Aria of the Fallen: Adventure in a Foreign System
After the world ended and reality broke, everyone had different opinions about how it should all be put back together again.
Humanity's solution centered around trying to revive an entity known as the Overseer of All Things, an ancient machine god which was shattered into pieces during the apocalypse. In return for the human's devotion, it gifted them with the tools to fight the monsters which had come to dominate the broken fragments of the world - such as [Classes], [Skills], and most importantly, the ability to [Level Up].
Sláine E. Catháin honestly doesn't give a crap about any of that. A warrior rabbit-girl hailing from a different System, she's decided to come to the human's corner of reality because their methodology has led to them becoming extremely powerful, and even if it's in the foreign land of Arpege, Sláine intends to die a legend. Naturally, she bites off a bit more than she can chew, and when she's paired with a prickly, sarcastic, and mysterious woman named Red, she finds her life soon filled with with drama, mysteries, friendship, love, occasional discussions of how best to hide a body and - ugh - stat optimization.
A dark comedy/drama yuri LitRPG with a heavy focus on world-building, character development, and people talking to each other.
[participant in the Royal Road Writathon challenge]
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This story is different from a lot of LitRPGs in that the progression element, which is usually front and center, is more of a device to explore the setting and drive the characters rather than the subject of focus in of itself - though that isn't to say it's not satisfying for people who enjoy that sort of thing, but rather that the elements are married in a way that many of these kinds of stories fail to manage. It's good stuff.
As written so far, the content of the story is mostly the sort slow-paced but action heavy dungeon crawling you'd see in most stories of this type, but with a lot more flavour. Most of the narrative attention goes to the developing friendship/possible romance between the two leads, both of which are interesting characters that don't fall cleanly into any standard archetypes. The dialogue is punchy and often cute, and the character exposition well integrated and paced, though occasionally it can feel somewhat overwhelming.
As for the setting, while it's fairly standard fantasy on the surface, there's an undertone of grotesque imagery and horror that makes it unique without going over the top into grimdark territory. Overall, a great start.
Let me preface this by saying that I normally don't care for isekai or the various "It's an RPG world" tropes out there, mostly because I've never seen much interesting done with them.
Thankfully, Aria has 'interesting' in spades. From the very first bit of the synopsis, it caught my attention: The world ended and someone, somewhere, decided to wake up a mechanical god? That's completely up my alley. Everything about this god (or perhaps these gods, as there are multiple Systems) is... weird. It's described as being a 3D object (specifically a cube), but when looked at, it's just flat plane. There's something otherworldly and unsettling about that and the more you learn about the Systems, the more questions you have. There's also something weird about the various bracketed terms, like [Skills] and [Classes], which are presented in-universe as if it's less of a normal, spoken term and more along the lines of some kind of incantation or eldritch speech.
The characters, thankfully, are super endearing. Slaine gives precisely negative shits about anything going on and just wants to get stronger, which leads her to butting heads with... well, most people, but especially her partner Red. Red is engimatic, hiding behind a mask and never really answering questions about herself. We may be getting some answers in chapter 14, so I'm really looking forward to it. Most other characters have only shown up once or twice, but they're all pretty likeable and I'm excited to see how everyone develops as we move forward.
The story is well-paced, with the author going out of their way to ensure that two chapters aren't overly same-y. For example, the past three chapters included a very well-written fight scene, a discussion between Red and Slaine, and finally an unusally introspective scene that gave us some ideas about what's actually going on in our main character's head. In addition to that, updates are pretty regular, with the author having started off publishing daily before moving over to a more traditional Mon/Wed/Fri schedule (even going as far to put out a chapter on Christmas!).
Overall, I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who's looking for a good LitRPG or even just a fun fantasy romp in general, as it's doing a lot of neat stuff with things that I'd normally be uninterested in.
I'm glad I found Aria of the Fallen; it's a quite nice story, and even though LitRPGs aren't something I flock to by any measure, this story still interested me enough to read through to the current chapter. That's quite a feat!
The main appeal is in the two leads, Sláine and Red, who have a really great dynamic filled with banter and tension. They have all the hallmarks of a great will-they-or-won't-they steamfest to come, and I'd say some eventual makeouts are assured except that... one of the characters permanently wears a mask... Whatever...
A lot of LitRPGs spend far too much time talking about their systems, which is OK, but it causes the prose overall to become a bit stilted and technical. That happens here sometimes too, but thankfully, Aria of the Fallen is able to pride itself on one very important element--it doesn't take itself that seriously. There's a lot of humor about the existence of an RPG system in reality, including multiple curious discussions on how the heck an inventory system is actually supposed to work.
Come on over and [Inspect] Aria of the Fallen so you can meet our bunny girl and mask girl buddies!