Math nerds rejoice: That sword-and-sorcery game of probability you always wanted is finally here. Sort of. Your satisfaction with Faif, just released by Beavl (a newly-minted Argentinian developer), will depend entirely on how much you like to gamble. If “Casino Royale” is your favorite Bond movie, this game is right up your alley. If not, you may want to wait for future updates to place your bets.
Faif is an incredibly simple game to pick up. The play screen consists of a grid of tiles—swords, skulls, gems, and hearts. You pick five consecutive tiles each turn, then the computer randomly selects one to take effect. A skull means you lose one life; each sword takes away one life from your opponent; a heart gains you one life; and each gem earns you one additional gem, which you can spend on “magic” power-ups (like boosted damage or health bonuses) between turns. But watch out—if you die, you’ll have to start all over again with none of your accumulated spells to help you.
Those are really the only rules, so there’s not much in the way of nuance compared to other battling games. Your computer opponents get additional lives as you defeat more of them, and in later levels they’ll enter the game with power-ups of their own but they don’t necessarily require more skill to defeat. The whole game is literally a crapshoot with tiles rather than dice. Sure, there are strategies to consider, but it’s pretty rudimentary: keep resources out of your opponents’ digital hands, buy power-ups early, etc. And all the strategy in the world can’t stop a streak of bad luck, especially when doing all the “right” things doesn’t always work. There are few ways to reliably strategize from game to game when everything is randomized (even the intelligence of your opponents and the types of available power-ups), since doing the same thing over and over will have different results each time.
But part of the reason I’m such a downer about all this is because I’m not one of those people who loves gambling. I’ll play the odd hand of poker, but roulette and lottery games have never held that much appeal for me. If you get a thrill from taking the chance that your attack might backfire and hurt you instead of your enemy, then you’ll definitely appreciate Faif’s system and its elegant simplicity. It also doesn’t hurt that Beavl’s animation work on this game is quite pretty. I could just sit and look at the start screen for ages, watching the geometric shapes float in and out of view. But I can’t shake the feeling that Faif would be a more satisfying game with human competition (although the computer decently simulates various levels of intelligence). Playing against a digital opponent feels too much like rolling a pair of dice alone and keeping score.
The good news is that this is just the first build. Beavl has assured us that many more features are in the works, like boss levels that will bestow permanent spells to help you in subsequent runs. UPDATE: The updates have begun! Enjoy your boss battles. So although this version is lacking in certain areas that will make it appeal to a broader audience, it won’t for long—and Faif is still a fun time sink for gambling addicts who want a little more nuance in their games of chance.
Faif is a gorgeously simple concept, but not all that interesting–unless you like to push your luck.