Review by liquiddeath21
Fun Time Killer
I honestly cant explain the appeal of the Mafia Wars-style casual text MMO, which basically uses its players impatience as currency. Its a strange brand of freemium game that seems to draw users into any incarnation, whether its yet another mob-builder like iMobsters, a collectible card adventure like Rage of Bahamut, or an only semi-related spinoff to a popular series, like Final Fantasy Airborne Brigade. As baffling as the genres popularity is, Im even more confused by this newest development: I cant stop playing Airborne Brigade.
As far as freemium, social-focused, text MMOs go, Airborne Brigade has most of the expected features. Youll gain experience and levels through quests, which cost rechargeable energy (LP) to complete. You can join up with friends and other players into parties for strategic advantages. And youll spend most of your time clicking single buttons to do anything, from fighting Espers to enhancing weapons.
Where Airborne Brigade feels different is first, its obvious Final Fantasy wrappings, and second, its focus on smaller groups and collaboration as opposed to highly competitive player-versus-player goals. Upon starting the game, everyone is automatically assigned to a brigadea group of 20 players. Your brigade is essentially your guild, and youll work together in Brigade mode to bring down boss monsters, like Grenades, and Espers like Ifrit, who are much stronger than any enemy youll encounter in the single-player Quest mode. The competitive aspect comes from the fact that youre both collaborating with and competing against another similarly-ranked brigade thats assigned as your rival for the week.
When a Brigade-level monster appearsdiscovered by anyone from the two rival brigades during a Questall players from those two brigades will be alerted and invited to go attack the monster. While Quests require LP to progress, Brigade battles use rechargeable Brigade Points (BP). Every player, no matter their level, will only have three BP max at any given time, allowing them to either attack normally up to three times (costs one BP), or launch a more powerful all-out attack for all three BP. With Espers and other boss monsters having multiple thousands of health points, it typically takes numerous attacks from both brigades to bring one down.
If the monster is defeated before it escapes (brigades usually have about a half-hour window to launch their attacks), awards are handed out to the brigade that discovered the monster, dealt the most damage, and landed the killing blow. Any brigade member who took part in the battle, no matter their contribution, receives their brigades reward(s). Brigades also receive points for taking part in these battles, increasing their rank amongst all players (not just their rival brigade) and earning additional daily rewards.
Brigades are split up and reassigned every Sunday night to allow for rebalancing and players to meet new friends. Youre only ensured to be in someones brigade if youve joined the same party, but parties have a maximum of ten membersa way to make sure no brigade is too overpowered.
Although the experience of playing Airborne Brigade is primarily jumping back and forth between leveling up via Quests and assisting your brigade in Esper battles, then waiting for points to recharge and doing it all again, there are plenty of little Final Fantasy and RPG-inspired nuances that add to the game. You can change and level up different jobs, like Warrior, Monk, and Red Mage, to unlock stronger ones like Paladin, Dragoon, and Ninja. Youll sometimes come across Chocobos that may toss out magical abilities you can use in battle (assuming you feed them gysahl greens or vomp carrots). There are tons of different weapons to find and try outfrom greatswords to rods, daggers to gunswith varying rarities, elemental effects, and strengths. I do occasionally find myself out of energy and waiting on a recharge (too stingy to use a potion), but rarely without anything to doleveling up weapons and magic, selling off old gear for Gil, or sending messages to my party keeps me busy during the fairly short wait before my LP and BP come back.
These are all things that work for Airborne Brigade, and have kept me hooked so far. Unfortunately, its list of issues is extensive. The first problem youll notice is one it shares with Rage of Bahamut: a complete lack of sound or music to any degree. This is an absolute shame in a Final Fantasy-themed game, a series known for its gorgeous songs and memorable effects. It currently also lacks any way to search for a specific playerwhich means adding your real-life friends to this highly social game is nearly impossible.
The games tutorial and FAQ are both disorganized and jump all over the place, making tracking down info a quest in itself. After slogging my way through the majority of the FAQ entries, Ive found some aspects of the game are never explained: whatever BP stands for (I assume Brigade Points, but it could be Battle, Brawn, Balthier ) and how quickly it recharges is never mentioned.
Although the Final Fantasy theme is an easy draw for fans of the series, it often feels more like a costume than an actual part of the game. Yes, you will fight Espers, level up classes, hang out with Mog, and quest through recognizable locations, but these are just a hodgepodge of features that are reminiscent, but not definitive of, Final Fantasy games. You dont control any aspect of a battle outside of what youre equipped with, exploration is merely clicking advance on the quest area that is currently available, and every characterbesides their class and genderis identical and interchangeable.
Besides this, and all the other little things that are sure to irk playerslike the clock being set to PST with no way to change it, the useless Mobage header constantly present on every page, and the fact that the Icebrand sword is given to every new player and is better than most weapons youll find for 30+ levelsIm still playing Airborne Brigade. The sense of accomplishment you get from helping your brigade, the constant stream of rewards and upgrades, and the balanced rivalry and recognition everyone receives is encouraging and addictive. If its issues arent resolved, these wont be enough to keep me playing; but for now, Ive got an Esper to fight. They also added code-spamming feature for free items for new players. So if you decide to give this a try, enter the code: 5bda1c38 for a free summon.
Product Release: Final Fantasy Airborne Brigade (US, 12/14/12)
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