Final Fantasy 15’s universe expanded this week twofold: There’s “Episode Prompto,” the latest downloadable side-story for the console game, and Final Fantasy 15: A New Empire, a free download on mobile.
By most accounts, “Episode Prompto” is a worthwhile addition to the main game. A New Empire, though? Not worth the memory on your smartphone.
The game’s a massively multiplayer online game for iOS and Android, created in collaboration with mobile developer Machine Zone. The studio’s previous work includes other MMOs for phones, like the strategic army-building game Mobile Strike. That game serves as the basis for A New Empire, which eschews the Final Fantasy series’ traditional role-playing game mechanics in favor of ... strategic army-building.
There’s little in common between A New Empire and the game it’s based on. That’s fine, in theory; they’re on vastly different platforms, and MZ and Square Enix are clear about A New Empire’s difference from the standard Final Fantasy 15.
Though it’s perhaps not catering to RPG fans, there’s little here to appeal to Final Fantasy diehards. For one, A New Empire fails to capture any of Final Fantasy 15’s personality. This is the first thing Noctis, who serves as the mobile game’s tutorial maven, says to the player when starting up the game:
That’s not our moody prince of Eos, that’s for sure. And take a look at that user interface: filled with obtuse icons and things to keep track of, plus an ever-present reminder that this game is not only free-to-play, but pay-to-win.
Players are given a time limit before they have to wait to play again or pay up. Without spending gold, you’ll spend a lot of time waiting around for your kingdom to build up. There’s constant reminders to buy things with real-world money, of course, as you wait around for every action to finish up.
Those familiar with the genre already see the warning signs that at higher levels, it will be impossible to play without dropping cash. But that’s par for the course in this sort of genre. What’s really infuriating about A New Empire is how unattractive it is, how divorced it is from Final Fantasy 15’s crystal-filled, charming world. It’s a muddled mess of bland art design and conventional gameplay, albeit poorly explained by Prince Noctis’ incessant tutorial.
“It is an embarrassment to call this a final fantasy game,” reads a one-star review. “It's a generic city builder. It feels like no thought was put into this game at all. This is simply not what I expect from a fi al fantasy [sic] game. There is no feeling, I don't get any motivation to upgrade my buildings I've and over and over again.”
“I have to say I love Final Fantasy 15 and played it numerous times,” reads another. “That being said I usually hate these kinds of games that you take control of a city or what ever. I saw it was a final fantay [sic] game and thought ... it can’t be that bad? But it is.
“It’s nothing I would expect from Square Enix who has a record of making beautiful games. The fonts are very bland. This is just a very poor excuse for a final fantasy game.”
For fans of this kind of these kinds of games, A New Empire isn’t much different. Those are the ones leaving much more positive reviews.
“I love Final Fantasy and I love these types of games,” said one user, who gave the game four stars. “Anyway since its still a new game of course its gonna have a lot of bugs and crashes. People who say it isn't a ‘Final Fantasy game’ really need to be patient. They might add FF characters sooner or later as well fixing the bugs and crashes.”
A five-star review from a fan of Mobile Strike and its ilk wrote that the chance “to create an empire in the FF universe is something I've always wanted. This fills my void.”
But for Final Fantasy players wanting something more ... Final Fantasy-esque, you can easily skip this one.