ByAlan Bradley, writer at
Alan Bradley is a freelance games journalist, vagabond, and collector of oddities. Find him @chapelzero on Twitter.
Alan Bradley

We live in the era of blended genres. You can’t throw a rock on the Steam store without hitting a game that blends RPG elements with real-time strategy, or a space sim with city building features, or a racing game that’s also a management sim with esports hooks.

Every genre borrows from others, and the result is a beautiful melange — a landscape of ever more complex games that build on ideas across a broad spectrum of influences and continue to advance one of the most fluid mediums in entertainment.

Into this wonderful, confusing, sometimes cruel landscape, enter Failure, a game that ambitiously draws on at least five genres for inspiration. It blends god games, RTS, tower defense, roleplaying, and deck-building, and the result is a gorgeous cyberpunk strategy game with a number of layers of depth and complexity.

Digital worlds

In a manner befitting a classic tower defense strategy game, players are never fully in control of their units' actions. Instead, they place turrets and spawn pods of units, manipulating levels through systems/structures called Functions and Constructs. As they progress through the single-player game (or online in multiplayer matches), players will earn cash they can spend to purchase script mods and code fragments that give them access to new units and abilities.

The entire gameplay package is constructed around a central cyberpunk/coding conceit, grid-based levels constructed of layered hexagons and populated by units that would look at home in Tron. The game leans into that aesthetic on every level, from the way destroyed units explode into clouds of voxels to gameplay mechanics named after coding principles and cyberpunk tropes. It all adds to a beautiful, cyber-playset feel that serves and enhances the gameplay rather than distracting from it.

Failure’s multiplayer features both competitive and cooperative modes, with a tournament system that will let players compete to climb the ladder and become the “best VR Slicer” or cooperate with each other and battle the AI.

AI, minus the I

Both the multiplayer and single-player modes will be framed by a narrative — the story of cowboy hackers piercing a vast data network to liberate its secrets and control the flow of information. After a central control AI begins to disintegrate, corporations and other data-hungry factions flow into the gaps to try to secure a stake in this new virtual wild west.

The narrative will change depending on which faction the player chooses to support, and will tell the story of this rogue AI and the MetaNet it was build to control and protect.

Failure will also feature a card collection/deck-building element inspired by games like Hearthstone and other successful digital CCGs, though as of the pre-alpha it has yet to be implemented.

The creators at promise an evolution of card game mechanics through a system they’re calling (appropriately) The Compiler. This CCG element is one of the most fascinating dimensions of Failure from my point of view, so I’m eager to see them expound on how it will function and affect the core gameplay.

Failure is reaching for a mighty prize with the ambition of its design, but it shows incredible potential. Thus far, judging from the lengthy gameplay demos available, it seems like its accomplishing what it’s set out to achieve.

It’s a game I’ll be watching closely in the coming months, and that I can’t wait to get my hands on. If it's capable of blending all these disparate elements relatively seamlessly, and continues to nail that strongly established cyberpunk aesthetic that all the early artwork is so rich with, it's a game very much in my personal wheelhouse.

After all, I've always been a sucker for the works of Neal Stephenson and William Gibson, and for games that blend deck building with other traditional genres.


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