Life is filled with moments that make us lean back in our chair and say, “Well, that’s the end of my childhood.” For some game players, one of those moments occurred when Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger creator Hironobu Sakaguchi announced his studio, Mistwalker, is working on a free-to-play game called Terra Battle.

While free-to-play fare is very popular with folks looking to distract themselves on the bus for a few minutes, fans of traditional games tend to fiercely reject them. They label free-to-play games as “pay-to-win” ripoffs that throw players against needless paywalls. Thing is, they’re not exactly wrong.

Terra Battle PreviewBut the free-to-play formula as a whole is far from invalid, and Terra Battle goes a long way in proving this. After playing it for a while, it becomes obvious Sakaguchi is more interested in delivering a clever, polished game versus nickel-and-diming players at every opportunity.

Sakaguchi is a huge Puzzle & Dragons fan (he’s admitted to blowing over $1,500 on in-app purchases), and it’s easy to spot Gungho’s influence in Mistwalker’s game. Terra Battle is still its own beast, however (or its own BeastFolk, if you like). For one thing, the game features the kind of fleshed-out world you’d expect to see in a Final Fantasy game. The planet is becoming cold and dark, and its inhabitants (humans, LizardFolk and BeastFolk, to name a few races) are helpless to explain why. You recruit a team of fighters that journey to the underground to ask the Maker what gives.

Terra Battle Preview

Terra Battle’s gameplay is primarily made up of grid-based battles. You move around cards representing your warriors (up to six in a party) and try to surround your foes. Ensnared enemies are hit with a combination of regular attacks and, occasionally, special attacks. The more warriors you involve in an attack, the stronger it is.

In turn, bad guys can surround you and do heavy damage, especially if you neglect to study their movements carefully. Some possess attacks capable of flooring you if you don’t move carefully. And speaking of floors, there are trapped floors to contend with as well.

Puzzle & Dragons fans know the most addictive thing about the game is using a single element orb to knock others into place, hopefully making matches of three or more. Sakaguchi knows it too, as pushing around your warriors’ cards with other cards is a big part of Terra Battle. You get one move per turn, so nudging fighters into place is vital for pulling off potent attacks.

Terra Battle’s graphics and rich soundtrack lend to its polished feel. The character designs, though odd at times, are interesting. At the very least, it’s enough to drive you to collect warriors like Pokemon. The music is courtesy of Final Fantasy series veteran Nobuo Uematsu, so you’d expect some good stuff to be in there. And there is. The game’s main theme is particularly catchy.

Terra Battle still needs some polish before it gets its worldwide release. There are, for instance, quite a few connectivity issues, and some features are not yet active. But if it keeps on its current track of progress, it’s going to wind up as a welcome example of free-to-play done well.

You can check out Terra Battle in early release on the Canadian App Store¬†and Google Play (here’s how to get a Canadian iTunes account if you don’t have one).

Are you playing Terra Battle too? Be sure to check out our Terra Battle Tips, Cheats and Strategies to get the edge you need!