Despite what sentimental movies, idealists, and your neglected family / kids will tell you, Life (and your success at it) is measured in what you own. Work hard enough and long enough, and you’ll build an empire at the expense of happiness and fond memories. Who needs to smile when he / she who drives the most expensive car wins. Yes I’m paraphrasing and generalizing, but the point I’m trying to make is transferable to role-playing games and level grinding, which is where Loot Grinder (80 MSP) comes in.
The Final Fantasy series has lost a step or two in recent years, but I still hold out hope. There’s plenty of reason not to, but I don’t completely mind the new stuff. Loot Grinder takes the retro approach. It idolizes old-school FF, the job / class switching, White Mages and Warriors and what not, and forgets everything about those RPGs except the tedious in-between, focusing purely on the battles that will award you XP and Gold. That wouldn’t be half-bad for some, including me, who can appreciate putting in the effort for something greater still ‘down the road’. Unfortunately, if you’re going to make an RPG-lite about endless battling, this would require much more exciting fights.
It’s not turned-based, but ATB (active time battle), meaning your party of four will act once their gauge is filled and you’ve issued orders. Ditto for the enemy, all manner of animal and grotesque combinations thereof. Though even with that continual flow in each encounter, the lack of significant animation or effects makes it feel turn-based, the two sides chipping away at each other until something gives. This is where exploration or a storyline would pick up the slack. Without them, fights feel as staid and routine as the last.
Like it or not, this is as exciting as it gets.
Further dampening the mood is a severely-slow buildup, both in leveling and acquiring the gold to buy better armaments and support items, all of which are priced exorbitantly. Staying at the inn to heal will regularly cost you a hefty sum. Magic isn’t available at the outset either (even though you can purchase spells, confusingly), with the class unlocks for casting coming only after you’ve done a series of fights in one category, then defeated the boss in whatever dungeon / hole it leads to. Then it’s back to the grind, building and leveling at a snail’s pace just to repeat the process against stronger enemies. It could be argued that the game opens up a little more once you’ve gained more classes / abilities, but it doesn’t change the dynamics or the scenery enough to offset the initial ‘busy work’ you’ll need to put in.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Loot Grinder insists that you love Old Final Fantasy’s battle system and fighting dozens upon dozens of boring ’Press A to Win’ battles to make incremental progress, with zero turnaround in fun or prestige for you. Purists leftover from those days may appreciate the time on the clock, but for the vast majority, that time can be better spent elsewhere.