Blue Archive is the latest gacha craze from the developers at NAT Games (a subsidiary of publisher Nexon). The game joins the ranks of other gacha games to reach the west such as Genshin Impact, Arknights, and Azur Lane.
Players can expect to try and collect and power up their favorite waifus provided luck (or money) is on their side. But is Blue Archive worth the investment? How far will a players money really go? Find out below in our review!
Developer: NAT Games
Platforms: Android (Reviewed), iOS
Release Date: February 4th, 2021 (Japan), November 8th, 2021 (World Wide)
Price: Free (with microtransactions)
Blue Archive takes place in an academy-city, or rather multiple academy-cities all pushed together in a Tokyo-esque amalgamation called Kivotos. In this city, young girls with supernatural resiliency attend classes and engage in regular firefights over resources.
Thankfully, such an outrageous precedent is more than enough to suspend disbelief. Some details are left unsaid (as of the early chapters of the game) but it’s safe to assume the power of the girls stems from the halo-like projections coming from the back of their head.
To clarify, don’t force yourself to worry too much about why the girls are virtually immortal and shoot each other for fun. Thankfully what the world-building lacks, the actual story of the game attempts to carry.
In Blue Archive, players take on the role of a faceless “sensei” (who’s heavily implied to be a man). In the wake of the student council president’s disappearance, Sensei arrives in time to be given administrator access to the systems of Kivotos via an esoteric tablet with an AI companion.
With this new tablet and power, Sensei becomes the head of “Schale” an afterschool club founded on the principle of solving issues plaguing Kivotos. Schale is an intercollegiate club and thus students from all of the academies in Kivotos can be recruited.
The overarching story of Sensei and Schale follows the large problems facing the individual academies, as well as ultimately trying to figure out what happened to the missing student council president. The first chapter wastes no time getting into these larger issues at play.
In the first chapter we’re introduced to the last remaining students of Abydos, an academy at the edge of Kivotos that borders a desert (again, don’t worry about it). All but a handful of students have abandoned Abydos due to the fact that the school is in overwhelming debt; and the remaining students work hard every day to at least make the minimum payments.
However the source of this debt is dubious at best and together with Sensei the students of Abydos uncover a conspiracy that takes them to the bad side of town and black market affairs.
Blue Archive earnestly tries to create an engaging story, which isn’t half-bad for a free to play mobage (that’s weeb speak for mobile game). There’s also side stories in addition to the main plot.
Some side stories are unlocked by owning enough characters and progressing through the main campaign. These stories tend to focus on clubs as a whole. The other stories are more personalized and unlocked when reaching certain thresholds in your relationship with a character.
These personal side stories will also reward the player with animated backgrounds they can have on the game’s home screen. These animated scenes are found in the side stories and can allow players to be welcomed by a memorable scene with their favorite girl; though bear in mind not every girl has an animated background yet.
The artwork for the game appears to be uncensored, however some Twitter users have begged to differ. But that aside the character designs are cute with girls ranging a variety of archetypes, body shapes, and outfits. My personal favorite is probably Tsubaki.
So how do you get waifus? The premium currency Pyroxene! But how far does Pyroxene go? Well it takes 1200 to do a 10-pull, and their most “cost-efficient” bundle is 6600 for $79.99, so that’s 55 pulls which to be honest at that cost? That’s not really great.
However this is made up for with two things. First, being two monthly bundles which give you a total of 60 Pyroxene a day for about $12 a month. Which yeah, is only 1800, but you also get 3 “Bounty Tickets” a day which are used for other upgrade materials. It’s not great, but it’s arguably worth it.
The second thing is that Nexon is being generous with free Pyroxene. I’d regard this with some caution, the game only came out a little over a month ago at the time of writing this so they may just be trying to get people hooked. But right now you get like 600 whenever the game goes down for maintenance, 1200 at the start of every event or content patch, etc, etc. If they continue this trend, it’s completely reasonable to be free to play and arguably worth it to supplement things with the monthly subscription.
Now as far as actually drawing students goes, for every 10-pull you’re guaranteed one 2-star or better. Blue Archive also helpfully gives listed odds for pulling a particular student, and there’s always an event going on with a higher chance to get a particular 2 or 3-star. These special pulls have a 3x higher chance for the special 2-star unit and 7x higher chance for the special 3-star unit… relative to the other units of the same rarity.
Does this sound confusing? It’s easier to understand looking at the numbers directly. But what this means is that your chance of getting the special 3-star is 7 times higher than getting any other 3-star. But the overall chance of getting a three-star remains seemingly unaffected. So what does that mean? A 0.7% chance to get the special 3-star, and a 3% chance to get the special 2-star during an event.
Luckily, with every pull you make you get a recruitment points. It takes 200 recruitment points to “buy” one of the girls from the special event. Unluckily, 200 is a difficult goal. That’s 24,000 Pyroxene. This mechanic is a last resort, a pity-currency if you whale (a mobage term for someone who spends a lot of money) for that one event girl.
These recruitment points go away at the end of each event and are exchanged for the weakest crafting material. It’s a huge letdown that these recruitment points aren’t saved for characters you may really want in the future, it’s a system designed to compel players to either hardcore hoard their Pyroxene, or hopefully (from Nexon’s perspective) spend a bunch of money before the event girls cycle out.
Ultimately, spending money on Blue Archive is a personal choice, and in most cases not one I’d recommend without disposable income.
So we know why we have the waifus, we know how to get the waifus. So after saving the best for last, what do we even do with the waifus? Gameplay in Blue Archive takes place in two stages. The first stage is a hex map where you move your units to encounter other units or pick up power ups. The important thing is that it’s an achievement to do this phase in as few turns as you can
The second and main stage is the combat. Players have a unit of six girls (four “strikers” and two “support”) who are sent into the stage to do battle. The battles are ultimately a kind of auto-chess and the individual actions are largely uncontrollable. The exception lies in the ultimate abilities of the girls.
Using these ultimates effectively is the bread and butter Blue Archive. Some ultimates do damage, healing, or buffs in an Area of Effect. Others do high single target damage or create debuffs. Others create cover or summon units like turrets or punching bags to distract enemies. Placing and timing these ultimates are the key to victory.
These ultimates can sometimes be used to maneuver allies out of large attacks, or move enemies into prime position for an AoE. These movements become necessary on more difficult missions and are worth bearing in mind when selecting your team.
Ultimately, Blue Archive is a gacha with enough gameplay to be entertaining for even discerning fans looking for difficulty. Sure you can overlevel yourself, but players with good team composition and ultimate usage will be able to get ahead.
Being able to use your favorite girls and dedicating resources to powering them up feels like the biggest strength of Blue Archive. As long as the free Pyroxene keeps flowing as it has in the month since launch, it’s worth taking a look at.