When developing a digital collectible card game (CCG), one has to wonder how best to infiltrate a genre that’s already full of options. There are the likes of Hearthstone, Legends of Runeterra and Eternal, to name just a small selection. The folks over at Abrakam decided to infuse the CCG aspect with a strategic board game element. As a result, Faeria came into existence and has done rather well for itself for a few years on PC. Will it now be able to successfully transition to Xbox One, or is the fairy-tale over for Faeria?
While there’s undoubtedly some features that ensure Faeria is a different kind of CCG compared to most, the price tag will certainly be an eyebrow-raiser in a field dominated by free-to-play offerings which can be just as enjoyable. Whether it’s worth shelling out the cash is dependent upon what you desire from the experience really.
Faeria is essentially a one-versus-one card game played out atop a living hex board, with said board taking on the mantle of being the battlefield. Players start out possessing hands containing three cards from their decks, before taking turns and drawing cards in succession. There’s also the option to add land to the sea-filled map of hexagons with each turn; either two normal tiles or one of the special types – Forest, Lake, Mountain and Desert – which certain fussy creatures need to enter the battle.
In order to cast a card you must have enough Faeria (mana) and there must be a suitable land tile for their placement on the grid. Once your troops are in-play, the idea is to move them around the board to attack enemy troops, grab extra Faeria from wells to boost that resource, and ultimately deliver damage directly to the opposition. After all, the first person to deplete the health of the opponent’s orb, wins.
Even though the concept seems complex, the extensive tutorial quickly gets you up to speed and further content soon explains the sheer amount of depth there is to the CCG part of proceedings. There’s a ton of variety throughout the different card types, with lots of unique creatures, structures and event cards relating to each kind of special land. Some cards allow ranged attacks, others can fly across tile-less areas, and there are even those which trigger an event in death – like dealing damage or granting additional mana.
It won’t take long to attain a decent selection of starter decks, providing well-rounded set-ups to use until you’re comfortable enough to create your own. To be fair, just replacing a few cards with newly unlocked ones is a great way to mould them to better suit your play style. And it’s really easy to build up a large collection of cards due to how often battle chests are earned through levelling up, with each containing five of them. Better yet, once you’ve acquired three of any specific card, no more duplicates will show up in chests, which means the collection is constantly getting bolstered.
The downside to the gameplay, unfortunately, is in relation to the tactical board game element. That’s mainly because it feels like each battle starts off the same, with tiles being placed to reach the wells swiftly and then you plot a path to the opponent as an afterthought. Sure, you can be aggressive and completely ignore the Faeria, but either way, those initial stages become monotonous. You just want to get casting and traversing an almost grid as soon as possible, which is when the fun factor truly kicks in due to the unpredictability instilled by the quirks of the cards.
In terms of game modes, there are a fair few to choose from and it really excels in ensuring there’s plenty to do before venturing into the crushingly difficult online realm. The Missions within Adventure get progressively trickier, with tough AI opponents and an assortment of great puzzles to solve. These puzzles are scenarios where you must figure out how to win the match in a single turn, which actually does a cracking job of testing your understanding of the mechanics. There’s also a Puzzles mode that eventually unlocks, but when realisation kicks in that these have mostly been accomplished already, it’s disappointing. As a bonus though, there’s some DLC content included which adds a bit of freshness to this mode.
Oversky mode is where most stress-free enjoyment is garnered, and it will quickly win you over. It consists of taking down bosses in a 2v1 situation, using either a bot or a friend as your partner. Sharing the responsibility to strategically outwit the enemy leads to a carefree experience, with the only slight niggle being the inability to choose an AI teammate and decide their style of play. The other co-op option comes via the Dragon’s Lair daily challenges, but it’ll be a long time before you’ll unlock them.
For the more confident players, World Bosses features incredibly tough opposition and intriguing conditions affecting how the match plays out. Obviously, casual and ranked Battles are ideal if you wish to showcase your tactical prowess online. It’ll be hellish should you rush into the online side of proceedings however, with people having curated awesome decks that can help them decimate you in an instant.
Last, but not least, is the draft-like Pandora mode, which encourages the wagering of unopened chests for the chance to earn rewards by accumulating wins. Given that you get to draft the deck from a wide selection of cards you probably don’t own, it’s rather exciting. Until you realise you picked a whole load of cards that don’t gel together very well. It’s still cool though, and it does allow you to face human or computer opponents.
Sadly, Faeria’s visual department will be slightly underwhelming. The UI reminds me of almost every free-to-play CCG I’ve ever played and it’s fairly clunky to navigate too. While the artwork on the cards is pretty nice to look at and gives you something to visualise during battles, it’s hard to connect with the world of Faeria. Sure, there are little bits of lore to uncover through quests, but not enough to draw you in properly.
Faeria on Xbox One tries to stick out in a crowded market by combining card-playing with a living board, and it does a pretty good job at introducing a load of interesting elements. There’s plenty of solo content, a real variety of card types and the co-op mode is a ton of fun. Unfortunately the board game aspect does get a tad boring and it makes each battle start off as a chore. It’s also worrying how much it feels like a free-to-play title, which it most definitely isn’t.
A lot of other CCGs deliver this genre just as well, for free, but Faeria just edges them out by providing so much solo content and infusing a board into play. If you’re likely to spend most of your time offline, then this will be worth the money.