Review: Faeria16 Mar 2017 9
Released 08 Mar 2017
Faeria by ABRAKAM Entertainment recently completed its beta run and officially released on Steam and iPad. I've spent a good chuck of time playing since the game launched, but this isn't a proper review. I could certainly give you my take on gameplay, controls, and the game itself but Faeria is free-to-play and you can download it and pretty quickly get the gist for yourself. My purpose here is to try to help you decide if it is worth dedicating some serious time to grind, or money, to the game by highlighting two things. First, what makes Faeria different from the crowded CCG market that would make you choose to play it. Second, what will it take in terms of time or money to get to build a fairly competitive card collection.
Faeria is a pretty standard collectible-card game in a lot of ways. Cards have a cost to cast. Creatures have health and damage stats as well as special abilities. Combat is pretty straightforward—no Magic-style instants or combat tricks—it works about the same as any Hearthstone veteran would expect.
Where Faeria differs from other CCGs is in its battlefield, called the Living Board. The Living Board is a hexagonally shaped game board composed of hex-shaped tiles. The game starts out with you facing down your opponent—each of you avatars of a god within an orb—directly across the board. Each orb has twenty life and your goal is to destroy your opponent's orb before they destroy you.
To do this, you must sculpt a path from your side to theirs by playing lands. Each turn you can play two plains, basic builder lands, or one special land—a lake, forest, mountain, or desert. These special lands tie to the four different colors of Faeria: blue, green, red, and yellow respectively. How you manipulate the Living Board depends on your deck and overall strategy, what you perceive to be your opponent's deck and strategy, and how each turn plays out.
Cards are played using Faeria (the game's mana). You start with three Faeria and gain three at the start of every turn. You can gain additional Faeria from one of the four wells on the game board by having a creature either start or move adjacent to one on your turn. Battling for access to these wells is a key activity on the Living Board and unless you're playing a rush deck chances are you'll prioritize securing them over the plains-to-the-face strategy. Certain spells require you to have one or more special lands in order to cast. A creature may require 4 Faeria to cast but you need one mountain to cast it. Creatures with such a restriction must also be played on a land of that type.
Sculpting the gameboard is just as important in Faeria as building a strong deck and deciding what to play and when. You can own an awesome creature. You can put that awesome creature in your deck, draw it during a game, and cast it. If you haven't created an advantageous game board, however, it might not matter. Conversely, if you control some hexagonal real estate adjacent to your opponent's orb nearly any creature can be awesome and game-ending. Land placement is super strategic and feels a bit like Chess with the variety of opening moves and responses and what you can tell from each.
Getting your hands on new and exciting cards is the name of any collectible-card game and Faeria is no different. If you have any interest in being competitive in ladder play the basic cards just aren't going to cut it. You'll want to build more powerful and effective decks, which means better cards. The higher you climb the more cards you'll need, especially if you want to be able to field multiple decks to adjust to the metagame.
So let's talk about the game's boosters, known as chests. A Battle Chest contains five cards, at least one of which is guaranteed to be a rare and sometimes, if you're lucky, an epic or legendary card. A Battle Chest costs 1,000 gold or 250 gems. A cool feature when cracking chests in Faeria is the ability to reroll one of the highest rarity cards in the chest. If you have two rares, for example, you can reroll one. This is a great opportunity to opt out of the cards you are less interested in and avoid getting a card you're already maxed out on. If you tap on the card on your iPad it'll tell you how many are already in your collection and on Steam that information is already displayed.
Getting free chests is pretty easy early on but slows down as you move out of newbie territory. You can earn chests in the tutorial and by playing through the solo content, of which there is quite a bit. There are solo objectives that reward chests, gold, and other goodies for doing things like completing 10 missions or puzzles or playing 15 green cards. You gain XP as you play as well and get free cards, chests, gold, and so on as you level up. Faeria also features daily quests that reward gold and work like Hearthstone quests. Each day you receive a new quest, which tend to be worth 400 gold, and you can have up to three at a time. You have the option to re-roll one of your quests once a day for a different one, although unfortunately you can't re-roll tutorial and certain other quests. To top it off, there's a daily reward that grants between 40 and 600 gold and also provides chests.
There's also a Mythic Chest that contains four "mythic items." There are mythic cards, which are fancy cards akin to foils in Magic: The Gathering and golden cards in Hearthstone. There are also cosmetic items like card backs, avatars, and different wells.
Grind Versus Buy
The age-old question in CCGs is whether it is possible to grind out new cards through the free-to-play mechanics or a player must pay to win. The answer in Faeria is that you can, but it comes down to your level of patience. You can absolutely earn chests grinding out objectives and daily quests along with the daily award and competitive play. My guess is I earned somewhere around 20-25 packs from the fast-and-furious first few days of the tutorial, solo play, objectives, rewards for leveling, quests, and other stuff.
Those one-hundred or so cards helped, but certainly didn't set me up for competitive success. I built some decks that were somewhat better than the starter decks the game provides, but still not particularly good. They were fine for most casual-play games against other new players but if I ran into anybody with a better collection I could really feel the disadvantage. Furthermore, I struggled in some of the solo games against AI opponents with straight up better cards and found trying to climb the competitive ladder to be somewhat frustrating.
If you're willing to take some lumps and accept some losses due to lack of firepower you can eventually amass a sufficient collection to compete. The good thing is that at this point the card pool is relatively small. The crafting system is also solid and seems cheaper to me to disenchant and create new cards than in Hearthstone. Mythic cards, the fancy ones, cost more to craft but also give you more when disenchanting. You get a bit more to disenchant a mythic than it costs to create a standard one of the same card so if you don't care about digital bling, that's the way to go. Over time one could start to amass playsets of the stronger commons and rares with several epics and a legend or two and build a competitive deck. If you're willing to be aggressive and limit yourself to one deck or specific colors you could disenchant everything else for crafting purposes—not something I'd generally recommend because it hamstrings later efforts to build multiple decks—you can get there much faster.
Buying gems is the alternative to grinding, and 250 of them—enough to buy a pack—will set you back $1. The more you spend the more you get, of course. I wanted to expedite the process and see what it took to be reasonably competitive. As such I added 7,500 gems, enough to crack open thirty chests.
I also continued grinding out what I could. At somewhere between 60 and 70 chests opened I could feel a big difference. With some strategic crafting I was able to assemble playsets of strong rares and some very powerful epic cards, primarily in red. I put a Red Midrange deck together and kicked the tires in some solo play and easily took apart AI opponents that had given me a little trouble before. My result was similarly improved in casual play.
Climbing the competitive ladder is, of course, a different story entirely. My modest 60-70 chest deck was sufficient to make a good run and I climbed a few rungs without too much trouble. It seems like you can make about any effective deck work at the bottom of the ladder. One of the reasons for this is the Living Board. If you win the battle for control of the board, and back it up with solid tactical play, you can make up for quite a deficit in card quality, within limits of course.
With some modifications, and a few more freebie chests, I was able to build solid Red Rush and Red (board) Control decks to have a bit more variety of options in terms of playstyle, if not color. At some point I expect to be at the mercy of the meta. Are red decks good up there? Maybe, maybe not. If not I'll need more viable decks with which to play, which means more cards. As with other CCGs, any serious run up the ladder will require a big enough card collection to fine-tune and adjust a deck and also audible to an entirely different archetype if needed. I spoke with several of the game's veterans and they suggested you could get all of the competitively playable cards without paying a dime in 1-2 months, depending on how much time you're willing to put into it. What's playable will shift, of course, but once you've got a base collection it is much easier to keep up with the Jones'.
Faeria is new enough that 60 to 70 chests will get you enough cards to build a viable deck. It could be less depending on how lucky you are, what kind of deck you want to play, and how aggressively you disenchant cards you aren't using to craft the ones you need. You can definitely grind out that many packs, and rewards come fast enough early that you'll have 25 or so chests in short order with another couple a day for a few more days before diminishing to a single chest every day or two depending on how much you play, how often you rank up on the ladder, and how successful you are playing Pandora (Faeria's version of draft and worthy of an entirely different article or three).
Grinding out chests ultimately comes down to your level of patience and frustration playing with suboptimal cards for several weeks. The alternative would be to fork over money for gems. You could drop $20 for 30 packs worth of gems, or $40 for 65 packs worth, which would put you right in the hunt.
Faeria offers a considerably different CCG experience than Hearthstone and other options in the market. The Living Board adds another axis on which to compete, one that I find very compelling. It feels possible to play for free and if you're willing to be patient and grind you can build up a sufficient collection. I definitely recommend CCG players download and play Faeria, especially if you're tired or otherwise uninterested in Hearthstone, or are looking for something with extra strategic and tactical depth.
Editor's Note: While this is an official review, the decision was made not to assign the game a score. For anyone needing an instant summary though, this is a high-bracket game and gets our buying recommendation. Please see the first comment for further notes regarding the game's technical state.
Disclosure: Please see the disclaimer at the bottom of this post for additional important information.