Final Fantasy Exvius Brave!


Final Fantasy Exvius Brave, a mobile chapter in Square-Enix’s immortal Final Fantasy series, came out about a month ago in the USA, and what it is is a nostalgic travel back through all the other games in the series, draped over the typically opaque and crystalline JRPG-style adventure.

The plot starts with noble knight Rain and his lesser status friend Lasswell coming across a strange creature trapped in an Earth crystal who warns them of a group of villains who plot to plunge the world into darkness and so on. It’s Final Fantasy — EVERY game reveals an existential threat.

It’s dangerous to go alone, though, and so you can summon heroes (and villains!) from other Final Fantasy games to help out. Some show up with more potential than others, though, so it’s up to you to assemble the greatest heroes from nearly a dozen universes to help you out.

And if THAT’S not enough, well, you can dive into your friend list and ask one of them to send over their best warrior to help you as well. You can invite people you know, but I just selected the most powerful people from the random list and sent them friend invites. When you have borrowed their character, you can see how perhaps a hero you haven’t yet summoned does in battle.

So many heroes...
So many heroes…

Which heroes you get from a summon is the luck of the draw. The game is pretty free with the rare summon tickets at the beginning of the game, to give you a chance to get someone powerful right off. (The serious players keep restarting until they manage to get a rare or two right from the start. I didn’t know about that when I started). Eventually those are used up. You can earn common summonses by sending and receiving gifts from friends. And of course, this being a mobile game, you can pay money for more tickets.

No matter how rare a summons, though, they start at level 1 and must be leveled up to match your party before they can be very useful. Once they get to their max level, they can sometimes be “Awoken”. Awakening increases their rarity by one star, grants new potential abilities, and resets their level to 1. There is a LOT of leveling of heroes in this game. Naturally, you can buy leveling items to speed up this process, though they often have events where you can earn leveling items (steel cactaurs) for free. They are having one this weekend, in fact.

These special dungeons are accessed via the “Vortex”, a portal into battles with specific aims. Experience (for all the grinding), getting materials for crafting or awakening, dungeons built solely to earn gil (in-game currency), and so on. There’s usually something going on. Most of the grinding vortices require Lapis, the RMT currency, to open. You earn a fair amount of Lapis doing plot missions and hitting certain achievements, but of course you can buy more if you run out. Again, it comes easily at the beginning of the game to get you used to using it, but is much scarcer later on.

So many choices...
So many choices…

Aside from battling — which is the main fun, admittedly — and grinding hero levels, you can also craft a variety of things. The Forge crafts gear; Synthesize crafts potions and other items; and Abilities crafts slottable skills that extend a hero’s powers. All these things require recipes and materials. Most recipes can be bought, but the best ones must be found or quested. Most materials drop from battles, but some must be hunted up. I’m not positive you can buy these for real money or Lapis, but I would not be surprised.

Every Final Fantasy game has some sort of way to summon legendary spirits to help out. In FFEB, they are called “Espers”. You get the Esper, Siren, for free. She has a very useful mass Sleep ability and does water damage. The other Espers, Ifrit, Titan, Ramuh and so on, must be discovered. Using Espers in battle earns skill points that may be spent to increase an Esper’s stats and powers (which they can pass along to their summoner). Feeding Espers certain “magicites” will level them up and increase their power.

There’s also a Coliseum that doesn’t take Energy (most battles have an Energy cost; Energy slowly replenishes with time, as is typical for these sorts of games. Of course, you can replenish Energy instantly for cash). Coliseum battles pit you against increasingly difficult encounters, and are an easy and free way to see how a new selection of heroes fit together. Coliseums use an even slower form of Energy…

Battle in FFEB is the typical rock-paper-scissors element scheme. An enemy’s color typically determines which elemental strength and weaknesses they have, if any. High defense creatures must have their defense broken down by your units. Attack must be broken. Statuses must be cured. The first few chapters of the story, you’ll be swapping heroes in and out and doing summonses with your fingers crossed hoping for the healer with just the right cures, or a melee that is really good at breaking things. Eventually you’ll settle on a few brave souls and go on to conquer.

Getting ready for battle.
Getting ready for battle.

For a mobile game, Final Fantasy Exvius Brave is surprisingly deep, and you can spend quite a long time playing each session before entirely exhausting Energy. (Questing, for instance, often is totally free but quite lucrative). The story is somewhat trite if you’ve ever played a Final Fantasy game before. The boss battles are suitably impressive and difficult, and it’s fun to draw your support characters from twenty years of Final Fantasy. Heck, I have the frickin CLOUD OF DARKNESS as my front line melee :)

Recommended for any Final Fantasy fan.

Soundtrack Attack!

Quartz Stylin'!
Quartz Stylin’!

Ugh. Has it been FOUR MONTHS since I last blogged? I suck. I really do. But I’m going to try and make up for it this month. This is the annual “Blaugust”, where game bloggers try to blog a lot. For me, blogging TWICE in a month would be some sort of record…. but we’ll see what happens.

For now, I’m gonna do a little reblogging from my posts on G+, and I hope to add some of the more current stuff I’ve been playing as things happen. This post is about one of my recent excursions into mobile gaming… and cartoons…

I know there’s other people I follow and perhaps follow me who are huge fans of Steven Universe. That’s the Cartoon Network cartoon about a group of sentient space rocks that emit illusory hard light bodies rebelling against the offworld Diamond Authority that almost destroyed the Earth five thousand years ago. The rebels, known as the Crystal Gems, won the Gem War and saved the planet for what remained of humanity. Steven Universe is a hybrid gem/human learning to take his mother’s place as the leader of the Crystal Gems.

You should totally watch it.

There’ve been a few Steven Universe-based games, but it took the one that as a rhythm game set to the wonderfully moving (and sometimes hilarious) songs that the show features to get me to play.

I almost lost to get this screen shot. ALMOST. LOST. STEVEN.
I almost lost to get this screen shot. ALMOST. LOST. STEVEN.

“Soundtrack Attack” is a rhythm game that would be familiar to any fan of Elite Beat Agents. You tap, slide, and hold down to the beat while your Gem (who you can create from the basic template for a Quartz, Pearl or Ruby gem warrior) runs from warp pad to warp pad evading the Homeworld Gem sent to retrieve your fleeing character.

You’ll have the Crystal Gems to help you make your way from Beach City through to the epic confrontation in the Kindergarten, that dead area where Homeworld was constructing new Gems from the life force that permeates the Earth.

Well, I say epic confrontation, but the game doesn’t actually give you an ending. It just… runs out of levels, and you get the achievement for finishing the game.

But nobody plays rhythm games for the plot. We play them for the music. All the SU hits are here; Strong in the Real Way, Giant Woman, Stronger Than You, Mr. Greg, that song Sadie sings, Steven and the Stevens, and as the penultimate song in the game, the entire extended opening from the “Minisode”. Which is a nice break before the punishing final song, the only one I had to really try hard on.

You get stars for finishing levels (up to three stars per level, seven levels per stage, six stages for 126 maximum possible stars). You earn Crystals by accurately hitting the beats in the song, and these may be used to buy new outfits for your Gem. They can also buy power-ups if a level is too hard, though for that punishing final level, I spent too much time trying to figure out when to use the power-up and did even WORSE when I used them. I finally managed to win three stars without using power-ups, after the fifth or so time.

I thought doing the entire game perfectly would get me that ending. But, it didn’t.

There’s nothing that requires you to spend real money. I don’t think there’s even a way to spend real money if you wanted to. However, after each stage, you get the option to double the crystals you earned by watching a 15 second commercial. After I watched commercials for a movie and another one for some candy a few times, CN was done with THAT obligation and for the remainder of the game, I only saw ads for Cartoon Network properties.

It’s a quick game, tuned for children so it is generally very forgiving. That final stage, though… if I had a way to save the game to Youtube, I’d show it. But I don’t. And there’s no handsoff replay of the level so I can’t really watch my Gem smoosh the enemies as I try to keep the beat.

Upshot; if you’re a Steven Universe fan and own a mobile device and like the songs, go for it.

If you’re not a Steven Universe fan, well, haven’t you ever wondered why the back of the one dollar bill has a diamond and a cut-apart snake? WAKE UP, SNEEPLE!

I Live in the Shadows

My donkey and I in front of the House of Darkness
My donkey and I in front of the House of Darkness

Black Desert Online log.

I don’t have any pictures, largely because I haven’t taken any. (I went and took some!). I’ve found nothing particularly memorable about the game. Chwula and I have killed two boss monsters; that took us about ten seconds for the first one and about five seconds for the second. We haven’t found any dungeons or any other group content yet (but, we’re hoping).

The rest of the game has largely been about finding out information on monsters, NPCs, places and so on so that you can have conversations with people. Those can lead to more knowledge that can let you have more conversations with other people. Killing monsters can lead to more conversation topics.

I know a guy… I know a guy who can absolutely not hear enough about goblin cauldrons. Anything you can give him on goblin cauldrons, he wants to hear.

I bought a house, but it’s too dark to see in it so I haven’t been back. I got some workers, but I don’t know what happened to them. I don’t think I still have them anymore. My fear is that they are slumped against a rock face somewhere, pick in hand, dead of exhaustion because I never once looked in on them.

I bought a donkey off the marketplace because it seemed I should have a donkey by that point. Then a quest gave me another donkey. Donkeys are typically slower than running, but you need to ride them in order to build the training skill so you can catch more animals.

Combat is via combos; you need to use combos to perform them better, but a lot of them are pretty hard to do. LeftShift+A (swipe left) to Q (block) to S+left mouse button is a combo that I am supposed to be using a lot, according to the training.

I’m level 17 now, and thus far have not seen any hints of group content. Just kill stuff to make more conversations. I guess this is what an OCD MMO looks like.

Yes, I DO understand that if I read up on this game and read guides and watched videos and dived into the social media and so on that I would probably have a clue what the game is all about. But at the moment it is super dull. I guess the exciting stuff happens at some point in the future.

There is stuff I like doing in MMOs. I like having a character that is uniquely mine. Every character of a class looks more or less the same here. I like dressing up. You can’t, here. I have had many upgrades but looks just the same as I did when I created the character. And why the hell is my home pitch black dark even in the day? Even with the windows open? How does this make sense?

Right now I am regretting the purchase. Nothing seems to have a point, and the plot is really thin. It involves making a black spirit stronger, but not for any apparent reason. The black spirit was absolutely insistent I head to Alejandro’s Farm because… reasons… Then when I got there, it was just about killing stuff to improve knowledge to have better conversations all over again.

I just get the quests I can get, have enough conversations to unlock what that particular NPC has to unlock, then get on my slow donkey and autorun to the next place to do it all over again.

I suspect, from reading about other people’s adventures, that this turns into some sort of market trading game. I stumbled upon an NPC that wanted me to connect nodes to make a trade route, and there sure are a lot of laden wagons running around. I also lost the “Bargain” mini-game when I was trying to sell my stuff.

Conversations and mini-games… well, since conversation IS a mini-game, I guess it’s ALL mini-games. I did kinda enjoy the mini-game where you play the flute and attract rats, though…..

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Enemy

An Uneasy Alliance
An Uneasy Alliance

With the child saved, we headed to the Rising Stones to take stock and see that everyone that had abandoned the place when the trouble started had come trickling back in. Because it is IMPORTANT that all the powerful allies we have acquired are never actually available to do the actual fighting. For that, they always defer to the Warrior of Light and her powerful friends. Are they also warriors of light, these powerful friends? Do they also have the Echo? It’s never revealed. Everyone assumes that, hanging around just out of sight, nameless friends with equal connection to Hydaelyn’s power are available at a moment’s notice to save Eorzea from any given threat, and then to fade away until they are once more needed.

When you think about it, that’s really preferable to my role as the Warrior of Light that is at the other end of everyone’s linkpearl. These other mysterious warriors of light just get to kick back and relax. Me, everyone knows just where to find me.

I know if Yda and Papalymo ever decide to return from whatever desert they have found themselves in (Kasul guesses the ruins of Al Mhigo), they will just alert us at their pleasure through a telltale ringing in our ears. It’s not tinnitus, people. It’s a cry for help.

Pi... ka... chuuu?
ピ… カ… チュウ?

Anyway. Aside from Yda and Papalymo, only Minfilia’s whereabouts are still unknown. Her mom is worried about her. Pikachu cosplayer and Circle of Knowing member Krile, who has helped us several times in the past, investigated the sewer beneath Ul’dah where Y’shtola cast the spell that flung both her and Thancred into the aethyr, and discovered that there was a trace of a third signature caught in the spell. It could only have been Minfilia, but there was no way of knowing where she ended up. Krile and Thancred set out to Castrum Praetorium to investigate the Ultima Weapon battleground to see if they can use the power that Hydaelyn sent to protect the warriors of light as a sneaky way to see if Hydaelyn had caught up another. It turned out that Minfilia had very likely been drawn into the aethyrial flow and may still be caught up in it.

Krile thought Y’shtola’s old mentor could provide entrance to a Sharlayan fortress, the Antitower, here the aethyrial currents had been studied long before. And in fact, the entrance to that mystical place was through a wooden door in her study. So, no extra teleportation fees to get THERE.

The Word of the Mother
The Word of the Mother

After several creepy encounters and a David Bowie homage, we finally made it to the center of the Antitower, where one of Hydaelyn’s soulstones began to glow, and we were taken into the crystal realm where Minfilia appeared before us, in new clothes.

This is what has to happen to get new clothes in Eorzea, if you’re an NPC.

1) Die.
2) Yay! New clothes!

Alternate methods: Join the Crystal Braves and die, or nearly die of exposure until someone finally just hands you a jacket (Alphinaud’s strategy).

Minfilia, speaking on behalf of Hydaelyn, now too weak to speak on her own, recounted her journey into the aethyrial flow to Hydaelyn’s center of power. She gave a brief overview of the creation myth (Hydaelyn and Zodiark are two halves of a whole, and the last Seven Ages have seen triumph and triumph for the forces of Zodiark). Hydaelyn used the last of her power to send us back to the material world. If we don’t succeed in stopping the Ascians, the entire world is doomed. But the Ascians will be happy — they just want to live in their in-between dimension with Zodiark. They don’t need the world for anything.

Raubahn has been disarmed!
Raubahn has been disarmed!

Returning to Ishgard, we found that Lord Aymeric wanted to capitalize on the dragon Vidofnir’s timely arrival and rescue of the peasant child to forge a lasting peace with the good dragons of the Dravanian Empire. He decreed that Falcon’s Nest would be the site of the summit, and sent Lucia out to make the arrangements with the noble houses of Ishgard.

Tensions in Falcon’s Nest were high, as lots of people had been tormented at the teeth and claws of the Dravanians during the long Dragonsong War. Lord Fortemps’ sons were out to help keep the peace. But youngest son Emmanellain shirked his duty and went off, giving a loud protest room to grow. Desperate to cover up his desertion with swift action, he ordered the leader of the protest, a woman who had recently lost her husband to dragons, shot with an arrow.

The crowd fell silent, then erupted into riot. Emmanellain’s young assistant was nearly killed by rioters. The peace was broken.

Lord Aymeric tried a desperation move. He would delay the peace summit until the four realms of the Eorzean Alliance could meet together for a Grand Melee, hosted by Ishgard, as a way to bring people together. Aymeric, of course, enlisted me into the battle. Fortemp said Emmanellain would also take part. Emmanellain resisted, but when he saw how much his young assistant looked up to him as a role model, he decided to take part.

The melee itself went fairly well. Thancred took out a cyclops that tried to enter the fun. The Serpent and Maelstrom forces were swiftly taken care of, leaving only Ishgard and the Flames on the battlefield. I stepped up for Ishgard. Raubahn stepped forward for the Flames. Until now, everyone had just treated this as a bit of fun. Raubahn was out for blood. He summoned his fury and took on the countenance of a Dark Knight with primal powers at his call, at times using powers from the Heavensward knights in The Vault. Had his months of torment eroded his sanity?

It was a very close fight. But we won it for Ishgard. Lord Aymeric, to cheers, said the peace summit would continue immediately.

The prodigal dragoon returns
The prodigal dragoon returns

Vidofnir was happy to return. Lord Aymeric unveiled a huge relief depicting Vidofnir’s father, Hraesvelgr, with his (then) human companion, Saint Shiva, back in happier days. Aymeric and Vidofnir began to speak the oaths that would seal a new friendship between humans and dragons, BUT JUST THEN….

Estinien appeared, high atop a tower. We wondered if he’d freed himself from Nidhogg’s influence. We didn’t have long to wonder; he plunged down and drove his lance into Vidofnir’s spine, killing her instantly (and she is still dead, if you go back to her old home in the Dravanian Forelands). Estinien was clearly still under Nidhogg’s power, and made threats against all assembled before he jumped into the air, hung there for a moment, then transformed into Nidhogg himself and flew away.

The peace broken, everyone goes their separate ways. The Scions vow to restore Estinien, free Minfilia, and find Yda and Papalymo.

An epilogue shows Yda and Papalymo, still in some Thanalanian location, wondering who they can trust. A second epilogue shows someone in Little Ala Mhigo (it’s not said but is pretty clear) donning a mask. This is probably NOT the masked boy that shows up for the Containment Bay fight…. but more on that later.