Life often comes down to balance. Sure we can eat whatever we like, but that needs to be balanced with healthy habits to keep ourselves in a good place. Whether it’s work/life balance, balancing a checkbook, or keeping our balance, balance is in our life. So when I heard that Various Daylife would be moving to PC and consoles after exiting Apple Arcade, I was excited. However, I found a game that could have been more balanced.
In Various Daylife, you play a character among the latest wave of settlers to the continent of Antoecia. After creating your character, which unfortunately is locked in as male with only preset designs to choose from, you’re off to chart your path. It’s clear early on that hard work made the settlement what it is and that all newcomers, including you, must pull their weight via work or guild quests. Work quests sound just like the name suggests. You do jobs around the town based on the characters you meet and their job classes. These jobs are also the only way you can raise your stats. At first glance, work quests seem simple, but they can contain a large amount of detail.
Work quests raise stats but can also reduce them depending on the job selected. For instance, warrior jobs may increase your strength but reduce your wisdom. Of course, we can’t always be working in life, so the game balances this out with failure and accident risks tied to your stamina and your happiness. The lower your happiness, the more likely you are to fail a job; low stamina raises your risk of an accident. Failing a job simply means you make less money, so it’s not the end of the world. Having an accident significantly lowers your stats, putting you out of work for a few days. Though this may be the game’s way of balancing work and life, you’re penalized for not working. If you can string together multiple working days, you receive multipliers to raise your stats quickly. Taking a rest resets that to zero.
You often interact with your partymates or take replenishing baths. These don’t reset your work streak, but they cost money, which is hard to come by at first with jobs that barely pay you enough for anything more than replenishing your stamina or happiness. As you level up and unlock more job classes and characters, the game swings wildly the other way. Jobs give you larger sums, and costs suddenly become less important. The problem is that you’re likely at least 25 hours in before getting these characters and jobs.
Though you do work quests to raise your stats, you never actually get to perform tasks; you hit a button over and over based on your selection. In addition, work quests don’t raise the stats of your party members. You pay for that, which eventually becomes costly and eats into your already meager work profits. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so you put your work training to use in guild quests. These quests unlock more of the story and involve party setup, bringing items, and fighting monsters in turn-based random encounters. There are two things to keep in mind during Various Daylife’s guild quests. One, your max hit points will diminish due to fatigue as the mission continues, and two, you need to take advantage of the Chain, Change, Chance combat system.
Due to your limited health, your advanced item planning comes into play, as you need to bring food and necessities for camping. Food raises your max available hit points but won’t replenish them until later in the game. That means you either have to bring a servite/cleric, costing you valuable MP, or bring an item that allows you to camp. The latter is easiest, but the item costs a lot and money is, again, initially hard to come by. Regarding the combat system, you’re likely to start using attacks that drain MP because the standard attack balances poorly against the enemies you face. Change refers to attacks that either inflict or change status effects on enemies (e.g., from dazed to soaked). Chaining together enough of these status-inflicting attacks gradually deals more damage. Doing this opens up the “Chance” to perform a special attack that, if done in the correct sequence, inflicts max damage to an enemy with a chance to insta-kill.
If you play Various Daylife like a traditional RPG without taking full advantage of the additional mechanics, it’s a struggle to advance the story. The guild quests become difficult regardless of level, work quests don’t pay enough, and the equipment available isn’t up to snuff. So the developers attempted to balance this out with gossip. You find activities to do around town and shops to spend your money in as the game progresses; some of these locations offer worthwhile gossip that can be used at various locations to buff your characters, offer status effect resistances, or reduce the environmental effects of the region you’re traveling to. Initially, this works well, as you’ve probably piled up a few gossipy nuggets from going to the baths. What gossip you receive, however, is very RNG based. Once you’ve used it, you’re stuck going to the baths until you can obtain specifically new gossip, some of which becomes unnecessary as the game progresses.
If it sounds like my entire experience has been about jobs and work, that’s because it’s the most significant piece of this game. But there is a shining light. The cast of characters makes up for how monotonous and unbalanced the quest system is. As you advance the game, random cutscenes gradually reveal more about your party members, allowing you to connect with them. You see them grow as people as they learn new interests and jobs. You go to festivals and celebrate birthdays with them. Even the characters introduced late in the game became people I enjoyed interacting with, and I was invested in every person’s story. As previously mentioned, you can also spend time with these characters outside of work which, though costly, raises your affinity with them. Increased affinity leads to powerful attacks in guild quests and the chance to complete that person’s specific mission so they join your house and partner with you. Though not a full romance mechanic, it’s the closest thing that Various Daylife offers. The one negative is that the birthday and festival scenes repeat after a while because the game works on a calendar system. That diminishes the overall feel.
I will say that Various Daylife’s art style is enjoyable and looks wonderful. This game was originally made for Apple phones. I played it on my Steam Deck and would expect solid graphics. The music is also fairly decent, but we’re working with a port of a mobile phone game. It helps set the mood but becomes repetitive as you simply press buttons going to and from work. As such, though there’s nothing wrong with the controls, they’re also nothing to write home about. Graphics, characters, and music aside, the story boils down to these characters living their lives and trying to tame the new continent. There is an overall larger story involving the prince and your party being the only one that can activate warp points on the continent, but by the time you roll credits, you never solve that part. That is left for what is apparently a very lengthy and perhaps grindy postgame.
As I end my review, I continue to think about how life is about balance and how Various Daylife is not. At one point, it is easy, albeit with an obvious grind for money. At the midpoint, it becomes a difficult struggle to gather the right combo of resources with meager funds. Eventually, it turns the opposite way, where money comes easily and you can buy whatever you want. Much like the game itself, I came in excited for Various Daylife and shifted strongly to happiness it was complete. Though I was excited for this game to move off of Apple Arcade because I don’t do well playing games on a phone, this is one offering that could have stayed there.