“Final Fantasy Explorers” depends on nostalgia, offering little new to players

Brian O'Kelly

“Final Fantasy Explorers” can be more like a job than a game, with a heavy emphasis on repeating increasingly monotonous tasks. Luckily, unlike a job, you can just walk away.

“Explorers” is a spinoff of the mainline “Final Fantasy” series. The game’s story is centered around Amostra, an island that magically appeared in a vast ocean. While the game features a generic story about crystals and magic, the narrative isn’t concerned with telling a compelling tale, but rather throwing in quick blips in place to add a minimal amount of direction and purpose.

Lacking narrative doesn’t do the title a disservice though; it helps expedite the player’s ability to embark on adventures, collect material, craft new gear and once again embark on adventures. This increasingly difficult cycle functions as the game’s momentum as players endlessly repeat this sequence in order to gain better loot and fight harder enemies.

The spinoff’s main appeal comes from the franchise’s iconic ability to draw in players. Fans of the series will feel nostalgic revisiting classic bosses like Ifrit, bartering with moogles and using familiar spells and abilities that are staples of the franchise.

Trance mode really cashes in on the nostalgia by allowing players to transform into popular characters from previous “Final Fantasy” games, like "Cloud" and "Tidus." These reskins are not permanent replacements for the player’s avatar, but more like special attacks.

"Final Fantasy"'s signature job system also makes a return, adding variety with 21 distinct jobs that have their own weapons, abilities, strengths and weaknesses. The jobs fall within the general roles of tank, healer and damage dealer, but even within those roles the jobs behave differently. For example, knight and paladin are both tanks roles, but knights focus on having high health, while paladins have reduced health, a tradeoff for having support abilities.

The inclusion of these roles gives way to a portable MMO-like experience, allowing players to team up online or locally to form parties that can efficiently grind away at the games lengthy mission log. Players can join their friends in creating tactical units in order to clear dungeons and kill bosses faster.

While nostalgia and multiplayer can help stave away the boredom, it only takes a couple hours for players to realize the game is limited to a very small amount of settings and that missions have virtually no variety in their objectives. Even the game’s randomly generated dungeons feel very linear with minute differences between floors and a handful of monsters to encounter.

The game’s tediousness is exaggerated by the simplistic combat, which offers little challenge to players. Job specific abilities drive the combat in the game through special mutations which lead to a nice matrix of versatile and diverse moves for the player to use. The game would feel more dynamic if these varied abilities weren’t so underutilized due to the game’s simplicity.

“Explorers” never demands the player to behave strategically, letting players get away with simply spamming abilities. As such, the game’s solid framework is squandered by a lack of difficulty that would require players to delve into the game’s complex mechanics.

“Final Fantasy Explorers” ends up depending too heavily on the reputation of the franchise to captivate players, and the game’s lack of depth makes it difficult to get invested in what ultimately feels like a slog.

“Final Fantasy Explorers”
Genre: Action RPG
Rating: E
Score: 3/5 stars