As Awaken Online enters its closing chapters, the line-by-line reviewing I’ve been doing starts to break down for three reasons. First, it starts to rely more heavily on its fight scenes, which all work. You can follow the action, it isn’t over-described to the point of killing pacing, and each one involves the use of some new tactic or minion so none of them feel repetitive. The story also relies much less on “what if I used my stealth to assassinate people?” level tactics in the endgame.
Second, the Controller appears to love Alex just as much as it loves Jason, and while the primary source of his power is not his class abilities but rather the quest line that gave him control over a humongous army of NPC soldiers, it’s still bullshit-flavored bullshit where the game just bestows tons of powers onto the antagonist in order to get him to pose a serious threat to Jason. That’s terrible game design, but in terms of narrative it means that Jason is much less of a Mary Sue in the second half of the book as compared to the first. He’s still arbitrarily granted undeserved superpowers that allow him to kill boatloads of players not because he is smart or cunning, but because his numbers are fucking gigantic compared to theirs, but he is also required to be smart and cunning on top of that in order to win against Alex’s equally stupid broken nonsense.
And third, the issues that have otherwise plagued the book – the stilted dialogue, the absurd level scale, the aforementioned absurdly broken powers distributed by the Controller for passing vaguely defined personality tests, you can sing along by now – are all things I’ve beaten well and truly to death, and going line by line those are the only things that really leap out at me.
So instead let’s talk about how Jason, Alex, and Riley are the only three players in the entirety of the battle for Twilight Throne that the Controller gives a single flying fuck about. The others are treated as cannon fodder to be shorn through by Jason’s zombie bombs and eleventh hour custom-sculpted bone super minion. The only one who ever demonstrates any unique powers or poses any kind of a threat as an individual is Alex. The exact number of players as opposed to NPCs in the army isn’t clear, but it seems like it should be at least a few dozen, considering the total army is 1500 strong. And out of all of those dozens, Alex is the only one with remotely interesting powers? Why does anyone else bother playing AO, when the only thing you get to do is play second fiddle to one of the three people the author cares about? And the book does it again by granting Riley new magical superpowers as soon as the plot demands them in order to finish off Alex after he defeats Jason’s eleventh hour super minion by a hair. Suddenly she can coat her arrows in dark mana and shoot down Alex’s mooks with them. It’s not clear what level she is, but the book has made a point of how she hasn’t done basically anything her entire time in the game up until this point, so it seems unlikely that she’s particularly high-level, yet she can cut through soldiers established as being roughly level 100 (higher level than Jason, who is now supposed to have been power-leveled far past the average, and not far behind Alex, who at last report is still the highest level player in the game even amongst the beta testers) like they’re butter, in danger solely because of how badly she’s outnumbered.
Unless you’re one of these three assholes, the Controller doesn’t give a shit about you.