It’s a Faeria game now.

Title: Faeria
Platform: PC (reviewed)
Developer: Abrakam
Publisher: Abrakam
Release Date: March 2017 (Free to Play version), 18 July 2018 (Premium version and Fall of Everlife DLC)
Price: £19/$25
TL;DR: Faeria scraps the free to play model for a fairer – and more fun experience
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

People have become weary of the free-to-play card games. Weary but more importantly, wary. We don’t look at these games and simply think: ‘Oh cool, that’s a nice surprise!’ No, we think ‘How much is this going to actually cost me?’ And there aren’t many genres that are bigger culprits of being the smiling thief than card battlers. But the likes of Insane Robots – and more recently, Abrakam’s Faeria, have demonstrated that these games don’t have to empty our pockets slowly, we’ll happily pay a single price if it means we get a better – and fairer – playing ground. And Faeria delivers on both in spades.

The way the game works is simple in theory, but you’ll quickly be spending a lot of your time sidling up to the tutorial messages or hitting up the forums for ways to actually strategise. The game works on two levels; the first, obviously, are your cards. The cards are broken up into a few different categories, you have the neutral cards that you can pop down anywhere – most of them being simple attack cards. Beyond that, you have cards based on forestry, fire, water, and mountains. The categories don’t affect each other in a rock, paper, scissor style of play, instead, they’re all fairly independent from one another. Where the trick to these cards is using the board tactically to build the terrain you need.

Enter that second level of the game. Because Faeria doesn’t just have you balancing your card deck; as you enter a new game, the board is empty. It’s up to you and your opponent to fill the board with land. This covers all the terrain styles of your cards, with grassy areas being spots for grey cards, and special terrain cards like forests, mountain, and ponds. It works in your favour to get as much of these special terrains on the board, as the majority of your elemental deck will need a certain number of, say, forests on the board before you can use them. It’s a mixture of two strategies that, when you say it out loud (or read it) it seems crazy – absolutely bloody mental – but in reality, it’s a combination that strikes a wonderful balance, leaving you rarely feeling confident that you have a game in the bag simply because you have a strong deck.

The game modes aren’t anything out of the ordinary. The single player “missions” are basically a series of tutorials that’ll have you getting to grips with everything the game offers, though there are a handful of characters that’ll bring a smirk – an orc king whose subjects have to keep reminding him that he isn’t a king comes to mind.

Beyond the single-player, the online modes are where the game looks to stretch you. With an eye on creating a sustained Esports arena, Faeria does offer ranked matches if you take your card battles with a spoonful of seriousness. Don’t expect any punches to be pulled though – I lasted an entire four minutes in a ranked match, with my opponent quickly realising that I didn’t know what I was doing before absolutely ruining me. Don’t worry though, because the casual matches are… well not that casual either, but you won’t be waiting around for longer than a couple of minutes – and a bit of “friendly” competition never hurt anyone.

Now, even though it is a card battle game, the design does need to be mentioned, because it’s bloody lush – and I never use that word. Offering up a fairy tale-esque supply of misty forest borders, cities illuminated by candlelight, and small islands fractured by the playing board, it’s a small bundle of artwork that manages to set a delightful touch of atmosphere in the game.

Whilst so much of the game works in the player’s favour, there’s still a handful of minor features resting in the game that show the murky free-to-play origins that Faeria sprouted from. At the top of this list is the near incessant hounding the game goes through to get your email address. Don’t want to sign up for a Faeria account? That’s cool, but say bye-bye to any progress you’ve made once you finish playing! So, whilst you might not be hounded for money anymore, you’ll probably end up paying in spam emails every now and again.

Faeria’s switch to being a normal game that you just pay money for once is sure to give it a new lease of life. It’s use of two strategy platforms in deck building and how you use land in the game offers up a system that – from my amateur understanding of card battle games, is unlike anything I’ve seen before. Add to this a sizeable community that aren’t dickheads, a hefty single-player that does well to ease you into the game, and the capacity for the game to become a proper eSports platform (if that’s your thing) and Faeria is well worth a shout if you’re looking to jump into a new kind of card game.

The Good:

  • Unique game mechanics that’ll prove a challenge for players of traditional card games
  • Lovely design to the game
  • The introduction of 40 new cards and the promise of more to come means there’s reason for seasoned players to return

The Bad:

  • The need to give over your email address to be able to save your progress is ridiculous

Family Focus

Faeria is rated 12 in the UK and “T” for Teen in the US. To be honest, I think the only thing you need to worry about is your kid understanding how the game works – and it’s not really that complicated on the surface, come on don’t be afraid to let your child fail!

Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the game provided by PR for the purpose of this review.