While console Final Fantasy games have been getting further and further away from their turn-based roots, Square Enix has been trying to stick a little closer to them on mobile devices. Games like Final Fantasy: Dimensions and Final Fantasy: Record Keeper have been letting players relive the older game style with newer tales. Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius is another crack at this, letting you mix and match parties of original and legacy characters to battle monsters in true turn-based combat. Is this game a lot of fun, or is Brave Exvius rather cowardly?
Brave Exvius follows the story of two knights: the goofy and optimistic Rain and his more serious companion Lasswell. The two are contacted by a woman trapped in a crystal, begging them to save her and the world. When they reach the Earth Crystal, they find a mysterious armored man who shatters it, driving all the world's monster's mad. As you can probably already figure out, this is your totally generic Final Fantasy plot, and it doesn't really change much from that. Rain and Lasswell's arguments can come off as funny at times, but there's little to this game other than serving as an excuse to get you from location to location to fight more monsters. Honestly, in the end, that's all that really matters.
You'll be making parties of up to six characters in Brave Exvius. You'll be choosing five of these characters yourself, while the sixth character is going to be a companion, a character that is provided by other players which come with pre-equipped items and stats. They have slightly different rules, they can't use limit breaks unless you add the player to your friends list for example, but they're an extra help to your party. Each character has a star rating that determines how many levels they can gain. A two-star character maxes out at level 30, but a four star can go all the way to 60. As you play you'll get crystals and summoning tickets that you can spend to call new characters. You can get more characters by summoning them, which you need summoning tickets to do.
The majority of these characters are original characters, based on classes from other Final Fantasy games. Most of them are unnoteworthy, looking like slightly differentiated versions of famous classes. Worse, many of them have cringe-worthy "nothing personal... kid" styled one-liners and personalities when you summon them. Thankfully, you can also grab classic characters from past games. The choice of characters from other Final Fantasy games feels particularly weird. Some games, mostly IV, VI, and IX, have noticeably more characters than other games. On the other hand, some of the most popular games are completely absent: VII, VIII, X, and XIV have absolutely no representation at all. Why the developers decided that characters like IV's King Giott, VI's Biggs and Wedge, IX's Lani, and XII's Anastasis (bonus points if you know those characters) needed to be in the game before mainstays like Cloud, Squall, and Tidus is beyond me. While I am enjoying characters like Freya, Cyan, and Gaffgarion finally getting to hang out with the big leagues a little bit, and future updates appear to finally be getting a few characters from X, it's still strange that they're taking so long on it.
After you assemble your party you'll be brought to the world map. Here you can select an area and see a list of levels in that area. Each level is just a few fights in a row, sometimes capped with a boss fight. You need a certain amount of energy to attempt a level, with harder levels requiring more energy. The more you level up the more energy you can hold, and you'll get it at a rate of about 1 unit of energy every 5 minutes if you don't feel like paying. It's enough that I never felt the need to buy energy, but I did get to a point where I couldn't finish an area without pausing for a bit.
Most areas, after finished, can then be explored. These sections play like a much more traditional Final Fantasy game. You'll gather a party and explore areas, running into random encounters and able to find hidden treasures along the way. Exploring these areas is important, as the bonus treasures are an important extra boon for your party. You can also accept side quests in towns that have you going into exploration areas to find specific items or kill specific enemies. I didn't find these side quests very compelling, often requiring little more than grinding out something quick and uninteresting.
Battles are truly turn-based. Everyone on your team gets one action before the enemy team goes. Just tapping on a character's menu has them attack, and with some timing, you can chain together characters attacks for extra damage. By sliding on a character you can also access their abilities, which can include magic spells and regular abilities like multi-hit attacks or stealing. Similar to chaining attacks, you can chain magic spells of similar elements for extra damage. As you deal damage enemies drop red crystals that you can use to charge limit breaks to deal extra damage, and green crystals that charge summoned attacks. All in all, it's a surprisingly deep system that allowed me some pretty good control over combat.
The problem really comes in with enemy difficulty. The game seems to constantly be jumping the line between total cakewalk and smacking into a wall pointlessly. Enemies are so easy I can even have my mages auto-attack and get away with it. Then a boss comes in and difficulty takes a sharp upward turn, sometimes causing me to only get by because I picked a hilariously overpowered partner character to assist me. The XP rewards often didn't feel like enough to keep me going, and the game encouraged stopping advancing to either grind or do boring repetitive side quests.
Funny enough, this wasn't an issue I could solve by throwing money at the game either. Sure maybe I could buy some summoning tickets to get better units, but I'd still have to grind them to a useful level. There are some repeatable arenas that I could unlock, which would put me in fights that come with specific bonuses. Need Gil? Head to the Gil arena and win a ton from enemies that usually drop less. Want to level up quicker? The XP arena is for that. It's a good idea in theory, an area specifically to knock out easy enemies with high XP awards, but even then there's still enough grind that it quickly lost its appeal.
As a mobile game, the grind really is part of the central gameplay loop in Brave Exvius. Do just a little more today so you can do just a little more tomorrow. Collect enough materials really slowly so you can craft new weapons and get new characters. Or pay just to get those weapons or characters, of course. Yet the grind hurts more here because all of Brave Exvius' systems are systems I'd like to see in a full mobile Final Fantasy game. The combat is well crafted, the designs are fun, the easy to access levels quickly got me in the action while providing a more classic overworld for those who want it. It's just all trapped behind the mobile game grind.
At least, while you are playing the game, it's nice to look at and listen to. Brave Exvius features some great sprite work, having some fantastic realizations of classic characters. For example, seeing Vivi re-created in sprite form down to his quirky hop-attack and his awkward staff spinning victory animation was a thing of real joy. Brave Exvius also features a surprisingly catchy and well-made soundtrack that really kept me in the mood. It made use of choirs for the most epic fights while having the exact sort of catchy peppy music I'd expect from exploring a forest in any other Final Fantasy game. This is one area where Brave Exvius was consistently impressing.
I felt disappointed by the time I put down Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius. There's a great game in here, but it's trapped behind many of the usual free to play mobile conventions. There's forced grinding, and lots of it, too much reliance on RNG for new characters, and not enough of the stuff that makes the game good. If more time was spent letting you advance through the story rather than stopping you with roadblocks, then maybe Brave Exvius can join in with other great RPGs. For now, it's just held back.
Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius was reviewed on Android using a copy freely downloaded by the reviewer. The game was reviewed without buying any in-game purchases. The game is also available on iOS.
Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius has a surprisingly well made battle system wrapped around a lovely looking and sounding game. Sadly, it's confined to little more than grinding to advance a story that's impossible to care about, and for characters that everyone forgot. Seriously who wants Lani in their party?
- Fun Use of Obscure Characters
- Interesting, Well Made Battle System
- Impressive Spritework and Lovely Audio
- The Endless Grind
- Unnoteworthy Story
- Lacks Major Characters