a lot to take in, but very well done from the LitRPG side of things.
Content: The writing style takes its time but gives you a lot once you become invested in the characters and the story. The writing itself is sparse and to the point. The author doesn’t languish over tremendous exposition and doesn’t assault you with in-game lingo very much. You’re shot into the game and into the life of Arwyn as if you were strapped to her back.
The world-building is subtle and draws heavily from high fantasy. It bends and draws upon tropes from adventure gaming like Dungeons & Dragons, while still making the setting its own beast entirely. The world is given to you in chunks as you continue through the story. You never get overwhelmed, and sometimes it feels like you get a helping hand going through everything both with the character of Arwyn and with the game system as your guide.
The characters are where the story of Fantasia really shines. Each character in this story is entirely unique. The central character is a realistic and believable person. The author has even mentioned a few times that she bases the main protagonist on herself, drawing from her own reactions to bridge the gap between humanity and the game. Every character has their own quirks, their own way of talking and their own unique motivations. Dashes of humor and pop culture references abound. If you are a geek in any way, you’ll be tickled and find something to enjoy with each chapter.
The grammar and writing of Fantasia is immaculate. The author takes a tremendous amount of effort to make sure every bit of the story flows properly and that there aren’t any errors present. Some of the sentences can be very spartan and direct. Not a lot of space is spent on extraneous prose. The story and the characters are the focus of this tale.
The game system is unique, well-thought-out, and coherent with the story being told. You find yourself keeping track of the game system details as you go along with this story. Drama can be built up by power usage, item selection, or any number of things. Suspension of disbelief can be maintained as you continue through the story, not jarring you out of your fiction. You soon find yourself as eager as the characters to get new power-ups, upgrades, or attain the next trinket of power.
Fantasia has quite a strong, supportive, and cult following on the Royal Road Legends website. The author has done very well at writing to her audience. Her update output is amazing. Her communication with readers and fans is wonderful. There is a lot of promise and a lot of reward in this story. Just like the community that springs up around Arwyn in the game, the author has created such with her readers in reality.
This is one of the first LitRPGs and VRMMO fictions I’ve tried. I come from a deep love of traditional speculative fiction and have found most LitRPGs to be an acquired taste. I can tell that Fantasia is one of the good ones. One of the best. With over 54 chapters released thus far, there is plenty to sink yourself into. This story feels like a labor of love from the author and that gives it a very special place. I can’t wait to get caught up and read the new releases as they come out. 4.75 stars out of 5.
Apr 28, 2017: Disclaimer: Before we proceed, I must reveal my bias towards this story and its author. I wrote an April Fool’s Day entry for this author and through that became quite invested in the story. I will try to maintain as objective a view as I can, throughout this review.
Summation: The Open Road is a wonderful fantasy story that exists somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between epic mid-to-low fantasy and typical swords & sorcery low fantasy. There are evil tyrannical rulers, chosen ones who are last of their kinds, tribal champions, explosive magical spells, and a fair deal of personally motivated violence. Oh, and an anti-hero as well.
First Impressions: This story starts to ease you into the characters and the plot-line for a few minutes and then grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let you go. The pace is fast, but doesn’t seem jarringly so. The exposition is light and drip-fed only when you need it, which is a nice balance for an involved story such as this. There isn’t a lot of high-intrigue or political movements near the beginning which fits the personality of the protagonist quite well. At least the protagonist for this section of the story that is available thus far.
Content: The writing style has a nice finesse between spartan quickness and poetic depth. The writing sticks to the point of what is going on and doesn’t get lost on extraneous details. This is as much of a boon as it is a bane to the story. When I was reading it, I had a hard time picturing what the protagonist looks like or exactly what the setting around the characters was. Details of other characters are given, yet they are very sparse and archetypal rather than giving you a mind’s eye glimpse of the character. Some readers may enjoy this, others it may drive mad.
You can feel that the author puts a lot of energy into their writing. Sometimes this comes across explosively and well paced. There are other times, sadly, that the sentences or effect of them fall out due to word choice, or over-excitement. This seems to be more a slight difficulty in translating the ideas to a second language and can be fixed very quickly with just a few revisions and some extra editing. Not a problem at all.
The world-building is well-crafted and feeds you just enough details to whet your appetite for more. You are never deluged in too much exposition or detail. The author actually tries to tantalize you by dropping hints here and there and making you read to find out what pieces go where in the world. There are hints at a long history and great nations at war. Not even the secret of the Wielders is mentioned fully, giving a lot of material to build on later.
The characters are interesting although near the beginning of the story they seem to follow trope for the most part. Brachillio is a brash young man with a tragic history who must settle his own affairs as well as be burdened with the affairs of others. Some secondary characters appear and just as you get to enjoy them, they quickly fade away. Others linger for a time and then serve their purpose. Each character has their own personality and their own distinct voice. Sometimes they can ham it up in dialogue here and there, but it seems to cater to their personality more than anything else. The characters are still very enjoyable. If anyone is worried too much by trope, consider the characters of this story to be richly detailed versions of anime characters and you’ll enjoy them just fine.
The grammar of the story is very well done. There are very few spelling errors or grammatical mistakes that I could notice. What few do exist can easily be fixed with a quick revision. The author keeps the same writing style throughout the story. It is worth noting that the author has chosen to keep the British version of dialogue tags (single ‘ ‘s), rather than the common Americanized tags (" "s). This is a stylistic element and once you’ve gotten used to it as a reader it isn’t a problem at all.
This story shows a great deal of promise and I wait to read every installment, going forward. The story grows with every new chapter posted. The characters grow more detailed and more of the world is revealed throughout the plot. Any quibbles right now are due to the story being relatively new and can be fixed with some supportive comments by readers and a quick revision. The promise is high with this story and it will get better as it continues.
I highly recommend this story. Whether you are an aficionado of more mature western fantasy, or you’re interested in grabbing a high-energy chapter here and there in your spare time, this story delivers. I hope to see more from TheLoneWanderer in the future. This story has rightly earned 4.0 out of 5.0 stars from me. Tremendous promise, great characters, talented authorship, just a few language quibbles. If this story is revised, I will amend my appointed stars.
Apr 24, 2017: This story is worth checking out. I’m a sucker for inhuman demon stories and this one takes the cake. Take a demon training in a killing tower for 300 years and drop her in a medieval fantasy world and see what happens. A lot of intricacy squirms underneath a seemingly simple story of an amoral demon looking for her roots.
The demon is cute, her companions are appropriately charmed and fearful of her, and the villains can be easily understood. The setting is a fusion of Wuxia (martial cultivation) and western fantasy.