I was going to try a portmanteau of “gacha” and “tactics” here, but it didn’t work
Twenty-twenty is going to be a somewhat seismic year for free-to-play mobile games if everything releases according to plan. We have Diablo Immortal in the works from Blizzard, the international release of Yoko Taro’s SINoALICE, Dead by Daylight Mobile, League of Legends: Wild Rift, and possibly that Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad game we first found out about last year.
In fact, just this week we saw the release of a new Disney gacha game, a new Game of Thrones free-to-play app, and the Early Access release of Romancing Saga Re;univerSe. So many games in such a small amount of time, but I think I made the right choices with my picks this week.
War of the Visions: Final Fantasy Brave Exvius
Developer: Square Enix, Gumi Inc.
Available On: Android, iOS
Unquestionably, one of the biggest and earliest supporters of mobile gaming has been Square Enix. Even before smartphones became the norm, it was pumping out titles you could play on a flip-phone. But since the first iPhone and Android, it’s been on board pumping out more titles than probably any other traditional game developer. If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy, chances are you can find at least one mobile title from the series you’d like to spend some time with.
War of the Visions: Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is the latest venture from SE into the mobile space, spinning off of its popular Brave Exvius app. War of the Visions puts players in control of Mont, heir to the throne of the Leonis Kingdom who sets off on an adventure after running into a traveling princess. Like the game it is spun off from, War of the Visions uses the titular visions to call a variety of warriors into battle, whichever ones you unlock. Unlike that game, however, this one is a tactical role-playing game.
It’s easy to look at War of the Visions and see it as a free-to-play version of Final Fantasy Tactics. That’s a pretty good book-jacket reading of it. An extensive tutorial runs players through all the different elements of the field of battle, status ailments, and everything else they’ll have to get their heads around if they want to make it through the story. If you thought Fire Emblem Heroes simplified the tactical formula too much, this might be more up your alley.
Of course, because it’s so much like Final Fantasy Tactics, it can’t be hard to argue against just getting that game instead. After all, it’s available for mobile as a premium-priced game, so you’re getting all of the gameplay without any of the baggage that comes with gacha pulls and microtransactions. After spending a few hours with War of the Visions, I was amused by what it was attempting and impressed with some of the art direction Square Enix and Gumi Inc. were able to muster up, but it didn’t really do enough to set up the world, its characters, or why I should care about it or them. I’m not sure if playing the original Brave Exvius would help, but it was nice to pull a Final Fantasy XIV character into my team as part of a crossover event with the MMO.
One quick note: while the game advises you to turn on “auto-play” right at the beginning — something I personally hate about mobile gacha RPGs — the AI in this can be downright stupid. I left it on for the second mission of the game and watched as two of my characters were knocked out, thus screwing me out of a few of the goals for that mission. Turned the feature off right then and never looked back.
War of the Visions: Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is a free-to-play game with microtransactions and ads.
Mirages of Winter
Developer: Mirari Games
Available On: iOS
When I first got through Mirages of Winter, I thought to myself, “this game is like a playable poem.” Turns out, the developers think so too. Mirari Games describes Mirages as a “poem shaped like a game” and that is as apt of a description as one could ascribe to it.
Set in a beautiful ink-stained world, Mirages of Winter casts players in the role of an unseen keeper. At the start, there is a focus on the elements and the seasons, each richly brought into the world with pops of strong color and outstanding music that utilizes the daegeum. From there, we’re introduced to the fisherman as he seeks to return home for Spring. It’s up to you to guide him there and prepare him for the coming season.
The entire game is presented in the first person and while there isn’t an immaculate amount of detail in the environments, there is enough to artfully get across what the developers want you to see. Its use of ink wash painting is stunning in its spareness on my iPad’s Retina screen, and as color beings to fill the world with the arrival of Spring, it becomes a genuine work of art.
The gameplay of Mirages of Winter centers on several small puzzles players have to solve to advance the narrative. These puzzles will often utilize the elements found at the beginning of the game, such as using fire, water, and wood to make a pot of tea or using metal to convince an otter to dive down into the water. In the beginning, I found myself just tapping across the screen until something happened, but within minutes I realized how I could manipulate the world, even if what I was doing didn’t make much sense to me. It is a short game but there is “replay value” in searching out the different unlockable works of art strewn throughout the game.
Mirages of Winter is available for iOS for $4.99.
(Premium priced games featured in Mobile Monday were provided by the developer. Free-to-play games were downloaded directly from the App Store or Google Play.)