Faeria has been described as “Hearthstone meets Catan”, which is exactly why it peaked my interest. I now think that’s a misrepresentation. I’d sooner say that it’s “like playing Magic: The Gathering on a big DnD Hex map”, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue as well. To be honest, despite the many aspects it borrows from other games like Hearthstone and Magic, I think Faeria is a unique twist on the genre.
In Faeria, you play as a god battling another god in the middle of the sea. In order to provide space for your creatures to do battle, you spend one move each turn creating hexagonal land. Your creatures are played from your hand of cards, as are events and structures. Certain cards require that you have met a requirement of a certain type of land, and they also must be placed on that type of land. Cards also require that you spend Faeria points in order to play them, which you get 3 of every turn and which carries over into your next turn. Slowly you build your way towards your opponent, build your army, and try to plan for the multitude of different ways they’re going to try and screw up your plans.
In some ways, it’s the best of both worlds between Hearthstone and Magic: The card effects and battling have the simplicity of the former (hooray for choosing who you’re attacking), while the board and movement rules add a layer of complexity that feels akin to the latter. Trying to figure out how to place your next creature so that it’s going to force your opponent into killing it or keep it out of range of enemy creatures can be a fascinating challenge. But there’s also major twists that may frustrate people coming from other card games. Having your opponent build his lands in such a way that your options are limited and the cards in your hand won’t actually impact the board can feel pretty bad, as does running out of Faeria in the late game when you want to be playing bigger cards. There is no curve, and there’s times when you want to not spend your resources.
This slow, thoughtful process of gameplay is reflected very well in the game’s aesthetics. Everything is designed to feel kind of ethereal, the art has dark, subdued colors, idle animations are slow and repetitive, and the music is tranquil (except for the occasional battle crescendo that can feel pretty out-of-place depending on what you’re doing at the time). It’s a very pretty game, you can tell that a lot of work went into the art and creating a world with all the diversity of a spiritual mythology.
The game has several modes. In Solo mode, you’ll find the tutorial, which I felt like was fun and taught you well, although was pretty easy. After that you’ll find a series of adventures you can play against the AI, which will earn you the initial cards and some avatars. After that there’s a rotation of single-player quests, and also Puzzle modes where you’re given a specific situation and told to win the game in one turn. I really enjoyed this idea, even though the puzzles were really easy and I burned through ten of them in ten minutes. Battle Mode is where you play online against other players, either in Ranked or Unranked matches. Pandora Mode is mechanically very much like Arena Mode in Hearthstone, but because of the land mechanic it feels a lot more like a Magic Draft. You have to decide early on which colors you’re going to go for and which you’re going to ignore. Except that in the case of Pandora, every card you pick will go into your deck, so if you end up with the one odd colored card, it may end up being highly situational. I was never very good at Arena mode, and I found myself being even worse at Pandora, never winning a single game.
For Hearthstone players, you’ll find you’ll find collection-building to be familiar. The shop has a lot of different options, depending on your play style. Four $50 you can buy the entire collection of cards – which, compared to other card games, is an amazing deal. If you prefer to go Free-to-Play, you can buy booster packs of 5 cards for 100 in-game gold. Or you can give yourself a head-start by buying the Gold Fountain – 600 instant gold, plus 60 more for 30 days – which costs $5. Essentially that’s 24 booster packs for $5. Combine that with the generous daily quests, and you’ll be opening packs every single day. Decks can only have 3 of any given card in them, so if you get extras beyond that, you can disenchant them into memoria, and use that to craft new cards. Each common card becomes one Memoria – which seemed lame, until I realized that it only takes 5 memoria to craft a common, which is a little better than Hearthstone’s 5/40 split. In fact, all of the crafting numbers are pretty close to Hearthstone’s, just divided by 5.
In the end, I really liked the idea of Faeria, and I found that I could really get into the strategy of it when I was playing it. I think there’s a big audience for it. I found, though, that it was missing captivation. It’s missing drama. The game is all strategy, strategy, strategy, which is really fun for about 30 minutes before the game begins to drag a bit. The lack of curve can make your end games feel less like a climax and more like a slow tilt as you don’t have enough Faeria to stop your opponent’s creatures. (See my loss in the picture above.) Maybe I just didn’t find the right cards, or should have figured out a good way to play a yellow aggro deck instead of a red control deck. But I have a feeling that new, casual players may also feel the lack of desire to fire it back up again that I did.
Faeria is still in Early Access on Steam, and even in the few weeks I’ve played it I’ve seen it change several times. As of this weekend it is Free-to-Play, though, so I encourage you to dive in and try the tutorial if you like strategy games. It’s already got a sizable community on Reddit, and several deck-building websites have popped up.