Hardcore Leveling Warrior: SAO Done Right?

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One of the first webtoons I have ever read Hardcore Leveling Warrior. It is one of the most popular webtoons on the app and for good reason. A surprisingly professionally written virtual reality comic that does the overpowered protagonist right.

Hardcore Leveling Warrior


Known as Hardcore Leveling Warrior, Ethan is the #1 player of the world’s biggest game, Lucid Adventure. But when a mysterious player kills Ethan and forces his character back to level 1, he will do anything to get back on top. New friends and old foes, as well as mysterious forces and his own dark past, will follow him as he does his best to take back what was once his.


When I started the manhwa, I did not expect much from it. But after the first few chapters, I was completely hooked. The art style of this comic is cool. It is semi-polished but really stylized. While the art does feel it lacks depth, it does not pose an issue visually. I dig it a lot.

Design & Worldbuilding

The character designs are unique. You can easily recognize the silhouette of the characters. The design of characters and skills are distinct.

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Hardcore Leveling Warrior Bear Killer

The in-game system of Lucid Adventure is cool, it is not something unique but well thought out. It has demons, monsters, dragons, god etc. Skill class/Job is basic like a mage, swordsman but with auxiliary titles like Black Wizard, Holy Swordsman. This can make some combos and strategies exceptionally interesting like Master Swordsman’s guild Grass-Root Guild which uses combo moves for effective battle.

Fengxian Hardcore Leveling Warrior

Talking about skills, there’s another part of this job known as “Personal Attribute“. Personal Attributes are skills randomly assigned during character creation. It is given regardless of class/tribe. Personal Attributes/PA can range from a certain skill/stat bonus to Transcendental type, which gives player powers far beyond the laws of the game itself. PAs are probably the main power system of the series and the author gets creative with it. We see everything from having Taster (which buffs your stats the more you eat) to being Hercules.

Yopy Land

Worldbuilding is also good. We get a decent sense of the map of Lucid Adventure. There are four kingdoms, few areas which can only be accessed for certain events and certain areas are not allowed/outside of the map. While this is no One Piece, you get a good sense of location. And they are distinct enough you can somewhat recognize them from a single photo.

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Hardcore Leveling Warrior Darks Party

So, after talking about power systems, art, worldbuilding let’s talk about characters. So, let’s start with our protagonist Hardcore Levelling Warrior (HCLW).

HCLW is a jerk-ass character. He was formerly #1 on the server and full of himself. But after his downfall, he must start over from the ground up. And we soon see that his confidence was not all bark.

He understands game mechanics better than most people and gambles with risky moves for high-risk high reward plays. His job and PA synergy make such moves possible. Also, the more time we spend with him more you start liking him. If I could compare him to any other character, I will say he is a lot more like John Constantine. Both are brash not the smartest or most powerful but incredibly cunning and luck plays a major factor in their success.

Dark and Sora both are good characters in their own right. Dark when introduced is a bratty rich kid who thinks lowly of HCLW and only sees him as a tool. But slowly he starts seeing him as a friend and mentor in the game.

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Sora starts as an HCLW fangirl. He saved her years ago and told her to get stronger and she starts training for that. Originally, I thought she’ll just be another Asuna but she is a strong competent character. Her unrequited admiration for HCLW strives her to be stronger and later, she wants to be strong enough to protect her friends. And yes, with some of her armor & compromising positions she is used a bit for fan service. But she is more than just that which is what I love about her.

Rest of supporting characters are also excellent. Like aforementioned Master Swordsman and his guild, Heart Heater, Yopy, GIGA antagonists and other NCPs.


While I love Hardcore Leveling Warrior, it is time to talk about the drawbacks, which I do not have a lot of. There is quite a lot of plot armour here and there and it might feel like things are sometimes a bit too easy for the party. Also as mentioned earlier, there is some fan service here and there which might upset some people. But these are just nitpicking which will not affect your reading experience by any chance.


As my closing thoughts, I will say this is a really strong series. If I had to rate it I’ll give it a strong 8 out of 10 compared to other webtoons I’ve read.

Hardcore Leveling Warrior is in its second Season right now.

Hardcore Leveling Warrior or HCLW, is a manhwa and webtoon series written and illustrated by Kim Sehoon.

You can read it here at Webtoons Official Site.

For more anime news – ikigai POP Anime News
For more reviews – ikigai POP reviews

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