There's just something about mystery boxes that make them so hard to resist. This is probably the reason why Gacha games are flourishing. To be honest, I've never been one to get addicted to the genre, but I do understand how it pulls you in with promises of that glorious summon you've been clamoring for at the cost of time, 'money,' and effort. Friends have always tried to get me into these games, be it through Granblue Fantasy or Fate GO, which, while good games, have not exactly hooked me in as much as I had hoped. Until I played Epic Seven.

Epic Seven is a Gacha RPG developed by Super Creative and published by Smilegate. Using their trademark Yuna Engine, the game boasts an impressive anime visual flair like no other; mixing fullblown anime snippets in between the characters' movesets, increasing the overall dramatic feel of combat.

Grinding to Break Free From Grinding

Outside of the typical PVE main storyline, the game offers other activities that help ease the monotony of grinding. Worry not though, as all of which are still integral to strengthening your units for the tougher fights ahead. In fact, almost everything in the game is mandatory to your characters' growth.

One such thing are the Spirit Altars, which are mini bosses that cycle their encounters daily. Each of these monsters drop runes that correspond to their elemental affinity. Should you need Ice runes for your character, you'd best wait for the day said altar is open. Luckily, all altars are open during the weekend, so that's one thing to look forward to.

Another is the Labyrinth. Think of them as the game's version of dungeons and raids, which requires you to traverse its map while killing numerous monsters and looting the many chests scattered within its confines. Of course, the experience becomes more difficult as you discover more rooms, even more so when you gain access to Azmakalis, which contains tougher fights that are akin to Hunt bosses. Still, the rewards are definitely worth it, so do try it out once you get your characters to 50 or so.

Next on the list are Hunts, which are my favorite activity under the Battle tab. These are essentially the big boss battles of the game. Each Hunt has 11 difficulty settings to choose from, with reward scaling based on how hard the encounters are. Hunt bosses have their own set of mechanics, which may require you to alter not just your strategy, but also your party composition to avoid wiping to their punishing gimmicks.

The Wyvern, for example, needs to have a debuff on him at all times to block access to his double breath attack which often spells death for low HP party members. Then there's the Banshee who has an add phase that must be dealt with accordingly to avoid her deadly AOE. Coming from an MMO player's perspective, it was nice to see mechanics like these instead of simply being overpowered by brute force. It's always nice to think when playing games, after all.

The game also has PVP, but it's not really as PLAYER VS PLAYER as one would think. Instead of pitting you against an actual opponent, the game uses a ghost system where players list their teams for other players to attack. In other words, your defensive team is controlled by the AI, and will make the decisions for you after being attacked. Beating an enemy team gives you conquest points, which are then used to purchase PVP gear as well as other goodies. Note that climbing the ladder gives you bigger rewards, so hold on to your streak, and choose your opponents wisely.

Then there is the Abyss, which is collection of one time challenges that you have to complete for various rewards. These challenges can get quite annoying, and much like Hunts will require most of your attention early on. The deeper you go, the better the rewards.

Moving on, I'd like to mention that regardless of how strong you think your team has become during adventure mode, players may find themselves facing a sudden halt in progress after hitting level 50. This is around the time you've finished the main story and have entered the world difficulty unlocked thereafter. Upgrade materials in the game are rather scarce, regardless of how generous it may seem early on. That new 5 star may have to wait, especially since leveling and gearing them up isn't exactly all they need to be at par with your existing lineup. This, for me, is a glimpse of Epic 7's true colors and is where its grindy similarities with the other Gachas begin. It's here where resource management is crucial, and you'll probably even farm a single stage for days in an attempt to get epic catalysts required for your next upgrade. At least the game has numerous events to help with the grind, but it's still not as generous as the other mobile games in the market.

Gameplay 9/10

I was taken aback by its visuals when I first saw this game. No offense to other games, but damn it looked so gorgeous. This was also during the time they announced their Guilty Gear collaboration, so resisting the urge to play became rather impossible, thanks to my Arc System Works fandom. The game's pretty straightforward. Players take control of teams of four characters and activate skills and effects in a turn-based format, similar to old school JRPGs. Each stage is broken down into encounters with a boss at the very end. It's generally the standard PVE combat found in a myriad of mobile RPGs, but one that's still effective to this date. So what makes it special? What separates it from the rest? As shallow as it would seem, the visuals play a big role in the game's hype. The game's cinematic approach to combat is quite 'revolutionary' for a mobile game, and simply watching special moves one after another felt quite rewarding.

The story is centered on Ras Eclair, a generic anime protagonist with the empathy levels of a turnip. Carrying the moniker of the Heir of the Covenant, he is tasked by the Goddess of Life, Diche, to slay the Archdemon after a crushing defeat during their past encounter. The story was actually pretty enjoyable for a mobile game. It's not something to write praises about, but it does its job in keeping you invested in both the world and its inhabitants. Epic Seven also promises continuity in the form of Episodes, with Episode 2 on the horizon at the time of this review.

Going back to gameplay, the mechanics are fairly average at best, as I stated previously. You can breeze through a chunk of the game on auto-play for a good while, but it does give you certain challenges that require you to manage your skills manually from time to time.

Innovation 4/10

Minus the graphics, Epic 7 offers little to change how I've viewed mobile Gachas. I'll even go as far to say that most of the hype surrounding it is influenced by its visuals.

If there's anything I've noticed so far, it's that the game is well aware of its time consuming gameplay, and tries its best to contain the players' pacing in said speed until they break and decide to pay. Other than the energy system that most mobile games are famous/infamous for, the game lacks any form of aid to speed things up. By that, I mean even if you're on auto-play, you're still required to go through things in real time, which barely alleviates the strain of grinding. In fact, I'm actually grinding for certain catalysts while writing this review. Factoring in the length of encounters (and special animations), I'd say I won't even get that many runs after finishing this review.

I'm sure it's different for everyone, but at this rate, I wouldn't want to watch my team auto-attack Wyvern any more than I already have. They are going to cap my energy anyway, so why not just let me make the burn quicker? It also limits the amount of actions you can perform each day, such as the money or Proof of Courage tokens you can give your guild, or the amount of materials you can share or request from members.

Gearing up your team is also a pain in most cases, as the game often finds a way to make you feel the scarcity of resources despite having saved up for days. A good example would be how the game charges you for unequipping/changing gear. I'd understand paying to level them, but max 50,000 gold to unequip an item? The mere fact that the game makes Free Unequiping as an actual event is kind of lame in my opinion. Leveling a character's skill with rare materials like Molagoras are also a bit of a pain. The upgrades are just so significant to the point where it's hard to fit a new 5 star into your team without having to invest so much just to see them in action. Get all the ones in adventure mode, and you're at the mercy of events and market resets.

Upgrading units will also take time, as the game locks your characters' levels via the number of their stars or rarity unless you sacrifice enough units to feed them. This is where the Phantasmas come in. Phantasmas are weak units that are easy to level, and only exist to be fodder in this game.

As it stands, you have to feed three 3-star units in order to get a unit to four stars, four 4-star units to get them to five, and five 5-star units to six stars. God knows how painful it will be to get a unit to seven stars should they even dare to give us the option. The foddering system isn't exactly hard to do, but again, the scarcity of higher level Phantasmas may get in the way after you've exhausted your freebies.

Learning Curve 10/10

The game's learning curve is pretty good. It does a fine job in teaching you the basics in small increments as you plow through the stages early on. Not once did I feel overwhelmed by its mechanics, which is probably a testament to how well they've broken down the tutorials. Speaking of which, they've recently added a new quest feature which not only clarifies topics some newbies may have problems with, but also issues rewards that aid in strengthening your team.

If you're planning to play the game, I'd suggest keeping track of said quests as the rewards will aid you greatly on your road to the endgame.

Graphics and Sounds 9/10

Epic Seven is a visual spectacle. The game's art direction backed up by the Yuna engine is marvelous to behold, and is heaps above most of the games on the market today. Their use of sprites mixed with anime clips is so good, I've had people ask me if the game was available on Steam after thinking that it was an actual JRPG. Character skills are dazzling, with explosive light shows that just boasts the quality of the game's style. For me, Epic Seven is bar none the most beautiful anime gacha today.

I'm very particular about menus in mobile game, as most games seem to enjoy sporting menu systems that are just too cluttered for my taste. Luckily, Epic Seven's menus are clean and comprehensible. This is a welcomed thing, considering the many times you'll have to cycle through them to perform your mundane tasks.

The music isn't anything special, but there are a couple of memorable tracks here and there that just worm their way into your head after a few days of playing. The sound effects are very good, and deliver a certain crunch that's just as satisfying as the animations they accompany. The game's voice acting is hit or miss. This is a shame, given that the game's english VA has a pretty star studded cast. Players are given the option to choose between English and Korean voice acting, which is good for variety. The Korean voices are good in their own right, but there's just something about the cheesy English voices that really tickles my fancy.

Value For Money 2/10

Epic Seven is a very expensive Gacha to play if you're looking to whale it. Skystones and bookmarks are pricey and offer little guarantee of getting anything good regardless of how many you've bought. There are packs that act as 'limited-money saver' options, but in comparison these still feel much more expensive than most of the Gachas out there. You're looking at roughly 30 USD for 10 summons. What's worse is the game lacks a pity system outside special banners or the usual free SSRs after 10 or more summons. In fact, the game doesn't even have a multi-summon feature (outside your first summon) and forces you to spend your bookmarks one by one. Like I said before, it's very time consuming.

While a very stylish game, I'd say it's best to keep your money for now and wait for actual money saver packs, unless you REALLY want that summon.

Overall 7/10

Regardless of its shortcomings, I'm still enjoying Epic Seven. I've given it a chunk of my effort and have been playing it nonstop with friends. There's just something so genuinely addicting about it, and the quality of animations just keeps getting better with each new character release. The game could definitely use a speed option, considering that mobile games are stereotypically made to be played in small bursts. Like I said, it's already capping my progress with its energy system, so why not? Still, these gripes do little in disturbing my overall enjoyment of the game.

The Gachas system is just as random as its always been, and I'm at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to luck, even after investing on its packs. The fodder system could be done better, in my opinion. I don't even recall having this much trouble leveling a character in all the other Gachas I've played, and the scarcity of resources is really bothersome. Lastly, I think the game should take it easy with the currency. Perhaps my biggest gripe with the game is how it just takes your gold every chance it gets, be it through crafting or unequipping gear. I've invested so much gold just to calculate stats while mixing and matching gearsets. I don't think I'd ever pay 50,000 gold to see if that shirt fits me better than the ones I'm wearing.

All in all, it's still a very good game, and one that deserves your attention if you're looking for a game to play on your phone. Just to warn you though, it can get ridiculously addicting.