Developed and Published By: Frogames
Category: Turn-based Strategy
Release Date: 12.20.2019
Even in a race with ever more powerful systems from Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo’s hybrid console continues to sell. There’s the Nintendo brand, known for a reliable quality product for the whole family, but Switch plays to another success: portability. Ports are seeing new life on the system by virtue of their ability to be taken and played anywhere. The mobile industry, too, has made Switch a home by introducing some titles on its expanding eshop. It’s where we find Farabel, a little strategy game good for killing time on the commute.
At first sight, Farabel looks like a mobile game with its simple, polygon graphics. The characters look inspired by funko pops and the environments are kind of bland. But there’s a lot of color, and the characters are kind of cute, like figurines on a chess table. That it resembles a mobile game in its presentation is not necessarily a criticism, just that it isn’t going to heat your Switch up.
Simplicity is a dominant theme throughout the game. The music is easy to listen to. It’s nothing you’ll remember after playing, except for one very catchy opening menu song. Nor is there much backstory to justify why you’re fighting orcs nor why the protagonist, Cendor lord of Farabel, has the ability to turn back time. Not that the game depends on a narrative. All you need to know walking in is that there are some orcs and you need to stop them. However, there’s a catch.
Farabel’s unique feature is in how the player advances through the campaign. It begins at the end of the war and after each battle, Cendor and his mage wife must abandon their army for another battle in the past. Each time they do–and here’s the fun part–Cendor levels “down.” Instead of spending experience on creating a stronger character, the player must decide which attributes they want to keep, and which they can do without. It’s an interesting take on the rpg/strategy format even if it felt a little inconsequential. Still, it forces the player to adjust tactics each time without the aid of stronger powers or more HP.
The main campaign is the bulk of the game. There’s little to do besides toy with the mechanics of the game in a scenario mode. Here you can create your own battle conditions from a limited selection of maps, races, and other options. Farabel has a handful of units with signature abilities, like knights who can charge from several spaces away, but most of the game contains your standard, boiled-down strategy fare.
To its credit, the game ran fine, not that it’s all that demanding a title in the first place. I have only one complaint, though, which bears mentioning because this is a game that relies on moving a cursor around. Selecting a space mid-battle was more frustrating than I would have liked. I often found myself jettisoned across the map because I inadvertently selected a space across a river. Sometimes I was unable to select a unit except with the most delicate touch. Like I said, only one complaint, but it was enough to bother me in each battle I played.
Although it didn’t blow me away or capture my attention when I wasn’t in a fight, Farabel is a nice way to spend a few minutes here and there, maybe while waiting at the dentist’s. In that sense, it’s the perfect Switch game if you’re a mobile player. The time-traveling feature is interesting but it never amounts to much more than a difficulty spike. I hate to bemoan the lack of execution in a game this small, but it seems like a wasted opportunity, even if the bar was never very high. Regardless, it’s not a bad game. Fun for a few minutes, just not remarkable.