Fantasy Life Review
It’s the middle of the night. I have to be up early the next morning. I should have been asleep some time ago. Instead, I’m sitting around and trying to make a bunch of wooden chairs. No, I haven’t decided to take up carpentry in my spare time, I’m playing Fantasy Life and it is addictive as hell. Developed by Level-5, Fantasy Life is a rather charming RPG/life simulator for the 3DS, highly reminiscent of the Rune Factory series, or for those who aren’t familiar with that title, think Animal Crossing with some adventuring and monster slaying. The game revolves around character classes, “lives” as they’re termed in the game, and these lives range from the combat focused such as Paladins and Magicians, to more peaceful pursuits such as Cooks, Tailors and Blacksmiths. While the combat is simple, the storyline basic, the tasks repetitive, and the game more or less based on the concept of grinding, Fantasy Life manages to make these things into a strength. Throw in a lot of charm and a somewhat cutesy presentation, and it makes for a surprisingly addictive title.
The storyline is simple and light-hearted. Reveria, the setting, is a fantasy world of the traditional RPG style. In this world of swords and magic, of slime monsters and dragons, of airships and floating islands, people live their lives relatively peacefully. Mysterious meteors have been falling from the sky though, “Doomstones” that change monsters and cause them to react more violently. The moon seems to be an ill omen, ancient myths and legends suggest the return of some cataclysm that was only stopped by a goddess, and in it all, your character meets a strange talking butterfly that’s obviously not what she seems. Obviously, what happens next is a grand old adventure as you try to save the world, visiting new locations, uncovering mystical artefacts, and meeting a cast of zany archetypical characters. It’s an old school style storyline, rather basic, but charming in its simplicity. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the writing is actually fairly good, being surprisingly funny at times.
The storyline isn’t the highlight of the game though. The highlight of the game is of course, the “Life” system. In Reveria, people are offered twelve “lives” that they can follow. Paladin, Ranger, Mercenary, and Magician, which are combat focused classes. Miner, Woodcutter, and Angler, which focus on gathering resources. And finally, Cook, Blacksmith, Carpenter, Tailor, and Alchemist, which use resources to craft new items and equipment. These lives have different focuses, different skills and different goals. Following a life, requires you to perform a number of tasks as you progress through the ranks, increase your skills and move towards mastering your occupation. These tasks are simple and repetitive in nature. Defeating a number of enemies of a specific type, gathering this many of that resource, crafting these items. Hardly uncommon in RPG’s, particularly if you’ve ever played a MMORPG. It’s a grind certainly, but the game acknowledges it and embraces it. It outright tells you. Do these things because it will allow you to improve. It’ll let you improve your rank in your life and open up bigger and better things. Despite the grind, and despite the fact that the gameplay itself is rather basic, with combat being less than complex, and the crafting and gathering in the form of mini games, Fantasy Life just works. It’s highly addictive and I’ve spent over fifty hours on the game, partially on the storyline, but mostly focused on the pursuit of improvement. While it’s largely an easy-going game, there are moments of excitement as well. Crafting particularly challenging items against time limits, or facing off against particularly large and powerful monsters in a drawn out battle as you try to outlast them.
What makes it even better is that while you can only pick one life at a time, with all the skills and abilities that entails, your other lives are still waiting in the wings, and you can swap between them easily. As long as you’ve completed the opening quest and begun a life, you have those skills available to you, even if you’re not in that life. Think of it this way. You’re using a Paladin, and you’re hunting down bandits to help progress. You come across a pond. Because you’re also an angler, you can fish there, further improving your skills and counting towards progression. When you return to town, you then change lives to become a cook, so you can cook that fish and progress in your life as a chef. Those dishes can then be sold for money, or used in the field as a health restoring item. Alternatively you’re blacksmithing, trying to make yourself a new woodcutting axe and you run out of ore. Sure you can buy more, or you can hit the caves as a miner and gather them yourself, furthering your progression in your miner life. If you happen to kill some specific monsters, then that might help you progress in your combat lives as well. The life system ties all these things together in an elegant way, and despite the simplicity of the gameplay or the grind like nature of progression, I found it to be highly addictive and rather enjoyable. Admittedly, I am something of a sucker for these sorts of Life Simulation games though.
Like everything else, the presentation is simple, effective and charming. The art style favours a cartoonish, cutesy style, with accompanying music that is, for the large part, similarly light-hearted. There are exceptions of course, with faster paced and more dramatic music for certain monster filled areas or for major fights. The visual and audio presentation works well, tying in nicely with the tone of the gameplay and storyline.
With its blend of role playing games and life simulation, overall, Fantasy Life is a likeable, light-hearted, and rather addictive game. It’s simple and often repetitive, but it makes what should be problems into part of its charm, with the job life system adding some variety and giving you the feeling that there’s always something else you could be improving on. Not everyone will appreciate its style, but for those that do, there’s much to like about this title.
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