by Gwynn Van Houten
Are you a retro-style RPG enthusiast but crave something that always feels fresh? Do you want to take this adventure with you wherever you go?
Of course you do. Luckily, the solution is just a few taps away.
Its name is Brave Frontier, and it’s available for free from the iOS, Android, and Windows app stores. Created in 2013 by Japanese mobile game developer A-lim and later adapted for global accessibility by Gumi, this game blends everything you love about collection-based RPGs with exciting solo, PvP, and co-op action.
There are nearly 2000 characters, or units, to collect and upgrade, with unique skills (Brave Bursts) and leader bonuses for your whole team. These units can be recruited from quests or summoned randomly with Gems, which you can either purchase or collect by clearing stages, leveling, and simply logging in. As with many RPGs, each unit has a particular elemental attribute (Fire, Water, Earth, Thunder, Light, or Dark), forming another layer of strategy. Depending on the enemies you anticipate to encounter, you may want to form a squad with several elements together (rainbow) or just one (mono).
When you’ve constructed an ideal squad from the units you have, you will begin by embarking on a story-driven campaign, traveling to new lands to combat evil. Brave Frontier’s story is no selling point, but you’d be surprised by the depth of the game’s lore, especially for a mobile game. Beneath the air of an archetypal Japanese RPG, with rather cookie-cutter (but amusing) characters and familiar save-the-world format, is an epic, twist-filled tale of the battles between gods, humans, and demons in the game’s two main worlds, Grand Gaia and Ishgria. Every character has their own story and relationships, making the game that much more engaging.
The gameplay itself is varied enough to keep the player occupied for hours, even when the energy meter, a mobile game standard, is depleted. You can participate in the Arena, a player-versus-player tournament that rewards you for increasing your rank and aiming for the highest score. These battles are automatic and possess an element of luck, but certain leader skills and Brave Bursts can turn the tide of battle — for instance, a team that deals explosive power in the first few turns and can quickly fill their Brave Burst gauges will have the greatest chance of winning.
Trials allow you to form 3 different teams in order to take down powerful figures from the story. You are rewarded with a mock unit of that boss or a sphere to equip to your units. Frontier Hunter is an event that takes place every few weeks, and pits your squad against various enemies of rising difficulty to rack up points and increase your Hunter Rank. Each rank comes with prizes, from Gems to unique units. Finally, in Raid Battles, a personal favorite mode of mine, you cooperate with up to 3 other players to take down giant beasts and obtain special crafting materials.
On top of all that, the game’s anime-style artwork, by Yutaka Ebishima, is unique and absolutely stunning. I find myself holding onto certain units for their artwork alone (like Madia below). The spriting is impressively detailed, and the battle animations are smooth and fun to watch. Each new area, while following a clear template, is more interesting and beautiful than the last.
If you’re thinking about embarking on this adventure, here are a bunch of tips for beginners.
- If your game is running slowly, you can change the graphics quality, turn off visual battle effects, and even adjust how many drops appear during battles in Settings.
- There is a weekly schedule for the evolution material Vortex dungeons! Keep track of what comes on what day.
- If you can’t wait to evolve a unit, use Merit Points from your achievements and challenges to purchase materials in the Exchange Hall.
- In a pinch, swipe down to make a unit guard for a turn.
- On easy maps, you can turn on Auto Battle to clear areas more quickly. Not every quest should be completed this way, however. Even at level 240, I still need to use my Brave Bursts and items strategically in some Raids, Trials, and other special quests. There is always more difficult content being added!
- Speaking of difficult content, be sure to include a mitigator in your squad, a unit that can reduce damage taken by half, like Shera, Darvanshel, or Laberd. If the RNG hasn’t been kind to you, befriend someone with a mitigator leader or acquire a free unit from an event dungeon that will function as a substitute, such as Magress or Nevsky.
- It is also worthwhile to include a unit in your squad that can cure status ailments. Use your item slots for Revives, Fujin Potions, Cures, and perhaps Angel Idols.
- To level up a unit’s Brave Burst to unlock its Super Brave Burst/Ultimate Brave Burst, find or buy Burst Frogs or use the junk mobs you get from quests. If you use the latter, make sure they have the same BB type (Attack/Support/Heal) as your base unit.
- Certain spheres and units such as Zelnite will help you get more materials to craft stronger items.
- There are a few channels on YouTube dedicated to Brave Frontier unit reviews and quest walkthroughs. My favorite is Ushi!
If you want a mobile game worth your while, Brave Frontier is one of your best shots. Though not without the occasional bug or ploy to get you to buy more Gems, I haven’t encountered any other F2P mobile game that balances content, story, art, and strategy so well.