In the second month of 2021, another long-awaited game is finally released. While I literally only knew of this game days from release, and I faulted myself for it, I decided to try the game, and see it for myself.
Making daily life in school to a small miracle
Blue Archive is an RPG-style game where you play as a teacher (先生, sensei) who interact with students from different high schools. Seems normal enough... until you consider that those students wield guns, and you will manage them in combat situations too. What a setting.
While I have covered a game published by Yostar before, Blue Archive is unique in the regard that they're more of an original creation, with the JP version, published by Yostar, being the first version released.
One thing that you will immediately notice when opening the game for the first time, is the music. Blue Archive's soundtrack is remarkably electronic, and in genres that I'm all familiar with. Shout out to music producers Mitsukiyo, KARUT, and Nor for lending their talents for the game!
The tutorial guides you through some basic mechanics of the game, which I will explain later below. It of course includes a gacha section.
The home screen is a hub to all features of the game. Some features are not unlocked right away, and requires progress in certain areas first.
The student menu is where you manage the students you've got. The leveling system is interesting, similar to another game I've played before, Princess Connect Re:Dive, with their levels are capped to your current level, and upgradable rarity system.
Each student has a specific type of weapon that determines their attack patterns, a specific role that determines their skills, an attack type, a defense type, and environments they excel in.
There are four roles that a student can have:
- Tanks take the majority of damage the enemy deals.
- Attackers deal most of the damage to the enemy
- Supporters help the team in various ways
- Healers recovers the health of their teammates.
The attack types and defense types affect the damage your students will deal. I forgot where to find the complete table, but as a general rule of thumb, one attack type excels against a defense type of the same color.
Each student also has different performance characteristics in certain environments, which are shown with faces.
Each student has an EX skill and three types of skills available. The normal skill is available at 1*, the passive skill at 2*, and the subskill at 3*. Each skill is upgradable with materials from stages.
Each student also have three equipment slots, the first one is immediately unlocked, the second one at Level 15, and the third one at Level 35. Equipments and their upgrade materials can be obtained from stages. They increase your student stats in various ways.
Leveling up students uses "reports", and the students' levels are capped by your current level.
Each students' rarity can be upgraded to a maximum of 5*. Again, with a similar system as Re:Dive, you will need the students' "stones" and certain amount of money to upgrade. Some "stones" can be farmed from HARD stages, and some must be bought from the shop.
The "arrangement" menu allows you to adjust your team's composition. There are 4 team slots available, and students can only be in one team at a time.
The recruitment system is the gacha system where you can obtain students. A 10x roll costs 1200 of the premium currency. The highest rarity you can get from the gacha is 3*.
The café is the customizable room part of the game where you can decorate the room with furnitures. So far, the only way to obtain furniture I know is by crafting. It also gradually generates credits and stamina. Students will also appear here, where you can tap them to increase their bond (kizuna).
The "schedule" screen allows you to schedule activities in various locations to obtain items and increase the bond with your students. Each location has its own rank that increases with the amount of activities you schedule there.
By increasing the bond with your students, you can interact with them through the MomoTalk screen, unlock their stories, and eventually, unlock a special animated home screen.
There is one more functionality that I forgot to screenshot, and that is the Circles menu, This functionality is similar to guilds, where several senseis can group together in a circle. You can join existing ones or create a new one.
The work menu is where most of the main gameplay rests on. There are several buttons that will bring you to the modes the game offers.
Story allows you to read the stories of the game. They are divided into three sections, main story, sub story, and archives (which include bond stories, among others).
The main story stages menu is called "Mission", and the stages are divided into areas, with two difficulty types, Normal and Hard. Normal stages are unlocked after completion of its previous Normal stage, and Hard stages are unlocked by completing its previous Hard stages and completing all Normal stages in that area. This is certainly a system similar to what I've seen in games like Princess Connect Re:Dive.
Remember to also check the details of a stage before starting, since environment and enemy factors are very important in assembling the best team for a stage.
For the story main stages, you will then be presented with the mission map. There will be a number of START nodes where you deploy teams. A node can contain an enemy of varying difficulty (indicated with their rank / the BOSS text), or contain various items. The teams move one node per turn. Each stage has 3 objectives that when all completed to earn a 3 star on that stage, it will allow you to repeat the stage automatically (without going through the battle again).
In battle, the team are mostly automatically controlled, movements, attack patterns, and their skills. Their EX skills, however, are manually cast. EX skills cost a certain amount of cost points, and you can see your currently available cost points in the bar below the skill icons. There is a fast-forward function, alongside an auto function automating the EX skill casting.
Each battle has its own objectives that will determine the rank of the battle, which in turn will contribute towards the stage's objectives too.
Alongside the main stages, there are farming stages available. The farming stages for experience and credits costs stamina, but can be repeated indefinitely. The farming stages for upgrade materials don't cost stamina, but they can only be repeated for a certain amount a day.
The other two modes are similar to raid and arena systems of some of other games.
"Total War" (that's what I got from machine translation) is a mode where you fight against a certain boss. You have a limited amount of clears per day, represented in tickets. If you are unable to defeat the boss in time on your first team, you can reattempt the battle (the boss' HP will carry over the previous battle), however you cannot bring your previous students with you, so you need to prepare a second team. Your attempts are then scored and ranked.
The arena system is pretty much similar to the one in Princess Connect Re:Dive, where you can fight other players to climb up the ranks. You have a limited, refreshable, amount of attempts per day.
A bit of problems?
Blue Archive is said to be plagued with some issues early in its launch, such as connection problems and frequent maintenances. For me? Aside from a little account binding annoyance, Blue Archive was surprisingly smooth. While I had problems recording footage directly from the game at the beginning, it was more of a ROM problem, and I solved the problem by relying on my custom ROM's Android built-in screen recording functionality (see the above Shiroko memorial lobby footage).
I played Blue Archive for several weeks by now, and it is quite easy to do the daily missions, because of its system. The daily gameplay is comparable to the several other games I currently play daily too, so it was an easy decision to continue playing the game. In the process, I also took a liking to two characters, Shiroko (the icon girl) and Aru (CV: Reina Kondou, yeah...).
In conclusion, Blue Archive is one of those games that I would actually play daily. While the gameplay is all familiar, it doesn't screw it up either. I also have grown attached to the students cast, and it is a reason for me to continue playing. However, its series of early problems and maintenances does hurt it a little. Personally, I really don't find much problems playing the game, but your mileage might vary, and if you find its early problems too much, please wait a little longer.