Review: Fantasy Life
This time around, I decided to review a charming little 3DS game called Fantasy Life. A friend of mine, Alex, played it during November and gave her impressions, so I figured that while she's writing about Bravely Default like I did a few months ago, I'll write about Fantasy Life.
Note: this review was started in February 2015, but I only had a chance to write the last bits in May
Fantasy Life's big concept is its job system - there are twelve classes, called Lifes, that are divided into three categories:
- Paladin uses one-handed longswords and shields, has good defense and health
- Mercenary uses two-handed greatswords, good defense
- Hunter uses bows for ranged attacks to inflict status effects upon enemies
- Wizard uses wands for both elemental offense and healing
- Miner seeks out rare ores and fossils
- Woodcutter fells mighty trees
- Angler reels in huge fish
- Blacksmith turns ores into powerful swords, armor, and tools
- Carpenter creates ranged weapons, tools, and furniture
- Tailor fashions robes, light armor, and decorations
- Cook whips up many dishes to provide health and stat boosts
- Alchemist mixes concotions to create bombs, healing potions, and equipment
It's entirely possible to go through the main story while only working on one life, but where's the fun of that? I found that it was frustrating to rely on stores to sell powerful items, so I started changing Lifes more frequently, felling trees, collecting ore, then becoming a Carpenter to shape a powerful wand. This gave me more control over the items and abilities I had, though it took longer to progress. For most of the game, this didn't feel like a typical grind - hunting down rare creatures and ores was an adventure, and the bounty system made it interesting to juggle what you wanted most from your adventure. (In the bounty system, certain creatures/trees/rocks drop bounty items that follow you around. Only three bounty items can exist at a time, and they all have health, so you have to protect your bounty or you lose it)
One interesting thing was how they did Gather-type Lifes. Combat is easy to understand, it's essentially "fight monsters, get experience". Crafting has you working to create specific things. But gathering? The way that Miner and Woodcutter work is that there are specific locations (ore deposits and trees) that you go to, and through proper timing and positioning (each tree/deposit as a Sweet Spot that takes extra damage) you whittle down its health while avoiding reducing your own stamina bar too much. "Boss Rocks" and "Boss Trees" have the additional challenges of regenerating health and a moving Sweet Spot, so even though you're essentially fighting a rock it still FEELS exciting. Fishing is similar, but instead of moving around you choose when to reel, timing it so that your stamina stays high and the line doesn't snap. You also have to worry about the fish pulling in a specific direction, at which point you put slack into the line in that direction or the line will get closer to breaking. "Boss Fish" are like "Boss Rocks", with regenerating health, but also specific patterns in when they pull in a direction. With all of the Gather-type Lifes, you have a few special moves that you can use to deal massive "damage", at the expense of stamina. This helps add some more strategy to the mix.
Near the end of the game, I did feel a bit of a grind - because there are so many crafting Lifes, and because I got Creator rank on the combat Lifes first (It's called God-rank everywhere but in the US, which I found interesting), I spent a good chunk of time buying bulk ingredients and crafting things. One. At. A. Time. I ended up with a ton of money from selling most of the food I made, though it's certainly handy for healing.
I did eventually hit first Legend rank, the highest you can get in the original game, then Creator rank (from the Origin Island downloadable content), at which point gameplay started to slow down. The only real challenges left are the Trials, three dungeons with unique (and tough) enemies and some interesting rewards, and the Life Master Quests, which involve defeating some of the toughest enemies in the game, but with fantastic rewards. I can basically complete the first Trial, the Trial of Time, in my sleep, and can do the Trial of Darkness fairly easily, but the Trial of Light is still tough. I might get some friends to help with it.
The reward for getting all-Creator is interesting - it removes the Life restriction, so you can wear any item while you're in any Life, as long as you have the right level. This is a huge benefit, since some of the top-tier items are specific to that Life. Getting Creator in each Life also has another near benefit - by charging your special ability bar (via doing Life-specific things), you can enter Creator mode which basically gives you superpowers (instantly finish a craft, cast spells without using stamina, etc). The benefit is balanced by the amount of time required to get to that point, but it's still a very useful ability to have.
The way multiplayer works is interesting - you can't be in a quest (storymode quest or starting a Life), and time stops while you're visiting other worlds, so it limits what you can do slightly. However, you can team up with other people to tackle some of the toughest dungeons (or Trials!), and real players are substantially better than the allies you can recruit to follow you.
Overall, Fantasy Life is a fantastic game that deserves way more attention than it gets. I'm not looking forward to the sequel, which seems to be a smartphone-based city building game, but the original is great and the Origin Island expansion adds a ton of great content. It's the kind of game that you can easily lose a few hours to, just relaxing and enjoying the world. The writing is humorous and you can easily get attached to some of the characters, but the big draw is that you can play the way you want, avoiding or seeking combat, decorating or adventuring - your own little Fantasy Life.