What's the price of admission to a beautiful world? Is it enough to just explore a wondrous setting? Fantasy Life has charm, but it's more about its ambiance than what you actually do. The art style is striking and the music whimsical, but soon you're scrolling through mounds of boring text - or worse - completing fetch quests on repeat. I enjoyed Fantasy Life for the first few hours, but it showed its hand too early, never offering anything new or exciting.
Fantasy Life feels like an amalgamation of a grindy MMO and a simulation game like Rune Factory. You start a life in a new land and your first task is to choose from a widespread selection of classes, such as a mercenary, angler, or cook. The classes don't change the course of the main story, but they do determine the side activities available. All my challenges for the mercenary class revolved around slaying monsters or collecting bounties. Satisfaction comes from building up your stats, finding new gear to alter your avatar, and unlocking new features, such as pets and the ability to ride a tortoise. However, the progression loop is small and little skill is required to complete the monotonous tasks laid before you.
You can swap classes at all times and not lose progress, however, which is great because of the aforementioned lack of variety. Cooks will always have tasks regulated to making new dishes, so switching to combat is refreshing. Fetch quests are also littered throughout each land, which award cash to spend on gear, house items, plots of land, and pets. All of this is wrapped in a lousy story mode that lasts around 12 hours.
The narrative is run-of-the-mill: the shell of the world is crumbling and you must collect relics and wishes to save it. Every long, drawn-out conversation is stuffed in a horrendous story structure. To unlock the next sequence, you're often backtracking from one location to the next. Throw in characters that lack personality and every boring conversation is just going through the motions.
To add insult to injury, after you polish off the story, you don't have much left to do aside from the class challenges, fetch quests, and a multiplayer mode that lets you play through the tedium with friends. Every action taken is rote, the bosses are pushovers, the dungeons are barren, and nothing is complex enough to evoke any sort of emotion. Fantasy Life is the gaming equivalent of lukewarm oatmeal. I never found myself excitedly strategizing to maximize my profit, enticed by the superficial upgrades, or challenged by the simplistic action combat.
A tantalizing world can only do so much when what it holds isn't that exciting. Fantasy Life starts off enjoyable, but it nosedives quickly, leaving you with an experience disconnected from the potential of the world and its inhabitants.
Fantasy Life has a beautiful world, but does it have enough to keep you engaged?