When a game defines a genre, subsequent entries in that genre are often held under scrutiny and measured up against it. This is true of any style of game, First person shooters will be compared to the CoD and Battlefield series, survival horrors are measured up against Resident Evil and Silent Hill and in the case of this article, life sims will be held accountable to the titanic Animal Crossing. A life sim like no other, the Animal Crossing series, specifically the 3ds entry, let you do whatever you wanted at a relaxed, chilled out pace. You would plant flowers, chase bugs, trade items with your neighbours and upgrade your town, offering newer and rarer items. But many gamers were put off by the snail pace of the game. Thats where Fantasy Life from Level 5 ups the ante and does what Animal Crossing didn’t: gives you monsters to hunt, levels to gain and jobs to advance!
Set in the world of Reveria, you create a character and are assigned a “life” from a choice of 12, focusing on combat, crafting or gathering materials. Accompanied by a mysterious glowing, talking butterfly named Flutter, you will explore the world, gradually exploring the world and uncovering rarer items which will in turn allow you to craft better armour, stronger weapons, more potent foods and potions and even make furniture and fashionable clothes for your room. Where Animal Crossing lacked an enforced structure past paying off your debt and upgrading the town, Fantasy Life has a true RPG story and has a large amount of freedom. I began life as a Carpenter but you are allowed to change at will, so the choice is never damning. Personally, I’d have liked to see a version where you can only pick one ‘Life’ as it would have forced more cooperation online with friends, but I can see where, if you didn’t have access to friends with the game that would’ve been a shortcoming.
You can essentially play the game as any of the classes, perhaps you’ll focus purely on combat, pursuing stronger foes, maybe you’ll be purely a gatherer, selling your wares or as purely a crafter, using the salesmen to buy the items you need. However, as there are no restrictions on which Life you pick, you can mix and match and become completely self reliant. Progressing the story allows you to access newer materials as I mentioned earlier, along with tougher monsters.
Killing especially tough monsters yields a bounty, which you must drag to the guild in order to cash in, acquiring cash and special items as a reward. However, other monsters will actively chase you, adding a tension as you try to drag that rare monster corpse in without being assaulted by monsters on the run back. Rare nodes also produce these special bounties which yield super rare items for crafting or sale.
You can visit a friends world or invite people to visit yours and the only restrictions in the game are where you are in the story. If you have a higher levelled friend, they could walk you through some of the games tougher sections or give you game-breakingly high weapons and armour to keep you safe. While potentially game breaking, this is a nice feature that isn’t necessary to enjoy the game.
You’ll craft weapons, clothes, food, potions, furniture and more using a profession specific mini game. Performing better yields better quality items or if you’re creating materials, performing better yields extra items. While the mini games are fun (I especially like watching my heavily armoured character hunched over a sewing machine or furiously cutting swathes of fabric), perform it enough and you’ll get the ability to craft multiples and eventually automatically make them.
You’ll get challenges in your ‘Life’ set by your master, completing them will unlock the next rank of crafting and skills, enabling you to progress your character. Similarly, there is a “Bliss” system which, by completing random quests, unlocks upgrades such as bigger bags, ridable horses, pets to accompany you in battle and much more.
Overall, I strongly recommend Fantasy Life. I’d bought it as a stopover until Pokemon Alpha comes out, with the intention that, if Fantasy Life ended up not being very good, I could trade it against that. However I am keeping Fantasy Life: it’s endearing, fun and will absorb your life as other life sims will, but you’ll feel a sense of structure. For gamers who wanted to hop on the Animal Crossing Bandwagon but found the games pacing too slow or the fact you couldn’t murder things off putting, this is the game for you.
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