Available now for iOS and Android devices, Terra Battle 2 is the follow-up to the mobile RPG from Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi's studio, Mistwalker. It's a bit dense, but very pretty.
The original Terra Battle, released in 2014, introduced players to a unique battle system in which characters positioned on a gridded playfield must flank their enemies in order to initiate attacks. Linking together characters through positioning triggers all sorts of special attacks and buffs, decimating huge swaths of enemy creatures and/or healing and enhancing the party. It's a very cool system, once you get the hang of it.
Terra Battle 2 not only uses the same system for fighting, it seems to assume the player is already familiar with it, with very little in the way of in-game tutorials covering battles. Fortunately, the game's official website features a tutorial video, as well as a tutorial manga series. If you've not played the first game, you'll need it.
The big new addition to the sequel is an overworld map for missions. Where each chapter of the first game played out as a series of isolated battles, Terra Battle 2's chapters involve a vast playfield. The player's party and enemies take turns manoeuvring around these large gridded areas. When movement ends, battle ensues between any enemies within the party's battle zone, a rectangular space surrounding the heroes.
The idea behind this addition is that it gives players the ability to set up their formation before a battle starts. In truth, moving an entire party about a map can be tricky. There's a magnet mechanic that's supposed to keep party members grouped up, but it doesn't always seem to work. And since the players' finger covers up the party once movement starts (the turn ends once the finger is lifted), sometimes they won't realise they left someone behind until it's too late.
Here's a look at a couple of battles in the story's second chapter. At around the 02:00 mark I make make a move that leaves a couple of my characters stranded.
Screwing up party movement on the overworld can lead to having to fight unnecessary battles, making an already slow-paced trip through a chapter even slower. Even worse, a stranded character is at risk of getting jumped by monsters, and without another character to perform a flanking manoeuvre with, those monsters get free hits. Nothing worse than having a party member die because your finger got in the way.
Still, it's a big improvement over the first game's simple list of missions and battles. Along with fighting enemies, the overworld map is also used to deliver bits of party dialogue and the occasional story event. It's a nice way to expand the game's narrative without removing players from the action.
There's a lot to take in here, and not a lot of hand-holding. I've played the game for more than an hour and am still figuring out how to manage inventory, upgrade equipment and manage guardians, the collectible characters that attach to the game's main characters.
The battles themselves are exciting, the music is gorgeous and the art is just lovely. Beyond the story missions, Terra Battle 2 also introduces co-op raid events, with teams of players joining together to overcome massive foes in real-time, which sounds like a hoot.
Figuring out how to play Terra Battle 2 takes some doing, and navigating the new overworld map can be tricky, but patient players will find a lot to love here.