Words On Wednesday

2015-09-30 FINAL FANTASY Record Keeper

At the recommendation of a friend, I’ve started playing FINAL FANTASY Record Keeper, a mobile game by Square Enix. With about a week of experience in the game, I have a decent idea of the ins and outs.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dena.west.FFRK

General

Basically, FINAL FANTASY Record Keeper (FFRK) allows players to revisit moments and battles from previous titles in the Final Fantasy series. The artwork and characters are included, with 3D games re-imagined as 2D sprites. Music is also pulled from the original games, with ambient music for certain areas playing in the appropriate menus, and combat or boss music playing during battles. Talk about some serious nostalgia overload.

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As players progress through these old Final Fantasy moments (not in chronological or game order), they build up a party of characters from the games. This party exists across all “realms,” and players can pick and choose characters to create a team of up to 5 members. By fighting through the battles, players also earn gil, equipment, and orbs used to create abilities.

Gameplay is separated into “dungeons,” which are divided into segments, and these segments are composed of some number of “rounds.” Each dungeon lists the amount of stamina required (the currency that dictates how long or how frequently one can play), as well as information about the story and any bosses in the dungeon. Segments are completed sequentially, with players given the opportunity to heal or check back on dungeon info between them. Once a player commits to a dungeon, however, they cannot change gear or party layout, or switch to another dungeon until they finish it or wipe out.

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Story

Above perhaps any other well known game series, Final Fantasy games are known for telling amazing stories. With FFRK simply revisiting these stories, it’s kinda hard to screw up such fantastic tales.

One facet of FFRK that I’ve really enjoyed is that the story isn’t thrown in your face. The tutorial explains that the player character is an apprentice record keeper, and must participate in these memories to prevent them from disappearing forever. Once this frame is constructed, players pick and choose the events they want to play. The only references to story, however, are a brief paragraph of summary before and after any given event. If you don’t read these synopses, you’re really just experiencing solid JRPG combat with neat characters.

I was originally concerned that I shouldn’t play FFRK because of my limited experience with the Final Fantasy series. I’ve beaten 3 and 10, and I’ve played a decent chunk of 7 and 12. Other than that, I’m pretty much clueless. So far, this hasn’t posed a problem. Obviously, I recognize the characters and portions of the games that I’ve played, and that familiarity in a reconstructed medium is very cool to experience. The games that I haven’t played, though, aren’t ruined by the small tidbits of text that I’m not reading, nor am I frustrated by my lack of experience with them. I go in with the party I’ve constructed and beat up on enemies. Frankly, that’s all I need to have fun.

Combat

With a heavy focus on the ATB combat style, FFRK is very similar to FF7 for those who have played it. There aren’t distinct turns, as much as there are cooldown periods before characters can make another move. The player can set the pace of combat on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is an absolute crawl and 5 is blisteringly fast.

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Early in the game, there are very few ways to play besides attack/defend until the enemy is dead. As players level up and enemies begin to have certain weaknesses and resistances, plus unique attack patterns, the game becomes a little more fun and interesting. Also, all characters have a “Soul Break” ability (limit break, overdrive, whatever term you’re familiar with is basically the same concept) that must be built up with attacks and abilities. Standard enemies are still fairly easily disposed of by simple attacks, but bosses definitely require strategy and attention.

Luckily, Square decided to include an auto battle function, which causes characters to perform a standard attack as soon as their ATB gauge is full. This definitely streamlines combat when revisiting old dungeons to grind for orbs, gear, gil, or experience, or even hacking through new dungeons on segments without bosses. Many players may want to manually control all character actions, but I personally enjoy the ability to set combat to auto and reap the rewards when the dust settles.

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Gear and Abilities

A large portion of the game is outfitting your party with the best gear for any given level.

Every piece of equipment has a rarity level, as well as combat stats. Here’s where it gets somewhat complicated. Equipment can be upgraded or combined. The tutorial does a terrible job of explaining how these mechanics work, so I will attempt to give a basic rundown of how the gear improvement system works.

Every piece of gear has a rarity of 1 to 5 stars, as well as a level. All gear begins at level 1, with an upper level limit that depends on the rarity (or so I’m led to believe). Gear can be upgraded by sacrificing other gear or materials for experience points. As gear pieces are upgraded, their stats improve. Once a piece has reached its maximum level, only then can it be combined with another piece of the same gear. When the items are combined, the result is an “[item]+” with the same stats, but 1 rarity star higher and a higher level cap. The item can then be upgraded again by the same means until it reaches the new cap. A second combination can be performed to produce an “[item]++” with yet another rarity level and the same stats, plus an even higher level cap. Once the item has been upgraded to this third level cap, it is as powerful as it can become. It a gear piece hits 5 star rarity, I do not believe it can be combined further.

For example, let’s say I have a Leather Glove from FFVII with a rarity of 1 star and a level of 1 with a cap of 3. I upgrade this item to 3 by sacrificing various items from my inventory and yield a Leather Glove of level 3 with improved stats. If I have another Leather Glove in my inventory, I then combine them to form a single Leather Glove + with a rarity of 2 stars and a level of 3 with a cap of 5. I repeat the upgrade process with a few more items to produce a Leather Glove + with 2 rarity and level 5. Combining this item with another base level Leather Glove gives me a Leather Glove ++ at 3 rarity and level 5 with a cap of 10. Yet again, I sacrifice items to upgrade my item to level 10. At this point, the Leather Glove is as powerful as it will ever be.

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As far as I’m aware, these stat and level increases are set in stone for any unique item. Different items sacrificed for upgrades offer different amounts of experience, but the stat boosts are the same no matter what you use. Furthermore, gear pieces have an “augment” value that I haven’t quite figured out. These augment values seem to be primarily confined to higher rarity gear, but I could simply be misunderstanding how that works.

Abilities are more simple than equipment, in that they can only be created and “honed.” To create an ability, players must pay gil and orbs of a certain type. To hone these abilities, players pay a greater sum of gil, and usually a higher number of the same orbs used to create the ability. Honing the ability does not change its power, but merely allows the ability to be used more times within a dungeon. Ability uses are reset after every dungeon, and they can be equipped or unequipped from any character who can use them.

Currency

There are three main forms of currency in FFRK: Gil, Mythril, and Gems. Gil is the most commonly gained and used. Enemies have a chance of dropping Gil, it is rewarded at the end of every dungeon, and items can be sold for Gil. It is used to upgrade and combine equipment, as well as to create and hone abilities. In my experience, it is the most limiting factor of the game, as grinding for orbs is comparatively easy. Take advantage of the Gil daily dungeon, as it yields the highest amount of Gil per stamina or time.

Mythril and Gems are used interchangeably for larger or more permanent purposes, at a typical rate of 1 Mythril per 100 Gems. Mythril is frequently rewarded upon first completing a dungeon, as well as one-time quests. Gems are a premium currency, purchased with real world money. Players can increase inventory space, heal during dungeons, purchase relic drops, or refill stamina with Mythril or Gems, none of which are necessary functions. Given the unnecessary nature of Mythril and Gem purchases, as well as the fact that Mythril can be obtained for free, Square has done well to avoid making FFRK a “Pay-to-Win” game. Gem purchases make the game undeniably easier, but not to such a degree that players feel forced to purchase them. The game is generous enough with Mythril that frugal players have absolutely no need to purchase Gems.

Miscellaneous

Obviously, I’m not trying to complete guide for how the game works and different tips and tricks. There are a few things that are beneficial to know, however.

The stamina system is just alright. I understand that it opens the door for microtransactions, in order to bring in more money for Square. However, the amount of stamina any given dungeon requires seems to vary wildly. There is certainly a general increase as the player advances through dungeons, but some dungeons may only take 15 stamina while others take 40+, all about the same difficulty level. For those who will only check in a few times a day, this shouldn’t be an issue. Don’t expect to set down for a long play session like you might with a traditional Final Fantasy game, however.

I’d like to have some sort of bestiary or knowledge base within the game, rather than looking to external sources for information. There doesn’t seem to be any way to tell what monsters are weak to certain abilities, and I’d like to have an idea of what certain enemies will drop so I can know where to grind for items. Perhaps there is a Libra or Scan ability that I just haven’t unlocked yet, but it would be good to know.

With the auto attack feature, I’d like to have some customization for how characters behave. I realize it might make auto more useful than Square originally intended, but it would be nice to have something like the FFXII gambit system to dictate what characters will do in certain criteria. Maybe have your healer cast cure if an ally drops to a certain percentage of health. Again, that sort of limitation could be intentional so that players are more likely to manually control characters in more advanced battles.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the game. There’s almost an optional nostalgia, since the story isn’t completely thrust on players. If you’ve experienced one of the FF games, you can almost relive the battles. If you haven’t, it’s still a solid game with fun combat and interesting equipment mechanics. For me, FFRK gets an 8 out of 10, possibly upgrading to a 9 if they improve the tutorial or simplify some of the interfaces.

Meta:

Words: 1760 | Characters: 9941 | Sentences: 89 | Average Word per Sentence: 20 | Paragraphs: 29 | Reading Level: College Student

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