I am going to preface this review / overview with the following: I am not a mobile gamer. I have owned at least one version of every game boy through the ages, a PSP and PS Vita at different points in my life. I always end up getting rid of them. Phone screens have always been a tad small for my massive hands AND most regular mobile games are nothing more then cash grabs and have no soul.
A month ago, I finally decided to try Final Fantasy Brave Exivus. I was looking for something to amuse myself on breaks mostly and had heard good things about this one. Apparently, or so people claimed, it was a full on Final Fantasy game with story mode, fair “Gacha” mechanics, and solid art. All images in this post are from a fellow FFBE Discord User, Clifor. Thanks man!
They were right.
FFBE (as I will call it from now on) is just that. A full on 16 bit SNES styled JRPG. It has a full story mode that is still being updated and expanded (season 2 part 1 just got released on the Global side about 2 weeks ago from the date of this post), full FF styled turned based combat with equipment, abilities, materia, and limit breaks, and some of the fairest cash shop / free to play mechanics I have seen in these sorts of games.
Lets break it down a bit and explain just what this game is all about.
First and foremost this is a Gacha game. These are games that are very similar to those sort of machines where you stick a quarter in and get a random toy. Basically the first loot boxes. Yes, I know how people feel about loot boxes. I dont mind em in Free to Play games but hate em in full priced games.
In this case, the Gacha rewards are new characters. While you start the game with 2 free party members and get a 3rd unit (Ludimille) for free, further units are obtained either via the story OR the Crystal system. Crystals cost 500 of the games premium currency (Lapis) for 1, or 5000 Lapis for 11 (1 bonus one). You can also get one “pull” of a Crystal of minimum Blue quality for 250 lapis each day. They come in different rarities and power levels as well, from White crystals (containing 1 to 2 star base units), blue crystals (3 star base), gold crystals (4 star base) and rainbow crystals (5s base). Many units can also be upgraded to 6 stars. Most crystals are going to be Blue rarity at least if you use Lapis. You can also earn friend points to buy Crystals but those can be any 1 to 3 star rarity unit.
You might looking at that and going “Well how does one get Lapis?”. Surprisingly, you get Lapis from completely story quests, optional objectives, events, raids, and daily quests. Its quite generous in fact. You can of course also bust out your credit card and purchase Lapis as well should you choose. Most story missions give you 20 lapis for completing them, completely an entire Story Stage (usually 3-6 mission groups) will grant 100 Lapis, you can also get 100 Lapis for Ranking Up your account. Also each story has 3 Optional Objectives giving 10 Lapis a piece as well.
Also the game gives you Summon Tickets pretty often from events, and you can save those and buy new random units as well. I have been playing a month and have saved 52 Summon Tickets at the moment, for example.
Now, these units are a mix of characters both unique to the FFBE World AND a variety of Final Fantasy games. You can get Noctis from FF15, Kefka from FF6, Agrias or Ramza from FF Tactics and so one or some unique FFBE ones like Luka, Rain, Aileen, and Laswell. Each one has unique abilities that make sense for their characters, a full complement of spells and abilities that are either directly from their games or Final Fantasy in general, as well as limit breaks. Personal favorite of mine is Agrias’ limit break Statis Sword. It even comes complete with the animation from the game where she says “Life is Short, BURY STASIS SWORD!” complete in a text box that looks lifted from Tactics. When I first saw that I giggled hard.
As far as what you can do with these characters, well, you form em into parties and go on adventures and complete events, raids, trials, compete in the Arena, and face off in the Coliseum.
First you have the Story mode, which includes Story Stages and Exploration Missions, as well as actual cities and towns. What surprised me is that the Cities are fully explorable just like a regular final fantasy. I run around, visit townspeople, pick up sidequests, locate secrets, and even visit shops to purchase gear, materia, and items.
During normal gameplay you will either be in a Stage Battle, or an Exploration Zone. Stage battles are literally groups of fights, ranging from 2-5 consecutive battles against groups of enemies. Your team is fully healed / reset between each round. Most normal story events will be these battles, with sometimes the characters having dialog before the fight starts.
Exploration Zones are bonus areas where you can go in and, much like the Towns, walk around, find secrets, complete your side quests, grind some Gil or Experience (these are capped to a point in each exploration) and so on. Not every Stage has an exploration attached to it.
During combat each character in your 5 man team can take a variety of actions. Yes, you have full control here. Your party can: Use an Ability or Limit Break, Use an Item, Defend, Attack, Summon an Esper. Oh, yea we got full on summons here as well with awesome animated cutscenes. You only get one summon in the story (Siren) and actually have to go out and hunt down the others in the world.
You will also get full on story cutscenes at certain points with dialog between the main story characters. There are a few emotional moments I have run into which surprised me, although the writing at times is a little rough.
Outside of combat you can equip your party (each character can wear a full complement of gear and has space for 4 materia at max level usually), partake in the Arena or Colessium, or do events. There is a metric ton to do in this game.
How does it limit you? With an Energy system.
Every event you want to do will either take a unique currency (Raids usually have Raid Orbs, the Arena/Colo share Arena Orbs, ect) or they will take NRG. Early on you will constantly get overfilled with Energy, and until Account Rank 8 you actually dont spend energy on anything you do. Once you hit Rank 8 however you start having to pay energy to complete story stages, event missions, and so on. Every time you gain a Rank however your energy is refilled fully (and can go above your max limit) and you gain +1 to your max energy. I am at Rank 43 and have a max of 83 NRG points (you start at 40). Energy refills naturally at the rate of 1 point every 5 minutes. You can also spend 100 Lapis to refill fully if you are really wanting to get certain things done.
What really has grabbed me here is just the way everything is put together. I have a ton of units now (55 by last count) and while I only have 3 5s base units (Loren, Mercenary Ramza, and Aileen) I have had plenty of success using the stuff I have gained. The friend system (where you can borrow friend units to fill in a 6th spot) are excellent and people are super nice on the Reddit / Discord with helping new players. I have gotten a few carries from these folks in fact to help me get through tough events and get phat loot.
The fact that I can customize a party to my liking, with characters I like, and get a full on story without having to spend money unless I want to is excellent. The presentation here is also amazing. Sprites are super detailed, when you upgrade a unit their appearance changes to reflect the upgrade and they get flashier, and attacks, spells, and especially summons are all really well done. Combat is also as basic or as deep as you want it to be. You can simply spam abilities to get through things, but for the harder events and trials you will need to develop strats with the units at your call, make sure you cover things like Breaks, Elemental Weaknesses, and Buffs/Debuffs, and even learn the fine art of Chaining (Combo Attacks). Nevermind doing things like farming for Trust Master Rewards (each unique has a unique reward you can earn if you max out their Trust meter).
This is a crazy package that you can play for nothing and if you are looking for a great time waster that you can sink your teeth into, and have a deep love of the old 16bit Final Fantasy Games, I would seriously urge you to check this game out. Be warned however that you can end up spending a lot of money if you are not careful or get addicted, although plenty of people take the time to farm and are able to earn quite a bit without spending a dime. The more you put in the more you will get out of the game overall.
Also, a units starting base in Stars dictates how strong it will be at the end. 5 star bases tend to be the strongest in the game, but there are plenty of 3 and 4 stars who can hang at the top of the heap with the big dogs.
One additional note (thanks Wil Sterling) is that Power Creep is a real thing in this game. The longer the game has gone on the more stuff has been added and the more powerful things have become. Long time players frequently have issues with some of the very high end / end game stuff, but casual players will basically never run out of things to do simply because of all the constant additions. The game also rotates new units fairly regularly, usually with new banners / groups every week.
Thanks for reading, and Stay Nerdy!
If you wanna grab the game check it out at the following links:
Oh and as a side note? The music is phenomenal and I want the soundtrack. No joke.