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Mobius Final Fantasy (PC) artwork

Mobius Final Fantasy (PC) review

"Mobius Final Fantasy invites players to a beautiful, absorbing world that also happens to hate them just a bit."

Mobius Final Fantasy is a turn-based JRPG that arrived on mobile phones in North America in late 2016, after enjoying a year of availability exclusively in Japan. It has been going strong ever since, thanks to frequent updates and a surprisingly complex and rewarding combat system made accessible by impressive visuals. In early 2017, a PC version of the game arrived on Steam with some improvements.

This review is written based on my own time with the game, and due to the nature of the game, any experience you might have could differ substantially. I played the mobile version of Mobius Final Fantasy, from its North American launch up to the release of the PC update, then continued my experience on that platform to the present day. The game has evolved frequently and sometimes fairly extensively during that period, and the developers continue even now to offer events and activity for loyal players around the world. However, the final chapters of the main campaign story that launched the game more than 2 years ago finally became available a few months ago, and I recently cleared them and viewed the final credits. With that being the case, it feels like I am at last equipped to write a semi-coherent critique of the game.

Mobius Final Fantasy begins as the player witness a relatively nondescript fellow drifting through the air, as if riding on magical winds. He arrives on a shoreline with other similarly bland sorts, and they do battle with fierce monsters. As the campaign progresses, you learn that your hero is a "blank," meaning he suffers from amnesia and is rather disposable. He has no memory of his past upon arriving in this strange new world known as Palamecia, which presumably occupies some dimension completely different from his own. As he sets out on his journey, he is soon joined by Echo, a talkative fairy who serves as his potentially not-so-trusty guide. He sometimes also communicates with a mocking voice belonging a seemingly omniscient being who identifies himself only as Vox.

Mobius Final Fantasy (PC) imageMobius Final Fantasy (PC) image

In this new dimension where the hero finds himself, the scattered remnants of civilization fight against hordes of monsters that live in service to their master, a powerful entity known as Chaos. There is an ancient prophecy that says one will step forward and become the Warrior of Light. He will do battle with Chaos and defeat him, finally giving the people of Palamecia the hope they need to endure a brutal life.

So far, so generic. But one of the great strengths of Mobius Final Fantasy is that virtually nothing is as it seems. The intricate world and its rules, though at first they seem like something you've seen countless times before, eventually evolve to find real meaning. The lead character, an excessively skeptical individual (to the point where his pessimism occasionally is tiresome), questions everything about the world around him. He kicks the tires, you might say, and finds they're not properly inflated. He questions the true purpose of the prophecy, and his own place within it. As I played through the story, the way the characters dealt with their grim reality proved surprisingly engaging. I sometimes found myself asking questions about this fantasy world, questions the writers clearly expected me to ask and were ready to eventually answer.

Some of my interest was also due to the many, many references to past Final Fantasy games. The most obvious source of inspiration is the very first game in the franchise, which older players may remember began as Garland kidnapped the princess from her castle and fled with her to the Temple of Fiends. A lot of the elements from that original game and its setup are present here, and they are given slight twists to entertain franchise newcomers and veterans alike. Beyond even that, the world is also populated with familiar characters, such as mogs and chocobos and one fellow named Cid and even items such as phoenix down and elixir.

There also are in-game events that usually last a week or so. They take you through adventures in a few other Final Fantasy worlds, including particularly Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XIII. You get to interact with familiar characters from those other worlds who were temporarily pulled into Palamecia for some unknown purpose. You can also acquire cards related to those events.

Mobius Final Fantasy (PC) imageMobius Final Fantasy (PC) image

Cards are a big part of playing Mobius Final Fantasy, since the battle system requires you to build and improve a deck that determines what actions are available to you. The way combat works is that you can equip cards of three elements at any time, such as fire, water and wind. Earth, shadow and light elements also exist, and every element is paired with another that can inflict more damage on its counterpart (i.e. fire and water elements have stronger than normal impact on one another). You can change which elements you can use by selecting a job card with the suitable ones available, and then you can equip four cards with elemental affinities or support capabilities. Once battle begins, you attack enemies and your actions acquire orbs of one element type or another, so that you can use special moves to inflict more damage, buff yourself, debuff enemies or heal.

Battles are turn-based, and they can be automated if you like. I play almost entirely with combat automated and sped up, because I spend most of my time grinding to strengthen cards (which gain experience, just like the player) and learn new abilities. I fight a lot of enemies I know I will easily defeat, whether I am returning to story chapters or to special maps and events. The game is really, really good at giving you plenty of places to pass your time, provided you have enough energy remaining. Every battle requires a certain amount of energy when you initiate it, which you refill by waiting or by going up levels or using items. As you progress further into the campaign, it often becomes fairly easy to play as much as you want without ever having to worry that you'll run out of energy, though early on that's not really the case.

Mobius Final Fantasy has more nuances to combat, to character customization, to weapon upgrades, to event scenarios, to avatars and to much more than I could possibly outline succinctly in this review. That's a strength, but it is also perhaps the game's greatest weakness. If you're a new player, the volume of details you're expected to remember can be a bit overwhelming at first. There's a tutorial to walk you through the basics, and it does a good job, but after that you're left to make your way through an often brutal world. If you stop playing for a few weeks and then try to return to it, you may have to take some time learning the various systems all over again. You may have to find reminders online that let you know--again--how to improve this attribute or that attribute. Since launch, the game has introduced numerous new systems and tweaks. It's all elegant, but there's so much to remember.

Another issue is the "gacha" nature of the deck building. When you defeat enemies in battle, you often gain cards and you can combine them to start strengthening a card of a particular type. But virtually any character you find just wandering about the world isn't really worth your time. And there are literally hundreds of different cards you can possess in your deck, once you expand it to give yourself the room. The very best of those cards can only be obtained by gathering summoning tickets and/or "magicite," which lets you draw six guaranteed cards at a time. Some of these will likely be new, and some will be repeats. Occasionally, you may draw a new job card, or a Supreme summon card. The Supreme summon cards are extraordinarily powerful, and very desirable. I have not a single one of them, however, despite performing many summoning draws over the last two years. They just don't come up nearly as often as they should, because ultimately the developers' goal is that you will spend real-world money to buy more draws and thus build a fantastic deck.

Mobius Final Fantasy (PC) imageMobius Final Fantasy (PC) image

I understand that a game's developers and publishers have to make money when they're providing consumers games, particularly when the games clearly took a lot of resources to create, as Mobius Final Fantasy must have. But it's not difficult to imagine a scenario where a frequent spender could part with hundreds of dollars, or maybe even thousands, and still not acquire the desired card. And yes, it's possible to play through the campaign from beginning to end without spending a single cent, which I did. But you're likely to find yourself constantly wishing you could shorten the time between summon draws by spending a little real-world money, instead of waiting perhaps weeks at a time.

Another slight issue with the game is that it doles out those fascinating story elements I mentioned quite sparingly. Every map feels several times too expansive for its own good, and I can't help but suspect the goal there is to keep you playing long enough that you'll be more likely to finally break down and spend money to keep things progressing smoothly and to enhance your character and deck as you desire. For the player who is determined not to spend money just to see what happens next, or who feels like dipping into the wallet is a bit like cheating, the experience can be somewhat punishing and tedious in those moments between narrative and personal triumphs. That's a shame.

Mobius Final Fantasy presents players with a beautiful, complex, addictive world, and on the one hand that makes it easy to recommend to anyone who is looking for a meaty adventure. But the complexity is a mixed blessing, and the addictive nature of the design is clearly intended as a way to siphon more money from a person's wallet. So that leaves the game in an odd place. It's definitely one of the most engaging Final Fantasy experiences I've ever had in the three decades or so I've spent appreciating the franchise. But it's just the tiniest bit insidious, as well. Be mindful of that going in, lest you find yourself stranded in a fantasy digital world that makes you miserable.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (November 22, 2018)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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