Indie Quickie: Fearless Fantasy

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? A gestural JRPG comedy packed with bizarre creatures, an odd art style and quirky humor.

Who made it and where can you get it? The two-man indie team at Enter Skies put this game together with publishing help from the No Time to Explain creators at tinyBuild. It’s out now on Steam for $6.99 (or $5.94 during the launch week promotional period).

How much did we play? I cleared six chapters within approximately an hour and a half, ranking my party up to level 10 and earning a total of 13 stars out of a possible 39. (1-3 stars are awarded per chapter based on chosen difficulty.)

Any technical concerns or hardware requirements you should know about? The framerate stuttered for a few moments during one battle, which threw off my accuracy with some of the gesture controls. But this passed quickly and only occurred the one time.

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Why should you play it?

    Reinventing classic JRPG design seems to be a popular trend at the moment, as evidenced by recent games like QuestRun and Child of Light. Fearless Fantasy joins the list with a unique take on the turn-based Active Time Battle system fans know and love. The game sticks to JRPG tradition in many ways, only in a condensed format that dispenses with a lot of the tedious aspects commonly associated with the genre. Chapters are selected by clicking icons on a world map, and each chapter unfolds within a wave-based battle that is typically bookended by cutscenes or character portrait dialogues. On the world map between chapters, the game offers basic party management options for leveling up character stats, learning special skills and shopping for health/energy recovery items as well as upgraded weapons and attribute-enhancing accessories. Advancing the skills of your party in order to overcome more difficult battles will sometimes require replaying previously completed chapters for additional experience, but doing so doesn’t turn into busywork like grinding through random encounters in a full-blown JRPG.

    The battle system is the thing that truly sets this game apart from the crowd. At first glance it appears all too familiar. Your party of heroes lines up on the right side of the screen directly opposite from the enemy squad on the left. Once a timer clock fills up next to each character’s health bar, they get their turn to act, at which point a menu of icons appears with options to attack, use a special skill, use an item, rest (to recover energy points, the equivalent of mana) or “troll” enemies into doing damage to a single party member. Things get interesting once an action has been selected. Instead of just watching events unfold, each action splashes the screen with a pattern of arrows that must be passed through with the mouse cursor in order to determine the effectiveness of the attack (or block attempt when defending). Kind of like a rhythm game, the accuracy of your cursor gestures carries a rating of miss, poor, good or perfect, and scoring enough perfects in a single action will result in an epic rating that amplifies attack power/damage reduction or activates a special ability’s bonus modifier. This system directly involves you in the outcome of every battle and adds an element of skill-based challenge atypical of most JRPGs. Strategy is still involved as far as studying enemies to learn their weaknesses, and then exploiting them, but here victory is more linked to physical reaction time and hand-eye coordination.

    Fearless Fantasy gets bonus points for the sheer oddity of its art direction and humor. The game has a distinctly unusual aesthetic, with characters that animate like paper cutouts superimposed on oil painted backdrops. Some of the creature designs are just plain nutso. In particular, there’s this one kooky creature that is like a mad scientist’s crossbreed between a bat, a jester, a Russian nesting doll, and the Cheshire Cat. I don’t know what the designer was smoking when he drew it up, but that thing gives me the heebie-jeebies. As for the type of humor you can expect, there is one boss that, when defeated, keels over and farts out a cloud of green gas that causes a pretty little flower to shrivel and die. Another recurring villain always makes lame excuses when he’s defeated, such as having a hole in his sock or a runny nose.

Parting Thoughts: If it has not already been made abundantly clear, Fearless Fantasy is not meant to be taken seriously. It’s a strange, silly game that just so happens to also have a unique and unexpectedly challenging battle system. You might assume that the gesture-based controls are ideally suited for a touch screen device, but the fluid ease of the mechanic pairs naturally with the gliding movement of a PC mouse. Have you been hopelessly searching for a battle-focused JRPG experience that cuts out the level-up grind and doesn’t require a 40-hour-plus time commitment? Have no fear, Fearless Fantasy is here!

Disclosure: A free Steam key for Fearless Fantasy was provided to VGBlogger.com by the developer.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!