Brave Exvius is a beautiful and addictive RPG. It’s a meld of old-school Square Enix goodness and free-to-play best practices.
Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius is a classic Square Enix RPG with all of the modern, mobile, free-to-play trappings that we’ve become so accustomed to in recent years. I wanted to get that sentence out of the way because, if you’re anything like me, the words “free-to-play” bear a rather negative connotation. Yes, Brave Exvius does work off of a limited-stamina system, and after so many missions you’ll either have to take a break and wait for your energy bar to refill with time or otherwise spend a form of in-game currency to reset it (once you run out of that in-game currency, of course, you’re free to spend your real-world money to replenish it). Don’t let any of that scare you away, though. Brave Exvius really is the perfect free-to-play mobile RPG, and I’ve enjoyed every moment of my time playing it so far.
Presentation in Brave Exvius is simultaneously compact and unhindered. You can tell that the developers have designed this game from the ground up to run well on mobile platforms, but make no mistake, there was no sacrifice in quality made; this is top-notch Square Enix goodness. I’ve been continually amazed by how seamlessly 3D, CG cinematics will transition into the 2D gameplay. These transitions are showcased most effectively in battle. When you cast a summoning spell, a short and impressive CG scene plays out showing your Esper performing an attack, which is unleashed upon your enemies’ 2D sprites without a moment’s delay. I have yet to experience a single skip or stutter – I feel like I’m playing one of the best JRPGs from back in the PlayStation days. I’ve been playing the game on a Samsung Galaxy S7, which is a pretty beefy smartphone, but from what I’ve read from other users the game is well-optimized for all platforms and runs smoothly for everyone.
Every character, enemy, and environment has been lovingly designed and crafted. This is some seriously fine pixel work here, and the animations are excellent. Apart from the brilliant visuals, one thing we’ve come to expect in a Square Enix RPG is moving and unforgettable music. The soundtrack for Brave Exvius is both of those things, and I’ve found that when I’m away I miss the music almost more than anything else. This is a soundtrack that I would happily purchase, and the fact that Square Enix has poured so much talent and care into this one aspect of the game’s presentation is a great indication that it has set out to create an original RPG that can stand on its own.[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSY3txPdE9Q[/embedyt]
Combat in Brave Exvius is simple, fast, and exciting. Anyone who has played Final Fantasy: Record Keeper from DeNA will feel right at home here. The story plays out slowly, and between periods of plot progression you’ll regularly adventure into a new area to load up a series of stages. Each stage typically consists of three skirmishes and a boss battle, which all play out consecutively without breaks. Attacking with your party is as simple or complex as you want it to be. If you’re grinding you can simply hit the “Auto” button and the AI will have your party go to town in an all-out offensive. For areas where enemies are generally easy to defeat, this is by far the fastest and most efficient way to progress. For boss battles and areas that shelter more formidable monsters, you’ll likely want to play your attacks more strategically. By swiping each party member’s portrait, you can view his or her abilities, spells, limit breaks, and items, and plan out each phase of your attack accordingly.
Attack animations, spell effects, and summon scenes are all flashy and satisfying, and you’re constantly showered with rewards as you fight. With every slash and strike crystals burst forth from your enemies and fill the limit gauges of your party members; every time a monster or boss dies they leave behind a treasure chest which contains various types of loot or crafting materials; with the conclusion of every stage different party members will level up, acquire new skills, or yield special treasures; you also rank up as you play, and with each rank your energy bar expands and you’re awarded all kinds of currency. The progression systems here really are very addictive and rewarding.
“Brave Exvius is the mobile RPG I’ve been waiting for since I got my first high-end smartphone.”
As far as free-to-play elements and monetization are concerned, you need not worry – Square Enix have made all of these things more features than burdens. After three days of extensive play time, I’ve yet to feel restricted in any way, and your energy bar is more than large enough to sustain what I would consider to be an average-to-long play session with no breaks. A typical mission stage will consume 3-5 energy, and as a new player your energy bar will contain anywhere from 15-20 points. If you take time in between missions to upgrade units, explore the towns, complete side quests, and work on your crafting, you’ll have more than enough to do with the time given you.
Like in Record Keeper, there is a RNG gambling / reward mechanic in this game. In Record Keeper you’d spend special tickets or currency on item draws, but in Brave Exvius you draw for new party members. As long as you create your account before July 17th, you should start off with at least 10 rare summon tickets, which you’ll use to pull 10 high-ranking party members. Most of these heroes are from past Final Fantasy games, and all of them are a joy to see recreated in their new, spritely forms. I’ve been amply satisfied with all of my party members, and I know I have a huge task ahead of me as far as leveling them all up, enhancing them, and crafting high-end gear for them to wield. A friends system is also in place, and whomever you deem to be your party leader (usually it’s your rarest and most powerful hero) will be the one to show up in your friends’ games if they decide to summon you for help in battle. Calling on your friends’ more powerful heroes can also mean the difference between success or failure during a boss encounter.
At this point I’m not sure what else I can tell you. Brave Exvius is the mobile RPG I’ve been waiting for since I got my first high-end smartphone. Its systems are deep and compelling enough to remain attractive over a long period of time, the free-to-play limitations hardly seem limiting at all, and the monetization is handled very gracefully; I have no doubt that Square Enix will make money off of this game, but you certainly won’t feel as though they’re twisting your arm. I do hope that Nintendo and Capcom pay attention to what makes Brave Exvius so wonderful, and if we’re lucky Square Enix will give us more games like this one in the future. Check it out as soon as you can – you won’t regret it.