Title: Infinite Competitive Dungeon Society
Chapters: 354 (Complete)
Shin is following in his father’s footsteps of exploring a mysterious dungeon whose depths are invite-only. Meanwhile, Earth is drastically changing as monsters start appear, followed by dungeons of their own. But Shin isn’t concerned about the new ability users or monsters. He’s determined to conquer the depths of the dungeon.
It’s hard to give this one a good summary because it is a very long story, so there’s a lot going on. On a surface level, at the beginning there are two plot threads that rarely intersect: the Two Moons incident that caused Earth to gain monsters, magic, and little dungeons, and the giant extra-dimensional Dungeon that Shin is working his way through.
It takes a good while before the full story comes out about why both the big Dungeon and the little ones exist, and I like how this takes a familiar trope and twists it a bit, and then goes on to break out of it completely. Heroes defend their world, and monsters invade, but there are reasons behind why all of this is going on, and it’s a lot more grey than it first appears. Shin is stubborn and passionate, and even though Earth is in a very bad situation, he’s looking beyond the immediate problem and towards the bigger picture. Because Earth isn’t the only world facing these kinds of problems. And some of those other worlds have already lost.
This is a litRPG, but it twists away from skills and stats by the end. Actually, it was fascinating that the whole “dungeon” concept is an abstraction, and Shin eventually tries to tackle things at a deeper level. I liked that Shin has actual experience as a spearman from training with his father (and I also like that he’s using a less-common weapon), which makes his progress in the dungeon more believable. He picks up or creates a number of skills and abilities, but I like that after a certain point the concept of a skill can’t overcome actual knowledge/training in how to fight with his chosen weapon or technique.
A large focus of the fights isn’t so much the stats but the strategy. Some of that is tied to skills and their cooldowns, but more of it is about evaluating his enemy, trying to interrupt their dangerous moves, and most importantly not getting hit. Despite his rapidly increasing power, he’s also got enemies far stronger than him—and also a father who is determined to win in any competition against his son.
The one downside for me is unfortunately a rather big one. I don’t like any of the girls. They’re all introduced by hair and eye color, height, and breast size, and every single one falls in love with him and competes to be his wife. They have only the most minor personality variations because of this. They’re flat, uninteresting, and clearly there just to pander. Which makes the harem ending unsurprising but also annoying.
I kept hoping that he’d meet at least one girl that either hated him for real or just wasn’t interested, or could get more of a focus than trying to jump him. In the same vein, all of the elementals are female, all of the tamed monsters are female, and even his sister’s relationship with him is less than platonic (for a while I was hoping she was just playing up to his crush on her to extract benefits from him, but no luck). Even Daisy, who initially appeared to be sane, eventually joins in the “marry me too, please” crowd.
So that being said, I found Ren, Walker, Leon, and Lin way more interesting. Ren is a hotheaded beastman who can’t always live up to his own expectations, but gives his all however he can. Lin is half-dragon and a blacksmith who takes over the dungeon floor shop when Loretta gets a vacation. His grumpiness hides a sharp mind. He’s unwillingly friends with Shin, who keeps toppling his expectations (and thus creating more work with every bet he loses). And so on. The men manage to have better character arcs, and they aren’t spending every other sentence trying to get down Shin’s pants.
The chapters are a bit longer than the other web novels I’ve read so far, so it took quite a bit of time to finish, but the story is complete. I’m on the fence about recommending it, though, as the girls all harping on Shin gets really tedious, even though the fight scenes and the idea behind the dungeon was great. I rate this book Neutral.