Square Enix, what are you doing?
There have certainly been some interesting additions to the Final Fantasy universe of late, and after initially breaking the hearts of 3DS owners seeking out a localised Bravely Default, we wound up with this gem of a game. Except, when you dig under the surface of said gem, you realise it was just a boring old rock after all.
The trailer for the game is certainly intriguing, to the point where I was waiting around the app store for it to finally appear. I have a good two hour commute either side of my day job, so why not try out something that could finally fill the void left by the awesome 10,000,000? As the only chump to cough up the money, I'll be your guide. Onwards!
Final Fantasy: All the Bravest (iOS)
The gameplay itself is a pretty solid concept. There is a large world map, and on this map there are monsters you must fight. You have to move in a linear fashion, so it works kind of like Super Mario World, just without the split paths. Fair enough, monsters get progressively harder so it makes sense. Once you engage in a fight, the battle screen (shown above) appears. If you don't touch anything, the game will sit here waiting for you to launch an attack, so all is good so far.
To attack, you simply tap on one of the characters in your party that isn't recovering from a previous attack (they'll be greyed out and have an ATB bar on their heads). If you attack, the enemies will retaliate. Their attacks vary, but anything that hits one of your party members will instantly kill them. Every three minutes you'll gain another guy to fight for you (if you have space in your party, you can see how much room you have in the top right corner). This way you can wail on the enemies until you're down to a few guys, close the game and come back half an hour or so later and continue the fight. Sounds neat, right?
The problem is that this is it. This is the game. Yes, you 'unlock' new classes which means they'll join the random pool of characters your party is pulled from at the start of each fight. Yes, you can unlock weapons that boost the stats of your characters, but these are automatic and involve numbers you never see. Everything is automated to the point where I'm not even sure you can accurately call this a video game. I'm being completely serious, by the way.
I learned pretty quickly that there was no point in tapping dudes when I could just slide my finger erratically over my iPhone's screen and achieve better results. It kind of reminds me of how people wound up playing with the old Eye Toy; flailing about to get the camera to register, or better yet, spinning the camera around your head like a lasso. This isn't gaming, is it?
Oh, but there's Fever Mode! Once every three hours you can attack without having to wait for the ATB gauges to refill, which besides giving you some swish visuals and a running counter of your accumulated damage, changes just about nothing. I'm still doing the finger waggle. While the game allows you to waggle in spurts (haw haw), there's always going to be a point where you have to step away from the game to let your party accrue more members. That is unless you suck at waiting and want to play immediately, in which case you can buy gold hourglasses to fill your party straight away. Drawbacks? 69p/$1 for three of them. Single-use, of course.
Which leads us on to the biggest bugbear in Final Fantasy: All the Bravest: the in-app purchases. I personally am not against the idea of in-app purchases as a concept. What I am against is how they are used in this particular game. I can kind of agree on the £2.49/$3.99 pricing of the additional map packs. If you enjoy the game that much, then why not? However, 69p/99c for a randomised "legendary" Final Fantasy character, of which there are 35 in total, is pretty damn shocking. I love the idea of blind bags and the random factor, but in a virtual game for real money? The random factor only exists to prevent people picking the characters they want and stopping there. It's a way to drive more money out of those that do buy this game, with absolutely zero effort on their part.
I coughed up 69 of my great British pennies to make sure that there wasn't anything more to these characters. I received Bartz from Final Fantasy V, not a bad character by any means. It's unfortunate then that the hectic gameplay of 20+ characters jumping at monsters and attacking simultaneously ensures that you don't even get to see what your character can do. Yeah, they do a little more damage, but at this point you are just paying to raise your attack stat.
I just don't understand why you can't customise equipment? Sure, managing a team of individuals would be silly, but having a little room to mess with how classes are suited out or what attacks they perform would have been nice. How about an in-game shop to buy things? You actually earn gil as you beat monsters, but it serves no purpose. I hear earning enough of it unlocks a Game Center achievement? Great.
Again, I must reiterate. You 'play' this game by rubbing your finger over the screen, clicking the next level on the world map, then doing the same all over again. You can do this more efficiently by paying for all the extra content, jacking the total price of this game to a price akin to retail console games.
The music and the art are great, but for the most part they are just recycled from older games. The music certainly is, but some of the premium characters such as Cloud from Final Fantasy VII will have had their sprites made from scratch. The entire game has that nostalgic feeling for sure, but I fear it only exists to draw just a few more purchases.
In all honesty, this is a massive shame. I absolutely love the idea of having 20+ characters swarming classic Final Fantasy bosses. I'm fine with the 'tap to attack' and 'get hit once and you die' mechanics, but rather dislike the way in which they are used in this game. It also uses notifications in quite a neat way (as seen above on the right) as that red bubble shows you how many people you have in your party without having to pop in and check. All the Bravest has some fantastic ideas and a massive potential, but unfortunately no amount of in-app purchasing will unlock that.
3.0 -- Poor (Something went wrong somewhere along the line. The original idea might have promise, but in practice the game has failed. Threatens to be interesting sometimes, but rarely.)
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