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.