1921: Keeper of the Records

I’m not sure what’s inspired me to check out a few popular mobile games recently, but hot on the heels of Brave Frontier, which I talked a bit about the other day, I decided to take a peek at Square Enix’s newest attempt to make a free-to-play mobile Final Fantasy game after the absolutely atrocious Final Fantasy: All the Bravest.

Final Fantasy Record Keeper was initially a little offputting by its association with DeNA; my past experience with this company is that they churn out identikit free-to-play games — mostly of the “gacha” variety, where you randomly draw various things each day in the hope of collecting a complete set, and can pay more to get more draws — that tend to be devoid of gameplay, polish and indeed any reason to play them whatsoever.

I was pleasantly surprised, then, to discover that Final Fantasy Record Keeper is actually a solid, interesting game in its own right. It’s not a narrative-heavy Final Fantasy game, mind, but it’s pretty up-front about this. What it instead provides is the “gacha”-style collecting mechanics that DeNA have so much experience with combined with some actual gameplay, with mechanics and everything.

The basic formula is pretty simple. Over the course of the game, you assemble a team of characters from past Final Fantasy games, reimagined in 16-bit era pixel art in the case of the more recent installments (VII onwards). You equip this team with “relics” (equipment) and abilities, then take them into a dungeon to work your way through a series of battles and eventually defeat a boss. There’s no exploration involved; a dungeon is simply a string of predefined enemy encounters, with each costing a particular amount of “stamina” to participate in, meaning that your play sessions are throttled after a particular amount of time and until either your stamina recharges or you pay up to immediately refill it.

This is pretty much business as usual for gacha-style games, but Record Keeper actually fleshes out the battles with something akin to Final Fantasy’s traditional “Active Time Battle” system, whereby battles are both turn-based and real-time at the same time: characters’ “time bars” gradually fill, and when they’re full, they can take an action. (In a twist on the original formula, somewhat reminiscent of Final Fantasy XIII, they then have to charge the bar again before the action is actually performed.) While this is happening, enemies are making use of their abilities in the same way.

The battles are fairly straightforward, though the ability to exploit elemental weaknesses and challenge special objectives during boss fights makes things a bit more interesting than just tapping the “attack” button over and over again. Where things get interesting is in the customisation aspect, which is always the strongest part of any gacha-style game.

In Record Keeper, the things you “draw” each day (or exchange the game’s premium currency for) are the relics, not the characters. These items of equipment have set bonuses to various stats, and certain characters can only equip certain types of equipment. You can level up equipment by sacrificing unneeded items or specific upgrade materials, and when a piece of equipment reaches its level cap, you can combine it with another instance of the same item to buff it up to the next rarity level and then begin the levelling process all over again with a higher cap. Certain pieces of equipment also have special abilities attached to them, all of which are unique to particular characters and based on their iconic moves from their respective games.

Alongside this, the abilities your characters can use have to be crafted using orbs you find in battle. Each character can initially equip just two abilities, and initial abilities only have two uses, meaning you have to carefully think about whether you really need to use that ability when you’re in a dungeon, as they don’t recharge until you leave, are defeated or are victorious. Abilities can subsequently be upgraded using additional orbs, however, which makes them more effective and gives you more uses of them; they can also be swapped around between characters, too, so if you make changes to your lineup the newcomers don’t have to start with crap skills.

Alongside all of the above, you then have the makeup of your party to consider. Characters get large bonuses to their stats and experience points earned if they are from the game the dungeon you’re currently playing through is from — for example, Cloud is much more effective in Final Fantasy VII-themed dungeons, while Kain is much more effective in Final Fantasy IV-themed dungeons — but have certain restrictions on what abilities and equipment they can use. Level up an ability too much and you might find a favourite character is no longer able to use it, so you have to be a little bit careful and plan ahead.

Like Brave Frontier, I’m not sure how long I’m going to stick with the game, particularly as it appears to be devoid of any sort of social features and thus the incentive to compete against — or cooperate with — other people. For the moment, though, it’s an interesting “collection”-style, battle-centric RPG featuring characters and settings from a series I’m very fond of — though I’m a bit disappointed that, as usual, Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV are ignored thanks to their “online game” status as opposed to the series’ more traditional single-player installments.

You can find out more about the game and get links to download it — it’s available for both iOS and Android devices — on its official website.

1920: Old-School Shooting

In the same bundle I grabbed primarily for Crimzon Clover World Ignition the other day, I also received a copy of Raiden III. I haven’t played a Raiden game since the original PS1 era, when the bundle of Raiden and Raiden II that came on a single disc (Raiden Project, I think it was called?) was one of my favourite games, despite it not exactly showing off the then-new hardware to its maximum potential.

Raiden III has been an interesting blast from the past, no pun intended. Although I very much enjoy danmaku (bullet hell) shooters, Raiden III is a pleasant reminder that you don’t need to completely fill the screen with bullets to be challenging, and nor do you need an overly convoluted scoring system to be interesting. Raiden III is simple and straightforward, but actually has a surprising amount of depth and strategy to it, particularly with regard to the various weapon pickups available to you.

I was pleased to see that the bendy laser I always used to find so hilarious in the earlier Raiden games is back, though this time around it’s green rather than purple. I was also pleased to see that the red weapon is still capable of filling the screen with as many bullets as a danmaku shooter’s default player sprite configuration. And I was delighted that the game is accompanied by an appropriately cheesy yet pulse-pounding soundtrack that complements the on-screen action perfectly.

What I was most surprised about, however, is how good it actually looks despite running at 640×480 resolution (and vertically letterboxed, to boot, thanks to most shoot ’em ups’ vertical screen orientation) and having precisely no graphical options to speak of whatsoever.

Raiden III, for the unfamiliar, eschews the sprite-based ships and 2D backgrounds of its predecessors in favour of full-on polygonal 3D. The backgrounds are 3D, too, which gives them the flexibility to pitch, roll, swoop and change altitude in a far more dynamic manner than the old-school 2D backdrops, making the game quite a thrill ride. (Recent shmups from Edelweiss such as the fantastic Astebreed and Ether Vapor Remaster have continued this proud tradition in glorious 1080p.)

The most surprising thing about the visuals is how much it still looks like a Raiden game. The distinctive appearance of the player ship, its weapons and even the enemies is kept completely intact despite the move to polygonal 3D, and I think this is a large contributing factor to the game still managing to genuinely look good on a 55-inch widescreen TV at vertically letterboxed 640×480. It runs as smooth as butter, too — although I’d hope so on my rig — and has proven to be a lot more addictive than I originally anticipated when I first booted it up the other day to kill a few minutes.

Raiden III, then, provided me with proof positive that resolution really doesn’t matter to me, even as the new generation of consoles has players becoming increasingly sniffy about games that don’t run in “true 1080p”. If your overall design is up to snuff, you could be running at 320×200 and still look great, and Raiden III, like many other ageing games, is very much testament to that.

1919: #WaifuWednesday – Shin (Criminal Girls)

The temptation to pick another Senran Kagura girl this week was very high indeed — I’ve just finished the main story of Shinovi Versus and there are, after all, 25 very interesting female characters in that game. But since I’m planning on doing a more comprehensive Senran Kagura writeup over at MoeGamer later this week when I’ve finished all the side stories in Shinovi Versus, I thought I’d mix things up a bit and show a bit of appreciation for the girl who currently graces my Windows wallpaper on my living room PC: Shin, from Criminal Girls on Vita, which I beat a few weeks back.

Spoilers ahead.

2015-03-22-001444Shin, real name Makoto, is based primarily around the commonly used anime trope of the hikikomori, or shut-in. A renowned, well-known and somewhat notorious MMO player who was viciously bullied in real life for her interests and passions, Shin had, over time, retreated from society to live in her own private world where she felt safe. She’d done this to the exclusion of everyone around her — going so far as to lock herself inside her room and only eat whatever food had been left outside for her.

When you encounter Shin for the first time in Criminal Girls, none of this is apparent. She simply seems like an overconfident “leader type”, wanting to boss everyone around and, as the oldest member of the group, believing that her opinion carries a considerable degree of weight. Her “leader type” personality is even reflected in her game mechanics; by herself, she’s not very formidable, but most of her power comes from her “Operation” skills, which partner with at least one other party member to effectively deliver multiple special attacks in the space of a single turn.

Over time, her facade slips, however; she continually makes poor decisions that put the group in danger, and throwaway comments she makes gradually reveal her otaku side. It eventually becomes very apparent that she’s trying desperately to be someone that she isn’t, and that by hiding herself away she’s hurting the people around her.

The main thrust of Criminal Girls’ story surrounds the player’s attempts to “redeem” the titular girls from their past sins, to prevent them being incarcerated in Hell and giving them another chance at life. Shin’s sin, then, is that of neglecting others; she personifies the Deadly Sin of Envy. She envies those who have a normal life and is embittered by her drop-out, shut-in existence; the arrogant persona she initially displays is both a reflection of the character she played online and of who she thinks she “ought” to be — a persona she believes to be more likeable.

As the girls and the player character come to trust one another more, though, Shin starts to open up. She’s more honest and less confrontational, though she still bickers with the rather spoiled Kisaragi; the two are more similar than either of them would care to admit. Most importantly, she learns through others accepting her that it is also possible to accept herself without being ashamed; there’s no need for her to cut herself off from her problems and hide away. In doing so, in fact, she had simply made matters worse; the longer she was alone, the more she believed she needed to be alone, and so her resentment and envy towards “normal” people grew.

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Those of you who know me well will surely not be surprised to hear that I found Shin to be one of the most relatable characters in Criminal Girls. While I haven’t gone to the lengths she has — I’m fortunate enough to have a good circle of friends (both online and off) and a wonderful fiancee who tolerate, understand and accept the things I’m interested in — I can very much empathise with her feelings of isolation, the suffering she endured while she was being bullied and her envy for people who seem to be able to go about their business “normally”. I’ve been through some of the things Shin has been through — though fortunately in my case it didn’t involve a literal trip to Hell and back — and as such she occupies a special place in my heart.

A toast to you, then, Shin; you were one of numerous reasons I’m glad I made that journey through Hell.

 

1918: GTA Online’s Identity Crisis

I’ve been playing a bunch of Grand Theft Auto Online recently. My local friends and I all acquired copies so we’d have something we all enjoyed playing and that we could all get something out of: past attempts to do this have led to one or more members of the group being dissatisfied with our choices for whatever reason, and ultimately our multiplayer gaming sessions falling by the wayside. We’re hoping, however, that Grand Theft Auto Online will provide some fun shenanigans for a little while yet.

And I think it might just do that, at least in part due to the game’s curious identity crisis that it has going on. It doesn’t feel like it really knows what it wants to be. In places it’s downright messy, and the “session-based” nature of getting people together is cumbersome, clunky, unintuitive and simply broken at times. But even with all that, it’s simply fun.

I talked a little about the basic structure of the game a few days ago, but having spent a few sessions actually playing it “properly” with at least one other friend now, I can see what it’s doing.

The core of the game’s identity crisis comes from the disconnect between typical Grand Theft Auto freeform open-world gameplay — in which up to 30 players can log in to the same session, run around anywhere on the map completely independently of one another and have fun doing whatever they see fit — and the “Jobs” that form the more structured activities in the game. This disconnect is nothing unusual for Grand Theft Auto in general, of course; ever since Grand Theft Auto III brought the series kicking and screaming into 3D it’s been like two games in one, and this contrast has only become more pronounced as the stories have got better and more ambitious over the years.

Open-world freeform multiplayer is great fun. You can effectively make up your own silly little games and challenges and take them on with friends. You won’t get much in the way of rewards for them, but if all you’re in it for is some silliness, it provides that in spades. What doesn’t quite work about the open-world stuff is that the moment someone activates an activity of some description — be it a race, a mission or even a game of darts — they are snatched out of the open-world session, temporarily unable to communicate with the people they were playing with, and put into a more traditional multiplayer lobby, from which they can invite people via several means: everyone from the open-world session, selected people from the open-world session, friends who are online or simply “anyone who is available”.

Once you’re into that lobby and with friends, you’re effectively in a “party” like you’d be in something with more traditionally structured multiplayer like Call of Duty or Halo. You do an activity, you all vote on what’s next, you do the next thing, repeat until someone gets bored or everyone votes to go back to Free Mode.

The activities are pretty fun too, and I understand why they’re “instanced” separately from the main chaos of the open-world gameplay — trying to complete a mission while up to 29 other people are careening around the map causing mischief sounds like a recipe for disaster. It’s the execution that is a little lacking: the absence of an MMO-style “party” system makes meeting up with specific people in public sessions tricky, and the way people are simply snatched out of the open world the moment they walk into a mission trigger is not explained at all well; if you don’t know that’s how it works, it’s entirely possible you’d be left thinking that your friends had simply left the game altogether.

As I say, these issues and the fundamental disconnect between the freeform gameplay of Free Mode and the structured activities of the Jobs don’t prevent Grand Theft Auto Online from being a good game. It’s a lot of fun, particularly when playing with friends you already know. (I don’t even want to contemplate how awful taking on the cooperative missions with random people might be.) There’s just an awful lot of things it could do a whole lot better, too.

Still, it’s enjoyable, and I’m confident it will provide some fun evenings of entertainment for my friends and I for a little while yet.

1917: Creative Spark

The concept of machinima — video clips, short films and even full-length movies made using a video game’s engine and assets as the basis — is something that’s fascinated me for a while, but I’ve never really gotten big into it.

In fact, as I alluded to in yesterday’s post, the last time I really did much with anything even remotely resembling machinima was back in the PS1 days, when the then-spectacular open-world driving game Driver came out and shipped with a cumbersome and clunky but hilarious video editor mode, allowing you to create custom replays from your last play session.

My friend Woody and I used to play nothing but “Survival” mode in Driver, which starts you in the midst of a challenging police chase in San Francisco, and tasks you with simply lasting as long as possible before the cops destroy you. More often than not, our attempts to survive were fairly short, but since the game pretty much went balls-to-the-wall crazy in this mode, even a ten-second clip could make for some hilarious footage. Particularly when, as often happened, the somewhat rudimentary physics engine that powered the game went a little awry, sending the player vehicle shooting inexplicably up into the sky and flying for miles before crashing to the ground and, if you were lucky, driving off relatively unscathed.

Some people over the years have done some amazing things with machinima. Shows like Red vs Blue showed that there was life in games like Halo well beyond simply playing them. Tools like Source Filmmaker have enabled people to create movies (and, uh, a frighteningly comprehensive amount of pornography) using beloved characters from games like Half-Life, Left 4 Dead and BioShock.

But, for me, the most consistently entertaining thing about machinima — both making and watching it — is seeing things going horribly wrong in a variety of unexpected ways. It’s what Woody and I used to do with Driver, and it’s a proud tradition that numerous others have continued over the years. Here’s a great example from the Skate series of skateboarding games on console. I can’t take credit for this; it’s a popular (and, judging by the view count on YouTube, somewhat legendary) video by “HelixSnake”.

I mentioned yesterday that Grand Theft Auto V features a video editor mode, much like Driver did, and even shared my first attempt at a video. Since then, I’ve spent a little more time with the facility, and it looks set to provide a lot of fun times in the future.

The best thing about it is that it includes a feature called “Director Mode”, where you’re not tied to the normal rules of the game. You don’t have to play as one of the single-player protagonists or your Online characters. If you want to cause chaos without attracting the attention of the in-game police, for example, you can simply turn them off. You can adjust the time of day. You can make your bullets and even your melee attacks explosive. And you can turn down gravity.

Naturally, the first thing I did upon discovering all of these options was make full use of all of them to produce some sort of horrific monstrosity. And I proudly present the results of said attempts for you today: here is Unprovoked, a short film by me.

Part of the joy of doing something like this is simply trying things out and seeing what happens — a form of “improvisatory theatre”, in a way. In the case of this video, all I did was set the gravity to low and equip myself with explosive melee attacks, then walk up to the poor unsuspecting almost-naked gentleman in the video, kick him and take it from there. The addition of various “emotes” — which can be used in the online mode as a means of expression or simply messing around — makes for a surprising amount of flexibility, too.

Once the footage is recorded, it’s a case of editing it together using something that bears a strong resemblance to “proper” video-editing software, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale. You can edit individual clips together into a longer movie with different scenes, and within a single clip you can set keyframes to change camera angles, apply effects and all manner of other things. It’s remarkably simple to use but very powerful, and I’m looking forward to getting to know it a bit better in the coming days and weeks.

Of course, we all know that the majority of the movies I — and, I’m sure, most of the other people who are fiddling with it — will make will involve people flying around in physics-defying, ridiculous situations. But I’m also quite interested to try some things like recording a race in the online mode, or a shootout, or something else “structured”; the level of detail in the graphics and animation in the PC version of Grand Theft Auto V in particular makes for really good-looking movies, and I strongly believe, as I said yesterday, that the Rockstar Editor is going to be big for machinima — if only from a perspective of getting more people experimenting with it.

1916: How an MMO Taught Me to Be a Better Shmup Player, and Other Stories

Today I’ve been playing a few different games, including Grand Theft Auto Online, One Way Heroics and Crimzon Clover: World Ignition.

Before I go any further, I just want to share a video I knocked up in five minutes using GTA’s built-in video editor. I’m looking forward to having a play with this; I haven’t seen an in-game editor so flexible since Driver on the PS1, and my friend Woody and I used to spend hours making ridiculous car chase movies with that.

But GTA is not what I want to talk about today. Rather, I want to talk a little about the last game I mentioned: Crimzon Clover: World Ignition. As you can probably surmise from the overblown title, this is a Japanese game; those of you with particularly strong game genre intuition will also have doubtless correctly identified that it is a shoot ’em up, specifically of the danmaku (bullet hell) variety.

I grabbed Crimzon Clover this week as part of GOG.com’s recent “tower of sales”. They were selling a pack of shoot ’em ups, several of which I’d had my eye on for a while, and one of which (the rather marvellous Astebreed, which was one of the last things I reviewed over at USgamer) I already owned, but it turned out that removing that from the package actually made it more expensive, so now I have two copies. Anyway, I digress; the sale has now ended, but Crimzon Clover is still pretty cheap anyway, so if you’re looking for some fun arcade-style blasting action, you could do far worse than grab a copy — and remember, there’s no shame in playing on “Novice” difficulty, so long as you don’t use the “Continue” function!

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For those who haven’t been following me for a while, are unfamiliar with the modern conventions of the shoot ’em up genre or with Japanese gaming in general, a danmaku shooter is characterised by its extremely hectic patterns of bullets filling the screen which, at first glance, look impossible to avoid. That is, until you realise that the ship you’re flying has a “hitbox” much smaller than its complete sprite, which means you can get away with “grazing” bullets so long as they don’t hit the (usually explicitly visible) hitbox. In fact, some danmaku shooters ever reward you for grazing bullets without being destroyed.

The other defining feature of a danmaku shooter is a somewhat convoluted scoring system. Crimzon Clover is a little more straightforward than some of the more obtuse systems that renowned genre specialist Cave has come out with over the years, but it still requires something of an understanding beyond “shoot everything” in order to get the truly high scores.

But again, chasing high scores isn’t what I wanted to talk about today; instead, I want to talk about something I noticed while I was playing Crimzon Clover earlier today, and that’s the awareness that I suddenly had of myself using disciplines I’d picked up from a completely different game: Final Fantasy XIV.

Crimzon Clover and Final Fantasy XIV would doubtless not appear to have anything in common at first glance, but bear with me. Boil both of them down to their purest essence and they are both games about learning attack patterns and responding to them. Neither of them depend on randomness for the most part, with every encounter instead being meticulously scripted and choreographed down to the last detail; both of them reward taking the time to familiarise yourself with these patterns and know how to deal with them. In other words, knowing your part of the overall intricate dance of death and destruction on the screen.

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This becomes even more obvious when fighting a boss in Crimzon Clover and, indeed, most other danmaku shoot ’em ups. One thing that both Final Fantasy XIV and Crimzon Clover have in common is a phase-based structure for boss fights: the boss uses a certain set of attacks until you damage it a certain amount (or, in some cases, a certain amount of time passes), then it moves on to something else, then perhaps something else, then perhaps something else after that. The most complex fight in Final Fantasy XIV I’ve done to date, for example — The Second Coil of Bahamut, Turn 4 (aka Turn 9, aka Nael deus Darnus) is split across four different phases, each of which is completely different from the last, and each of which requires learning independently of the others.

Crimzon Clover, meanwhile, is no exception to this rule, with bosses having set bullet patterns and special attacks according to which phase you’re on at any time; the one difference is that phase transitions are explicitly marked on the boss’ health bar in Crimzon Clover (and, again, in most other danmaku shmups) while in Final Fantasy XIV it’s a case of learning when the changeovers happen and how to time them so that you and your party are in a good position to deal with them when they happen. (The fact that Crimzon Clover is designed for one or two completely independent players while Final Fantasy XIV is designed for four to eight interdependent players is another difference, of course, but this added complexity is mitigated a little by the fact you’re not dodging literally thousands of bullets at any given moment. At least not in any encounter I’ve challenged so far.)

The thing I became aware of as I had a go at the first few levels of Crimzon Clover today — I haven’t managed to clear the game yet, as it’s pretty tough, even on Novice difficulty! — was that I was using most of the same skills I used while playing Final Fantasy. I was learning to observe patterns and anticipate what came next; I was moving into advantageous positions before all hell broke loose; I was learning from my mistakes rather than becoming frustrated by them.

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These are all skills that, if we pull back and look at a lot of different games, are fairly common. But I’ve become most keenly aware of them while playing Final Fantasy XIV in particular, and it was a little surprising — and pleasing — to be aware of how applicable they were in a “cross-discipline” situation in a completely different game today. (And yes, Dark Souls fans, I know they’re applicable to that game too, but… I just can’t, okay?)

Also, Crimzon Clover is fucking awesome and if you like beautifully slick, gorgeous shoot ’em ups then I recommend you go grab yourself a copy from Steam or GOG.com right now!

1915: Brave New Frontier

I’ve been out of the mobile gaming, umm, game for a while now because my stint working for the now-apparently-defunct Inside Network opened my eyes to the revolting realities of mobile free-to-play games and how people in suits and sneakers genuinely thought that games where you tap on something every two hours and then have to spend money were somehow innovative.

I’ve made no secret of my general distaste for this business model, but having left it alone for a little while, I’ve felt more able to come back and look at some of these games with a slightly less jaded pair of eyes. I looked at one called Valkyrie Crusade over on MoeGamer a while back a year or so ago and was surprised to find myself having a reasonably good time — though at the time of writing, I haven’t touched it for a few months now.

More recently, someone I follow on Twitter had been posting some screenshots and enthusiastic noises about a game called Brave Frontier (iOS, Android), so I decided to download it and give it a shot. It has an appealing, colourful art style with a combination of pixel art sprites and super-deformed chibi-esque character art, and promised to have a little more in the way of “gameplay” than many similar titles, most of which revolve largely around collecting “cards” and then tapping a “Continue” button repeatedly until you run out of energy or patience.

Brave Frontier isn’t massively different from this formula, but the simple addition of a bit of interactivity to the formula immediately makes it a more interesting, enjoyable game that is ideal for dipping into for a few minutes at a time while you’re on the toilet or waiting for public transport.

Here’s how it works. You’re given an initial few units, one of which is reasonably good and the rest of which are a bit shit, but fill out the slots in your party reasonably. You can take these through “quests”, which are sequences of a few battles in a row, culminating in a boss fight. Battles are very simple: you tap on a party member to cause them to attack, and if you time your taps correctly so that multiple units hit at the same time, you cause a “Spark” which deals additional damage. Units also have elemental types that have a significant impact on both attack and defence power.

When all your units have attacked, you get to grab all the goodies that fell out of the enemies while you were clobbering them. These include the game’s various currencies, health points and Brave Burst points, the latter of which fills a gauge and allows a unit to perform its unique special move. Health points and Brave Burst points are assigned randomly so you can’t guarantee a particular unit will be able to perform their Brave Burst on command, but you can force an enemy to drop more of these shards by ordering your party to focus their attacks on a single enemy, cause an “Overkill” and obtain additional rewards. This, of course, leaves them open to attack from the remaining enemies.

You repeat this process through a series of battles, with your units not automatically healing or recharging between. You fight a boss — most of which so far haven’t been significantly tougher than the main enemies — and then you get rewards, which include materials and additional units.

Outside of quests, you can “fuse” units together to level them up — they don’t gain experience simply through battle like in a regular RPG. Fusing “metal” units of the same element as a unit provides a significant bonus to the XP they receive, and when you get a unit to its level cap (which varies according to the unit’s rarity) you can “evolve” it into a more powerful incarnation by using materials. You can also use materials to craft useful items and equipment for your units, and one of the game’s currencies to upgrade the village you call home base — this provides you with resources every so often, and also has a bunch of facilities you can unlock over time, providing you access to more and more items and equipment as you upgrade it.

The game makes use of the free-to-play model’s beloved “energy” system, which means you’re only allowed to play a certain amount before you either have to pay up or wait for it to restore. Now, I’m not a huge fan of this system, but so far in Brave Frontier it’s been fairly unobtrusive, with energy consumption pretty much matching up with the average length of a play session. In other words, by the time you’ve run out of energy, you’ll probably want to go and play or do something else anyway. Interestingly, there are a bunch of “dungeons” that you can take on that require significantly more energy to enter than normal quest battles; the rewards for these are significantly greater, however, as is the overall challenge level. This means that you can choose how you spend your energy rather than it being a “flat rate” — do you blow 50 points at once for the chance to get your hands on some rare, useful, powerful goodies, or do you make steady progress through the main story to unlock access to new areas and acquire “gems” which can be used to recruit the more powerful, more rare units?

I don’t know how long I’ll stick with the game, but it’s enjoyable enough at present, and the art style is lovely. If you happen to be playing, feel free to add me as a friend using ID 9630492642.