I realise that it’s not been long since my last LitRPG book, but I was feeling in a science-fiction/fantasy sort of mood. The Occulist looked like a fun read from the blurb, if very similar to other books and series in the genre that I’ve seen so far.
Damien Arkwright, a teenager simultaneously studying for potentially life-changing exams and acting as a beta tester for gaming company Moebius, finds his life taking a turn for the worse when his mother has a heart attack in front of him. Desperate after hearing that she is 35th in line for a heart transplant, he enters Moebius’ new MMORPG called Saga Online to try and win their Streamer Contest with the intent to pay for her medical costs. But when the top-ranked player, Aetherius, humiliates him and dumps him in a high level dungeon for a perceived slight, Damien’s only hope lies in taking the previously unknown class of Occultist.
Despite the somewhat standard start to Occultist, I found myself appreciating the unexpected depth a lot more than I’d expected. This is down to two main factors: the real-world aspect of the plot and the intricacies of the Occultist character class.
Starting with the real world stuff, I was pleasantly surprised at how down-to-earth and believable the goal was. Compared to the previous LitRPG novels reviewed here, Battle Spire and HOPE Engine, the real-world problems impacting the stuff in the game world in Occultist were ones that I could potentially see happening in the near future. Staying out of the foster care system and getting money for health insurance are goals that are unfortunately only too real, and the potential for gaining a massive windfall through the medium of competitive gaming is becoming more and more commonplace. The only thing missing was the main character getting SWAT called on him, although I’m sure that there’s time for that in any potential sequel.
The game stuff is a bit more of a personal thing, but I really liked seeing a main character who was more summon-based. See, my main characters on Guild Wars were a Ranger and a Necromancer, and for both of them I had combat pets that would either attack alongside me or act as a constant buff. I have a bit of a soft spot for that kind of character build, but it doesn’t tend to get good press in LitRPG novels. The only other character I can think of off the top of my head is Silica from Sword Art Online, and she’s kind of the LitRPG poster child for damsel in distress. So yeah, kind of a personal thing, but it was nice to see a bit of variation from the tank/mage/healer stereotypes.
The overall story arc is not necessarily anything new, but Occultist spices up the typical genre fare by focusing on concrete, easily believable problems to deal with in the real world and by branching out the main character’s class out from the standard tank/mage/healer archetypes by throwing in pets/summons. It ends on a good final note, but I’d be happy to read more in the universe created here. 5/5
Next review: Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett