"Though Farabel possesses quite a number of interesting ideas, the end product isn't as polished or complete as it could be."
Having played my fair share of strategy RPGs, the premise for Farabel sounded intriguing. What do you mean instead of leveling up my characters level down? And the story moves backward like in Memento? This game sounds like it has a lot of potential.
You start out in the midst of a battle with the king, Cendor, trying to fight off enemies. Just as you are close to wiping out the battlefield, Azuk shows up. Assuming you'd fail the battle, the high priestess is called upon to start rewinding time. However, just as you manage to defeat Azuk, the time spell goes off and you are thrown back in time to a previous battle. Since the kingdom has no time-forwarding powers, you proceed to slowly go backwards till you hit the point before the war even starts.
Farabel uses hexagons as the battlefield, so that's a step in the right direction. Some neat mechanics exist, such as knights who do bonus damage when they charge in a straight line, a mage that can summon an ice golem, and Cendor, in particular, can rewind a unit's turn after they have taken it, effectively letting a friendly unit take two turns in a row or undoing an enemy's turn. None of this compares to the crazy stuff the enemies can do, though, like a fire elemental who spawns another fire elemental when they kill a unit—and that happens at the very beginning of the fight, so you have to deal with two of them! More often than not, I would've loved to play on the enemy's side instead.
After each battle, since you travel back in time, Cendor levels down and you must select a stat to reduce, such as heath, damage, speed, etc. Likewise, the units in your party come with less powerful abilities over time, which makes each battle more challenging, though not necessarily more fun. I found the story snippets far too lacking, and each scene after a time travel barely provided enough information to connect any dots aside from "we're back in time, here's this crazy new enemy, let's beat this so we can go back in time some more." The increasingly limited capabilities force careful planning, but it is difficult to find that enjoyable when the enemies seem to get cool new stuff as time goes back. For example, the high priestess goes from being able to do an AOE heal for eight points across three range to healing a single unit for four points one spot away by the end of the game. Meanwhile, enemies get higher health, higher range, and better abilities as your damage goes down. As a result, I really struggled with the final battle and after multiple tries, decided to forgo completing the game. Having slogged through 25 out of the 26 campaign battles, I doubt the last one would have really made a significant change in my score.
Two additional game modes aside from the main campaign are offered to players. Classic Mode allows you to build your own armies and play through a series of battles. Defense Mode is a typical endless wave of enemies that challenges you to last as long as possible. Neither were particularly enticing to me given the available units. Some players may find them more engaging than the campaign.
Graphically, the game has its own style. The units are blocky, but each model does shine with its own character. Some of the enemies, in particular, are quite memorable. I never once misclicked a friendly unit or foe due to the visuals. However, in this day and age, the graphics do look rather dated. None of the tunes stuck out; they are pleasantly appropriate and the sound effects never grated on my nerves. Likewise, the controls are fitting, responsive, and easy to adopt. I thought it was neat that each character has one pip on each side of their health bar—one indicates if they have moved, and the other, if they've attacked. This way, you can easily see how many more actions you have left on the battlefield at a quick glance, since you can move or attack in any order.
Though Farabel possesses quite a number of interesting ideas, the end product isn't as polished or complete as it could be. I enjoyed the short venture I had through its rewinding war, but I'm in no hurry to try again. Perhaps the developers will be able to take the refreshing concepts in Farabel and push it two steps further—I would love to play that game.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.