Do you like Final Fantasy? Do you like limitless options and customizability? Do you like stats? If you said yes to any of these questions, then you should consider adding Final Fantasy Explorers to your list.
I knew nothing of Final Fantasy Explorers when I picked it up. I had seen it surface on a few websites, but I never actually followed any of the links to find out about the game’s vicissitude of the Final Fantasy franchise. I knew I like Final Fantasy, and the back of the game’s case promised me lots of jobs; iconic heroes and monsters; and encouraged co-op play. Co-op has never really been my forte, but solo play was also mentioned, so I nervously popped Final Fantasy Explorers into my 3DS. What I found was an addictive game that is way more fun then I imagined.
There are three main things that drive Final Fantasy Explorers: quests; who you are and what you do; and how you play. The quests are doled out in increasing difficulty, sending you out to collect items; complete tasks; or kill monsters, as a way to drive the nonexistent story. Who you are and what you do is the meat of the game, with a robust jobs system, limitless abilities customization, and equipment options that allows players to focus their combat style to any liking from melee to magic, tank to support, and general to specific. Finally, Final Fantasy Explorers is extremely versatile in its ability to fulfillany gamer’s dedication level.
There is really no story to Final Fantasy Explorers. This is not one of those RPG games you play to enjoy an epic yarn or make crucial choices that will affect you down the road. It is a grinding simulator, where the only choice you have to make is which monster or eidolon you will murder next. Quests are presented to you as a means to lend focus to your exploration of an island and provide specific targets or goals for each jaunt. What story I was able to glean from the explorer manager, Cid, is that eidolons (classic summon characters such as Ifrit, Shiva, Odin, Bahamut, etc.) are appearing around the island and you need to defeat them to further the march of resource and crystal gathering by humans. The most challenging quests focus on hunting eidolons, to defeat them and claim their powers as crystals, but quests with other tasks are mixed in to help develop your character and play style. Sometimes you have to hunt a certain numbers of lessor monsters. Sometimes you have to collect a certain number of a resource material. In the end though, all of the quests focus on going out into the island and grinding on monsters. The rewards for this narrow focus comes through job development and customizability of abilities and equipment. Every few quests, particularly after vanquishing a set of eidolons, you are rewarded with new job classes, as well as all of the abilities and equipment that are privilege to said jobs. This helps make it easier to once again embark on the latest killing spree, but I suspect that once all of the jobs are unlocked, the game will only stand up to your dedication for grinding and reaching the highest tiers of equipment and the most uniquely customized abilities.
Final Fantasy Explorers boasts twenty-one different job classes, with each job having its own unique abilities and focuses on styles of melee, magic, and equipment. Players start as Freelancers, an all-around job, but quickly unlock the Knight, Ranger, Monk, White Mage, and Black Mage jobs. I tried Ranger first, but I found the combat more tedious then I expected, so I decided to change to a Knight. The beauty is that changing the job class was easy; I could do it any time, through a menu option, while in town. Changing jobs does require you to have compatible abilities and weapons, but armor has very few restrictions. I rolled as a Knight for a bit, until I unlocked the Time Mage. That sounded intriguing, and a simple shopping/crafting spree set me on my way to a new job. Just like that I changed from being a sword wielding brawler to a rod swinging spell caster. As more jobs are unlocked through quests, the degree of job specialty becomes more and more unique. Does a Knight lack finesse and strike you as cliché? Then be a Ninja or a Samurai. Can’t decide between being a Machinist or an Alchemist? Be a Geomancer. I don’t know what that is, but it comes with a bell! I have unlocked thirteen of the jobs and tried about five of them, and each role has presented its own benefits and difficulties. Thankfully twenty different configurations of gear and abilities can be saved as presets, so changing between jobs doesn’t mean you have to slog through equipping screen.
Which brings us to equipment and abilities, and the game’s character customization through two outlets: material collection and ability mutation. While traversing the wilds, you will find yourself constantly looting orbs of materials from fallen creatures, which are then taken back to town and used for crafting equipment. A very large majority of the games weapons and armor must be crafted, and once gear is made, it is all upgradeable to improve its attributes for protecting your hide or dishing out the hurt. The great part is that no two players will have the same gear, because not everyone will augment what they have in the same ways. The foundation pieces might be similar, but your set of armor might be better for fighting Ifrit and his fire based attacks, whereas I developed my set of the same armor for protection against Ramuh and his bolts of judgement. Don’t worry about the abundance of choices though. Since the armor is mostly mix and matchable, you can really go nuts and make all sorts of gear to specialize different wardrobes for the myriad quests.
Abilities are similar in their… ability, to be customized and made unique from player to player. As you fight, energy is stored in your character, and can be used to trigger what’s called a crystal surge. Crystal surges give you the power to imbue special attacks and magic with augmentations that improve what the ability does in combat. For example, activate the “Giant” crystal surge and then cast Haste, and your version of Haste will probably mutate an increased Area of Effect. Activate the “Fire Affinity” crystal surge, and your next sword skill will gain the fire element. After your quest is over, head back to town and you can then learn all of the newly augmented skills, for future use and further mutation, since the mutations stack and get stronger as you cultivate them. Just like the equipment, every player can develop their abilities in ways that truly make them their own, especially since there are well over one hundred abilities and forty-two different mutations available. Some of those “iconic heroes” even show up as abilities from time to time…
The music is the downer to this game. I tried listening to it for the first many hours, but I quickly began ignoring it. There was not much variation aside from town, over world, and combat in the over world, that caught my interest. Sure eidolons probably had their own themes, but it all started sounding the same most of the time. And there is no voice acting, but it’s a DS game… The graphics and style are very pleasing and definitely Final Fantasy. Colors and detail abound, bringing the game to life considering the small screen platform. Monsters even showed personality in the way they fought in combat and wandered around the environments. I never got tired of looking at this game.
To wrap this up, the game is fun to play for a few reasons. First, the combat is easy to learn and mostly comfortable. The learning curve for masterfully mowing down monsters is simple, yet pleasing. The controller map will make sense for almost everyone, and you get to decide what is mapped to each button, so no complaining. The touch screen has some awkward functions, but thankfully they aren’t entirely essential. Combat and quests can be engaged and aborted in an instant. You can pick this game up for a quick five minute quest, save, and then be on your way to that important meeting about the thing. It is playable as much as you want, which goes for both solo and co-op. Jumping in and out of co-op rooms takes little effort, so there are always people to team up with to tackle a quest *Wifi accessibility disclosure*. Teams of up to four players can band together to complete quests as long as everyone has access to the quest, based off of game progress. Taking down eidolons as a team is fun, and is always a different experience!
Final Fantasy Explorers is an easy game to enjoy. You can really make it your own, and it is a unique Final Fantasy fix, when you get anxious dreaming of Noctis and the boys. The classic jobs focus that the franchise is known for comes to life in a great game to play solo, with your friends, or with that Beast Master on the other side of the wifi. You will always find something fun to do when you pick up this game, casual or not.