Fans of Final Fantasy Tactics have been left hungry for quite a long time now. Outside of a mobile port of War of the Lions, we haven’t seen a Tactics game since 2008 with the release of A2 on the Nintendo DS. The world of Ivalice has been revisited in the remaster of Final Fantasy XII and some raids in XIV, but I don’t think I’m alone in wanting a true return to the world and gameplay style of the original Tactics. While it is unsure if we’ll ever see the series ever return to consoles, it seems that Square Enix has heard fan outcry.
War of the Visions: Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is an upcoming mobile game that is more or less meant to be a spiritual successor to the Tactics sub-franchise. I got to play an early version it during the tail end of the closed beta, so while I wasn’t able to get a full grasp on every single mechanic (and oh, are there a lot of mechanics) I was able a general sense of how the game works. It was an interesting experience that leaves me hopeful for the full release, but with some reservations.
Like with many mobile adaptations of popular RPG franchises, War of the Visions intends to recreate the feeling of the game it’s based on with gacha elements added in. This might turn away fans looking for a traditional experience, but given the state of the mobile market, I expected this. The game will be free to play, so it would have been impossible to continue making content for the game without some way to make money.
Combat seemed to be very faithful to the mechanics fans fell in love with: It just feels like Final Fantasy Tactics in full 3D. Movement is still grid-based, and your height and positioning factors into how effective you are in battles. The touch screen controls are responsive, with you being able to either tap the grid square to have your active party member run to it or freely move between all the current grids within movement range. While combat itself is simple, you’ll need to learn how to utilize proper strategy as you advance through the missions.
From what I experienced, I do think the mission difficulty is more beginner-friendly than previous Tactics games, but I’m not sure how much of this had to do with the benefits given to players of the closed beta. I was given an abundance of gacha rolls and leveling items, and I’m not sure how much of this will be available to new players. While the game does a fantastic job explaining the various mechanics, I think some players are sure to be put off by the sheer number of mechanics and tutorials. The tutorials are mostly optional of course, but you’re rewarded by completing them so I tried to complete most of them even if it killed the pace quite a bit. The gacha and mobile game systems being tied to character recruition and progression, unfortunately, overwhelmed me. Hardcore mobile game fans are sure to find no issue with this complicated approach, but as a casual mobile game player that only plays these kinds of games for that slight percentage of rolling a good looking PNG image, it took a while for me to get used to this.
The storyline I got to experience was better than I was expecting from a Final Fantasy mobile title, but time will tell if it lives up to its influences. Fans who prefer the tone of War of the Lions will appreciate that Visions takes itself very serious, unlike the slightly more playful tone the Advance games went for. The game is a prequel to Brave Exvius that takes place hundreds of years before, but it is worth noting that it seems to stand alone. Nothing I played impressed me to the level of War of the Lions’ storytelling, but Mont’s tale of maturing in a continent slowly breaking out into war was still engaging. You can tell there’s a lot of history in the game’s setting, and I hope Square Enix fleshes it out fully.
I was very impressed with Visions’ presentation, I think it is on the higher end of graphics for a mobile title. This is due to both high-quality 3D models and more importantly excellent art direction. While Akihiko Yoshida was not brought back to do the game’s art, he supervised the work done by Ryoji Ohara, who did a wonderful job emulating Yoshida’s style while still managing to create character designs that stick out as unique. The few story cutscenes that appeared were high quality, and the summoning and special attack animations were a treat to look at. There were a ton of characters and visions able to be summoned in rolls, and they’re all consistent in quality thanks to the previously mentioned brilliant art direction.
What caught me off guard was the game having both English and Japanese voice tracks, which is rare for these types of games. From what I played so far, every major story scene that predates battles has full voice acting and its all very high quality. The English audio track is appropriate for the time and setting, with all the characters emoting perfectly with their characters. You can really feel the growing stakes from this voice acting, and it was apparent that they wanted to live up to the legacy of War of the Lions. That game is well known for its stunningly amazing (yet sparse) English voice acting, so you can tell Square has high hopes for this game’s success.
War of the Visions left a very good first impression, but due to the state of gacha games, I’m left unsure of how it will fare as I go further into the game. As a free-to-play version of one of my favorite Final Fantasy titles, I was pleasantly surprised with how high quality all the mechanics are, and time will tell if it lives up to that name. It provides all the depth in character customization the series is known for, but it being tied to gacha elements makes me worried the game will boil down to a significantly larger amount of grinding then I’m used to. It’s worth giving a shot though, because the quality of the story and the production values reaches a new height for Square Enix mobile games.
You can pre-register for War of the Visions: Final Fantasy Brave Exvius at WAR OF THE VISIONS FINAL FANTASY BRAVE EXVIUS Global Pre-registration Site | SQUARE ENIX. Full launch is set for March 25.