Square Enix is on a roll with the mobile games at the moment; a few months after Final Fantasy Brave Exvius hit the market, we find ourselves faced with a brand new free-to-play Final Fantasy game for mobile devices in the form of Mobius Final Fantasy, a game that has been shrouded in a considerable amount of mystery for a while, but which is finally available to play for both iOS and Android devices.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: this is a distinct experience to both Final Fantasy Record Keeper and Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, and has a very strong identity in its own right. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that despite it being based around the usual “gacha” core of drawing and upgrading cards to progress, it is one of the most distinctive, original mobile games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. And if you know how much I hate 98% of mobile games, you’ll know that’s high praise indeed from me.
Mobius Final Fantasy casts you in the role of (insert your name here), who finds himself drawn through time and space to the ruined world of Palamecia, which appears to have been laid waste to by the malevolent force that is Chaos. Alongside the other “Blanks” who appeared in Palamecia alongside you, you must begin a journey to determine your worthiness to become the Warrior of Light and defeat Chaos once and for all.
If all this sounds rather familiar, you’d be absolutely right; Mobius Final Fantasy draws heavily from the very first Final Fantasy game in terms of thematic ideas, even going so far as to include a number of characters with the same names — most notably Garland and Princess Sarah of Cornelia. It remains to be seen whether these individuals are actually the same people as in the original Final Fantasy — Palamecia was the name of the empire in Final Fantasy II, not the original, so it’s entirely possible their resemblance and nomenclature is pure fanservice — but it’s a nice touch if nothing else.
Gameplay-wise, however, Mobius Final Fantasy is entirely original, although its overall aesthetic is somewhat similar to Final Fantasy XIII in terms of character and interface design.
Playing Mobius Final Fantasy involves traversing a node-based world map, with each node housing a number of different battles and perhaps a stronger boss to fight. Most of the nodes represent your journey across the ruined world of Palamecia, but some are dungeons that have several floors to clear and sometimes even an area you can explore freely at the end. Unlike many free-to-play mobile games, after just a few short hours of gameplay, Mobius Final Fantasy opens up and starts to give you a considerable amount of freedom in where to go and what to do. There’s always an obvious place you should be going next to advance the story, but in some instances you’ll be presented with a path that won’t open until you clear a particular quest — and you’ll have to find the target for that quest yourself by exploring.
You don’t freely explore the areas (thankfully, since controlling free movement in mobile games using just a touchscreen is horrid) but rather advance from battle to battle, defeating enemies and earning rewards along the way. The emphasis, in other words, is very much on fighting.
So it’s fortunate that Mobius Final Fantasy has such a fun, interesting and original battle system. Rather than reskinning Brave Frontier as Brave Exvius did, or taking the retro approach of Record Keeper, Mobius Final Fantasy has its own take on how you fight. You’re alone, for starters; no party members to back you up here, but you are able to take a number of different “cards” into battle, each of which has an ability attached and an elemental affinity.
The flow of combat is relatively straightforward, though takes a little explaining. Normal attacks deal damage and also draw out elemental orbs of four out of five possible types: fire, water, earth, wind and life. Each Job can only draw three of the elemental types plus life orbs, which are drawn at a much lower chance than the others. These elemental orbs are primarily used to trigger the abilities on your cards, each of which have a requisite number of a particular element before you can unleash them.
The card abilities have two main functions: to exploit elemental weaknesses of enemies, and to make their “Break” gauge vulnerable. This latter feature is somewhat akin to Final Fantasy XIII’s “Stagger” system, whereby if you empty an enemy’s gauge, they will become significantly weaker against your attacks along with being unable to hit you for a short period. If you can Break an enemy, in most cases you’ll be able to press the advantage right up to victory before they’re able to get back on their feet.
But what if you don’t draw the right elemental orbs to use your abilities? Well, here’s the other use for them: you can absorb them, which removes them from your stock and gives you temporarily increased resistance against that element (or, in the case of life orbs, heals you). That’s not the only effect, though; absorbing elemental orbs in this way shifts the balance of elements, making you less likely to draw that type from enemies for a short period and consequently more likely to draw the others. In this way, you can absorb an element an enemy is strong against, which in most cases will make you strong against the enemy’s attacks, and increase the likelihood that you draw orbs suitable for unleashing abilities that will damage the enemy to a greater degree.
I don’t feel like I’ve explained that all that well. Let’s give a practical example.
Battle begins. You’re faced with an enemy that has a wind affinity. You’re playing a Ranger job, so your normal attacks will draw water, wind, earth or life orbs — no fire for Rangers.
You attack three times, the standard amount you are able to do in a single turn. In doing so, you draw a bunch of wind orbs and a couple of earth, though not enough to use an earth ability. A wind-element enemy would be weak against earth abilities, so it’s in your interest to get one up and running as soon as possible.
The enemy attacks. You take a bit of damage, though nothing to worry about.
For your first action, you absorb the wind orbs you drew last turn. This gives you temporarily increased resistance against wind attacks — i.e. any attacks the enemy will throw at you. It also makes you less likely to draw wind orbs for a few turns.
For your second action, you attack. This draws enough earth orbs to attack an earth ability, which requires four orbs to use.
For your third action, you unleash your earth ability, which causes the enemy’s Break bar to turn red and become vulnerable. Your turn is over.
The enemy attacks. You take a bit of damage again, though a bit less this time thanks to your increased wind resistance.
Next turn, you throw out three normal attacks, which are enough to empty the vulnerable Break bar of your opponent. It enters Break status, and you get another turn as it topples to the ground. You throw out three more normal attacks, which are now significantly more effective against your downed foe, and defeat it. You win! One step closer to Warrior of Light-hood.
What all this means for Mobius Final Fantasy is that it’s by no means a glorified clicker game with boring, automated combat like so many other “card battle” games on mobile. There’s depth and strategy here, but it’s presented with such glorious visual panache that you can’t help but be drawn in to this strange ruined world, particularly as the exciting battles are punctuated with fully voiced cutscenes (with dual audio, for those who prefer Japanese speech) and some beautiful sights.
I’m relatively early in the game so far, and the game as it stands only features two “chapters” of the main story so far (plus a special region for grinding XP and other resources against the clock) but it’s already clear that Mobius Final Fantasy is something quite special. And that’s the last thing I ever expected to say about a mobile game in 2016.
I’m very interested to see where the game goes next and how it expands on its already solid mechanics over time — and I’m invested in the story, too; I want to know whether or not this actually is Final Fantasy I’s world — which is plausible, given that part of Final Fantasy I’s plot dealt with Chaos creating a time loops, and “Mobius” can be used to describe the characteristic “infinite loop” symbol — and, if not, what on Earth happened to allow Chaos to ruin it as comprehensively as he did.
Find out more about Mobius Final Fantasy at the official site; there are links to download it for iOS and Android devices there, too.