Faeria is an interesting hybrid of tactics and collectible card game that bucks many of the trends we’ve seen out of other, similar titles. Having released a few years ago on PC to very positive reviews on Steam, Faeria brings its unique blend of gameplay mechanics to consoles with very positive results
I got into collectible card gaming a couple of decades and change ago with Magic: The Gathering, but also branched out into numerous other ones such as Legend of the Five Rings, Marvel Overpower and several others. I had a lot of fun and made some good friends through doing so – but anyone who has played these types of games heavily also knows it is a potentially expensive hobby. Somewhere along the way, several video game developers took note of the consumer spending habits and began to offer up the digital equivalents.
There were benefits to this of course – readily available virtual packs and plenty of online competition. I have enjoyed but also found it difficult to stay invested in most of these games though. There is just something off to the money-grubbing nature of digital cards versus real ones, and many of these online collectible card games start off being very accessible and enjoyable, but often hit a point too early in where you need to either start spending quite a bit of money or grinding obnoxiously long hours to get continued, satisfying progress as the single-player content dried up and forced players to commit their time and money to competitive online multiplayer.
So, when I saw Faeria claiming that you don’t need to buy card packs, and offering a robust community but also hundreds of hours of solo content? I was more than a little intrigued. Even better? I would say that based on my time so far, the statement appears to be true. Certainly you have to spend time playing – and sinking dozens of hours into a game like this is not unheard of. However, after dozens of hours (and not the often hundreds required by many other games to field a complete or competitive deck), I was still enjoying my experience without the usual pay-creep that tends to work its way into the genre.
Much of this is likely due to the numerous opportunities to acquire crystals (used mainly for cosmetics such as avatars or card backings) or chests (which give you five random cards) abound. There are daily quests, solo missions, objectives (such as casting ten blue cards or completing a set number of puzzles) that were entertaining and relatively easily attainable. The first day I played, I must have unlocked over a dozen chests, and in a good afternoon or evening of play? That is not uncommon. There are other mechanics as well, such as forging cards, that allow you to round out collections and build new decks.
If there is a potential concern, it is one of how robust the community will be. One of the primary advantages of the free-to-play / pay-to-improve model is it invites more players into the fold. By having this be a purchased game, that might make it slower to gain community adoption. Perhaps the ones that are here will be more invested because they have already paid and don’t need to worry about the pay-to-win disparity that can occur.
In terms of the mode offerings, there are plenty of solo objectives in the forms of missions and puzzles that reward experience and new cards. There are also player vs player options (ranked and unranked) All of this offers a nice sense of progression and variety – but none of this would matter if the core game was lacking. Thankfully Faeria delivers on that front as well.
Neither of the two primary aspects of gameplay are all that revolutionary, but how they are woven together helps to make Faeria such a unique experience. You draw cards into your hand, and you have magic points that you gain each turn that are used to pay for these cards. This resource / play card mechanic is the foundation for just about every card game out there, and it provides the core gameplay here as well. The variation comes from the hex-styled board that should immediately look familiar to fans of tactics games. The general layout is a honeycomb looking pattern with two opponents facing off at the northerner and southern ends. These gods start with twenty life and summon the cards in their hands to deal direct damage to one another, or summon creatures to the battlefield. There are also four wells in the corners of the board, and having one of your units next to a well allows you to draw an extra point of magic to use in casting your cards.
Simply casting the cards and having the creatures combat one another (with the typical attack / life points assigned to them to help dictate how the combat resolves) is interesting and strategic enough, but Faeria adds an element of board creation / manipulation as well. You can put down up to two ‘regular’ tiles as long as that spot is a) open and b) next to your god / one of your creatures.
However, there is one last element to the cards that needs consideration, and that is ‘type’. There are four colors – red, yellow, blue and green. These cards tend to be slightly more powerful than the ‘colorless’ types that can summoned simply by having enough magic points. If the cost is 3, and you have 3 magic, you can summon those. But these colored cards require tiles of a specific color to be on the board. So the cost to a blue card may be 3 magic points – but also ownership over 2 blue / water land tiles. Unlike the regular / uncolored ones you can dole out two at a time, these colored ones can only be placed one at a time. This sets up an interesting power balance, as having more tiles makes it far easier to move your creatures around the board (you can walk on an opponent’s created tile – but you can only summon a create to one of your created tiles).
This creates a sort of internal debate: do you lay down tiles directly towards your opponent’s base and try to get as many of your creatures over there as possible? Just put down two of the uncolored ones and try to beeline over there? You can likely get some quick, cheap cards out and make that sort of push, but you won’t have the terrain tiles like forests that stronger, green creatures need in order to be summoned. Also, if you go straight for your opponent, you won’t be branching out towards those magic wells in the corners, which means you have less magic per turn, which could keep you from casting more powerful cards or multiple cards at a time later in the game.
All of these elements come together to put more of an emphasis on strategy than the typical collectible card game, which tends to rely very heavily on the luck of the draw. Of course careful deck construction is still key and you quite literally have to play your cards right, but when playing Faeria I felt as though I had more control over the outcome and very seldom looked at my opening hand and thought: well, I’ve lost already.
I never played Faeria on PC, but I suspect the interface was tuned for the clink and point of mouse controls over using an actual game controller. There are times I found moving around unit-to-unit or selecting cards to be a bit clunky. Additionally, I would like a way to limit the lands available to be put down. Yellow cards have a tendency to look just reddish enough to me that there were times I clicked the red land tile instead of the yellow. If my deck contains no blue or green or yellow cards – why are there land options for those types? Maybe some sort of smart filtering could be applied where it looks at your deck and sees if you have cards eligible for the land types. It’s a minor quibble, and it’s fully user error on my part – but all the same, I have had matches where I accidentally clicked down the wrong land type and just surrounded to start over because it is a pretty major strategy misstep when it occurs.