Hands-On Preview: Fara

Note to self: if you ever become an archaeologist and find a rotund slime creature sealed inside an orb during one of your expeditions, do not pick it up! At least, that’s what the hero of Pixel and Texel’s upcoming Action RPG decided to do. Next thing he knows, he’s been transported out of the real world and washes up on the shores of Fara, an isolated island nation. The specimen responsible for his predicament has decided to fuse itself to his left hand, giving him a wisecracking companion to adventure with — and more importantly, the creature doubles as a sword! Things go from weird to weirder as the traveler realizes he’s stranded with a population who look like they stepped right out of the Viking Age. Just what the heck is going on here, you ask? That’s what the main character would like to know! To find out, he’ll have to endure a bevy of beasts, bosses, puzzles, and fourth-wall-breaking smart alecks.

Action RPGs have become synonymous with the KRPG model on iOS given how much the market has been flooded by that particular sub-genre, but make no mistake: Fara’s approach is vastly different. The first thing players will notice is that there’s nary a virtual button in sight for controlling movement and actions; the ones that occupy the bottom left and right corners of the touchscreen are menu shortcuts. As explained in a live tutorial once the hero awakens on Fara, walking is accomplished by holding anywhere onscreen; flicking the hero makes him dash in the commanded direction. The all-powerful double tap is the player’s most versatile input. Entirely context sensitive, this comes into play for slashing at monsters, speaking with NPCs, scooping goodies out of treasure chests, and interacting with miscellaneous objects.

Learning this new control scheme may be an adventure in itself, but KRPG-stuffed genre fans may be even more surprised by how light combat tends to be in Fara. We’re a little ways into the game’s second dungeon – a lovely crystal-studded cavern – right now, and most foes have gone down with one or two regular sword strokes. Our trip through Fara has only just begun, but it’s pretty safe to say at this point that players shouldn’t expect enemies to take forty whacks apiece before turning into puffs of smoke — and that’s a relief more than anything!

That isn’t to say Fara’s combat is un-strategic. Dashing around enemy projectiles is key, and enemies armed with medium-range weapons like spears will thwart the player unless the hero can sneak in with a dash attack. Naturally, boss battles pose more formidable tests of the player’s combat endurance. While the player can dip into inventory to make use of restoratives as expected, Fara parts ways with its genre cousins when it comes to stats; cash and number of items on hand are just about the only numbers the player ever sees. Meanwhile, a health bar wrapped around the left-corner inventory button gives the player a visual on the hero’s vital status.

With Fara’s combat so lightweight compared to most Action RPGs iOS gamers have played thus far, Pixel and Texel had plenty of room to up the ante on logic puzzles and minigames. In the short time we’ve spent with Fara, we’ve already had to: man a ballista against waves of enemies; use a tilt-controlled bubble shield to float over lava; pulverize a rock wall with a swipe-controlled battering ram; and push rocks around to solve a switch puzzle. These segments hit the player seemingly every few minutes, which breaks up the action nicely. One thing that’s most certainly not broken up is the game’s world, which is presented to the player with a slick scrolling technique. Rather than fade in and out when the hero reaches an entrance to the next area, rooms smoothly pan to reveal new territory — very cool to watch in action, and it’s one more thing that sets Fara’s style apart from the crowd.

We’ll let our commentary rest for now, as the final could have functions not yet implemented in the beta build Pixel and Texel lent us. Needless to say, we welcome something off the beaten path in the iOS Action RPG library, and Fara aims to bring players just that.

For the latest news on Fara, be sure to keep an eye on Pixel and Texel’s blog, Twitter feed, and Facebook page!