Game Review: Various Daylife

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Reviewer: Gary Richardson

Note: This game is also widely available on smart devices like iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. The gameplay experienced is more suitable to those platforms in my opinion but since this was sold in the Nintendo Switch eStore and that is the platform that I purchased and played the game on, my review is dedicated to the experience of the game on the Nintendo Switch only.

When I ran across this game in the Switch eShop it likened itself to Bravely Default (which is a wonderful game) and OCTOPATH Traveler as being developed by the same team behind both of those games. Being a fan of both titles, I didn’t hesitate to purchase this title.

The download took about 2 hours over my rural Internet connection but that shouldn’t be considered a knock against the game or really any measure of quality on anything other than my connection (which can be janky at times if I’m honest). I have had games take more time to download and certainly others that were much quicker. I only add that tidbit of info as an FYI but in no terms is either a pro or a con for this game.

At this point, I’ve only clocked a few hours on the game but I can already tell that I’m not entirely sold on its premise. Everything is largely “on rails” meaning that it is not an open world experience or even a world experience. When I choose to move about town, the character basically runs in a rectangle around the edge of town with a few side roads to cut across on but it is all very 2D side-scroll movement. You don’t get to “explore” the city as much as saunter from position to position along a flat pre-fixed path. To a degree, this is somewhat inline with the games associated with this title’s development team but somehow in this game is just feel flat, dull, and boring to me.

Sure, I get to spend my hard earned money on taking party members out on the town to foster my relationships with them to grant me extra attacks in combat or to increase the bond to increase the effect but even that is non-eventful. You side scroll your way through town to where that party member can be found. You talk to them to invite them out for an event. You pick which event you want to do and can see how much each option costs. Then there is a cut scene and some basic dialogue clouds that you cycle through. And BAM, the event is done. If you picked the right event or spend enough time with that person then the bond increases until it eventually levels up and you gain some perk.

The party bond system is a neat little side story, I’ll admit, but in the end it is really little more than a time waster and a money sink so that you have to keep “farming” that currency. I’ve seen other games implement better bonding systems based on how much time you actually party with that person, execute special attacks or trigger combos with someone else, and even a gifting system where you have talk to them to learn what they like but then either buy, craft, quest, or kill to get the item(s) to give that person to improve your standing with them. The model used in this game just feels a bit stale and designed as just another avenue to spend your money.

Even the adventure side of the game just feels lackluster to me. You go to a guild location on your 2D map and select 1 mission at a time to embark upon. The selected party members and their supplies set out on that mission. The game auto-advances the party, again using side-scroll type animation and camera angles. You don’t control your party during a mission until there’s combat. There is a percentage tracker in the top right corner of the screen that shows how far you’ve gone in that mission but the game forces you to walk until an encounter happens. Once the encounter is completed, provided that the party survived, the game automatically starts the party marching towards the goal again.

Now this march to the mission’s objective is not without some options. You can access your menu while the game automatically walks your character to deploy items to the different team members to aid them in their journey. However, while you can give your party items, the game’s unrelenting march also has a negative effect. As the party walks, their max HP begins to decline. It’s like an exhaustion tax for steadily adventuring without rest. You have the option to camp during a mission but it requires that you have supplies to use while camping to help the party restore their energy before continuing on again.

I am not a fan of this mechanic.

I mean, the game forces me to move at a steady pace and then penalizes me for its own arbitrary bullheadedness. Sure, I could camp regularly to prevent the game from penalizing my party for things beyond my control but that seems like the same built-in money pit technique of the party bonding scheme above. Forcing me to spend my money constantly on items to use for camping to prevent the game from screwing me over in fights by constantly reducing my health for no other reason than walking, which by the way the game forces me to do! Its just ridiculous to me.

Then comes the combat. There really isn’t much to that either. The enemies are on the screen facing you and the party members’ icons are at the foot of the screen. Combat is turn-based and you select your actions for each party member when it is their turn, pretty standard stuff for an old school RPG or an RPG one might play on an OLD handheld like a GameBoy or 3DS. There really is nothing flashy or fancy to it. You don’t even see the characters take the action you select for them.

But the absolute worst part to this game is the leveling system. Party members other than the main character (you) level up by you choosing to train them in a menu. You spend inordinate amounts of currency and that character levels up 1 level. None of the party gains exp or levels from completing missions. Missions only grant you money that you then have to decide to spend it on gear, items, increasing the bond with party members, or leveling up individual party members 1 level at a time.

Everything in this game is designed to make you spend money. But if your character doesn’t level up by completing mission or training, how does your character level?

That’s by “working”.

As you progress through the game, talk to people, increase your bonds, etc., you unlock different classes. These classes open up jobs. You can change your character’s class which determines which gear and abilities can be used in combat for that character but you can take on jobs of any class found. Jobs grant you money, exp, and increases your stats. By increasing your stats they go up levels too and then the exp gain increases your character’s overall level.

But the bad part of this is that like adventuring on missions, your character has a stamina bar. If that stamina bar falls below half, which I don’t understand why it happens at the halfway mark, then your character collapses and is forced to rest for a few days before being able to work again. For each day resting after running partially out of stamina, or if the party dies whiles on a mission too, your character loses stats. The number drop significantly and can cause the stats to lose levels. Your character’s main level will not decrease but the stat levels will. This make you less effective in combat on missions and frankly to me seems to defeat the purpose of having a character level.

So far it has been an endless cycle of working several jobs in a row, that have no real animation or action. You pick a job to work and then you get a result. That’s it. Very similar to working a job in Bravely Default but the overall takeaway is that there is nothing to this aspect of the game other than trying to manage your character’s stamina to be able to do as much repetitive work as possible to increase your stats, maybe level up, and acquire money to be spent on the endless list of wasteful game mechanics that seem to make this title devoid of any real character or fun.

I’m all for a grindy game but I like the game where my grinding has me involved in the action. I’m exploring an open map. I’m actively fighting monsters to gain exp, loot, and money. I’m completing quests and side missions to enrich my experience of the game world. Various Daylife is none of that. Its grinding through background services based on meaningless menu items just to spend the money to make your characters do what the game should have done as part of its adventure.

Rinse and repeat.

Various Daylife is not an RPG. It is not a simulation of daily life. It is not an action adventure. It is not an explorer’s dream. It is not even a fun game to me. What it seems to be is a small game that should have been released when the 3DS was popular but for whatever reason it didn’t make its premiere until now and Square Enix is hoping to profit off the success of their other games that obviously had more work applied to them.

It looks like Bravely Default. It has aspects of Bravely Default’s engine and gameplay. But is NOT Bravely Default. What it is other than time waster I’m not sure. I may continue to play it to see if it gets better but its just such a slog to progress through it at any real level that it isn’t really that enjoyable to me. At this point, any additional time I spend playing it will be more out of morbid curiosity to see if there are any redeeming qualities that can be found later in the game because there really aren’t any in the beginning that I’ve found to date.

If this was a free game then I might not mind the mindlessness of the game but Nintendo/Square Enix charged me $30 for this game. This is not what I would feel is a suitable game for that price on that platform. I shouldn’t have to grind for 2 days to get my characters strong enough to do basic missions or worrying that my progress will be lost because my character’s stamina falls below 50%. Add on top of that the HP “tax” applied to the party when out on missions that are largely automatic and don’t require much input from the player.

All in all, the game just falls flat for me on the Switch. I expect a fuller game from Square Enix. I expect a better game model from Square Enix. I expect a more enjoyable game for $30 from a premier developer. I want to do more with my Switch. It is more capable than my old 3DS so I expect my games on it to be more capable. I don’t expect a mobile game to be ported to my switch and then charge that kind of money. If you want me to put Angry Birds on my Switch, don’t expect me to pay $30 for it when I can play it for much less on my phone. Same with Various Daylife.

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