Collectable card games (CCGs) have become an increasingly popular genre over the years, following the release of Hearthstone in 2014. Since then, many other CCGs have tried to emulate Hearthstone’s success, with even table-top card games such as Magic the Gathering creating its own online version to enter the CCG market. Most of these CCGs are relatively easy to get into and understand for the most part. Faeria, however, is not. It is likely the closest online collectable card game you could find that is as intricate as a chess game, which makes it so much fun to learn and so rewarding to play. The game has been out since February 2016 for PC and just made its way to the shores of the PS4 and Nintendo Switch a while back. I was fortunate enough to get a review copy for the PS4 version of the game, and as a big card game fanatic myself I got hooked.
The game features a hexagonal grid board that is filled with water. Players must place lands on the board in order to cast spells, summon creatures and move them around the map. Certain cards can only be used when a certain type of land is placed, or when the player controls a certain number of lands on the map. For example, green cards can only be placed on forests, and some green cards are only made available for play when you control 3 forests. Players must place land each turn via the action wheel at the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. Additionally, players can choose to gain mana or draw additional cards instead, which opens up more possibilities for playmaking. Each player starts with 3 mana a turn which rolls over to the next turn if unused. There are also mana wells which give the player 1 additional mana per turn, but only if there is a creature next to the well on the board. As one could already guess, the possibilities for strategizing are endless. I often wonder if I should gradually move around the map, slowly collecting mana to summon bigger creatures or go straight for my opponent’s face. Nine times out of ten, this decision you make at the start of the game determines if you win or lose.
Faeria’s single-player mode is wonderfully structured, as well. In addition to single-player campaigns that pit you against AIs, there are also fun puzzles that challenge your problem-solving skills. I found myself playing lots of the puzzles available and learnt many new things about the game’s mechanics along the way. More often than not, I prefer to stray away from the single-player modes of CCGs, but Faeria’s single-player content was so fun that I ended up spending countless hours playing puzzles and testing my decks against the AI. In addition to the single-player campaigns, Faeria also has a draft mode similar to Hearthstone’s arena mode. The player is given 5 cards each picking phase and picks one card to be added to the deck. This goes on until all 30 cards are selected, where the player then goes on to face other players with similarly constructed decks online. The more wins you get, the better the rewards. I personally loved drafting for every card game I’ve played, and Faeria was no different.
Faeria does market itself as having little to no microtransactions, which means that farming all the cards through hours of grinding is possible. This honestly was a big minus for me. As I started opening packs in-game, I received legendary cards after legendary cards. I realized that it just wasn’t that much fun opening packs anymore, knowing that I wouldn’t get duplicates and eventually hold the entire collection. The fun of opening card packs was that you didn’t really know what was going to be in them, and the joy of getting really rare cards added to the excitement of it all. Even though Faeria’s business model might put less pressure on our wallets, it really takes away a fun element of card games.
Playing on the PS4 felt a little wonky. There were times where I would place a creature on a wrong tile due to the hexagonal features of the map not lining up with my 4 direction D-Pad. It also requires a PS Plus subscription for online matchmaking (though it really is a Playstation problem rather than the game’s problem). Speaking of which, Faeria’s online queue times are exorbitantly long. There was once I waited almost 7 minutes for an online opponent. But then again, due to the game’s steep learning curve, I can understand why there aren’t many people playing the game in the first place. I wouldn’t really recommend playing the game on a console for that matter, and since cross-play is enabled it might be a better idea to buy the game on PC instead.
Faeria does have issues with its queue times and online gameplay, but it really is a remarkably well thought out game. The sheer amount of thinking that goes into each and every turn makes the game difficult to understand and get into. Most people wouldn’t go through that much effort to learn the game, but those who do will definitely find it a truly enjoyable CCG.