Chris Ledfield is struggling. Thrust into running the family tour business years before he was ready, he spends his days leading people through Gossard Forest. His family have owned the business for generations, and Chris feels the weight of responsibility bearing down on him. When a national company, Star Horizon, try to buy exclusive rights to Gossard Forest, Chris knows Ledfield Tours is in trouble.
He doesn’t have the money to compete with Star Horizon, and all looks lost. But then he gets a chance; a fully-immersive VR game, Pana Reborn, is releasing an expansion pack. With the release of the pack, Artemis Island, the company are running a competition.
They’ve hidden something called Helder’s Bane on the island, and the first person to find it wins a lifetime subscription to the game. Not only that, but they also win 10,000GD, more than enough for Chris to buy the rights to the tour and save his family business.
In a world of combat, levels, skills and adventure, Chris must beat the other players to finding Helder’s Bane. Together with his party, he must explore the island and survive its dangers. That won’t be easy, because Artemis Island is different from the Pana mainland.
There’s a secret on Artemis Island, and players who venture out at night will discover just how dangerous it can be.
My Opinion: 425 pages, $0.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Written by Gregg Horlock, the author of the Difficulty: Legendary series.
In the story Chris joins the latest VR game for a chance to win the money he needs to save his family business. All he has to do is find one little item, Helder’s Bane. Only his group is competing against other better equipped players, they have to fight vicious monsters, and have to survive all that the game throws at them.
The first 15% of the novel is a background about the real life events that lead the main character to play this new VR game. It does a good job of establishing an emotional connection to the main character, it sets up why he has to play this game, why he needs a financial backer, and establishes some of the other characters in the story. It went on a little too long for me.
Once you get into the game world the pace of the story picks up quite a bit.
The cover art does this story an injustice. It makes it look like a jaunty 8-bit story. Instead it turns out it’s more of a survival story. Great!
Things I liked about the story: Cool Game Mechanics
1) The survival aspects of game. When the characters get into the game they have to create shelter, fire, the weapons, and special items they need.
2) The limited skill slots made choosing skills a much more important decision. You still have to earn the skill by practicing that skill. Want the sneak skill? Just try sneaking and have the opportunity to learn it and equip it in your primary or secondary skill slot. If you fill up all those slots you’re out of luck if you want another one, even if it’s a really cool or rare skill.
3) Base building - Even though it’s a small part of the story, I really liked that the characters could build a shelter, setup traps, and special runes that gave bonuses to help them fend off the waves of monsters that appeared at night.
Things I didn’t like:
1) Self generated Quests - The quests in the story are not just generated by the NPCs but the players themselves for themselves. It’s just an odd game mechanic that the characters can generate their own quests by thinking hard about them. Why not create a quest for everything and earn a bunch of XP that way? Make dinner - quest, walk to town- quest, use the restroom - double xp quest.
2) The predictable and unmemorable villains. In the game another team shows up also looking for Helder’s Bane. Only this team is super rich and they never get any time in the story that makes them more than a reason for the main characters to get frustrated or diverted from their quest.
3) The convenient way the characters get exactly what they need. This is especially prevalent in the last 25% of the novel but often in the story the characters need something to complete a quest or advance the story and it just magically appears. Hit a magical barrier? Oh, look a witch just happens to ride up and can fix that for you. Need a map? Oh, one of the characters suddenly remembers where he hear about getting one. Wait, a plot twist changed what you thought you needed to get to finish a quest? Oh, look someone magically appears that tells you exactly where to go to get it?
4) The rushed last 25% of the novel. It really feels like the author sort of lost interest in the story near the end or just wanted a grander ending. It feels rushed and almost unrelated to the rest of the story. Most of the other elements that I liked about the story just disappears. Also, a entirely new quest story appears without any type of foreshadowing. It felt like a separate short story that was tacked on and modified to fit this game world.
Overall: I enjoyed the story. The rushed ending with the convenient story lessened the overall score but Press X to Loot: The Scout of Artemis still gets a 6 out of 10.