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Review – Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles My Life as a King of the Jews

posted on June 12th, 2008 by chris
Now Playing: Team Fortress 2

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King is a simulation game. When I first saw the name, I thought it would be another delightfully (?) simple RPG. Instead, here we have a delightfully simple sim; in fact, MLAK is hands-off nearly to the point of annoyance.

In MLAK, you build your city structure by structure and converse with your citizens (when they are willing to talk to you, that is). That is just about it. The city is composed of empty green glowing spaces that mark where you can place buildings when you have the resources needed for their construction. These buildings range from houses to various shops for your citizens and adventurers. You commission these adventurers to explore the surrounding wilderness to get more resources and advance the plot, and occasionally they will actually do so.

This should feel familiar to anyone who played Microprose’s old PC RTS Majesty. You hire some heroes, give them some nice shops, and then they would immediately run off and die, start stealing from your kingdom, or hide from the scary trolls in their rooms. Thankfully, MLAK is not quite so bad – you can only make progress forward, never backward, and your adventurers will always do something productive, even if it’s not what you want. They will buy items they like, and ignore ones they don’t; you can upgrade the items in shops, but they won’t always buy the latest and greatest X-Sword+10. It’s possible, to some degree, to affect an adventurer’s preferences – assuming you can get the right one to land a killing blow on a boss. Unfortunately, arranging for this to happen can be tricky.

It’s sad that after all these years Square still needs to tie plotlines together with magic crystals.

You can not lose this game. Or at least, I can’t see how you could lose. This is simultaneously MLAK’s appeal and an annoyance. There’s no struggle in this game, no competition. I’m a pretty laid-back guy (I generally prefer co-op to competition, love kittens, etc) but this game is positively will-draining sometimes. MLAK’s plot will try to convince you that you are building a town that just barely holds off hordes of monsters in a struggle to survive; in reality, you’re building a town that is constantly raiding the (otherwise peaceful) monster dens and killing their leaders with no repercussions.

Speaking of which, the plot is light and not too bad. It was enjoyable enough that I wanted to finish the game to see the ending, although it was a bit predictable after a certain point. It mostly involves the main character and his slowly-growing city, with some links to the rest of the series. If you think games need a great plot, though, the sim genre may not be the one for you.

Overall, there’s a very peaceful feel to the game. You run around as a 10-year-old king and encourage your adventurers, talk to your followers, and build things. It’s very hands-off, and this makes it hard to have very strong feelings about it one way or the other. If you’re okay with kicking back and just giving vague directions and expecting vague results, this could be a game you’d enjoy. If you’d rather be out there fighting alongside them, this is probably not your cup of tea.

I would say MLAK is worth the $15 price tag if you like sim games. The downloadable content adds more of the same; I would recommend playing the game for an hour or so and deciding how much you like it before buying any of the DLC. The extra dungeon pack is a pretty good deal. The extra race pack is significantly more expensive, though, so I would caution against buying it immediately. If you are a big enough sucker to consider buying the extra outfit for the hero, you’re on your own.

3 Comments

  1. jay said on June 12, 2008:

    I am not that far into this game but so far I am pretty fond of it. The way the save system works perfectly suckers me into playing another day almost every time. And then another day. If they told you the results of the days quests THEN saved for the night it’d be easy to just shut it off but by saving and only then telling you what happened during the day it always compels me to keep going. I want to see what happened, and once I do that I’ve already started the next day and I don’t want to shut it off and lose progress.

    My biggest gripe is that it’s beginning to feel a little like a hide and seek simulator. While adventurers are out raping and pillaging the innocent and peaceful monsters, I spend most of my time scouring the streets for disembodied green smiles, which indicate a peasant is willing to speak to me. If I am the king shouldn’t I decide when I speak and who listens?

  2. Golden Jew said on June 12, 2008:

    This sounds like a game that could’ve been very entertaining gone horribly wrong. There’s been a real lack of interesting passive city/castle builders since Majesty, Stronghold, Pharoah, etc. All were flawed, but still fun. Actually, now writing this comment, I’m really sad about not having a game like that to play.

  3. Stefan said on June 12, 2008:

    I think you guys are dead right about the most charming aspect being the safe, comfortable atmosphere. After the first time through I’ve been playing again with the extra dungeons and race back (the dungeons are worth more than the extra races, IMO, since they also up your building limits to the point where you can fill out the whole city), and I’ve just skipped every plot scene. So far, the game plays just fine as a plotless “build a city and conquer surrounding monster lairs” sim. At some point I do want to try to build the worst possible city, and see if there is any way to make the villagers angry or discontented.

    Also, Jay, at a certain point you can have an assistant talk to everyone in town for you, which is when the days really start to fly by. I spent the latter 2/3 of the game going to bed before noon more often than not, simply because there was nothing left to do until the next day.

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