“Essence Hunt” Review
Deep breath… Speak to yourself… “I will not write a long review tonight, I will not write a long review tonight”. Alright. Essence Hunt is an often overlooked ability that is usually skilled later on in a semi – carry build under the rationale that you don’t have enough damage items and agility to make the most of it, relegating it to a passive that, essentially, deals an extra twenty damage in the laning phase. But the often overlooked attribute is the time the debuff lasts for: 120 seconds for every stack, meaning that for the entire two minutes that your enemy is in lane, which is an eternity in game time, you just took away 20 health, 11 mana, gave yourself an extra three agility, and that’s per stack. Harass them with an Orb of Venom, give a quick pounce on their support to chip them down, and when your midlane ganker comes up: boom! You now have ten stacks, thirty extra agility, and the means to mess up that same support when they inevitably teleport back. Gank, rinse, repeat, and you’re clowning on those fools who chose to skill their mana – hungry Dark Pact instead.
Oh, the title is “Essence Hunt”, not “Essence Shift”.
Essence Hunt is about a gay fox and a gay dude and them doing typical Yaoi things, written by what I’m assuming is a Yaoi fangirl. Oh, noooooooo…
Writing is fun!
Of course, it’s not like that at all, otherwise it would be too trash for me to even review. What we instead have is a tale worthy of any Greek epic, only condensed to a Sparknotes version. You play as a heavily tanned atheist who goes into the forest and shoots a deer, in stunning defiance of Sharia law. Unfortunately for him, he exists in a work of fiction, and so the Great Spirit Allah cuts him up good. She tells him to get that deer’s soul back in three days, “or you dead, yo”. Then he meets a white – boy fox and they gay it up for the next hour. It didn’t go exactly that way, but it’s the basics.
How gay? Not very. For one, they never fuck, unless you subscribe to the “cuddling is sex” school of thought popularised by six – year – olds. For two, their relationship is rushed a bit, where in less than twenty minutes they go from strangers to straight up saying they “like” each other, also a grade school invention. This is a natural limitation of the short story medium, as this is a short novel, and so I won’t hold it against the author. Instead, I should feel grateful that so much is going on within it: you get action, drama, romance, history rewriting itself, and the past coming back to haunt the present. You got it all. Of course, the plot pulled something from out its bum a few times, though never to the point of me feeling outraged, and it was mostly to create artificial conflict.
Writing can be shoehorned into two categories: mechanics, and content. The content is what is being said, while the mechanics is how it’s being said. In other words, style and substance. The substance of the plot is nice and simple, where the heroes go on a Grand Journey to stop one of them from dying, with a few twists and turns along the way that did feel contrived at points due to a lack of foreshadowing. For instance, the tanned dude thinks about his dead mother halfway through the story, makes a big deal out of it ten minutes later, and causes me to realise that she was never brought up until this precise point. This sort of planning is typical of the author who writes by “the seat of their pants”, and doesn’t have a guide to help them sort out the plot details.
For an experienced author who knows how to spot plot problems in advance and can create clever solutions on – the – fly and edit previous parts of the script, it’s a legitimate strategy, and it’s obvious I abuse it for every single thing I write. But for the amateur it tends to create mechanical problems that they then cover up by focusing an inordinate amount on something that hithero was never mentioned, or introducing that something only a few paragraphs after it was first mentioned. There’s a snake that is mentioned just three minutes before we fight the snake, and then it hecks off right quick.
Writing is hard!
This is partially due to the Law of Conservation of Detail, where if something is mentioned in a short enough story, it must matter, or else the author would not have put it in (see also Chekov’s Gun). My writing teacher called this the “Gremlins Rule”: if there are any rules or restrictions placed on the hero, those rules will always be broken. Unfortunately the audience can also see right through this rule, and when the fox made a big deal of the cure – all river water, I just knew we were going to see somebody close to death. Our main characters, of course, because we don’t care about anybody else. The smart writer avoids these plot cues in a few ways, such as mentioning important details in passing, foreshadowing them hours in advance, hiding consequential details as inconsequential things (for instance, the Heath Willy pamphlet in my recent visual novel), or introducing the entire world at once so that nothing feels contrived when you do bring something important up. Of course, this won’t save the two – minute – lovers – spat at the very end that didn’t need to be there, but there are some things that the experienced writer knows never to include.
How does one get better at writing? Would it be suprising to say to write more? Write, and to the point, think more, read more, and learn as much as you can from the works you admire, thinking about what makes them great, and then copying their structures and prose. As my grandfather often said, “experience is the best teacher”, and that piece of wisdom never goes away even after you hear it a dozen times (often from other grandfathers, naturally). The human brain is well – adapted to learning, but only if one continues to do the same thing every day, making each effort a legitimate attempt to learn more, so that the brain is forced into broadening its horizons, creating ideas that nobody else has ever created, and reflecting those ideas in what you write. Sure, reading TV Tropes all day won’t automatically make you a better writer if you don’t even understand the fundamentals of proper diction. But it sure as hell helps out when you’ve already cut your teeth and want avoid what your inferior peers do wrong all the time. The best place to start is the Bad Writing Index… I don’t exaggerate when I say TV Tropes did more for me as a writer than any other source of information, causing me to think about media in an entirely new way that expanded beyond the superficial and looks deep into the pores of every work, seeing what makes them exist at all, and emulating the good parts while assassinating the bad parts. All this beyond, of course, actually trying to write.
My big piece of advice, though? Never try to be perfect; you will never reach it. As the Russians say, “perfect is the enemy of good”, and among friends, “good” is good enough. The majority of audience members are forgiving of minor plot slips such as exist in this work. They don’t care too much if the author’s prose isn’t entirely “natural”, or doesn’t convey a confident “voice” as this work so lacks, so long as it’s functional and has the capacity to make us feel what the author is trying to convey. I did find some evidence to believe the audience isn’t an idiot, which is that they, too, know what a trope is, even if they don’t know what the word means, and will jump on every opportunity to denigrate poorly – made work. But if your writing isn’t lazily – written, the same as Essence Hunt isn’t lazily written at all, then you will generally be forgiven for any mistakes that you make.
Even the best stylistic writers, like Rudyard Kipling, David Ogilvy, and Lewis Carrol, are not perfect in their prose. They are instead so good they have reached levels that make writers like me wish I could copy their sheer stylistic brilliance — but they are never perfect! And on the other side, I admire Douglas Adams for his cynical, pragmatic, vaguely – optimistic satire that always takes the piss out of our nihilism – inducing universe. But when it comes to all his famous quotes (“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”), it’s always because of what he says, as opposed to the poetic and eye – watering way that he says it. I don’t take inspiration because of his prose, because to be honest, most of the time it’s bland and uninteresting. It’s instead because of the ideas he spreads and the jokes he tells that kept me reading. Douglas isn’t perfect, and I barely emulate him compared to the other three writers, but his work is good enough, and most of the time, all you can ask for is being good enough.
So much for not writing a lot, eh? Well, the Fourth of July is always an embarrassing time around these parts, where Canada Day is celebrated quietly and with a display of flags, whereas this wavering holiday is always met with fireworks which might as well be gunfire. I enjoyed greatly the bisexual glee I felt when reading this work, before all of this bang – bang nonsense came about and I have to write through it, as if ants were invading my room and I had to pry each one off my hands before I could type again. But like fireworks, it’s a waning thrill: you realise it’s quite cheap, and once it’s done, it’s done.
For a gay story, though not as GAY GAY GAY as other novels, it’s competently – told, causes some rousing of emotion (especially the gay ones), and isn’t written awfully. If you’ve had the blissful ignorance to not know as much about writing as me, and so are forced to have me vomit opinions like the mother bird to its flock, then please enjoy this brief experience, if only for the strong boys with a coy charm. Or if you are like me, try it out anyway. You know what they say: a gay fox a day keeps the straight thoughts away.