In the seemingly endless torrent of mobile games chaotically published each week, it can be quite a challenge to find anything worth your while. Lacking any coherent form of quality control or curation, the mobile ecosystem is fettered with uninspired creations, ripe with ideals of consumer exploitation. These tendencies are in no way exclusive to mobile gaming, but because of it’s particular rampancy, I tend to shy away from the mobile market at large. There are, however, a few gems that I have found, cosily tucked away on my phone. I believe the next game to achieve that “gem” status has arrived, and it’s called, Terra Battle.
Making it’s North American debut earlier this month, Terra Battle is a free-to-play, turn-based strategy, RPG with a huge emphasis on unit movement, unit placement, and party synergy. As the player, you must embark upon a mystical journey to find the Maker, with up to six unique adventurers, all of varying creeds, classes, and affinities. Coming from the mind of revered Final Fantasy creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, with musical composition by the legendary, Nobuo Uematsu, Terra Battle certainly appears to have a fine pedigree.
In the same vein of games such as Fire Emblem or Advance Wars, combat operates on a rock, paper, scissors mechanic. Sword beats bow, bow beats spear, spear, in turn, beats sword. Throw in some elemental sorcery along with it’s own set of rules, and you have the basics of battle in Terra Battle.
What makes combat a real treat is the implementation of the bump system. To explain, fighting takes place on a grid-based field that you must strategically traverse to rout your opponents. The only way to carry out a successful attack is to flank your enemy by surrounding it on adjacent sides. The tricky part is that you can only move one unit per turn. Ordinarily this should mean that it will always take at least two turns to flank the enemy, right? Wrong. Terra Battle gives you the ability to bump your units around the map if you slide into them with your active unit, essentially allowing you to carry out multiple actions in a single turn. In most cases, you will on have twelve seconds to move, so it is crucial to plan ahead before you begin your turn. You also need to keep in mind that the enemy does not need to flank, can use AOE attacks, and can bump your units as well, which can become increasingly frustrating when floor traps appear later in the game. In addition to all of this, units that occupy the same row or column will receive chain bonuses to aid in their attack if they have a clear line of sight to one another. Strategy is key.
Terra Battle employs a handful of other mechanics and even game modes that add a bit more depth and diversity to your experience. Similar to other games of the genre, you’re allowed to customize your party makeup by recruiting new members through the tavern. Your adventurers are able to take on new abilities through a job system that has you collect specific item drops that must be gathered in either regular missions or the specialized Hunting Zone. There is an accelerated leveling zone where you can gain bonus experience for lower level party members, called the Metal Zone. You can battle in the arena, where you will fight powerful monsters in hopes of getting rare drops, and in the future it seems there will also be versus and co-op modes in the arena. On top of that, a friends list will soon be added, as well, which I assume will mean guilds and other social benefits may be on the way.
This is the part where I border on cynicism and explain the cash shop. Terra Battle functions like so many other mobile titles, in that it features an in-game currency, called energy, that has the potential to hinder gameplay unless you’re willing to spend some real world cash. How bad the current model, though? Frankly, that’s going to depend on you as an individual and your values. Energy allows you to do things like recruit higher quality party members from the tavern, replenish your limited stamina pool so you carry on with your journey without needing to wait for it to slowly recharge, or continue a battle after your entire party has wiped. This is standard fare from a free-to-play, and I get it, but it doesn’t mean I like it. Personally, I haven’t spent a dime, though I’m also the type of player that prides himself in beating those systems through determination and perseverance. So, yes, I am a masochist and a cheapskate.
The only other things to touch on are story, music, and character design, which are all wholly subjective. Story is given as brief expository text before the start of every mission. It’s not bad for what it is, though the presentation is quite bland. Then again, I could care less; I’m here for the sweet combat. The soundtrack is slightly better than what I would expect from a free-to-play social game, in other words, still unimpressive. I like Uematsu, but aside from the main menu theme and a couple of other tracks, Terra Battle’s music is repetitive and forgettable. Picking up the slack, this game features some really interesting character design, and aside from combat, is probably my favorite aspect of the game. Kimihiko Fujisaka did a great job of unifying each race’s theme, while still giving individual characters their own personality and flair. Since launch, they’ve even continued adding new characters by other renowned artists.
So, Terra Battle:
- Compelling and unique combat system.
- Diverse party customization.
- Decent amount of content, with signs of continuing updates.
- Typical F2P microtransactions are present.
- Story is okay-ish, but it’s presentation is sleep-inducing.
- Soundtrack is solid, if not repetitive.
- Character designs are varied, vibrant, and full of personality.
I like this game. Does it live up to Sakaguchi’s legacy? You decide.
Release: Oct. 9, 2014
Genre: Roleplaying, Strategy
Available on iOS and AndroidTweet