Fantasy Life grabbed me straight away and pulled me into its world like few other 3DS games have. Right from the start, I got addicted to the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do, and to go wherever I felt like going. Instead of fretting about which “class” I should play, and where I should spend my points, I could just start playing without a worry, because you can do everything with the same character, and there is no way that you can mess up. Even if you misplace your stat points, or change your mind later, you can eventually “re-spec” and reset them!
If you’re in the mood to hunt down monsters, then there’s no problem! Go to the Guild Office and change to a combat life (the class system within the game). Don’t know what combat life to play as? Just level them all! Tired of bashing in monster skulls? Sure thing, go and fish, cook, or craft! Sleepy and not really up for either activity? Put on your woodcutter or miner hat, and run around gathering materials. Feel creative? Decorate one of your six houses with items you found, were given as quest rewards, or crafted yourself! All of this with the same character, no limitations, no need for multiple save games!
Gameplay-wise, Fantasy Life somewhat resembles Rune Factory, but is a little heavier on the action. The combat is in real-time, almost Zelda’esque, but it’s not overly complicated or even twitchy. Monsters respawn, so you can farm as much as you want. There are no real death penalties, which makes the game easy and forgiving, but it’s really all about leveling your lives (jobs), unlocking recipes, doing challenges, and getting (by crafting and finding) the best equipment.
Crafting consists of interactive, reaction-based mini games where you have to mash buttons as fast as you can, which also determines the quality of the items you create. They are all fairly the same, with exception of fishing, but it still beats the “click a button and check back a few minutes later” kind of crafting that most other games have.
The story is not particularly complex or original, though I found it entertaining enough, but it serves the purpose of introducing you to the world and the lore. It’s definitely on the light side, so if you’re looking for a complex plot with many surprises, this game won’t offer it. You advance the story whenever you are ready for the next chapter by completing Flutter’s requests (mostly talking to NPCs and visiting specific places). Completing a story section opens up new areas, so there is no rush and you can go through the story mode as quickly or as slowly as you prefer.
There are also no “missables” (items that are easily missed and usually available only once) in the game. You can’t go wrong no matter what you do, and you can change your mind at any time without punishing consequences. The post-game and the DLC offer a lot of things that you can do, either solo or together with friends. “Tower Runs”, for loot and experience, are popular, and are a good way to collect great loot for all of your lives!
Day-one DLC is a downside, but it’s quite crucial since it adds a lot of content, most of it post game, plus the friendship/social system. It also raises the level cap. Unless you can’t afford it at all, my recommendation would be to grab the DLC right away when you start playing (friendship system and additional customization options as well as an extra pet type are immediately available).
A great aspect of the game is that you never have to become all “OCD” over decisions. In the post-game, you can “re-spec” your character on the fly and re-assign your stat points (you can do everything even with the “wrong” stats, but they do give a bonus and it’s easy to change them). Dosh, as money is called in Fantasy Life, is easy to farm, so if you want to go from being a paladin to being a hunter, you can do so within a few seconds. Whatever you feel like, in Fantasy Life you can be and do it. If you do everything, you’re looking at about 200+ hours of gameplay here.
For me, Fantasy Life is one of the best games the system has to offer. It came out of the blue and was a complete surprise to me. If you like Rune Factory and similar games, but always wished they were a bit heavier on the action, Fantasy Life will deliver. In many ways, it’s even quite a bit like Skyrim, just packaged very cutely.
If any of this sounds interesting to you, then definitely check out Fantasy Life. You’ll quite possibly love it!