Lack of Poochline

Lack of Poochline

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Cardcaster: A Card Game LitRPG

15 chapters in, still no proper card game.

EDIT: the card game appears on chapter 18. The stakes for the games are NOT life or death (directly, at least) but could leave you in a very bad position. Which, i must say, its an improvement! I will leave the rest of the review unedited, though, due to honesty on my first impression, but do know the card game comes into play by chap 18. 

Except a bit in a flashback, but, as far as the story is written, we know almost nothing of the rules of Cardcaster. It has a mana system with around 50 different mana colors, but how you produce the resource is not clear. Monster cards "battle" with an attack vs defense method, similar to how they do in Magic the gathering.We don't know if the defender damages the attacker or, like in Yugioh, its just a sitting duck that walls the hp of the player. 

Hello, welcome to my rant about card litrpgs/ review about cardcaster.  One doesn't influence the other.  

First, the rant: I don't like the form card collecting stories often take in royal road. It's generally just that, collecting the cards, and even if they are part of a card game , the game takes a secondary role to the card collecting by ... pokemoning. lets put it as that: trapping creatures and spells in cards its not much different from trapping creatures that cast spells in pokeballs. The latter is what Cardcaster is so far: Going to dungeons, punching things or solving puzzles to unlock new cards related to the dungeon, rinse, repeat. 

Granted, not everyone likes ccgs, but ccgs or tcgs are very interesting games with a great complexity that are more about strategy than Heart of the Cards. Players assemble decks that aim to win a particular way, with a core of cards that aid this strategy, and then sprinkle some cards that aid in disrupting competing strategies on top. Or can base the whole deck on disrupting other strategies and winning simply by grinding out the enemy. 

But this is mostly incompatible with progression fantasies, because every game/duel starts from zero. Progression is made by refining a deck through trial and error, or just mathematical calculations or having played so much you have an intuition of how (approximately) a combo or situation may work out. You also may learn new ways to use your cards as outs from several dire situations by being creative, but that's it.  You can have a colection building progression, but once you get the game's pot of greed (a very powerful and generic staple, not necessarily a draw 2 spell), you play it in every deck (or every deck that can use it, depending on the games rules) at the max copies unless they ban it.  

Furthermore, a ccg cannot have death as a consequence of losing a single game, because the metagame would stagnate, with nobody willing to experiment; and because ccgs are still random in the end, specially during mirror matches. A measly 60% winrate is considered a tier 0 deck in most games. Would you constantly play russian roulette with a revolver with 5 chambers and 2 bullets? 

Thought so. Our protag would be dead by his fourth or fifth game at most, if it faced meta decks with meta decks. So, given losing all your life point seems to mean death in Cardcaster, I don't expect it to ever have any realistic sort of card duels, and, if anything, more YuGiOh-anime-like ones, where everyone runs around playing jank and the mc just hoarded all the rabbit feet on a hundred mile radius. 

But as I said, that has nothing to do with my score  for the story, because I must judge it for what it tries to be, and not what I want it to be. This preface is just to conclude the following: this seems more a Card collector litrpg than a card GAME litrpg, so far, and the stakes presented don't seem to allow for a proper CCG struggle, with bricking hands, opponents topdecking the perfect answer while you draw your garnets, and all those things we hate about the card games we love and make us say "Never lucky" due to confirmation biases. 

So, let's assume the main objective of the game is collecting the cards, and not the  luck dependant, dueling aspect with inherent randomness. Then... the story seems pretty neat. The way to get the cards is deterministic so far, there is no gacha pack mechanics,  the prose is quick but neat and clean, and the characters don't make me want to persona 3 myself (a high bar to clear for most litrpg protags). 

Let's get to the main points:


STYLE: It works, it's fast, it shows the story without being ovverly generic. I like it. The author knows how to write, that much is clear. 

GRAMMAR: I spotted no major mistakes, but I am no native speaker and maybe something slipped. you can expect the ocassional typo but not anything egregious.  

STORY: So far, so good. The pace is fine for a start, yet the final objective , if we extrapolate the current pace at which the characters are acquiring cards (they need all the cards in the game to go back to their home dimensions, a whooping 5000) will be reached by chapter 1700 or so, so I expect at least that to pick up a bit, unless an alternative way to leave the Cardcaster world is found. These 3 guys: Ethan, An elf with negative IQ and the robot (the best character ever) must become true pokemon masters and find ways to catch all cards, ways that don't necessarily imply violence. So, a pretty fun premise that's off to a great start.


Characters: I will do this in order of how much i like them: 

Datatron: 10/10 absolute unit, just a robot that wants to know, tis only mtoivation to take the knowledge he gathers back to his makers. He's solar powered and has lasers. He seems to carry 90% of the group's brainpower. Surely, candidate for fan favorite. 

Ethan: our protagonist. Has a sick sister and an overworked mother that are his motivations to go back home quick. He played cardcaster back on Earth. He is not irredimably stupid, and carries about 30% of the group's brainpower. 

Pala: redhead, speaks two lines in chapter 15. Her name means shovel in spanish. Promises much. 

Ethan's little sister: motivation, plot device, i don't even remember her name (I checked: it's Katie), likes egg cards.  

Julius: average drunkard degenerate sack of excrement. Appears briefly so Ethan can win a luck based war game against him, tries to bed the walking liability. 

Yri: barbarian elf that carries the remaining negative 20% of the group's brainpower. She is a princess, she wants to go back to her people. It's like the stupidity of a golden retriever and the fury of a chihuahua fused into one being. She's only three times as intelligent as the average isekai protagonist, which still means she could be the protagonist of Flowers for Algernon. But, hey, she is good at beating things up. 


Conclusion: The story is good, really good, but i don't think it delivers on the game aspect of "card game", no. At best, it will be some sort of card game shonen-esque thing where losing a duel is nearly impossible for important characters. This doesn't substract for the overall score because this is incredibly personal, and some people consider collecting cards a game too so.. not fair to give a punctuation to this point. As I said before, the author knows how to write, the characters are varied and create an interesting cast, save for Yri, for which I foster the irrational hatred of a thousand internet trolls, and some people like her, which , in reality, is fine, but i am emotionally inclined to declare those people wrong. 

Jokes aside, give the story a go, if you like progression and pokemon-esque (not the pokemon cards, but the games and anime) things is great, but if you come from heartstone or MTG and want to see people suffer the caprices of lady luck...  it's not the story for that. 


Tarnished Survivor

Vampire catgirls in a grimdark world.

That's it, thats the review, what, did you expect a breakdown? What else could you need?

Okay, then. 

I will preface this by saying that i didn't like certain autfhorial choices regarding tropes or the world management, but for tastes, colors. I dislike, for example, the preponderance of  of sexual violence  (that's implied) or extreme murderhoboing by the government.  Sadly they have become sort of staples of the genre, more so here in RR, so I don't fault the author for including them. 

Style:  The low score is due to a hard-to-point-a-finger-at monotonous feeling in narration. I believe it is due to poor variety of sentence lenght and structure: it makes for cold, emotionally detached, dead prose that's useful in some situations, but not for most of this story. The author is rewriting and willign to solve this issue, however, and, as this is somethign thats solved with experience, we can probably expect it to soar in quality in the future. For now, 3.5: readable, functional, but boring. 
 
Story: MC has a dark past, the world is crap, and there are rumors of uprisings  and prospects of war drawinjg near. Nothing too new, but it works as a setup and manages to get you immersed on the struggle of the protagonist for protecting and raising her family amidst this tense political climate.  Also there are summoned heroes from other dimensions. 

Grammar score: Few issues with commas, few typos, nothing out of the usual for web fiction. It's highly readable through and through.  

Character score: The main character is a "sellsword" (A knight, really, but for the work she does for the kingdom... its surreptitious sellsword fare. We are talking about the archtype here: she's cold, she is ruthless, and she cares only for her family, she kills people who talk shit about the local authority or try to ask for child support.) a mother to a demigod ( In this setting Zeus is a thing.And she is female. You know how that goes.) and a vampire catgirl preteen thats training to be a knight like her mother. The cast has defined personalities, and the main character is rather likeable, along her family and a few other side characters.  There is also some edgelords, but , again, this is grimdark, and they are , like, a staple of the genre. You wouldn't fault an author for playing a trope straight.

So if you don't care about the monotone style at the begining and the a-bit-edgier-than-i'd-like world, dig into it. Slow Learner, despite what the username would imply, shows promise as an author, and has a respectable level of vocabulary and a good command of the English language.  


Fiends For Hire [Anti-Hero Action/Slice of Life]

I have read up to chapter 2, but that is more than 10k words, or it feels like it, as every chapter is composed of several scenes.  Some people may dislike this chapter lenght but the chapters seem to be adequately divided by theme and character. That little detail , that almost merits no focus, aside, let's go to the important part of the review. 

Starting by the grammar, it is almost impeccable, and the author is more than willing to correct any typos one may spot.

Style: Style has my only caveat so far, and its that it overdescribes in places, things that could very well be shown in more effective or interesting ways are told by the narrator and this can diminish the impact a bit. Sometiems it seems it assumes the reader may be stupid instead of mocking the reader for being stupid, which is its own flavor or sylistical greatness. But overall, its interesting and dense enough to be a feature on its own. 

Character score.: interestign characters so far, even in the side characters a glimpse of a personality cna be seen. The Demons are well developed and have quite unique battle styles, which is something to be thankful for when many action fantasy novels characters are "guy with sword slash! Guy with sword stab!". The monster design is interesting and fairly unique. 

Story: there are fiends, they are bounty hunters in a post-world-war setting, it's what it says on the tin, I cannot complain. 



That One Isekai [My Only Cheat Skill is All of Them]

I give it low character and story score because they are just the basics, so far, and... they don't matter at all. They are there, by protocol, because a  story generally has a plot and characters, but that's not why we read this. 

This is pure, unadultered parody of the unsubtlest kind.  The main character is an idiot, the world is absurd and it abides by the laws of beating the nearest  anime trope to death. I don't even remember the name of the protagonist off the top of my head (He is ... Hiro Protagonist). 

This, people, is word terrorism. Beautiful, flawless word terrorism.  If there were an anti-particle to the average isekai, this would be it.  The jokes come out so fast and in such a sucessive fashion that the  US government declared That One Isekai a weapon of war. 

 

Style: it has no pretenses of coherence or sophistication. Each word is carefully calculated to make you laugh at the trainwreck being exacted upon your corneas. The author met subtlety once and shoot her thrice before disposing of the body in the nearest ditch. This unapologetic style serves the absurdity very well. 

Grammar: I saw no mistakes, even if english is brutally mauled every two paragraphs. If language is a kindergarten, the author releases rabid pit bulls on it for amusement. 

Character score: Archeotypical, they exist only to further the jokes, they are jokes in and of themselves. Wan the drug addicted dog girl is wonderful though. 

Story: follows a basic isekai story so far, except the main character is as stupid as he is overpowered. Funny stupid, we grant him that.

In other words: The driving force behind That One Isekai is carefully  crafted incredible stupidty. And we are here for it. Who cares about characters or story if we are guuffawing our sides out each page. Immersion be damned, you don't read this to get immersed, you read it to laugh at the genre, and it does that exquisitely well.  


Conquest Saga [VRMMO, Monster, Dystopian, GameLit]

Score would be more like a 4.75 if i could give it in smaller increments, because the only problem I spotted is with the story. It lacks a good hook past the prologue, its pure progression for progressions sake for a while. We are seeing a dude playiung a vr game with no stakes whatsoever, learning how to play as it goes, and, to be  honest, i feel it like I am watching a boring twitch stream as this all is played straight and with an impartial narrator. So if seeing people progress in a game without any reason to do so but plqay the game, yeah, you may like it. I still think  the long span of stakeless, aimless vr adventures would be better served by adding a bit of the villain (the one we see in the prologue) chapters in between, or any other plot thread to keep those of us that need more than numbers going up and monsters slain hooked. 

Grammar: Minimal typos cna be found scattered, but, otherwise, it's good and the author proactive in fixing it. 

Style: I am not a fan of it, but it is well done. It serves its purporse: it's quick, understandable, dry, it's there to tell the story and nothing more. It's not a comedy, it's not horror, the work can get away with this kind of "robotic style" that is straighforward and functional without aspiring for more.

 Character: Again, they are functional, a bit archetypical so far but, they are readable, consistent, i see no glaring issues with them, and they are distinct enough. 

So the story is an inciting incident on the prologue (murder) and then several chapters of cozy vr progression(Yah, the game is bloody, the pain feels real, but at the begining none of it matters when Allan takes the headset off). If that is your cup of tea, you will love this story. If it isn't, that may be your main complain. 


Duty, empty dreams and trying not to become a monster.

Okay, this story starts off being a chore due to the exposition dumps the author so liberally subjects us to, but it soon rectifies and becomes an enjoyable thing. 

Style: it's plain, pretty descriptive, but okay for the story it is trying to tell. the low score is due to the paragraphs upon paragrapohs of early infodums. These could kill the story before it reaches the juicy parts. They are a slog to get through.

Grammar: nearly flawless, some mistakes here and there, some tense mistakes, nothing too  offensive, let's say. Harmless errors and typos. 

Story: treachery, orphaned child swearing revenge, we have seen this a million time. Because it works. And because there are about a million batman reboots. Except this time batman has an inner pit bull that tells it to maul people to acquire power. Also there are wolf furries in power armor and gore. 

Character: the characters are fine. So far, they work in the prologue and are pretty archetypical. Aranea, as i said, itsbatman. She satarts as a pretty noprmal, mischievous child that wants to be a warrior, and soon enough she gets kickstarted in the way of revenge seeker by a political plot and the kidnapping of some other cubs. The mom is a loving mom with a dark past, dad a loving dad with a sense of duty that gets him inciting incidented.

As a alst note, the story is entertaining, so fi you like the futuristic setting and the magical regenerating wolf girls, this may be for you. Just get past the first chapters/ the prologue infodumps. 


I Got Trapped In a Fantasy World As A Literal Anime Girl And I'm Really Not Taking It Well [More Rewrites in Progress]

Because that is the pitfall of this work: the style. I understand it is a writathon project and as such crafted in a rush, but some things i cannot ignore. Let's adress all other points before, shall we?

The grammar is overall okay, a couple typos can be spotted but nothing egregious. 

The story has a bit of a tonal whiplash but that is intended and as such can be handled by the author in a way that enhances the reading experience. I see nothing wrong with it so far.  

The characters feel pretty stocky at moments, with Lori being the anime goof that becomes a serious machine of death when shit hits the fan and all, Alice being a not-so-stupid variant of the whiny-confused isekai MC and the others , at least up until chapter 10, not having enough  development due to their low amount of , so to speak, screentime. I expect Lori's party to have more development.

Now the style... cvonstant accidental repetitions and redundancies that dont seem to be stylistic choices. The prose is functional and it stops at that. There seems to be no attempt to add a particular authorial voice that could distinguish this story form many other with a functional level fo english here on royal road. A prety standard style, ridden with jarring  repetitions and redundancies, earns these 3 stars on this department. I am not even saying it would need more descriptions,  this is about how the prose feel, the authorial choice of word and sentence structures. Of literary devices.  It's a functional and barren style, and when you mangle one of these with unwanted repetitions or redundacies like
"She screamed.

'AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!' " 
(Paraphrasing, not an actual quote, this is just to give an example of what I mean. A similar thing happens in one of the early chapterrs, but i don't remember which one.)

It becomes incredibly jarring to read. 

This can be cleaned up when writathon ends, and i am sure that as Pizzapizza grabs experience in her path as an author it will improve. 

That said, if you are not extremely picky with style and can stomach anime tropes, sure, give this a go. 



Norman the Necromancer (Progression Fantasy)

Okay, another review, this one is for an exchange, and what can I say: I don't like the style, but the characters and story more than make up for it. It has interesting magic, some tension,  characters with defined personalities, even if some seem flat for now, and a protagonist that is the kind of loser/underdog you don't feel awful empathizing with. 

Let's go into detail, shall we?

Style and grammar:  The lowest scored of all aspects, and with good reason. I am lumping both together because they affect each other. Some paragraphs have a worrysome scarcity of commas that makes them flow wrong, there are tons of closerly repeated terms and redundant statements. Sometimes the wrong word , generally an homophone, is used.  Despite these details, the style is readable, simple, and achieves the work of immersing you on the story. It's nothing great, the prose is functional , and it is fine for it to be so. Some weird authorial choices, I am sure the details will be honed out with more practice and feedback. Definitively not a reason to drop the story if you aren't extremely picky and like the genre. 

Story: It's moving slowly so far, but it is moving in a clear direction.  Norman's dabbing into necromancy is a slow and messy pĀ“rocess that gets him in more trouble than it's worth, but he is stuck on this path and has to see it to it's last consequences if he wants a roof over his head, plus something that happens in chapter 9 and I wont spoil. Pretty good motivation. 

Character: Norman is a great protagonist, not because I like him or his life choices, but because he feels like a person you could know in real life. He is dumb, irresponsible,  horny, lazy, poor and, still, a person trying to do... let's say better... despite his shortcomings. Imagine Shaggy, without the food addiction,  as a necromancer.  This is this guy.  The secondary characters work,  behave realistically for people in a post-alien-contact/recent-magic-discovery society, sometimes making suboptimal choices for fun, and other times being downright ruthless.  

All in all the story is enjoyable, the author knows how to write characters and the plot, if simple, works. The world of the story is not hyper elaborate but  it serves the purporse as an scenario for the characters to interact and live.  The stakes are not too high yet, but they have room to rise, and Norman's main motivations so far are, as the Bee Gees put it, Stayin' alive. 


Doom Valley Prep School

A nice YA supervillain school story

First of all: If you like series like Harry potter, HIVE or similar, you will probably enjoy this story.  The premise is simple: Guy goes to supervillain school because it's cheaper than going to hero school, gets turned into a girl and almost into a mindless slave on his first day, and now needs to learn to survive in a school that wants him/her about as dead as the world at large. Woe is him/her.

The school is highly magical and the teachers are supervillains. The only good people around the school seem to have been demoted to shadow monster stool. This makes for a very amusing setting. 

let's go with the score breakdown, then:

Style: I dropped two stars because i consider the style anc character voice don't serve the intended comedy, being too dry  but not detached enough to attain the atmosphere of constant hilarity where you are way more prone to laugh out loud at the absurdity of the world. Presentation is a big part of comedy, and while the simple and rather dry character voice serves to stablish Peter/Petra as a believable 14 years old and give a YA feeling to narration, i feel the style fails to deliver  what it promises with the comedy tag. Don't misunderstand me, though: situations are amusing, and, ultimately, humour is subjective, so i may be being a bit too harsh in this point. 

Grammar: A few mistakes, a few missing words, nothing too disruptive. In other words, there are typos and a few odd word choices that have mroe to do with authorial choice rather than mistakes. 

Story: I have read until they get to the girls dorm and Ivy is introduced, nothing unusual so far, but the teachers scheming and betting when the Mc wwill fucking die is promising. 

Characters: the strong suit of this story: most characters are believable, and many being bullies or maniacs fits a villain school. So far, Petra isn't horny on main and that's a big plus. The cast is fun to read and ssee them interact,  the teachers are amusing, and, voerall, for the silly world and argument of the story, they are more than fine.   


The Silver Curse

Came looking for silver, found gold.

This is for a review swap, but let me tell you that I absolutely love this story. Let's start with two points that seem to be heavily intertwined: Style and characters. The style is impersonal, yet the 3rd person narrator has an interesting voice that never gets in the way of the characters. It serves as an anchor to deliver all the necessary narration while letting the characters shine by their own dialogue. 

Going into the characters:  Rasp, our protagonist, is as amazing as he is blind. He's a violent quirky asshole, so his interactions with the family of fauns and the Orc general are an absolute joy to behold. He has an interesting past, its somewhat of an underdog with royal blood.  The supporting cast has well defined personalities, and in their interactions with Rasp a lot of humor is to be found. My only complaint would be Rali,  because a dwarf that gets drunk as its main personality trait is overdone, but i have only read one scene of ehr so far and, well, might be a valuable asset to the story in the future. 

Story score: I detected no glaring mistakes, by chapter 10 the story is just taking off , and you already have a curse, talking ravens, a lost prince and  the best almost-sex scene I have ever read (It's really a fight scene, fear not). It is shaping to be a long tug of war between Rasp trying to avoid being made king of his people and the Protector trying by all means to place his ass on the throne, even if severed from his body.  What else is there to say about it? It's not the main draw of the fiction, not when characters and authorial voicdde are so strong. 

Grammar: nothing to say, a couple typos  or weird commas at most. 

Overall, a story I would recommend if you like more traditional fantasy with a bit of witty humor and a good cast of misfit characters.