[Review] Farabel – Nintendo Switch

Written by Akio Kahoshi
  • Developer:  Frogames 
  • Publisher: Drageus Games
  • Release date: 20/12/2019
  • Price: £8.99 / $9.99
  • Review code provided by Drageus Games

YE OLDE TIME TRAVELERS

Farabel is a turn-based strategy game played on a hexagonal board with a unique premise. You begin at the end of the game, and with each level you beat, you move back in time to the previous level until eventually, you reach the start. Time travel also plays a part in the combat, with King Cendor having the ability to return one allied unit back to their state at the beginning of the turn. This ability also heals and buffs the unit, allowing for different strategies depending on which unit you use it on.

However, time travel also works against you as each time you go back into the past, Cendor loses a level. Cendor is the primary unit for the campaign, your most powerful combatant, and his death means a game over. That is one of the oddities of Farabel, as the missions get harder your best unit slowly gets weaker. A nice aspect though is that you can freely choose where his remaining skill points are allocated, giving the ability to try different builds if a specific mission is proving difficult.

This feature is probably what feels most out of place though while playing through the story. Games have thought us that as we progress through games our characters should grow stronger, not weaker. Protecting your king becomes more important the further you go, as he can quickly be overwhelmed. While I do not want to see all new games mimicking this, the backward progression of the campaign certainly sets Farabel apart from other similar games.

AND THEN THE ORCS ATTACKED

The campaign story is about the Kingdom of Farabel winning a war against an enemy made up of monsters like orcs and goblins, though at the start of the game we do not know what. One drawback of the time-traveling premise is that the game cannot tell us a coherent linear story, so the story for most levels involves a set up of why the current battle is happening (oh no our scout was put to sleep by a goblin, let’s hunt them down!) and a few lines of the King and High Priestess bickering. Its enough to make the stages interesting, but reduces the overall impact of the story.

Each unit in the game has passive and active skills. The knight, for example, gets a +3 bonus to attacks if it moves in a straight line before attacking. Leveraging the different abilities while accounting for the enemy abilities is the key to winning each battle.

The actual stages do have a good variety, with hazards and goals changing from battle to battle. However, while the game is a strategy game the actual amount of strategy is limited. As there is no true randomness to each level, it is more like a puzzle with there always being an optimal solution. You are given a set amount of units, the enemy has a set amount of units, and you must finish the win condition without the king dying first. It is fun, but do not expect the kind of complex strategies a 4X or RTS game requires.

In addition to being fun, the Farabel looks good as well. The game has a fairly unique style that looks sharp in both handheld and docked mode. I did not encounter and frame rate issues, though I did encounter a strange bug after using the king’s time ability that caused me to be unable to attack an enemy after my unit time-traveled onto him. This cleared up once the enemy unit moved from that hex.

The UI is clean, though the tutorial is a must so you don’t spend a few turns fumbling around trying to understand what means what. The controls were straight forward, but I did not like that once I committed to a move I could not change my mind. It also meany any unused hexes of movement were lost if I chose the wrong hex. A minor complaint fixed by choosing my movements more carefully.

SO NOW WHAT?

Once the campaign has been completed, you can replay levels to earn optional “Stars” from doing special challenges. Typical keeping all your units alive or beating the battle by a certain turn count. Beyond that, there is not a lot of replayability to the campaign Thankfully for those that want it, the game does have a separate battle mode where the player can fight against the CPU in Classic Mode or Defense Mode.

In Classic Mode the player and CPU are given a set number of points used to by units. Stronger units cost more and cheaper costs less. Both sides then fight until one side destroys all the enemy units. Defense Mode pits the player against an unlimited series of enemies until eventually, the player loses. Essentially a horde mode. Unfortunately, there is no multiplayer which would have brought a lot more replayability to the game.

Frustratingly the PC version boasts leaderboards and daily challenges, both of which appear absent in the copy used for this review. Given Nintendo’s support of crossplay, this seems an odd omission.

FINAL THOUGHTS

For an indie strategy game, Farabel manages to be fun with a unique premise. While the replayability of the game is certainly limited, the campaign alone is well worth the price. Sharp visuals look great on the Switch, it is just too bad there is no multiplayer.

PROS

  • Sharp graphics
  • Fun campaign with a unique premise
  • Clean, easy to use UI

CONS

  • Limited replayability
  • No multiplayer

Verdict
Any fan of turn based strategy games should at least give this game a look. It will scratch the strategy itch, at least for a little while.
4/5

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