Each month, the Indie Spotlight highlights a new game that exemplifies the creativity, cleverness, and beauty of today’s independent games market.
This month’s Indie Spotlight is:
Despite being a subgenre that’s existed for several decades, co-op games have to occasionally re-prove themselves as to be somehow to be worthy of a player’s time. Part of this is because there is a small but vocal part of the hobby base who are averse to the very idea of co-op games, with a few going so far as to claim – using some bizarre form of board game prescriptivism – that co-ops aren’t even games at all. That because these games don’t have a human opponent and operate at least in part by a preprogrammed set of functions, that somehow the idea of teaming together to face the system itself makes them games of lesser standing to nearly every other game of comparable weight and size.
Which is an absurd claim to say the least.
That said, one area where cooperative games do have to walk a fine line is in how well it executes its premise. Always trying to find the ideal intersection between difficult and random, a good co-op wants players fighting against a series of obstacles and situations to overcome. And it wants the outcome to not be guaranteed.
Essentially, a good co-op is the kind where you enjoy losing a decent percentage of the time and it entices you back to try again all the same.
As it happens, Faza, the inaugural title by designer Benjamin Farahmand, is one such co-op. In this 1-4 player title humanity is on the edge of extinction, and you are its last hope – ray guns and all.
In this hour-long expedition to the end of the world, Earth is under attack from an alien force that doesn’t just seek to wipe out pesky humans – they have active ambitions to completely terraform the planet to match their homeworld. And as you’d expect, we’d prefer that they, you know, not do that. We kind of like having things like water and dogs and trees. We’d also like to stick around to appreciate them. Ergo, the fight begins! The goal of the players (and a few rebel aliens along for the ride) is to destroy not just one but the three alien motherships wreaking havoc across the land, each of which is performing different actions that, when combined together, make it progressively more difficult to overcome the longer the game goes on.
Each round in FAZA works similarly, with players (and a few rebel aliens along for the ride) taking turns moving, activating special abilities, killing off drones, and once the right circumstances are in place, making an attack on a mothership itself. Using an open-turn structure, your team will be able to choose for themselves turn order for the maximum effectiveness of your revolt, and hopefully save the say. However, every successful damage on a mothership causes retaliation in the form of event cards. Both flavorful and wide-ranging, some of these events can be helpful, but most just painfully remind you that these aliens are playing for keeps.
Once the players go, the motherships activate, performing their movements and actions according to a pre-set script. Such actions involve pumping out more drones, terraforming the board, and quite often, upending those carefully laid plans of yours.
In the end, only one side can win, with Earth hanging in the balance. Through a mix of clever teamwork and a heap of luck, you may just be able to tilt it in your favor. Leaning into classic elements of both humanity on the brink tales of survival and some wonderful Bradbury-esque pulp sci-fi kitsch, Faza tasks you with cooperatively trying to stop an alien invasion before time runs out – or die trying. Most likely it’ll be the latter.
So if you think you’re up for the fight, then grab a stick and prepare to start swinging.
Need more information about any of our previous Spotlight selections? Check out the list below or contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org!
Previous Indie Game Spotlights:
September 2020: Camp Pinetop | Review | Q&A | Developer’s Site
July 2020: Shaolia | Review | Q&A | Developer’s Site
Note: Due to COVID-19, there was no May 2020 Indie Spotlight
March 2020: Chai | Review | Q&A | Developer’s Site
February 2020: Dungeon Drop | Review | Q&A | Developer’s Site