The new kid on the turn-based strategy block is Farabel, a port arriving to Switch from mobile marketplaces. In a bit of a twist, the player begins at the very end of the story — needing to turn back time in an effort to re-roll the events of the past to their favor. With its gimmick, coupled with grid-style tactical combat, is Farabel a hit or miss?
We start at the final battle of a massive war. Our hero, the King of Farabel, feels rather dismal about the outcome, believing that the battle is all but lost. As he moves in for a final push to clear out the clamoring hordes of orcs believing his doom is all but certain, he orders his Sorceress companion to weave a magical spell that might rewind time- and rewrite the history they’ve lived in battle.
As the fighting unfolds, the King gets the upper hand, destroying the leader of the Orcs, but before he can give the order to stop the spell, the Sorceress has finalized the cast, and the events begin to rewind themselves. Though the war was won, the King ultimately decides to use this power in an attempt to avoid the war entirely. Replaying through past battles weakens him, but he looks for a peaceful solution nonetheless.
The playing field is a grid-based, where you can move your units a limited number of spaces per turn. Depending on the unit type, different bonuses can occur based on where they are in relation to either friend or foe. While ranged units can hit from a distance, where they are placed in relation to the enemy unit can have an effect on the amount of damage dealt, seeing less from a head-on attack than if you were to attack from the back or side.
Cavalry units can get a damage bonus by charging to an opponent, or covering a minimum distance of a few tiles before engaging in combat. While this does change things up a bit, the bonuses to damage are minimal. While there’s a healthy variety of units available in-game, they aren’t exactly different enough to warrant use. While units are static in the main campaign, in the other modes I found myself sticking with a few basic unit types and not needing to branch out, which really felt like a loss.
Combat is fast and efficient. Abilities and attacks can be used before or after movement, but with that being said, all movements and commands selected are final, and one cannot roll back from making a wrong move accidentally, which is a burden that most developers have avoided for many years. While I knew back when playing Final Fantasy Tactics on the PlayStation that I had to move with care and precision, almost every title I’ve played since those days has been a lot more forgiving- in terms of movement, at the least. The inability to re-do a move is a source of much annoyance, particularly due to controls that are not exactly friendly on a home console.
In most games of this genre, you gain EXP and level up, getting stronger after each fight and learning new abilities to aid in combat. Farabel takes the opposite approach, however. Since the time rewind continues sequentially in the opposite direction, your King gets weaker and weaker with each subsequent skirmish, with the player deciding which stats or skills to sacrifice in order to continue moving back in time. This results in tougher battles moving forward, and while the curve in gameplay doesn’t seem too harsh on the player, it also doesn’t add any real depth, apart from making it tougher to waylay a single opponent on every turn.
Art & Sound
As a mobile port, the assets don’t really shine. Farabel has blocky models for characters, and while the playing fields are colorful, the buildings and terrain are incredibly unimpressive, with barren fields devoid of any real variety. While the units and characters themselves are fleshed out and the lore building is top-notch, I don’t feel that the game itself lives up to the world it resides in. The HUD, on the other hand, does have its usefulness. I never felt like there was too much or too little information on screen at one time, and once the tutorial was over, I had a good grasp of what to do in-game.
The soundtrack seems to be a high point for the title. I did not find a single track to be either dull, or repetitive. I do commend the team that worked on sound for the title, as it all suits not only the game as a whole, but the mood of the scenes in which characters converse and interact. I believe the tracks themselves to be one of the best parts of the game, adding the most ambience to the world you’re fighting for.
With a couple of character-based gimmicks and lackluster visuals, Farabel feels like playing an awkward game of chess instead of a fully-fledged turn-based tactical RPG. Though it swung for gold, it seems content to go home with bronze. A few quality of life changes could make a huge difference to the clunky controls. The simple story is easy to follow, and while the other gameplay modes are fun and engaging, I found Farabel not to be worth the investment. While I wouldn’t pressure genre fans to miss out on this title completely, I don’t feel it delivers the experience indicative of its price point.