AFK Journey review
Screenshot: PC Invasion

A review of AFK Journey – The clue is in the name

More hands off than hands on.

When AFK Journey landed on my lap, I didn’t know what to expect and was surprised at what I found during my review playthrough. We’ve certainly come a long way from Snake, at least in some ways.

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A hands-off approach

“AFK” isn’t just an abbreviation. You can and are expected to play a lot of this game “Away from Keyboard.” This is an interesting mechanic, but one that isn’t uncommon in many mobile games.

While I was playing AFK Journey for this review, I was able to leave it running in the background, listening for the audio cues to let me know when it was time to pick it back up again. There are so many autoplay buttons that it’s possible to leave 75% of the work to the game itself.

Best team formations in AFK Journey
Screenshot: PC Invasion

I was only needed to make decisions about gear and equipment, to periodically click through the storyline, and open the endless chests and card packs. Even these were more or less automated. However, even though this may seem incredibly boring, I actually found some pleasure in it.

Gameplay and storyline

One of my friends commented, “Oh, fantastic, a game I can play without having to play it; now I have time for some real games,” and I feel like there is some truth to this. I was able to do other things while this game ticked away in the background, and that was alright.

As the game plodded on, working through auto-battles and running me to the next locations, I did other things with my time. I wrote articles and browsed websites. I cooked my lunch and watched a TV show, and all the while, I passively played AFK Journey in the background. When it was time to pick it back up again, I was able to look at the progress I had made and make the necessary tweaks to my team and setup before continuing.

Now, that’s not to say there isn’t a storyline and wealth of mechanics to get through, but they’re sidelined if you can’t be bothered. Sometimes, I could be; other times, they were just too droll. As the AFK Journey name suggests, this is a game to be played away from your keyboard. If you skip dialogue, there is always a TLDR, which is fantastic.

AFK Journey review
Screenshot: PC Invasion

Game modes

What the gameplay really consists of is building a team, setting them up to fight, and hitting autoplay. I left it on autoplay for my whole review playthrough of AFK Journey, and at 2x speed. Admittedly, I had no idea what was going on. I just knew when I needed to upgrade. My job was to learn the various characters and know how and where they work in a fight. That is the core gameplay loop of AFK Journey.

Once you have your team set up, you will slowly unlock various modes to pit your team against. In the hours I played AFK Journey for review, I managed to unlock them all. They’re varied and fun enough that I didn’t get bored.

There are game modes in which you have to build and level your team every tournament, and PvP rounds with your base squad. There are side missions against huge bosses and guild goals you can work together for as a group. On the whole, the selection of game modes and variety is fantastic.

Cosy vibes

For review, I played AFK Journey on my laptop, but it is also available on mobile and desktop. The game ran smoothly for me, and I have to say, I was impressed with how it looked and sounded.

Characters

The various characters are exactly what you would expect to see in a fantasy game of this type. Scarred and gruff muscular men as the warriors and tanks, effeminate ones as the rogues and rangers, and either childlike waifs or bouncing-breasted nymphs as the healers and mages. Standard fantasy fare.

AFK Journey review
Screenshot: PC Invasion

What took me by surprise was the voice acting. Even hours in, there were many cutscenes with full voiceovers that were not beautifully performed, with charming accents and sharp dialogue.

AFK Journeys world

The world is large and immersive on the whole. The team has taken the time to create an expansive map that the remarkably long storyline will take you around. The various areas are level-locked, but I never felt the grind to the next one was too long. By the time I had got a full grasp of one area, I had met the requirements for the next.

The team at Lilith Games has put a lot of time and effort into their world design. The cutesy fantasy-inspired world of AFK Journey drips with charm and fits perfectly with the characters within it. Swaying fields of corn can be lost in, and thick, spooky woods hide bandits and goblins.

Gacha grind

As with any free-to-play, there is an element of grinding that can always be surpassed by paying a fee. However, during my time with my review copy of AFK Journey, the pressure to pay was hardly there. After about 10 hours of playtime, I had leveled my characters consistently and had very little downtime or grind. I didn’t detect a hint of microtransaction or pay-to-win bloat in its core game design.

How to upgrade fast in AFK Journey
Screenshot: PC Invasion

As I mentioned earlier, there are many AFK moments in which you can simply step away and let the game do its thing in the background. This is the kind of grinding I don’t mind, as it requires no effort on my end. I just get to dip back in as the game gets interesting again.

Is AFK Journey pay-to-win

However, as the late game starts, beyond the storyline, I can imagine that the pressure to pay becomes much greater. The game comes down to a few key elements: building a team and leveling that team up. Yes, AFK Journey is pay-to-win, but you can still enjoy it without paying.

Once you have managed to get the team you want, it’s time to start trying to get copies of them and various other resources. Now, while playing the main storyline, the various quests hand out the resources you need, to an extent. It gives you only what you need to start your deck and then leaves you high and dry after that.

Once the quests are completed, the game reverts back to what many of these Gacha games rely on: PvP and daily challenges that can only be played occasionally. When grinding for the rarer resources, most of which are chance-based, the temptation to simply buy them will certainly be there.

How to upgrade fast in AFK Journey
Screenshot: PC Invasion

Although I never partake in this practice, I appreciate the business model: Give out a game for free, give hours of free playtime, and then ask for a donation at the end. I have paid for many games upfront and only got hours of droll, tedious gameplay. At least with a game like AFK Journey, you can decide whether or not the team has earned whatever money you’re about to pay. In this case, I would say they have.

Is AFK Journey just more mobile trash?

AFK Journey elevates itself above the common riff-raff that you often see in app store games, even if it does share many of their mechanics. During my time with AFK Journey, I became completely sucked in. The first time I turned it on, I didn’t stop playing it for about eight hours. Of course, a lot of these hours were passive, but it kept me locked in for the whole time.

The storyline for me wasn’t enough to get invested. However, the constant dopamine hits of getting new gear and climbing ranks were great. These matched up with cutesy visuals and sound design that never got obnoxious. What kept me locked in was the slow climb to greatness as I built my perfect team and learned how they all worked together. For a game that doesn’t ask you to pay close attention to it, I still found myself glued to it.


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Author
Leo Gillick
Leo is a Freelance Writer for PC Invasion. He has a degree in English Literature and Film Studies and more hours buried into videogames than he cares to admit. He has worked extensively in the Videogame and Travel writing industry but, as they say, get a job doing something you love and you'll never work a day in your life. He uses his writing as a means to support indefinite global travel with the current five year plan seeing him through Latin America.