Like it or loathe it, the popular freemium model isn’t disappearing from the gaming world anytime soon. These days almost every fictional universe seems to have a corresponding free-to-play game to go along with it. Even the more traditional video game companies are starting to shill out their IPs to the plethora of freemium developers out there, including Square Enix and Nintendo. I vowed to stay away from the freemium menace after spending 3 years with The Simpsons Tapped Out. I realized the ultimate goal is to get you to play as long as possible, giving you ample time to consider forking over real cash for shiny bonuses. When an evil friend of mine tipped me off that Final Fantasy Brave Exvius was a decent game with no obvious paywalls, I thought why not. Including the trilogy that changed my life, I have liked every Final Fantasy game I’ve played so far (even if a few of them failed to hold my interest). A universe with a mashup of the iconic characters might be fun to visit. I would even get to learn about the many great characters I haven’t seen in game yet. Besides, no one can force me to buy anything!
How Far I Got
Well, I didn’t get my favourite character so this will reflect poorly in my review. This is quite possibly the WORST freemium game ever! I’m kidding, of course. Despite the lack of Lightning in my game, I enjoyed my time with it. I settled for having Snow paired with Ramuh, the Lightning God, as a connection to my beloved FFXIII trilogy. I decided to call it quits since the story bosses were becoming a pain for my 5 Star characters. I don’t mind grinding in games (within reason), but the materials to get people to 6 Star were just ridiculous, especially when you consider that every battle is tied to an annoying energy mechanic. I also realized that this story could quite possibly go on forever. Now seemed like the right time for me to get out, while I can. The last thing I did was reach the Village of Ambel, witnessing the devastation unleashed by another member of the Sworn Six Crystal-breakers.
Final Fantasy is known for its deep, meaningful, emotionally charged narratives that create the different game worlds, and give life to the special characters we care about. This may be a small freemium game, but the trademark masterful story is there, along with a lovable cast of sarcastic Brave Exvius exclusive characters. The game starts out with Rain and Lasswell, the brave knights of Grandshelt, fighting off a pack of evil monsters attacking their airship. A maiden trapped in a crystal descends from the heavens, pleading for our heroes to go stop an evil crystal-destroyer in the Earth Shrine nearby. Their first encounter with Dark Lord Veritas, a member of the mysterious Sworn Six of Paladia, goes horribly awry, but Rain is given the power to summon visions, heroes from across different Final Fantasy universes, as a result of the crystal maiden’s intervention. You can’t get more Final Fantasy than that, and the intriguing story quickly unfolds while you learn about the characters. Rain is the hotheaded young protagonist, who would do anything to help those in need. The aloof Lasswell offers a voice of reason to keep his easily sidetracked friend in check. Revealing more would venture into spoilers, but other colourful characters join the brave knights on their quest to save the world’s vulnerable crystals. My biggest gripe is that the game spoils itself by revealing who the party characters will be during special event dialog. Not every player is maxed, and they seem to forget the newbie players that are still embarking on the story missions.
The story map is broken up into different stages with a chain of fights (sometimes with a mean boss at the end), or a tiny linear dungeon to explore (complete with random battles). There are also quaint RPG towns to visit that serve as side quest hubs. The turn-based combat is as simple as tapping your party’s pictures and watching the monsters drop. The expected strategy elements are all there too, but won’t matter much until the tougher fights. You can use items, summon Espers, unleash Limit Bursts (a unique ability to every character), and whip out the typical Final Fantasy spells when things start going south. The game’s energy mechanic, cleverly named NRG, depletes whenever you undertake a battle, win or lose. Your party members level up by battling, or you can fuse them with lesser units you don’t care about. Each unit also has a star quality rating. You Awaken your units when they reach the max level, starting them back at level 1 in the next star rating. The Awakening materials needed for the higher rankings will take a sizable grinding investment to acquire. This won’t be a problem in the beginning of the game, but it can easily grow into a paywall or time sink down the road.
In addition to the story map, there are also frequent limited time events (some with odd real life pop star crossovers), the Vortex area filled with farming stages and challenging fights, raid battle events, an Arena mode where you win by beating up player teams who are weaker than yours (don’t feel bad, it’s the law of nature), items to craft with materials you get from baddies, equipment and recipes to find, and even hidden stages to uncover. There are also bonuses for logging in daily, and a friend gift exchange system. This creates an obligation for you to check in often, and you’ll feel like you’re missing out on the days you just don’t feel like playing.
The developers have bills to pay and profits to earn so there has to be a hidden cost somewhere. Enter the game’s real world money item, Lapis. Even though Lapis can be slowly earned for free, it’s clear the game wants you to spend all of them quickly, so you feel inclined to purchase more with cash. They are used for almost everything important: A full party resurrection when you fail, frequent inventory upgrades if you’re a packrat, refilling your NRG instantly, and most importantly, summoning your favourite Final Fantasy characters. And no, you can’t just buy who you want. You have spend 100 or 5000 Lapis to summon crystals which each contain a random unit. Some characters are rarer than others and it’s just as addictive as gambling. My advice is to just forget about trying to find anyone specific, or you may end up disappointed like me when you get your 6th Snow. It almost feels like the developers are holding the popular characters for ransom. At the time of this review, some of Final Fantasy’s most iconic characters are glaringly absent (including people from the great worlds of FFVII, FFVIII, and FFX). I suspect these characters will be rolled out with updates, slowly over time. I’d also bet lots of Gil that the FFVII crew will show up in an event tied to the remake launch. I know I’m right, and you read it here first!
The art style is an obvious homage to the 2D roots of Final Fantasy. This relatively simplistic style is not only pretty to look at, but it also works great to include the wide variety of Android devices on the market today. I used my midrange LG Stylo II Plus to play with no lagging issues at all. You can tell that the utmost care went into creating each town, battle screen, and dungeon area. There are a wide variety of environments and the developers did not cheap out by reusing the same dull backdrop over and over (a common complaint I have with “free” games).
The developers did an amazing job redesigning all of the established characters so that they fit into Brave Exvius’s 2D world. This was no small task considering some of their subjects are from the HD graphics era of gaming. They went above and beyond to capture the overall spirit of each character, giving them a polished new retro look. It’s a nice attempt to bridge the divide between old school and modern Final Fantasy tastes. Unfortunately, some fans will never be satisfied no matter what the designers do. Many characters also have grand Limit Burst animations to fit their persona. For example, Setzer’s Limit Burst summons an airship overhead to bomb your enemy in a hail of explosions. Every character battle animation is flawless and stunning to watch. I’ll let little Lightning demonstrate just how perfectly this was executed:
In order for me to consider this a Final Fantasy game, some variation of that glorious victory tune must play after I beat monsters. I’m pleased to say I was not disappointed. The games entire soundtrack has that epic orchestral feel. There’s the relaxing piano melody that plays on the lobby screen, pleasant village melodies, and a haunting otherworldly track play in the Vortex area. Also expect your ears to pick up some nostalgic vibrations. One bleak track in particular reminded me of Luxerion in Lightning Returns. Another seemed to borrow the notes right out of FFIV’s Dwarf Castle. There are of course the typical battle noises to go along with the music. Nothing that hasn’t been done before (or even needed to be changed) in the sound effects department.
My Overall Biased Opinion
Based on my observations of a sample group of angry forum people, Final Fantasy fan trolls can generally be divided into two rage groups: Old cronies who insist the series sucks after FFVI/FFVII versus young hooligans who disregard the classic games as overrated fossils. I think that both of these groups are idiots and everyone needs to respect each other’s Final Fantasy preferences. Life is too short to waste it arguing about something so stupid. Play what you love, ignore what you don’t, and please shut the hell up about how much you hate everyone who disagrees with you. The fact is Final Fantasy is a very diverse franchise. Each title offers a different experience that some people will love, while others will hate it. I for one commend Square Enix for trying new things with each iteration of the aging series, even if I don’t like their plans (yes, I’m referring to Final Fantasy XV’s VR fishing game). If every game played exactly like VI or VII, the series would get stale fast. It is also incredibly ignorant to attack the older games simply because you don’t understand them. I see this little freemium game as a symbol of peace in the never-ending rage war over which game is the “best”. The best Final Fantasy game is actually just your opinion, no matter how popular that opinion may be.
If the cherished characters from our favourite Final Fantasy games can work together against the Sworn Six of Paladia, can’t we set our own differences aside and just appreciate the great series Square/Square Enix gave us? Since that will never happen, can we at least all unite in our hatred for freemium game mechanics? Whatever. That’s just my unqualified opinion as an outcast fanatic of the FFXIII trilogy, the series of games every group hates. If you like any Final Fantasy title, try this game! It’s mostly free and fun to play in bursts. The annoying energy system, always online requirements, and rarity of certain characters are minor turns offs when compared to the fantastic story experience. Veterans of the series will be blessed with loads of beautiful nostalgia, while newbies to the series will get a sweet taste of what the retro games felt like. Just remember your game ends when you’ve had enough or when the servers finally get shutdown, not when you beat a final boss.
SPOILERS AHEAD!!! You have been warned.
This “Memory Lane” section of my “Post Playthrough Roundups” is a way for me to remember my journey through a game. Major spoilers will be present here so please avoid this unless you’ve already played the game, or don’t have any plans to. Feel free to share any experiences you’ve had with this game in the comments area thingy below.
My Plot Summary
Rain and Lasswell’s journey begins on that fateful day on their airship. A horde of monster’s is beaten back, and a crystal maiden randomly appears to beg the heroes to help her out. Snarky Rain can’t say no to a pretty face, and despite Lasswell’s objections, they confront an evil man named Veritas in the Earth Shrine. He smashes the innocent crystal within and tosses Rain and Lasswell aside. Thankfully, the crystal maiden appears and teleports them away from destruction. Outside, Rain discovers he has the power to summon visions of heroes from other worlds, but it’s too late to save his men, who have all been killed. The pair rush off to go protect their castle. Lasswell implies the king had mentioned something about Rain’s newfound abilities.
After taking a detour to acquire the first Esper, they arrive to find their castle under attack. Rain and Laswell pull their king out of his castle’s ruins, and Veritas makes an unwelcome appearance. The crystal maiden makes another well-timed entrance, chasing off the bad guy, but is reduced to a vulnerable crystal-less state. The knights go after Veritas, while reluctantly allowing the amnesia stricken maiden to join them. They aren’t sure why this Sworn Six of Paladia group is after the crystals, but they guess it might be smart to stop them. Along their travels, the maiden’s name is revealed to be Fina, and she officially joins the party once Rain and Lasswell rescue her from a group of despicable bandits.
After scaling a dangerous snow covered mountain, the heroes confront Veritas deep in the ruins of another shrine. An epic battle ensues but the party automatically loses for narrative purposes (annoying). Everyone but Fina is knocked out, and Veritas spares them. He seems to think Fina will turn on Rain and Lasswell once she gets her memories back. Veritas goes back to his crystal smashing mission, and the party picks themselves up to continue pursuing him. They hitch a ride with a merchant ship to get to another continent. One of the conditions of their passage was that the ship needed to stop on an island first. That brief stop opens the way for another revealing side excursion.
In the sketchy island’s port town, the trio answer the cries of a little girl, finding her under attack by a group of zombies. After going all out Resident Evil on their shambling asses, the girl is saved. She begs the trio to help her find her mom in the ruins nearby. They all agree to help without hesitation. As they traverse the undead invested areas, they learn that little girl’s name is Emma. Lasswell is unusually sympathetic to her plight, and it’s revealed he lost his own parents long ago. They arrive at a research town and discover Emma’s mom had died months ago. Emma refuses to accept this and runs off. Our heroes track her down and play along with her hopes, still agreeing to help her find her mom. Lasswell is increasingly adamant they need to help her. In a cave area, Rain is petrified when he notices some of the zombies are his dead men from the Earth Shrine. Lasswell helps him push his grief aside, and they cut through the familiar undead to save everyone. In the despairing moments that follow, Fina starts glowing and the souls of Rain’s soldiers rise. They forgive their dear commander, tell him to be strong, and happily pass over into the next life. Fina has no idea what she just did.
They reach the ruins and discover a team of mad scientists who work for Veritas have been turning dead people into zombie weapons. The head guy, Dr. Lazarov, is a real ass (reminds me of Hojo from VII) and unleashes an experiment on them. After the big battle where the evil Dr. got away, Emma finds her mom’s body. Emma’s brave mom had tried to stop the Dr., but he killed her in response. In a touching moment where a freemium game almost made me cry, Emma offers an emotional goodbye. The trio drop Emma off at the port town, leaving her under the care of a responsible adult. Lasswell sheds several tears during the goodbye (Aw!).
The next boat ride doesn’t go so well. A Leviathan shows up to destroy the ship (never get on a ship in any RPG world). In the next scene, Rain has a near death dream from his childhood. He’s running through a cave after his father and stumbles upon a maiden in crystal (presumably Fina). He wakes up on a beach and finds Lasswell and Fina. They realize they are at least on the right continent and head for the industrial city of Dalmagica. On the way, Fina seems to become possessed and rambles about Rain needing to choose a side between Aldore and Hess. No one has any idea what it means (including me), and Fina doesn’t remember it happening. They continue on their merry way, figuring the Wind Shrine will be the next target.
After reaching the city, the group runs into an inventive young lady named Lid. Her dream is to become the city’s next Cid, a name given to the Chief Engineer person. Lid also has business in the Wind Shrine. After her mechanical Chocobo friend chases Lasswell around the city, they agree to travel together in a mutually beneficial relationship. First they must pass through a dwarf town that is under siege by a living flame boss. Lid really seems to care about the dwarves and respects the brave knights for helping them out. The group reaches the Village of Ambel and finds a dwarf in distress. An evil entity reveals itself as Veritas of the Heavens (another of the Sworn Six). The party beats him, but he leaves unhurt, saying it’s more fun toying with them. They take the distressed dwarf to a nearby inn, and it’s off to the Wind Shrine.
To be continued… (but not by me)
Favourite Story Moment
When Lasswell and Rain are traversing a desert area in pursuit of Fina’s captors. Lasswell isn’t doing well, and he tells Rain to leave him behind. Rain selflessly refuses to abandon his best friend. I loved the whole bromance between Rain and Lasswell.
Vanille’s limit burst: Death itself. It has a high chance to instantly kill almost everything in the game. It also made me feel over powered in the Arena mode.
Favourite “Oh S@#%” Moment
When Lightning had an increased drop rate event. Unfortunately, the odds were still zero.
The Shrine of Decay stage really sticks out in my mind. It really had a really creepy atmosphere that felt very Resident Evil, with all the biological experimentation and whatnot.
Lasswell, the aloof badass. He reminds me a lot of Auron from FFX now that I think about it. I love guarded characters, who are secretly hiding an inner world of emotional chaos. Lasswell seems like this type of person to me. I respect how he puts his best friend’s life above all else, and how he was so adamant to help little Emma. I also liked Rain, the chatty protagonist. He was a bit brash in his decisions, and needed to cool his jets whenever they met a pretty lady, but his heart was always in the right place. I was not a huge fan of Fina, but I didn’t hate her either. I know she lost her memories but I found her naïve personality annoying. That and I don’t trust her. I’ll never find out why, but the game was hinting pretty hard that she has the potential to betray everyone.
Most Tedious Gameplay Moment
Using precious NRG to farm Awakening materials in the Vortex. SO boring and took literally days since I played in short bursts.
Thunder Enlightening is the name of the quest to unlock Ramuh’s Lair to get the Lightning God as a summon. Get it? Ha ha, funny!
IRL Money Spent: $0.70 CDN
Espers Acquired: Siren, Ifrit, Golem, Shiva, Ramuh, Diablos
Total Login Days: 78
Total Gil Obtained: 597,719
Total Friend Points: 20,780
Total Gifts Sent: 1,594
Total Chests Opened: 222
Total Quests Completed: 665
Total Battles Won: 2,511
Total Damage Dealt: 47,530,056
Most Damage Dealt In One Turn: 131,894
Total Colosseum Battles: 91
Total Arena Battles: 21 (14 wins, 7 Loses)
Total Units Summoned: 501 (and not one damn Lightning… RAGE!)
Character Levels (for those Lightning-less souls I bothered to level up)
- Rain – Level 80, 5 Star
- Laswell Level 80. 5 Star
- Fina – Level 80, 5 Star
- Snow – Level 78, 5 Star
- Vanille – Level 69, 5 Star
- Setzer – Level 60, 4 Star
- Hope – Level 50, 4 Star
- Garnet – Level 33, 4 Star
- Refia – Level 30, 4 Star
- Chizuru – Level 20, 4 Star
- Luka – Level 20, 4 Star
- Dangerous Ariana – Level 10, 4 Star
- Gaffgarion – Level 5, 4 Star
- Xon – Level 4, 4 Star
- Terra – Level 40, 3 Star
- Cecil – Level 22, 3 Star
- Fang – Level 22, 3 Star
- Sazh – Level 8, 3 Star
- Roselia – Level 6, 3 Star
- Locke – Level 5, 3 Star
- Tellah – Level 4, 3 Star
- Zidane – Level 4, 3 Star
- Ovelia – Level 3, 3 Star
Unique Units Summoned (in summary, 99 not-Lightnings)
- Cloud of Darkness
- Dangerous Ariana
- Gil Snapper
- Gil Snapper Family
- King Gil Snapper
- King Metal Minituar
- Metal Cactuar
- Metal Gigantuar
- Metal Minituar
- Mini Gil Snapper
- Mini Magi Pot
- Mini Smart Pot
- Mini Soul Pot
- Shield Pot
- Soul Pot
- Trust Moogle
- Warrior of Light
Wannabe Writer’s Notes:
– For the record, I’m not at all cranky that I didn’t get my shero Lightning… I swear!