Sometimes your closest friends can become your biggest enemies.
At least in this 1v1 or 2v2 shooter, that is.
FPS Meets Card Game
I spent the past weekend delving into the Friends vs Friends Closed Beta. Developed by Brainwash Gang and published by Raw Fury, Friends vs Friends is a PvP Online Shooter that incorporates elements of TCG into its gameplay.
Players can choose between a healthy variety of anthropomorphic animals as their character, each with a unique trait that helps them in matches. Matches can be 1v1 or 2v2 with/against friends, random people online, or bots. Matches use a Best-of-7 format, with the first player or team to win four rounds declared the winner of the match. Combat is your standard FPS fare, with the added twist of having a card deck.
Cards come in a variety of flavors. Some cards make your head smaller, which makes it harder for enemies to land headshots. Others do things like increasing your movement and firing speed or letting you auto-evade the next attack. Cards can also spawn in things like turrets, smoke bombs, or more powerful weapons.
Players can have up to 50 cards in their deck and start games with a random assortment of those cards. You earn more cards by earning in-game currency from matches and opening up booster packs. If you get duplicates of cards you already own, you can upgrade those cards to make them stronger than before.
Jet Set Simpsons
The art style of Friends vs Friends is exceptionally visually appealing. It gives off Jet Set Radio meets Simpsons vibes. The characters are all very well-designed and have plenty of variety.
The shopping mall hub area also has a lot of character, and the music choice was spot on. While in the hub area, the music is welcoming and mellow. In combat, it becomes more frantic to match the gameplay.
While the characters and the world of Friends vs Friends are beautiful and well-designed, the UI isn't. It's too much like an atypical mobile game in that it's a bit too cluttered and can be quite confusing at first. New players will likely spend a significant amount of time at the start just learning how to navigate the interface.
“It's Better With Friends”
It's better with friends is no doubt a phrase most of you have heard a person use to describe a game. And in most cases, this isn't a valid argument for how good a game is since most judge games based on their own merits, not the value provided by having friends tag along.
But with Friends vs Friends, it's literally in the name. This is absolutely a game you want to play with friends. Since your cards play a huge part in the gameplay, it's better to play with a friend whose deck you know very well as opposed to a random player whose deck might not synergize with yours.
You can also play with bots but I wouldn't recommend it.
Bot matches in Friends vs Friends are mostly a pointless endeavor. You can use bot matches to grind EXP, but the game takes away 75% of the EXP you earned in the match. Your bot ally is also pretty dumb. In one bot match, after I died, I watched my bot ally fidget around in a circle for an entire minute doing absolutely nothing before the opposing bot team killed it.
It's most painful early in the game when your card deck is incomplete and underpowered, as the opposing AI team clearly has better cards than you. And that leads to my next point.
This game might make you hate your friends. And random players you come up against. And it all depends on your cards and theirs.
Friends vs Friends doesn't have SBMM (Skill-based matchmaking), nor does it match players up based on their account levels. There is no ladder, so there are no tiers to divide players into either. That means it's a free-for-all where you might run into players who have absolutely cracked decks ten minutes into playing the game for the first time. You will quite literally be outgunned and there's nothing you can do about it.
Adding onto this problem is how leveling up your account and getting card packs works in Friends vs Friends. You earn EXP and in-game currency even when you lose, but it's substantially less than when you win. So ideally, you need to win a ton. But given how unbalanced the matchmaking is, you might end up on a long losing streak because the game continues to match you against more experienced, better-equipped players. And that isn't fun and doesn't progress your account much. Daily and Weekly Quests help, but you have to level up your account a fair bit before you can even access them.
Friends vs Friends being truly F2P and not including any atypical gacha elements with card packs or P2W elements is genuinely a good thing, but the game very much has a mobile game-style grindy gameplay loop. And I'm okay with grinding so long as it is fair. But given the matchmaking issues, it can be a real problem and a real chore leveling up your account to a respectable level. It can get to a point where you wish you could buy card packs because you do need a good deck before you can really start having fun.
The best option on the surface seems to be coming to an agreement with a handful of your friends to match repeatedly against one another, have one team intentionally lose to boost the other team's accounts, then swap roles after you have leveled up enough. Or it would if private matches didn't have the same steep reward penalties as bot matches.
As a resident RPG enthusiast, I'm no stranger to slow grinds, but Friends vs Friends can give some RPGs a run for their money.
A Mostly Bright Future
Despite the flaws, I think Friends vs Friends is a pretty good game. Brainwash Gang was able to fuse FPS and TCG gameplay elements seamlessly, and it's genuinely a blast to play. Combat in Friends vs Friends is fun, and the healthy amount of options when it comes to deck builds means matches shouldn't have a problem with feeling fresh, but I can't help but wonder if the 1v1 and 2v2 restrictions will limit how much mass appeal the game will have.
It's called Friends vs Friends, not Best Friends vs Best Friends, and part of me wishes it had classic old Team Deathmatch. That might help deal with the issue of matching with someone clearly far above you. You might face someone too OP to deal with on your own, but have a random teammate that is similarly overpowered which helps even the odds. Though given how small the maps are, I suppose Team Deathmatch isn't really practical at the moment. If the developers are willing to make that investment in the future, I can see it doing really well.
Also, what's the deal with being unable to pair up with a friend and the two of you taking on two randoms? Why isn't that a thing?
I would say this would be a great title to pick up and play if you have a few mates over, but due to the card system and needing to grind a lot to make a good deck, this is only viable as a party game if a few people in the room have developed accounts that everyone can share (Maybe implement a Party Mode where all characters and cards are unlocked and players can do whatever they want? I'd pay a few bucks for this).
Friends vs Friends just released on Steam, and the developers have already confirmed upcoming content like new maps, characters, and cosmetics, so we'll see where Brainwash Gang takes the game from here. It definitely has a lot of potential with what's already on offer, but with some finetuning and new inclusions, this could really shape up into a game that will ruin friendships in the best kind of way.
You can purchase the Standard Edition of Friends vs Friends for $5.99 or the Deluxe Bundle for $13.98. Those who purchase the Deluxe Bundle will gain access to the first two Premium Expansions coming later this year.