I view the story and plot twists as sprinkles on ice cream - they're not bad, but they're not good. Just ordinary and dispensable.
The setting of accel world and the game design is quite spectacular, even better than SAO, but most of the plot significantly lacks novelty. Eventually every player enters this battle arena and starts killing each other with their unique super powers. That's pretty much it. Oh, and your girl was once the leader of this epic guild, but now everyone in this whole world fucking hates her and suddenly you're alone with her to learn her techniques and try to build
another super epic guild? Seems legitly cliched. The first few times you encounter such sprinkles, you get excited from the sugary taste, but after awhile it gets dull. The author mitigates such triviality starting at volume 6, where he introduced this dangerous central palace and a hypnotizing armor. This was quite interesting, but even if I ignore some of the obvious plot holes, the feeling I got from this is similar to when a game company releases a new patch for a boring game. First it seems as a breadth of fresh air, but immediately you get tired of it again because there were no fundamental change to the backbone.
I think I am too critical. But it is just difficult for me to seriously consider the situations of these characters, no matter how bad, because the setting of this entire story is that they are playing a "game". Maybe it's because of this reason, sometimes I feel like events taking place are depicted too seriously and the characters are doing stuff way too insane like they're some fat otaku. There's just too much drama in the real world. Sure it is on me to read it as a novel, but it is on the author to present a convincing and appropriate setting.
Despite everything I said, I actually like accel world. In fact I read it very quickly, in just a couple of days. The stories of some side characters were pretty good, and the art is great. But the fact that I never went back to re-read the novel or re-watch the anime speaks a lot. Did I mention it's still ongoing?
Sword Art Online and Accel World is in the same "universe" with different characters. SAO starting in 2022, and Accel in 2046. Of course the security has increased to a level where it's no longer dangerous to use Virtual / Augmented Reality in 2046. The author is showing in SAO the risks of this newly invented game technology, and in Accel World he shows the evolved version and how useful it is in everyday life.
Story: In the year 2046, they have a device that long since replaced cellphones and computers, and it's worn on the neck. This story is about a certain fighter game knows
as Brain Burst, played on this device. You temporarily dive into a recreated version of your current location, but slightly different. Maybe it's a "post-apocalyptic" themed version of where you currently are. And you fight 1vs1 with someone near you in something similar to power suits, time is slowed for the duration of the fight. Lasting up to 1,8 seconds of real time, or 30 minutes of game time.
This game however is very exclusive, and if you lose too many times your game copy will be removed and you will never play it again. If you win repeatedly however, you might find a whole new side of this game that will make you unable to quit. The age of all players are between 8 to 16 years old.
Characters. The Protagonist, Haruyuki, is loud and annoying. He complains and whines all the time, but in the end he screams and brings forth a way to defeat his enemies, well, most of the time. He's also a fat loser with an inferiority complex, yet he has a harem anyway, 'cause why not?
The Main Heroine is a slightly older cool beauty. She's a not exactly a tsundere, but close enough. She's the protector of Haruyuki as well as one of the strongest players alive. Not much is known about her, after 10 volumes we have not even been given a name yet. (seriously).
Overall, if you like Science Fiction you might like this story. Being played out 20 years after SAO, maybe fantasy games went out of style. Focus on relationship and character growth might be seen as boring and slow paced, but this is a story about people connecting with each other with the game as the common interest. It is indeed a very intriguing story.
+ A lot Character Focus
+ Told in a Third Person View (Not told as "I did this, I walked here" etc)
+ While slow, there is romance development
+- Science Fiction terms are common, a lot to learn
- A Lot of drama
- Only Young Characters (though this is explained)