The lights are on
It’s rare that I have such a visceral and immediate reaction to a game as I have to Final Fantasy: ATB, which just released for play on iPhone and iPad. It's rarer still that reaction is so vehemently negative. However, as a longtime Final Fantasy enthusiast, the latest attempt by the franchise to dip into the mobile space angers me.
All The Bravest has an intriguing premise. Take the visual presentation of the original sprite-based Final Fantasy titles and build a fast-to-play battle game rooted in the active time battle system that has appeared in many franchise installments. Instead of traditional battles, give the player a growing selection of between a dozen and forty characters of various jobs and throw them into large-scale battles filled with blasts of magic, swinging swords, and rays of light.
Now take that promising concept and layer on as many ways as possible to elicit money from your players, without providing any meaningful gameplay, and you have Final Fantasy All The Bravest.
Combat initially appears like it might replicate the strategic battles of early Final Fantasy titles, but that impression is an illusion. Instead, you either tap individual characters or more likely swipe whole swaths of them at once to make them run forward and attack your enemies. Then you wait until their meter refills and swipe them again. Every time a monster hits one of your characters, that hero instantly dies and disappears from the playfield. When everyone is gone, you have three choices. First, exit out to the main map and grind some easier battles until your team is a little stronger. Second, you can use real money to purchase golden hourglasses for an instant party revive, or third, you can wait until your characters respawn naturally, at a rate of one character every three minutes – in other words, at a positively glacial pace.
As you move through the game worlds, you see plenty of homages to classic locations and enemies from the Final Fantasy series, but you never get any of the storytelling or true customization that characterizes those games. Instead, your party of adventurers grows at a static rate, and you never have the opportunity to actually choose the makeup of your party. You’ll occasionally be rewarded weapons that give boosts to certain character jobs. However, it should be noted that all the classes are effectively identical in their effect on combat – tap them and they attack, so the distinction is largely cosmetic, unless of course you happened to have gotten certain weapon unlocks. Even if you have, you can’t assign who appears in a fight, so it doesn’t really matter.
We make a point not to focus on the cost of a game when writing about its quality, but All The Bravest’s primary gameplay loop is all about trying to elicit you to spend money, so it’s impossible to ignore the feature. An initial $3.99 purchase nets you the main game and the chance to dive into some battles. You can spend money on the previously mentioned golden hourglasses (with the lowest cost being $0.99 for three of them), or an additional $3.99 per pack on specific worlds from previous games you might want to visit, like Midgar or Zanarkand. You can also spend $0.99 on summoning a random legendary Final Fantasy character. In total, you can spend over $50 to fully populate your game, but you’ll have so little agency or engagement with any of your purchases, it’s hard to justify any of it.
The game’s one redeeming feature is the ability to see classic Final Fantasy characters and settings depicted in the old sprite visual style, and listen to some of the familiar tunes that once populated those old games. However, my advice is to instead go back and play those original classics, rather than reward Square Enix for its cash-in attempt by spending any money on this manipulative and stale game.
You can check out a trailer for Final Fantasy All The Bravest by clicking over to our original story on the game.
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Game Informer.