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Fantasy Life review

Katharine Byrne
16 Sep 2014
Fantasy Life
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
28
inc VAT

It gets bogged down by its fussy class constraints, but underneath Fantasy Life is an enjoyable RPG that will keep you going for hours

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Specifications

Available formats: Nintendo 3DS

The best way to describe Fantasy Life is like a smaller, cuter version of Skyrim. While its bright, cartoonish visuals are a world away from the grim greys and browns of Bethesda's sprawling RPG, Fantasy Life's multitude of sidequests and upgradeable skill sets place it very much in the same gene pool.

There's the usual tale of a dark, evil power threatening to destroy the world to give the game a bit of structure, but for the most part the main story plays second fiddle to the meaty amount of extra quests and challenges built into living out your chosen Life.

Fantasy Life screenshot

Life is essentially another word for job or character class in Fantasy Life, and you can switch between 12 of them whenever you like by visiting a Guild Office in one of the three main towns of Reveria. All Lives fall into three broad categories: combat, crafting and foraging, with the crafting classes being heavily reliant on materials and items you gather from the foraging classes. For instance, trees you chop down as a woodcutter can be used to forge weapons and armour as a blacksmith or tools and furniture as a carpenter, while plants and ore you collect around the world can be used to create potions as an alchemist.

In truth, you'll probably settle on one of the four combat classes as your main Life, as once you've obtained the licenses for your other favoured jobs, you can pretty much turn your hand to anything you like without having to constantly trek back to the Guild Office to switch careers. This is just as well, as anything else would not only be impractical, but it would also quickly turn Fantasy Life's cheery exterior into grinding frustration. It's no good coming across a nice juicy chunk of ore as a Hunter, for instance, and then not be able to whip out your pick axe to mine it.  

Fantasy Life screenshot01

^ You'll meet plenty of fearsome beasts along your journey, some of which will be too powerful to conquer the first time you meet them

Sadly, the rest of Fantasy Life's job system doesn't work quite as efficiently. To begin each Life you must first obtain a license for it, which usually involves a lengthy tutorial of fetch-quests and a hefty amount of forgettable dialogue to tap through. Thankfully, you're given the option to skip all this and immediately progress from Beginner to Fledgling once you've learnt how to do your first job, but even this cut-down process can quickly become tiresome – particularly once you're onto your fifth Life master who still can't believe you'd want to skip their rehearsed words of wisdom just to save a little time.  

Likewise, while you can effectively level up each Life while undertaking different jobs, you can only cash in your collective experience by returning to that respective Life master as that particular class. This means you'll be making countless trips to and from the Guild Office each time you want to improve your rank. Admittedly, you can fast travel to these locations using the lower touchscreen menu, but it seems like an unnecessary hurdle to overcome when almost everything else can be done simultaneously.  

Fantasy Life screenshot03

This level of tedium will no doubt increase if you're the type of person who groans and winces every time a sidequest only ever amounts to “kill ten of these”, "make me one of them" or “fetch 5 of those”, because that's more or less the entire driving force behind the whole game. If you can't invest in the game's mechanics, then Fantasy Life will get pretty dull, pretty quickly.

Admittedly, the game's simple crafting sections don't help in this respect. Regardless of whether you're a blacksmith, carpenter, cook, tailor or alchemist, the actual crafting process is exactly the same across each Life. In order to create your item, you have to perform a series of randomised button presses, which either involves tapping the A button repeatedly (for example, chopping vegetables), holding it down (stirring the pot), or hitting it at the right time over a swinging trigger (applying heat on the frying pan). The faster you complete these set recipes, the better quality item you produce, but a little more variation between each class wouldn't have gone amiss in our books. That said, it definitely pays to make the items yourself, as buying the basic versions from shops can get very expensive.

Fantasy Life screenshot02

^ All crafting classes follow the same basic template when it comes to creating new items

Fortunately, Fantasy Life's real-time combat is a little more promising, as each respective class has its own strengths, stat boosts and play style. Hunters, for example, fight from afar with bows and arrows while Mercenaries must get up close and personal with their slow, two-handed claymores. Paladins, on the other hand, come armed with a sword and shield, allowing them to block attacks rather than simply soak it up with HP, while Magicians can alternate between four elemental attacks. You can also enlist other non-playable characters to help you out from time to time, but you can always go it alone instead if you prefer. 

However, the fact that nearly all weapons can be used by more than one class rather negates this sense of choice, and it leaves the complexity of each combat class feeling a little stunted. It almost begs the question why Level-5 went to the effort of including so many distinct Lives in the first place, as the amount of overlap between each one only makes the remaining barriers between them - such as having to upgrade each one individually - seem that much more artificial. It serves the story to have multiple Lives, but it almost feels as though a single, all-encompassing Life (whose multiple skills and job challenges could then be improved and completed to our liking) would have been a much better fit.

^ Larger enemies will often drop a huge bounty upon defeat that can be cashed in for "dosh" and a rare item at the Guild Office

This is a shame, as it's this blend of action that helps Fantasy Life feel much more substantial than other handheld life sims such as Animal Crossing and the Harvest Moon games. By going out into the game's surprisingly large world and fighting monsters great and small, it not only helps break up the monotony of picking up items off the floor and throwing them in a big pot ad infinitum, but it also gives the game an important sense of challenge.

For instance, when you stumble across a cave where your weapons don't make the slightest dent on its inhabitants, or an ancient tree that can only be felled by the most powerful axe, it actively encourages you to work hard and level up your various Lives so you can come back and conquer them later on. Over 30+ hours, it staggers your exploration brilliantly so there's always something just out of reach, and this tangible sense of progression helps create a real feeling of adventure not too dissimilar from the Wii's superb Xenoblade Chronicles. 

^ Craft your own furniture to decorate your various homes across Reveria

Ultimately, Fantasy Life does several things right. It scratches all the major life sim/Animal Crossing itches with its fishing, felling, cooking, mining and furniture-making while adding an all-important slice of action to the mix to help keep things entertaining. It's just bogged down in needless rules and structures that make the game much fussier than it really needs to be. If you can see past that, there's a lot to like here, but we fear most will be put off by its somewhat tedious introduction and repetitive challenges.

Availability
Available formatsNintendo 3DS
System requirements
Price including VAT£28
Supplierwww.argos.co.uk
Detailswww.nintendo.co.uk
Product codeN/A
Hard disk space856MB (6,854 blocks)

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