A curios mix of gambling and swords-and-sorcery, Faif is a simple, yet compelling game that basically asks you to play the odds on order to beat your opponent.
On first glance it would be easy to mistake it for a match-three game, but that wouldn’t be accurate. Each round consists of a grid made up of various tiles – Skulls, Swords, Hearts and Gems, and on your turn, you need to select 5 consecutive tiles. The game then randomly selects one of the tiles from your selection and applies the effects – hearts give you health, skulls will damage you, while swords will damage your opponent for the same value as there were skulls in your selection. Gems, meanwhile, can be used as currency in order to purchase a number of spells. Some of these spell effects are persistent for the remainder of your game – such as causing an additional one damage each time you hit an opponent – while others are one-time use actions that, when triggered, will either damage your opponent, heal you, or reduce you both down to half of your health.
All of this turns the game into an exercise of playing the odds. Do you select four swords and a skull, all but guaranteeing your chance to strike for a single damage point? Or do you take a risk and select 4 skulls and a single sword hoping for a mighty blow? Do you spend the gems you’ve accrued on healing yourself for three points, or on damaging your opponent for two?
Opponents are all computer-controlled, their names chosen at random, and successive opponents have greater health, and every five rounds you’ll need to beat a boss match – effectively, two opponents at once. There’s no limit to the amount of matches you can undertake; games simply continue until you lose a match.
Lose, and you lose everything – all of your accrued currency disappears, and it’s back to square one. However, after each match – or fulfilling certain special challenges – you’re awarded with silicon. For every 100 silicon you gain, you start each match with an additional gem. In theory, play the game for long enough and you can start each game able to afford a number of spells from the start, but it will take a while before you reach that point; spells are relatively expensive, so there’s an amount of time investment required before you’ll be able to cast them on a regular basis.
The random nature of the game feels almost as though you’re playing a game of roulette. While this certainly makes for an addictive game, the lack of permanence in any of the upgrades you buy during each game makes it feel as though you’re repeatedly being sent back to square one, which can be frustrating. In addition, some of the matches can go on a little longer than feels comfortable, with opponents frequently healing themselves as you damage them, resulting in a drawn-out stalemate that can take several minutes to fix.
Visually, as you’d expect of a game of this type, things are kept pretty simple. While there’s only minimal animations and a single tileset, it’s easy on the eye without being extravagant. The music is also pretty nice, though it does get repetitive and before long you’ll find yourself tapping the Mute button.
Sadly, there’s no online or local multiplayer. A game like this would benefit from being able to curse your friends’ victories or gloat at their defeat, so if Beavl decide to update the game, it’s a feature they should definitely consider. Faif does come with a ranking system though, determined by how many opponents in a row you’ve managed to beat; and of course there’s leaderboard support so you can see how you stack up against others. There’s also plenty of achievements to keep you occupied.
Developed by Beavl for a Game Jam (similarly to their previous title, Junction Action Arcade), the game’s origins shine through; it’s not something that will have you going back to it for more than a couple of days, but it’s entertaining enough while it lasts. Perhaps if the developer decides to make a sequel or releases content updates, they can iterate on what they already have and come up with something truly special.
It’s easy to like Faif, but it’s also easy to feel frustrated at the length of some rounds or the lack of meaningful player progression. Perhaps if there had been random loot awarded after each match, things would stay more interesting for longer; and the lack of multiplayer certainly hurts its long-term appeal. As it is, it’s a pleasant diversion in need of a bit more work before it can become something truly special.