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Video Game Plotline Tester

Dark Herbalist Series, Book 1
Written by: Michael Atamanov
Narrated by: Eric Michael Summerer
Length: 11 hrs and 42 mins
5 out of 5 stars (16 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Would you be prepared to work for free? How would you like to bust your hump for a large corporation 60-plus hours a week without a wage or a single day off for the vague promise of some mysterious perks in the distant future?

You'd refuse point blank, wouldn't you? But what if the job in question was playing a state-of-the-art fantasy MMORPG game? And what if this was the only thing you're really good at? Especially considering that your in-game partner is someone really special to you - and this person already lives a virtual life?

Knowing all this, would you consider the mysterious future bonus worth your while?

©2017 M. Atamanov; English translation copyright 2017 by Andrew Schmitt (P)2017 Tantor

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    5 out of 5 stars

do not judge this book by its name

very well written and performed! honestly I have bypassed this title atleast 50 times in the past year because the name was kind of lame and by default expected the book itself to follow suit.I was pleasantly surprised to find quite the opposite within the pages this is amazing. highly recommended!

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  • Don Gilbert
  • 2018-06-15

Different and Good LitRPG

First, I thought the title, “Video Game Plotline Tester,” sucked, in fact I almost didn’t buy the book because the Title seemed too institutional and sterile, which is the exact opposite of the story, which I found creative and refreshing with a different perspective on the LitRPG genre. It does describe perfectly, however, how the main character, Timothy, begins the story as a “Dark Herbalist,” for a video game plotline test.
With so many LitRPG coming out all of the time now it seems a challenge for writers to be different and still fulfill all of the needs that make a great LitRPG. In most of these we follow the main character while he/she quickly levels and eventually becomes the hero of the realm. What I like about “Video game plotline tester,” is it doesn’t go by the usual script. Timothy, by design, has to play a low- life character that, by design, has difficulties leveling up.
I’ve listened to the three “Audio,” books that have come out, so far, and I have to say this series tells a good tale inside the digital world and out in the real world of the story, with twists and turns that has me wondering how Michael Atamanov is going to continue in the next book; but I can’t wait, this is very entertaining.


30 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Christopher
  • 2017-09-29

2nd best LitRPG series I've read.

Obviously, I'm only one book into the Dark Herbalist series, but after Chaos Seeds (which is so much better written than any other LitRPG I've come across that I was starting to think it was the exception that proves the rule) VGPT is the only other LitRPG book that I haven't had to face palm and cringe my way through.

Don't get me wrong, there are other good LitRPG plots and story ideas out there but so far I have found that almost all of them were edited by developmentally disabled chimpanzees or not edited at all. And very often the writing is so full of beginner pitfalls that the language obviates my desire to try to make it to the end of a book... regardless of the strength of the plot.

While the Dark Herbalist sometimes suffers from an overly literal translation and consistently suffers from nonsensical sexual situations, it's otherwise very engaging and well written. For once I'm not sitting here wondering what's wrong with all the people who are giving a LitRPG story 4 or 5 stars.

I can't wait to download book 2.

P.S. If you think I'm dead wrong about the genre, I'd love some solid recommendations for well written LitRPG books.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Heath L. Doolin
  • 2017-04-20

Solid litRPG

What happens when you are put into the worse class with the worst stats and your job depends on making it fun? You think better...

Great story with a blend of R/L and RPG mixed in and an engaging storyline of a guy doing his best in a bad situation. Great for those MMO players who are not your standard golden triangle types and want a person who succeeds by his wits (along with some helpful misfits) Looking forward to the ongoing series very much!

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • reina
  • 2019-08-24

tough to finish

this was translated to English, which normally isn't an issue, but either the author was overly formal or the translator was overly formal. there were parts I could tell were supposed to be funny but the delivery was totally deadpan and the verbiage was just off. I'm sure the Narrator was part of the problem...the storyline was interesting but it was difficult to pay attention. I plan to return and and won't be reading any others in this series.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jed
  • 2018-02-20

Well done! Top 10 of litRPG.

This series has some real potential! It balances well the “technical” growth of stats with action and adventure. Love the use of an unconventional character. I have listened to the first two books and I am hooked! Definitely worth the credit. Don’t get turned off by the silly and cartoonish cover.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Irshad Karim
  • 2017-04-28

Definitely worth a listen

Engaging characters, interesting conflicts and a very cool world. I think that last point was the biggest draw for me, though in general it was a fun and relatively stress-free romp. The ending did fall a little flat, but I'm certainly eager for the sequel.

13 of 19 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Brian
  • 2018-02-02

Ready Player One, but less AND more epic

The sub-genre of sci-fi/fantasy that is developing around videogames is fascinating. I've read a few books because of that fascination. This book. Well, it has elements that made Readu Player One great, but it doesn't have the flaws that made that book hard to read. The title is anti-climatic, but the content made me want to stay up late to listen. This is worth your time. Especially if you've enjoyed books like Reafy Player One. It relies significantly less on reference and nostalgia, and stands firmly on its own as a good story.

9 of 14 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Saphenous
  • 2017-05-29

highly amused

What did you love best about Video Game Plotline Tester?

I like how big ears has an unusual character and seems to succeed at it which is what you figure will happen when you follow a character around.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Video Game Plotline Tester?

There were a lot of memorable moments. I found it interesting they get in capsules to physically be in the game. I liked him meeting up with his sister in game and she is disabled and can't walk in real life but in the game she can and she feels whole in the game. I caught myself smiling through some events and chanting in the background for other events. LOL

What does Eric Michael Summerer bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I like the way he did the voices of characters and the inflection he used while reading. I had a hard time pushing pause to go to sleep or answer the phone at work.

Any additional comments?

I hope there is a book 2 to continue where we left off. We aren't even lv 30 yet so there is a lot of room to make a 2nd book. I almost didn't get this book because the title was a little ambiguous and it seemed like a book for kids, I'm glad I took a chance on it though because in my mid 30's I really enjoyed this audio book! I loved that it was a longer audio book, I really had no idea the book was originally in another language and translated to English. It was really well done!

10 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jzang
  • 2018-02-14

Like the book

I just wish the character struggles more. His sister has greater struggles than him. I just wish he failed sometime.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ray Johnson
  • 2018-01-23

A fun read!

This is a very fun book that really puts the screws to its MC. The aforementioned protagonist takes a job as a video game tester, but lies so that he can get into the program. He tells them that he has never played the game before, which he did, but only briefly. His short lived stint was mad even more problematic when he is killed by a vampire. He get put into a competition with other gamers for slot at the full time gig, and has no say in what kind of a character he gets. Naturally, he ends up being a scruddly little goblin. . . .who just happens to be afflicted by vampirism from his first go round in the game. Not only is he a feeble gobbling he is also afflicted with being a vampire.

So, I decided that I was going to review this since I had already done one of the Reality Bender series, and this was out first. What is fun about this book, and what makes it a little bit better than Reality Benders, is that this game actually has an air of authenticity to it. The game is skill based, and looks to want players to be cooperative with one another. Timothy has his house bound sister join him in the game, and she is very clearly the brains of the operation. What I really liked about the story is that Timothy is rewarded for not doing run of the mill stuff like grinding, and making items. He looks at the paradigm and sees ways around it. He also gets a little extra for finding glitches, so he is on the look out for some glitchy goodness.

One thing I really enjoy are little easter eggs, and I think that when Timothy said her was naming his character Amra I nearly had a geek spasm. Conan the barbarian has an alias that he went by when he was a pirate in Belit, and I really hope that this is a nod to Conan, since Amra seems to be the muscles of the operation. Although I also say that his sister is the brains that really isn’t a fair assessment as Timothy often comes up with some off the wall way of doing things that actually advance him in some manner. Also, as a vampire he has different abilities, and I think my favorite was the Taste Tester power in which he gets 1% bonus for each new blood he puts in his palette. Additionally, I loved the way that stats were used to demonstrate capabilities in the game, for example, the first time that Timothy tries to speak as Amra most of what he says is gibberish or childish gobbledygook. The story is basically about how he is trying to keep his job as a tester, not get discovered to be a vampire, do average game things like leveling up and getting stronger. I thought it was a nice touch to give him a home base that was “haunted”, and give it a mystery of what was doing the haunting and I had a few snickers when he was showing the tribe his powers. If you want to know some of the bad, there are plot holes that do crop up, such as Amra having or using items you had no idea he was carrying, and to me the story really felt like it was just him wandering around trying to figure things out. Personally, I prefer a book to have three solid acts, set up, building of tension, and climax. This was a sort of let’s see where things will take me kind of approach. It was a bit lackadaisical for me.


Eric Michael Summerer, whom you may recognize from the work he’s done on dodge tank, really elevates this book. I have enjoyed him since I first heard him do some Forgotten Realms books back in 2013 or thereabouts, and if you really want to hear him do some amazing stuff (aside from the Dark herbalist or Dodge Tank) go find those and give them a listen. I do think he has grown better, as his Dodge tank work is impeccable, here he carries the story quite nicely.

Final score 7.8 stars. It was good but I found that it was nearly aimless in its execution and there were some plot holes that just popped up that could have very easily been fixed. Plus, it seems like Amra lucks his way out of stuff more than he should have, either way I liked this book and I am sure that you will too.


This is a very fun book that really puts the screws to its MC. The aforementioned protagonist takes a job as a video game tester, but lies so that he can get into the program. He tells them that he has never played the game before, which he did, but only briefly. His short lived stint was mad even more problematic when he is killed by a vampire. He get put into a competition with other gamers for slot at the full time gig, and has no say in what kind of a character he gets. Naturally, he ends up being a scruddly little goblin. . . .who just happens to be afflicted by vampirism from his first go round in the game. Not only is he a feeble gobbling he is also afflicted with being a vampire.

So, I decided that I was going to review this since I had already done one of the Reality Bender series, and this was out first. What is fun about this book, and what makes it a little bit better than Reality Benders, is that this game actually has an air of authenticity to it. The game is skill based, and looks to want players to be cooperative with one another. Timothy has his house bound sister join him in the game, and she is very clearly the brains of the operation. What I really liked about the story is that Timothy is rewarded for not doing run of the mill stuff like grinding, and making items. He looks at the paradigm and sees ways around it. He also gets a little extra for finding glitches, so he is on the look out for some glitchy goodness.

One thing I really enjoy are little easter eggs, and I think that when Timothy said her was naming his character Amra I nearly had a geek spasm. Conan the barbarian has an alias that he went by when he was a pirate in Belit, and I really hope that this is a nod to Conan, since Amra seems to be the muscles of the operation. Although I also say that his sister is the brains that really isn’t a fair assessment as Timothy often comes up with some off the wall way of doing things that actually advance him in some manner. Also, as a vampire he has different abilities, and I think my favorite was the Taste Tester power in which he gets 1% bonus for each new blood he puts in his palette. Additionally, I loved the way that stats were used to demonstrate capabilities in the game, for example, the first time that Timothy tries to speak as Amra most of what he says is gibberish or childish gobbledygook. The story is basically about how he is trying to keep his job as a tester, not get discovered to be a vampire, do average game things like leveling up and getting stronger. I thought it was a nice touch to give him a home base that was “haunted”, and give it a mystery of what was doing the haunting and I had a few snickers when he was showing the tribe his powers. If you want to know some of the bad, there are plot holes that do crop up, such as Amra having or using items you had no idea he was carrying, and to me the story really felt like it was just him wandering around trying to figure things out. Personally, I prefer a book to have three solid acts, set up, building of tension, and climax. This was a sort of let’s see where things will take me kind of approach. It was a bit lackadaisical for me.


Eric Michael Summerer, whom you may recognize from the work he’s done on dodge tank, really elevates this book. I have enjoyed him since I first heard him do some Forgotten Realms books back in 2013 or thereabouts, and if you really want to hear him do some amazing stuff (aside from the Dark herbalist or Dodge Tank) go find those and give them a listen. I do think he has grown better, as his Dodge tank work is impeccable, here he carries the story quite nicely.

Final score 7.8 stars. It was good but I found that it was nearly aimless in its execution and there were some plot holes that just popped up that could have very easily been fixed. Plus, it seems like Amra lucks his way out of stuff more than he should have, either way I liked this book and I am sure that you will too.

8 of 13 people found this review helpful