If you watched this year’s Gamescom Opening Night Live stream, I wouldn’t blame you if you can’t remember most of the games shown at it. The rapid-paced barrage of trailers meant that smaller indies were overshadowed by heavy hitters like Sonic Frontiers. By the time the show had ended, I had almost forgotten about Friends vs. Friends, a multiplayer shooter that got a quirky animated trailer.
I remembered it as I walked by publisher Raw Fury’s Gamescom booth. With no one in line to play, I decided to stop by on a whim and see how the game actually worked. I’m glad I did, because it was the most fun I had at the convention. The oddball shooter may not have massive long-term potential, but I know I’ll be begging my friends to play with me when it launches.
I knew Friends vs. Friends was a competitive first-person shooter that pitted players against one another (whether 1v1 or 2v2) based on the trailer, but what I didn’t realize is that it’s a quietly genius deck builder too. The way the game works is that players face off in a series of quick elimination rounds. Kill your friend, and you’ll win the round (in my demo, I faced off against another player in a best three out of five set-up). Simple. The twist is that players enter the battle with a deck of cards, a few of which are dealt to each player at the start of every round.
Cards have multiple utilities. A weapon card will give the player that weapon to use for the round, allowing them to trade in their starting gun for something like a katana or shotgun. Some cards contain buffs that’ll give players a unique advantage for the round. That goes the other way, as a player can use a card to hinder an opponent. For example, one card might reduce the damage your enemy deals.
Cards can be spent anytime during a round, and figuring out when to use them is the name of the game. It makes sense to start a battle by spawning a better weapon, but players will want to hang on to a card that heals them and use it once they start taking damage.
So what does that actually look like during a round? During my game, I was handed a preset deck (players will be able to build their own in the full game). I got the hang of the game within my first round. I started by burning a card to equip a sniper rifle. I started shuffling through my deck after that to see what might help me. A card that would stop my opponent from jumping? That would make it much easier for me to line up a shot. Oh, what’s this? Another card that gives them a big head? Within 30 seconds of playing, I had concocted the perfect strategy. With an immobile enemy with a giant headshot target, I was able to score the first win of the match.
I’m dying to see what other absurd cards there are and how I can combine them to put together a winning round.
Each round was completely different after that. In one, my opponent came charging at me with a sword as I tried to maintain distance and hit him with the machine gun I’d spawned. Though, my absolute favorite moment came when I drew the “nuke” card, which didn’t include an explanation as to what would happen if I used it. I used it the second I was able to, naturally. Sure enough, a massive nuke fell from the sky and reduced the entire map into a crater. Instead of fighting on a rooftop where we could hide behind air conditioners, we were in a barren open field — and that just happened to be a terrible match for the shotgun I had equipped.
Moments like that have me thrilled by the potential of the game’s simple premise. I’m dying to see what other absurd cards there are and how I can combine them to put together a winning round. I’m not sure how much depth the game will have based on my quick demo; it might just be a quick curiosity for friends to play for an evening or two. Regardless of how much more there is to do in the final version, I know I’ll be diving back in as soon as I can so I can construct my own brilliant strategies.
Friends vs. Friends is in development for PC and consoles.
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