Today's words are: opportunistic, primitive, boring, insulting & depressing.
It says much about the gameplay of Final Fantasy: All The Bravest that very early into your time with it you'll find one-word, negative descriptions springing to mind effortlessly. It's opportunistic, with its four dollar entry price and avalanche of in-app purchases. It's exceptionally primitive in its gameplay. Is it, ultimately, boring? It's that too, we're sorry to say.
To the left sits a villain from a Final Fantasy past. To the right is your army of characters, drawn also from the history of the franchise. Each one has a combat meter, and when it's full you need to tap on or swipe the hero to send him or her into automated combat action - it's whack-a-mole in all but name. The enemy will counter-attack, whittling the health of a hero down, and should you lose all your troops you'll have to find something else to play, at least until the game decides otherwise.
Perhaps most worryingly of all is that you could spend more time discussing the premium purchases in this premium game than the gameplay itself. You get a handful of golden hour-glasses which restore your army to its full capacity when you begin your adventure, but if you wipe-out entirely you'll need to wait three minutes for each character to return - or of course just buy more hour-glasses for an instant refill ($0.99 for three, with other packs available).
As you summon in extra troops you'll occasionally unlock a new character from the series, but it'll cost you $0.99 to call in a random premium character to join the battlefield. There are also other worlds to do combat in from Midgar to Zanarkand, but they cost $3.99 each.
I think we've already mentioned that the base game itself costs four dollars, but I think it bears repeating in this context. And this really is the thing that sticks in our craw - this isn't much of a game, and it really shouldn't pretend to be one. Instead it's an expensive sticker-collecting album, one where your hands are so busy tapping on characters that you don't even get a chance to gaze at your prize possessions, save for a crude catalog screen.
There are brief moments where the whack-a-mole action becomes more interesting and you can take in those sprites and animations a little more clearly. Every three hours you'll be able to activate a Fever mode which removes every character's combat meter. This allows you to enjoy the full explosive destruction of the game while Chocobo music tinkles away in the background as if to remind you that it's OK, it's Final Fantasy, so none of these problems matter after all.
A lot of negative words came to mind at the beginning of this review, and one particularly strong one that wasn't mentioned is insulting - this is a game packed with a Who's Who of Final Fantasy history, seemingly in order to extract as much money as possible from the most devoted long-term fans of the series, while offering very little in the way of enjoyable gameplay in return.
In 2013, as publishers finally begin to tread the waters of micro-transactions a little more carefully, and with a sensitive eye on the balance between player experience and profitability, this is how Square Enix chooses to reward that devotion, commitment and support of a franchise over all of these years. Depressing is a word too.
Final Fantasy: All The Bravest costs $3.99 from the App Store but additional in-app purchases are available. Randomly chosen premium characters cost $0.99 each, World Tickets (granting access to Midgar, Zanarkand & Archylte Steppe maps) cost $3.99 each. Additional hour-glasses cost $0.99 for three, $1.99 for eight, or $2.99 for 20.
What's Hot:Great retro artwork, your favorite characters, and every combat soundtrack you'd expect. What gameplay there is is well executed.
What's Not:Dreadfully expensive, with pretty mindless gameplay - a poor and cynical homage to one of gaming's greatest franchises.