The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Routine isn't always bad. Some players like knowing what to
expect, completing familiar tasks and fulfilling an explicit list of
objectives. In Final Fantasy Explorers, you search a vast landscape doing
mundane tasks, such as killing specific monster types, but the payoff comes in
how you turn your rewards into building your ideal character. Think of this
quest-based, resource-gathering structure as a less complex version of Monster
Hunter with a Final Fantasy skin; the core experience is about striving for the
next big upgrade and reveling in all the Final Fantasy content.
If you're a Final Fantasy fan, Explorers was made for you,
as it takes iconic parts of the franchise and infuses them in each portion of
the game. You can find materials to forge new gear, such as Sephiroth's attire
to don on your customizable avatar. Classic bosses like Ifrit and Shiva keep
you on your toes. Fast travel is done using an airship, and you can buy items
from Moogles. Exploring Amostra is exciting because you never know what classic
monster from the franchise you'll find roaming the field, such as Chocobos and
Adamantoise. Trance mode also allows you to transform into popular characters
like Cloud and Lightning, but it's more a novelty than a super-move. The only
part Explorers doesn't ape from the main series is an interesting story; the
narrative is bare-bones and inconsequential.
The ties to Final Fantasy are a main part of the appeal, and
the quest-driven gameplay loop exists mainly to deliver all of the nostalgia.
You select one main expedition to complete at a time, but can also do numerous
sub-quests simultaneously. Completing quests earns you points, which can then
be used to be purchase various abilities for your character and upgrade
weapons. The quests themselves are basic, tasking you with taking down bosses,
eliminating monsters, and collecting goodies on the field. They also allow you
to reach new places in Amostra, from sandy beaches to fiery volcanoes. Beware,
though, as Explorers' clunky UI can often get in the way of seeing what's out
The quests get repetitive quickly, forcing you into a
mindless routine with the goal of incrementally upgrading your character. I
grew tired of doing similar tasks over and over, and more variety would have
helped. On the bright side, the quests aren't long, although some require you
have a certain amount of money before taking them on. This can be frustrating
when you want to spend your money on upgrading weapons and abilities, but
instead have to keep an untouched cash reserve to keep progressing.
You have complete control over your avatar; you can change
jobs in town and unlock many additional selections (20 in total, including the
Dark Knight and Samurai) along the way. You also can equip up to eight
abilities at once, purchasing and upgrading only the ones you desire. Any
ability you desire you can learn regardless of your job, but your custom
abilities are specific to the weapon you wield. I liked having the ability to
experiment and never being locked out of anything. For instance, I went with
the Knight class at first and constantly upgraded my sword attacks whenever I
could and loved seeing the damage multiply on tougher enemies, but that didn't
prevent me from picking up cure or fire abilities if I desired. That being
said, the custom abilities pack the bigger punch, so you're best to focus on
Explorers' greatest asset is how it makes you feel like
you're always progressing. The more you do, the more that opens up. For
instance, new weaponry becomes available to craft as you advance, and you're
shown the required ingredients to make it, giving you something else to track
down on your travels. The game even has a monster fusion system, which becomes
another fun element for experimentation. After slaying certain enemies, you can
pay to create them as a party member (bring up to three with you in battle). You
can level up your monster allies and fuse them together for stronger combatants.
Unfortunately, until your monsters reach high levels, they die quickly, (though
they eventually revive automatically).
While the progression loop proves strong, the combat is
disappointing. It relies on more button mashing and spamming special attacks
than actual strategy (outside of running away from enemies before they attack).
You have a special ability called crystal surge, which changes things up by
adding elemental properties and other perks to your abilities. While battles
get tougher as you advance, don't expect the same level of difficulty or
tactics you'd put into a big fight like in Monster Hunter. Through local or
online co-op, you can bring up to three friends in battle to slay beasts with
you, but it's nearly identical to the single-player experience. Playing with
friends is obviously more fun than relying on A.I. monsters, but it's not a
Final Fantasy Explorers never fully captivated me. Building
up your character is fun and the Final Fantasy fan in me enjoyed all the
callbacks, but it didn't keep me invested. It gives you plenty to tinker with,
but doesn't have the meat to back it up.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.