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Gacha, gacha, gacha pon! Banner rolls and pity pulls

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
Not really? Aside from unlocking their clothing, a furniture item you can have crafted*, and eventually their photo, level-ups are mainly to get some bonus materials...and more valuable level-ups to your player level, which will get you Leaf Tickets and in the early goings more animal friends (Most of 'em are in maps acquired from Gulliver nowadays).

The name of the game here is mostly decorating. Collect cool stuff and show it off in your campsite, cabin, and camper. Keep animal friends you like at the campsite. Take photos and show 'em off to friends if you want.
aw, that's too bad. In one of these games where you're trying to make friends (which would extend to things like dating sims, or even dialogue-heavy RPGs like Mass Effect), I get a lot of fun out of learning people's backstories and such. If there's not anything like that to make the illusion of meaningful interaction, and all any given animal is going to do when I chat with them is mumble advertisements, I don't know that I'm going to sustain any motivation to keep feeding apples to people.
 
Word of warning: this genre can be ... unethical. These games are absolutely purpose-built to prey on people who are "bad with money" or have impulse control struggles, be it from executive dysfunction, tendency to addiction, etc. Approach with caution, and if you've got risk factors, maybe stay away, or work with an accountability partner or the like to cap how much money you spend on it.
Do not want to be too much of a buzzkill but yeah these are bad for people. including me. It's been years since I touched one and I never spent more than i could afford but it was still a stupid amount of money (several hundred dollars) and I know a person who has spent thousands they can't afford. Even if gachapon-like things don't allow someone to spend an infinite amount of money on them, (though they sure normally do) "only" time, I still find them kind of miserable.

They did teach me a valuable lesson for even single player games: you can just delete your save data to stop playing something you don't want to. Even if there are big red warning signs in the UI telling you "wow, this is serious, are you sure? You've spent so much time on this..." It's fine! You can request a ban, too.

If you don't have a problem with these types of games, carry on! If you have a problem, I would say, consider the above. You can do plenty of things on your phone that aren't these if they are making you unhappy. You can read books! (I am not saying reading books is better than gaming; just suggesting one of many finite experiences you can partake of as a replacement)
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
I've had some fun times with gacha games but I definitely try to limit my spending. A buck or two here or a sub there is okay, but it's important to keep in mind that these games really want to reel in the whales and they're all too happy to charge exorbitant prices for frivolous bullshit to do so.

Also don't let your kids play these unless you supervise them and keep credit card info off of the phone they play on. Joe Camel didn't die, he just found a new gig.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
I have spent money on full gacha pulls before, but only if there's a particular bonus or steep discount for doing so. I can't remember if I paid money for any of the alternate costumes in Opera Omnia ... they had some pretty nice ones in that game. What I would love to see is a gacha monetization scheme that only uses a subscription model, but I don't think that's ever going to happen until/unless enough of the world decides to outlaw their current form. And even then, that model might not even be good enough to support these games long-term anyway.
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
What I would love to see is a gacha monetization scheme that only uses a subscription model, but I don't think that's ever going to happen until/unless enough of the world decides to outlaw their current form. And even then, that model might not even be good enough to support these games long-term anyway.
That reminds me of another one I played for a while: Alphabear. Gacha+word-puzzle. It was ad-supported, but for a very reasonable price (I want to say $5ish?) you could buy off the ads and the Stamina mechanic.

You could almost pretend you were buying a game. Until a few chapters in and you hit the "you must be this tall to ride" progression wall where advancing without buying piles of pulls was next to impossible.
 

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
Germany basically just outlawed loot boxes by heavily restricting them for adults and banning them for kids, so I imagine it'll come along in the EU first and elsewhere gradually.
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
No matter what the publishers may say, lootboxes are basically gambling.

Some people might compare 'em to trading cards or capsule machines or whatever as for why they should be okay, but IMO those kinds of things being physical objects you can trade and sell makes all the difference. As opposed to digital Bafomdads with artificially mandated scarcity that will vanish into nothingness when their respective online game is cancelled for whatever reasons.
 

Sarcasmorator

Same as I ever was
(He/him)
Yeah, that's largely why I don't get heavy into these and avoid spending money on them. I can pull a rare card and sell it later, but whatever I spend on a digital loot box goes poof the instant the servers shut down (I never spent a dime on ME3 multiplayer, for example, given EA's love of nuking game servers).
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
Germany basically just outlawed loot boxes by heavily restricting them for adults and banning them for kids, so I imagine it'll come along in the EU first and elsewhere gradually.
This makes me wonder if recent designs starting to deemphasize pulls in favor of stamina recovery and grind acceleration as the main monetization channel are doing so in anticipation of regulatory crackdown.
 

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
Yes and no, microtransactions (at least in the EU) are starting become regulated by various entities as well alongside loot boxes and gacha stuff. Now that gacha gaming's been around for a decade, that's enough time for both marketing approaches to mature and for regulatory entities notice the changing landscape and a lot of people are starting to recognize that surface-level benign monetization can be used to great effect with game design hooks to encourage that spending.

That's my major beef with Arknights; the game is extremely restrictive with stamina, and despite giving the player 30 free practice attempts at a map that limited stamina pool also deeply limits your unit development and power progression.
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
Stamina itself is a pretty crooked practice too. Admittedly it's one I'm less annoyed by 'cuz I can just go play a different game (and I'm usually tired of a game by the time I run it out anyway), but charging cash money to overcome an arbitrary "No you can't play anymore right now" meter still doesn't sit well with me.
 

DFalcon

(he/him)
Personally, in most of these games I find the idea of actually using all the stamina exhausting - Arknights was novel as something I could play close enough to "optimally" without having it take over my entire life.

This is not to say that I think stamina is a great mechanic; the two gachas that immediately come to my mind that mostly aren't stamina-limited, Genshin Impact and Another Eden, would not be better with such a limit. (Yes, both of them have a similar mechanic for some subsets of content.) Just that when the game is encouraging "pointlessly repeat this same battle X times for rewards", I'd usually rather X be smaller.
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
Removed Animal Crossing Pocket Camp, added Romancing SaGa re:Universe. More whaargarbl! I should have counted up how many screens of event announcements and associated freebies I had to tap through before I got to interact with the hub screen, it was a lot. But the art style is a refreshing change, and there's activity-based advancement more like a buy-and-own JRPG. Will probably kick this around for a little while.
 

Paul le Fou

ShrimpCerealTopangaHusbandIsAMeTooMilkshakeDuck
(He)
The onslaught of events is because the game came out in the US more than a year after it did in Japan, but they still started the US version at the beginning...and have been hurrying through calendar events quickly to catch up. I dunno where they are right now, but hopefully they make it and you're back to no more than 2-3 events running at any given time (and the new one arriving overlapping the older one's tail, when you're probably done with it).

One thing about RS is that it has infinite stamina. Like, stamina exists, for some ridiculous reason. But events give you absurd numbers of stamina—often in the thousands—which only last a limited time... except they last like 2-3 months, which will cross over with another event that gives you even more. I have literally never ever not had the means to refill stamina for free.

There are ways to spend jewels on a lot of things, like instantly finishing expeditions, restoring stamina, etc... but absolutely none of them are worth their jewel prices except the gacha pulls. (In a recent update on the JP server the weekly store was updated to include packs of items/resources actually worth the 500 jewels, if you need them, but until that makes it stateside - not a single one.) Save jewels for gacha pulls, and gacha pulls only.

Um, what else. If you're using a certain Style of a character, leveling up their other styles has no effect at at all on the main one, so save your pieces. So like if you have an SS Khalid you're using and also an S and an A Khalid, leveling the S and A do nothing. The only thing you want to do is spark all the alternate styles' techs so you can inherit them on the main style you're using.

When in doubt about styles to use, look at their style abilities; you especially want to prioritize the ones that increase damage, as I've found a good offense with a single healer (or two if you manage to find one that doesn't sacrifice too much damage) is far more important than strong defense or debuffing. A character with multiple damage-increasing abilities is going to lay down some serious hurt (like an older Sara style - I don't know the EN names but she has Damage Up IV and Bow Damage Up III on the same style, and does just crazy amounts of damage). You want to aim for levels IV or V for the base damage-up skills.

Gold puzzle pieces and/or SS style puzzle pieces, to raise a style's level cap, are the scarcest valuable resource, so prioritize getting them if you don't have anything else you're in pressing need of. Money was the second-most-limiting factor to prioritize for most of the game's life (until after a certain relatively recent update when they start showering you with gold; I now have 70 million aurum and growing because I literally cannot spend it faster than they give it to me). Dusts and crystals, to level up skills
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
There are ways to spend jewels on a lot of things, like instantly finishing expeditions, restoring stamina, etc... but absolutely none of them are worth their jewel prices except the gacha pulls. (In a recent update on the JP server the weekly store was updated to include packs of items/resources actually worth the 500 jewels, if you need them, but until that makes it stateside - not a single one.) Save jewels for gacha pulls, and gacha pulls only.
I think in my initial onboarding rush I got like five digits' worth of jewels dumped on my head. Should I just go ahead and pull stuff until my fingers bleed?

Um, what else. If you're using a certain Style of a character, leveling up their other styles has no effect at at all on the main one, so save your pieces. So like if you have an SS Khalid you're using and also an S and an A Khalid, leveling the S and A do nothing. The only thing you want to do is spark all the alternate styles' techs so you can inherit them on the main style you're using.
Calling the characters "styles" was super confusing. It sounds like they all act like distinct characters, except for the skill inheritance thing. And maybe you can't have two styles of the same base character in one party?
 

Paul le Fou

ShrimpCerealTopangaHusbandIsAMeTooMilkshakeDuck
(He)
I think in my initial onboarding rush I got like five digits' worth of jewels dumped on my head. Should I just go ahead and pull stuff until my fingers bleed?


Calling the characters "styles" was super confusing. It sounds like they all act like distinct characters, except for the skill inheritance thing. And maybe you can't have two styles of the same base character in one party?
I would go ahead and pull until you get a base of 5ish SS characters to form a party out of, and feel it out from there as you go. If you have any favorite SaGa characters, go for their SS's when they come up!


For the latter, "characters" and "styles" are two different things in RS. So a character is just that, let's say Princess White Rose from SaGa Frontier. They have their base stats (str agi dex int etc). Then, each character can have multiple "Styles." Styles don't have stats, they have stat multipliers. So you might get a style that has a higher intellect multiplier and attack-focused abilities, or you might get one with a higher Love multiplier and healing-focused abilities/skills. Or a third style with a mixture. Different styles also have different stat-growth priorities so one Gustave style might increase STR a lot and DEX a little, while the other might increase CON a lot and SPD a little, so if your Gustave is slow you can switch styles to level-grind and build his speed up, potentially.*

Each style has 3 skills, so like the healing-ability one might have a healing spell and two attacks, and the attack one might have three attack spells, including a really powerful one. But you have a fourth slot where a style can "inherit" a skill from any of that character's other styles. So the powerful attacker White Rose can inherit a healing spell and be useful as a healer, or you can inherit the powerful attack to the healing White Rose so she punches a bit harder.

That's a dramatic example. A more common one might be a a character like Neidhart with a really tanky style and then another much more attack-focused one. Or a Blue that has more single-target spells and another Blue that has more multi-target spells. Or a T260G that's slightly weaker than the other one you have but has an amazing counterattack ability. You can also inherit skills like that to fill in gaps in a character's arsenal that way (weak AoE, medium AoE, very strong single-target? Inherit a weak-med. single-target spell so you're ready for anything! or whatever.)



Raising a character's base stats is probably the single most important thing you can do to make their styles stronger (and to give any new styles you get and level from the ground up a stronger baseline.) Leveling the style up (then lifting the level cap and leveling them up more) and raising the skill levels of their skills are style-specific ways to beef that particular style up for battle.

And you're correct, you generally can't have 2 styles of the same character active at the same time (i.e. in a single battle party, training for pieces, on an expedition, etc.)
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
I would go ahead and pull until you get a base of 5ish SS characters to form a party out of, and feel it out from there as you go. If you have any favorite SaGa characters, go for their SS's when they come up!
I get the impression that anything under SS isn't really useful for fielding in story or challenge content, and if it has any use at all it's for finding skills to inherit into a SS style. At least SS pulls seem to be fairly plentiful in general, though you're likely to be pinched trying to pull a specific one or duplicate one.

As for SaGa, I very briefly played SaGa Frontier back in the day but found it inscrutable, haha. I guess if the iconic robot--so iconic I don't remember its name--comes up, I'd smile if I had it in my crew!
Raising a character's base stats is probably the single most important thing you can do to make their styles stronger (and to give any new styles you get and level from the ground up a stronger baseline.) Leveling the style up (then lifting the level cap and leveling them up more) and raising the skill levels of their skills are style-specific ways to beef that particular style up for battle.
glurb. So when I get attribute bumps from a fight, is that pegged to the character, or the style?

Is there any reason not to spend Style XP to level up a style, if I have enough?

Is there any way to tell how difficult a stage is, other than throwing my party against it and seeing if we scrub out or not? I've noticed the game gives a sort of power rating to the party, but I haven't been able to tell how to eyeball what that means vs. the coming opposition.
 

Destil

DestilG
(he/him)
Staff member
Final FFRK multiplayer event is live and pretty fun, if all the multiplayer had been this good I’d be more sad it’s going away,
 

Paul le Fou

ShrimpCerealTopangaHusbandIsAMeTooMilkshakeDuck
(He)
I get the impression that anything under SS isn't really useful for fielding in story or challenge content, and if it has any use at all it's for finding skills to inherit into a SS style. At least SS pulls seem to be fairly plentiful in general, though you're likely to be pinched trying to pull a specific one or duplicate one.
S styles will do the trick when you're starting out, but in the long-run it's all about the SS.
As for SaGa, I very briefly played SaGa Frontier back in the day but found it inscrutable, haha. I guess if the iconic robot--so iconic I don't remember its name--comes up, I'd smile if I had it in my crew!
Honestly that was me when I started playing too, so Blue and T260G were in my party for a good long time.
glurb. So when I get attribute bumps from a fight, is that pegged to the character, or the style?
Character! Which is good, because it's a base shared between styles, which is multiplied by the style's multipliers.
Is there any reason not to spend Style XP to level up a style, if I have enough?
Nope! Level away!
Is there any way to tell how difficult a stage is, other than throwing my party against it and seeing if we scrub out or not? I've noticed the game gives a sort of power rating to the party, but I haven't been able to tell how to eyeball what that means vs. the coming opposition.
Not really, unfortunately. Higher number stage = harder, plus the difficulty levels.

Oh, when you start unlocking Hard stages and Very Hard, don't sleep on trying them out. Each difficulty has much better rewards than the lower one, and getting some of those weapons or materials from a harder difficulty can really help boost your output and make you some progress. I don't remember exactly how the flow goes, but I do remember that when I got around to doing Hard and Very Hard stages, I wished I hadn't waited as long as I did. Feel them out, do what you can when you can.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
Getting stronger weapons in that game and upgrading them makes a HUGE difference early on.
 

aturtledoesbite

earthquake ace
(any/all)
granblue is having its 7th anniversary right now, a day so important even mario himself is named after it, so it's a great time to take the plunge if anyone is interested

it is not a game for the faint of grind, but i also find it incredibly fun even now, having started a little before the 5th anniversary
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
Character! Which is good, because it's a base shared between styles, which is multiplied by the style's multipliers.
OK OK. And I found where I can look at my character stats independent of the style, so that helps clarify things. What about weapon mastery levels? Character? Style? Global?

After a few pulls today I have a ten-S party (though some were starter freebies so I can't imagine they're top tier):
[I Must Pass This On] Gerard
[May My Prayers Reach You] Sophia
[Selfish Merc] Hector
[Best of the Best!] Sif
[I Won't Let You Interfere] Gray

I have a couple of lower-rank Sifs, but no idea yet what would be good to inherit from them. The others are all single-style characters so far.

There's a handful of widgets in my inventory that say they "can be exchanged for items," but I haven't yet found where to make such an exchange. Medals given for pulling a few styles from one of the seasonal banners, for example. Maybe not unlocked yet?

You've said both that SS pieces are precious, and that the shop isn't worth buying from. But if SS pieces for one of my styles show up in the shop, would that be worth springing for? I think there's some Hector bits in there right now.

granblue is having its 7th anniversary right now, a day so important even mario himself is named after it, so it's a great time to take the plunge if anyone is interested
Oh man. I probably can't sustain more than two of these games (and honestly more than one is a stretch), but I may take a peek just to see the feel of it. Seven years is pretty impressive!
 

Paul le Fou

ShrimpCerealTopangaHusbandIsAMeTooMilkshakeDuck
(He)
OK OK. And I found where I can look at my character stats independent of the style, so that helps clarify things. What about weapon mastery levels? Character? Style? Global?
Global, only relating to your player, based on how many styles of that weapon type you level up and how far. Gives a (tiny) flat bonus to damage and further (tiny) bonus to Overdrive damage based on level. Relatedly, 42 is the magic style level number I level all my junk styles to when I can because that's the last style level that grants a weapon mastery point. It's also the first level where the pieces per level curve really starts to take off and get expensive. The only general benefit for leveling a style that you don't or won't use past 42 is getting 50 jewels as a mission reward when you hit 50 with them.
There's a handful of widgets in my inventory that say they "can be exchanged for items," but I haven't yet found where to make such an exchange. Medals given for pulling a few styles from one of the seasonal banners, for example. Maybe not unlocked yet?
If you go to the far-right spot in the bottom-bar menu, I think it's called Shop, there should be a tab called the Exchange. That's where banner medals, various event-related knick-knacks and thingamajiggers and all sorts of currency/reward items can be traded.
You've said both that SS pieces are precious, and that the shop isn't worth buying from. But if SS pieces for one of my styles show up in the shop, would that be worth springing for? I think there's some Hector bits in there right now.
iirc the price in jewels per piece is reeeeeally high - but if you need pieces and have jewels to spare, you can weigh your own needs. Iirc it's 20 pieces which is worth 2-3 levels past the 30 cap? Which isn't terrible at this point, if you have the experience to then actually gain those levels. I wouldn't, personally, but I don't remember when you unlock the training option at the bottom of the dojo page.

Speaking of styles and characters, I remembered something else - Style EXP is actually character-based. So if you have a character with a lot of EXP, and you get a new style for them, you can dump that EXP into their new style right away.
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
Speaking of styles and characters, I remembered something else - Style EXP is actually character-based. So if you have a character with a lot of EXP, and you get a new style for them, you can dump that EXP into their new style right away.
ahh, that explains why you have to take the extra step of going to the Dojo and spending the style EXP into a specific style. And gives a possible answer to my earlier "why would you ever not spend the EXP", if you could theoretically level up one style but would rather save up to level another whose per-level bump is more expensive.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
The style pieces on their own aren't really worth spending jewels on because of how many you actually need: it takes 600 pieces to take a style from 30 to 50. Once you unlock the Training Dummies in the Dojo, you can get passive style pieces from just letting the game idle, and for that feature it's absolutely worth spending the jewels to unlock all the training dummies.
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
I've been promising an effort post about Arknights. Here goes!

Arknights is gachapon + tower defense. Your pull-able game pieces are characters, called Operators, whom you deploy to a coordinate grid to defend your base against waves of enemies. Each has a role, like Sniper or Medic, that describes their main use case, and they vary across several stats and have unique skills to activate. I don't want to say it's inherently more complex than a more typical JRPG gacha--high-level play in those can get quite cerebral--but at least the possibility space in early- to mid-game is more varied. What Operators do I bring for this mission? Where do I put them? When, in what order? Which direction do I aim them? Subtle differences in decision-making can make or break a level.

Star ratings: 1* to 6*. As others have pointed out, pulls aren't the primary pinch, here. Three- and four-star operators are sufficient for a large chunk of the game, during which you have plenty of opportunities to find 5- and 6-star units (you're guaranteed to get a 5+ in your first ten pulls from each banner, which is doable free-to-play). If you desperately want one specific Operator, you're in trouble, but you can clear most content working with whatever you find. The one- to- three-star units even have niche uses late in the game, given their very cheap deploy costs and their particular skills.

Stamina: Yuuup. It's called "Sanity" here, and it's notoriously stingy. Sanity recovery potions are few and far between, it's a long time between level-ups to expand your meter, and a single operation might cost you between a quarter and a third of your gauge, especially if it's got valuable drops. They're absolutely trying to get you to spend the premium currency "Originium" to reload...

Widget-based advancement: oh god, definitely. To develop an Operator to their fullest, you need LMD ("Lungmen Dollars", the plentiful gold-like currency), Battle Records, and a variety of weird materials like Polyester, Manganese Ore, Sugar... You're going to be strapped for all of them, at various points in a character's career. They can all be farmed, slooooowly, or you can get a stack of LMD and Battle Records with a weekly $10 "growth pack". The materials' monetization is more sneaky--you can't usually buy them straight up. Either you buy Originium to do extended farming, or you buy pulls. The credits you get for pulling duplicate Operators can be exchanged for many of the more annoying-to-acquire mats.

First hit free: Sure. Early stages go quickly, each one giving a dribble of Originium if you play half-decently; Sanity level-ups come every few operations; pulls from the newbie banner are generous. All these flows taper off after a few chapters.

Limited-time events: Arknights' events seem to be fewer and more involved vs. other gachas. There's typically only two banners active at any given time, and at most one big event with its own playable levels, currencies, rewards, and game modes. Lorehounds can find some of the juiciest story development in event plotlines, and each introduces new Operators and cosmetic skins.

Horniness: It's there, but a lot more mellow than e.g. Azur Lane. The character designers have a thing for bare thighs, but most of your base skins look more badass than sexualized. It's a mix of realistic street wear, tactical combat gear, and a modern or futuristic twist on fantasy spellcaster robes and cloaks. Premium skins are much more likely to be cheesecakey, but even there it's swimwear and the like, with exaggerated suggestive poses being more the exception than the rule.

Interior decoration: yup! You have four Dormitories in your base, which you can deck out in all manner of furniture and paraphrenalia. Even if you don't care about the look of the thing, you're encouraged to at least collect furniture and cram it in there, as the dorms' "Ambience" stat pays out in various ways across otherwise-unrelated game mechanics.

Whaargarbl UI: ...no! I find the UI really cleanly designed, and it's not all dropped on your head right at install. With relatively few active banners and events, you're seldom tapping through more than one intervening screen to get where you need to go.

Overall I've been impressed with this one. The monetization choke points are obnoxious, as is always the case for the genre. The gameplay, though, is some of the most engaging I've seen; the characters have a ton of personality; getting somebody promoted to the top tier, "Elite 2", feels reallly good.

For those who also play, my current standard squad:

Casters: Ceobe, Gitano (E2, S2M3 -- I later read that most 4* Operators aren't worth maxing out, but too late now! Still, she's holding her own as far as I've gotten)
Defenders: Saria (E2), Cuora
Guard: Lappland (E2)
Medics: Ptilopsis (E2, S2M1), Shining
Snipers: Exusiai (E2), Meteorite
Vanguards: Texas, Siege
Supporter: Istina

Istina, Gitano, and Meteorite are the most common swap-outs if I need something different in a given mission, in roughly that order of frequency. I'm getting close to E2 for Ceobe; Cuora's probably next up.
 

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
The main menu is actually lenticular; it will shift around as you tilt your device (if using a phone or tablet).

There are plenty of guides of people clearing the hardest endgame content outside 18+ risk contingency contract runs with 3 and 4-star units, and they are getting better about stamina free play modes like CC and the latest temporary 'Fungimist' roguelike mode so there is reason to play even if you're bingo on sanity/stamina. More than any other gacha, it feels like AK would've been just fine released as a paid game on the app store with periodic purchases of main story chapters and the events assuming they took the sanity system out. Really good soundtrack too, for those who care about phone game music.

There are no real wrong answers with squad building; 1-3 stars are basically given to you free at the start of the game, and the average free player will assemble most of the 4 star units pretty quick just from using the FTP available pulls and recruits. Yeah, a lot of the 4 star units are pretty badly powercrept by their 5 and 6 star counterparts for little extra deployment cost but that doesn't make them worthless either. That said, you really do want to build a few particular Specialist archetypes pretty fast once you have your general core crew together; A Push unit, a Pull unit, and a quick redeployer form the basic core of exploiting stuff like death pits and delaying beefier units (or handling one-off challenges you don't want to put a regular unit on) and are absolutely essential for the more challenging maps. There are very few limited gacha units, though each of the major events have free 5 stars you get by participating in it. I honestly prefer running 5 stars most of the time outside the few really overpowered 6 stars in the game; running a cadillac squad is generally effective but also wildly unneccesary for everything except high risk CC map attempts and the high deployment costs can make timing really tricky on some maps.

I honestly don't spend much on the game; I buy the monthly card thingy because I do dump a few dozen hours a month into it or so and I generally avoid the temptation to buy currency for pulls or skins.

Typical squad comps for me generally look like:

Caster: Eyjafjalla [S2 or 3 depending on map--build her if you pull her, she is easily one of the best units in the game], Skyfire [S2] or Ceobe [S2] if I don't need aoe
Defender: Liskarm [S1] (I have several of each Defender archetype built, but most maps don't really need Defenders so I rarely bother)
Guard: Lappland [S2], Silverash [S2 or 3 depending on map], Blaze [S2M3], Utage [S1 or 2 depending on how I use her]
Medics: Ptilopsis [S2], Perfumer [S2], plus any of the single-target healers that fit the role (passive regen is amazing)
Sniper: Exu [S3], Platinum [S2M3], Blue Poison [S1], Meteorite [S1], Ambriel [S2]
Vanguard: Texas, Siege, Zima, Bagpipe, Myrtle [S1M3] -- do not sleep on Myrtle or flag-type vanguards if you want lots of DP very quickly
Supporter: Angelina, Pramanix -- I don't use Supporters much unless I need reliable slows OR on-demand Fragile for bulky defense units
Specialist: Cliffheart [Pull], FEater [Push], Shadow or Projekt Red [Fast Redeploy], Ethan or Manticore [melee AOE debuff/stun/bind]
 
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