I highly recommend this novel if you're tired of storylines from the good guy's point of view or just like evil MCs in general. What sets this apart for me from the generic evil MC novel is that it doesn't try to rub it in your face that the MC is evil : most of them make a show of mentioning mindless slaughter (the gorier the better), or including lots of NSFW scenes. Most of the time that kind of approach falls flat for me though, turning the novel into one-dimensional depictions of good vs evil.
Here, the MC is simply what he is, plain and simple : someone who wants to reach the topmost level of cultivation so that he could have eternal life. He's incredibly focused at it, and he doesn't want to be held back by the moral conventions of the "correct path", emotion, etc., hence his decision to travel the Devil Path (he's incredibly similar to the MC from Warlock of the Magus World, but less psychopathic; he doesn't get a kick twisting people to his will, he's all business). He's very cold blooded and calculating, but he's not a prick; in fact he can be very sociable at times, usually when he's setting someone up.
The cultivation is unique as well, with insects being used as material representations of world concepts : kill a wild beast, and there's a chance you retrieve an insect representing that beast's strength. Build that insect up, and you get to use that strength for your own. Same thing for that beast's defense, stamina, etc. Other insects include something that represents moonlight - build it up, and you're capable of long range attacks with arcs made of moonlight. So on and so forth. The insects have their own cultivation level aside from the user, and there's recipes where different insects can be joined up to get more powerful ones.
Plenty of worldbuilding as well. The world is divided into 5 separate regions, with each one having a distinct culture and flavor.
Currently, I'm at the latest RAW (c1671) and I can say that there are no boring story arcs. There's the occasional ho-hum chapter, but then every web novel has that. :P Daoist Gu has this way of reinventing itself every now and then, keeping things relatively fresh.
At just the 6th soul ring (around lvl 64ish), the MC was able to beat a Titled Douluo (lvl 9x) ! That's how OP the MC has become, and looking at the next few chapters, it looks like even more powerups are just a corner away. It's a far cry from the previous books of the series where the power level was a lot more defined and respected, where a Titled Douluo would be more of endgame type opponents instead of being a snack on the way.
Another issue for me is that soul abilities don't have that unique feel anymore. I don't mean that they feel like they've been copied from earlier DDs. The thing here is that, at least in the current point in the RAWs, the spirit links are no longer acquired from hunting spirit beasts (I enjoyed reading about whatever rare beast that they can encounter and get spirit rings from, and what ability they can get from it). In DD3, spirit beasts have mostly died out, links are actually just BOUGHT from the Soul Pagoda (where they are artifically manufactured o_0). That means it's pretty much a matter of pay2win at least at the beginning.
By around the middle of the series, the game element is reduced to 0. What we have instead is incredibly annoying repetition. Chapters are comprised mainly of either other people recounting the MC's feats, betting the MC is so young so he's impossible to do X, or thinking what a bright future the MC has ahead given youth and attainments. We have trade union presidents left and right shedding tears because of how skilled the MC is, and giving him their president status. There is almost no story anymore, and the transitions -- everything -- is handled as subtly as a brick smashed to your face.
This has now become one of my top ranked novels. (Again, try not to judge it in the first 100 chapters). Very engaging storyline, and not just a linear progression of power ups. Incredibly rich world building : as time goes on you get exposed more and more to how vast the story world really is and just how much potential it has for more adventures, without getting the feeling of it just being a variant to the bigger world outside the world thing that IET's novels usually have.
There's quite a bit of character progression, not just in terms of the MC but of the side characters as well. The author explores a lot of the human moments and frailties that the character goes through, and not just his successes.
I believe this novel's formula for success is that the author avoided rushing the MC through power ups, thus avoiding the spiral of having to find ever better loot and general OPness that pervades a lot of novels in this genre.
It's only at the 560th or so chapter that the MC finally got to upgrade himself to a 2nd level sorcerer (sorcerer apprentice -> 1st level sorcerer ->.... -> 9th level
Very highly recommended
EDIT 2: (at c237)
Bumping up my review to a 5. For whoever's going to read this, try not to judge it too harshly based on the first 100 or so chapters. After you get past the initial cliche stuff (annoying audience included), you get treated to a nice story with epic battles.
The MC isn't OP : while he's on top of the food chain for his level, he's not capable of jumping up the ranks so to speak. Instead, he constantly uses his wits and intelligence, and along the way you get treated to his viewpoint which is kinda unique IMO.
Instead of becoming just a series of power ups, you really get treated to a journey across different worlds.
EDIT: (at c150ish)
Fortunately, the novel is progressing better as time goes along. No more instant power ups, more story exposition and character improvement. It reads and feels like a unique novel, not just one of those cloned stuff. Happily upgrading my rating to a 4.
The basic premise is ok, with passing similarities to Warlock of the Magus World, at least in the academy phase. What kinda ruins it for me is how easy the author makes it for the MC
Something the MC researched gives him the ability to make a pheromone perfume. Because of this, he gets into a partnership with a businessman which leads him to earn thousands of magic stones (currency) a month, while the rest of his fellow apprentices can earn around 4 or 5 a month.
For me, the advantage is too much, and not realistic.
The way he keeps running into stuff that he'll need / can use isn't realistic either. A more balanced approach would have been a lot better IMO. Also, I don't like it when scenes events feel like they happen just to give the MC loot. I want a better sense of the story. So far there are also a LOT of author's notes in parenthesis (at least compared to other novels) and more often than not they break immersion.
Anyway, if you can accept that (I guess OP MCs aren't really that rare), so far it seems OK as a binge read. Different varieties of magic plus mad scientist like experiments are a welcome change to the usual xianxia body cultivating thing.
Apparently, having a skill in hidden weapons allows you to use gravel you've kicked out from the ground to kill off relatively weak monsters. I would have been fine if they were at least thrown with accuracy and strength by the MC but really... stomping on the ground to throw up gravel to kill enemies is an application of a hidden weapons skill???
Rant #2: the MC was given a skill early on where he can generate electric current. Aside from emitting it directly, he could also use it internally to help train his strength and agility... but he almost never uses it at all. An RPG min-maxer would be using that as much as he can on top of whatever attribute gains you can get by spending points, but he just leaves that option as is. /smh
Rant #3: The MC has a sub-attribute Hand Eye Coordination under the Agility attribute. For some reason tho, when the author tries to describe what happens when MC promotes that attribute, he keeps saying that it's improving the MC's eyesight : as of c726 he can see up to 6km away, and see individual dust mites in the air. THAT'S NOT WHAT HAND-EYE COORDINATION IS! /doublefacepalm
The MC gets attacked by 3 fellow outer door disciples because of greed. He manages to stun / incapacitate all 3, but then feeds the female a drug that strips her of power temporarily and then proceeds to rape her. Later on, they both figure out that the intercourse was actually mutually beneficial for their cultivation, after which they set up a monthly booty call.
EDIT : Am now up to c213. I'm not sure if the translators just skipped over the details or if the author upped his H level, but the ero scenes later on are a bit more explicit than the ones I read from the English translation of the early chapters. Personally, I didn't think that the rape scene had to be there, and I was put off again for a couple of chapters.
EDIT : Now up to c318. I'm a bit disgusted with the MC now. He's a bit TOO ruthless IMO after he's accumulated power. Hope the story doesn't continue that trend.
EDIT : At ch362. At this point, the story has become repetitive, with quite a bit of stupid dialog / behaviour. I mean, if you're part of a school that has sent a large group to hunt down a dangerous person, if that large group practically disappears you don't go walking to the person you're trying to hunt down and ask him casually where they went without precautions right? There's now a lot of dialog like 'You killed them? I don't believe you'. If one of the people sent out (that disappeared) is stronger than you by a level, and the person you're hunting says that it's him that did it, you don't quibble with words, you need to start taking precautions right? But noooo....
EDIT : At 428. Fortunately, the repetitiveness stopped after the previous arc. The writer seems to have gotten his creative juices back :). One thing I don't like tho :
He's amassed a small army because of various reasons and keeps them in his life space. A lot of problems he now just solves by bringing out various minions. OP as heck. As if it wasn't enough that he has an almost indestructible shield in the form of his bell. I wish the author would put his mortal body intensity to good use, have him learn close combat arts or something. Well, anything so that it's actually him that's battling, and not the minions he keeps on accumulating. It's not summoner wars or something
While at the peak of the first power level, MC is able to kill 100 beasts of the 3rd step, 5 beasts of the 4th step, and one of the 5th step WITHOUT EVEN GETTING AN INJURY. O_o (Those beasts all came in one wave, not sequentially mind you). Rephrasing that into the traditional xianxia cultivation realm to help put things in perspective, MC while at peak Qi Refining killed 100 King Dan, 4 Nascent Soul, and 1 Spirit Severing beast. It's crazy!
MC still keeps getting powerups tho. In the case of humans, who should have a Flux Armor / shield corresponding to their level, a 1st step shouldn't have enough pure flux energy to get past the armor of a 4th step. The MC is able to do it tho for some unclear reasons.
At one point you keep wondering why the MC is still at the 1st step because he should have accumulated the necessary crystals for that rank up a long time ago. Then the author puts out a line where MC says he wants to stay at the 1st step because the that way the multiplier for Tower Coin drop rate in Tower of Glory is much higher. (Tower of Glory is a place with 108 floors, with each floor having tougher monsters. The items that can be received in exchange for Tower Coins are very rare). Seriously? Such a lame reason for letting the MC be massively underestimated by near everyone while secretly being able to roflstomp them?
I'm dropping my star rating on this to a 2, and dropping the series as well.
In my previous review, I mentioned that the quality of the story started declining around the 3rd phase of the sanctuary. I have to say now that that decline has turned into a steep nosedive. All the cons noticeable in the previous parts of the story seems to be highlighted (immersion breaking fillers, erratic / wandering storyline, super plot armor), while the stuff that made it good / bearable (the boss "raid" / "raid" preparation, interesting beast soul usage) are nowhere to be found.
- Kinda slow at first, school life is boring, but beastly soul usage is an interesting premise.
- Story hits the peak when MC starts encountering the super god gene / super god beasts. 4 rating.
- Story goes into a steady decline after MC gets to the 3rd phase of sanctuary. Not recommended to read at this point.
Have read up to the latest chapter of the RAWs c1461. There's good news and bad news.
Good : The story becomes REAAALLY interesting once the MC starts encountering the titular Super God level of genes / beasts. From the name itself, it's a level up from the God level that was previously thought to be the top of the hill - encounters with them are incredibly hard, needs a lot of planning and luck. There's a lot of tension involved, and it sometimes reads like a fight against a raid boss.
Bad : By the 3rd level of the sanctuary, a lot of the tension just gets pulled out. Instead of hunting for the genes required to power up, the MC just gets them from plants. Plants! Eat a couple of fruits, and he's received benefits that he would have gotten from a satisfying fight from the previous levels of the sanctuary. The super god level that provides a lot of the tension gets trivialized as well.
More Bad : The author has this tendency to put in really annoying filler in between chapters, stuff that obviously doesn't further the plot in any way or build on the MCs character. Just. Annoying. Filler.
It's kind of a shame actually. With a bit more polish (and editing!), this would have been a really good story - personally I find the concept interesting.
I would give the story up to the 2nd level of the sanctuary 4 stars. Once the MC gets to the 3rd level tho, it runs out of steam IMO, and I would rate it a 3.
At one point, MC decides to focus on learning the deep meaning of his various Martial Spirits, and to use that comprehension to break through to the god boundary. Several dozen chapters later, he somehow gets the idea to study spatial transmission so that he can help bring over his family from one area to another. Because of that though, what he finally comprehends to pass over the god boundary is the strength of space-time. Now, the plot is full of stuff that needs his space-time powers to solve -_-
* rant on *
MC and friends plus opposing side encounter a lifeform that they mutually acknowledge as extremely powerful, and is on the same level as the lifeform that serves as the basis of their universe. They've identified that the goal of this lifeform is to end / consume their universe. To make things worse, the entity they've encountered is only the control portion; there are 11 other portions of the same life form wreaking havoc in various galaxies of their universe.
They manage to suppress the control portion by having someone combust their lifesource. They detect that the 11 other portions are coming back to integrate with the control to fuse into one super powerful entity, and they only have limited time before this happens.
YOU WOULD THINK THAT THEY'D BEAT THE sh*t OUT OF THE CONTROL WHILE THEY HAD THE ADVANTAGE.
This is NOT what happens. What happens is, they decide that it's time for the most powerful warrior from both sides - the ones that could really make a difference in their conflict with the entity - to have a 1-on-1 duel. They duel in a place that's near the control entity (so as to avoid having their camps deal with the side effects of their battle, they say). Everybody else gets so drawn in by their battle that they forget EVERYTHING else. They don't notice that the dude combusting his life source dies, so now there's no suppression on the control. They only notice it when the control sends the two warriors off to another place / dimension. Afterwards, they panic because they notice that there's only moments left before the other 11 portions of the entity arrive and fuse.
*FACEPALM* *FACEPALM* *FACEPALM*
I thought I'd update my review given that I'm at ch800.
Since I had initially given my review, I'd downgraded it to a 3... but am now upgrading it back to a 4.
First of all, the reason I had downgraded my review initially is because eventually, the novel transitions from a mostly urban, modern setting to something more like fantasy / xianxia. The author himself acknowledges that it's his first attempt, and that he's still getting the hang of writing that genre, and it shows in the first couple of arcs after the transition.
The reason I'm upgrading my review back up to a 4 is that the storyline noticeably gets better eventually. Where I'm at, it's pretty epic, a lot more so than most of the Chinese novels I've read. There's a war of potential surfaces / universes going on right now. Earth has been invaded by a numerically superior army of cultivators.
The author has done a pretty good job of avoiding the trope of crafting monopoly I had initially worried about too. All in all, a recommended read
In spite of the negative reviews, I thought I'd give Archfiend a try and was pleasantly surprised. I especially love the atmosphere presented in the first few arcs, the dark and gritty feel of it. As some other reviews have mentioned tho, eventually more and more of the classic Xianxia tropes sink in.
One of the things I like the least is presenting in the world building that the Dao of Alchemy / Pills have been lost because of the dependence of cultivators on modern medicine and the increasing lack of Qi in the environment... and then giving the MC a merit law that not only can be used for cultivation but can also be used to create pills. It's such an obvious setup to push the MC to the limelight / provide him with funds.
Aside from a few snags, so far it's been enjoyable reading though. I like the fact that they haven't made the MC a super know it all, and have him be specialized in fights. He then has supporting partners to fill in his knowledge gaps.
Some other items of note: