Farsiders is an upcoming isometric action RPG that uses a collectible card system to unlock passive and active skills, along with elemental-based talent trees that afford players plenty of build variety across myriad playstyles. With such an intriguing feature set and a visually striking Cyberpunk-meets-Arthurian Legend setting, it's no surprise that the Thai indie game surpassed its Kickstarter goal in under 24 hours.

Game Rant sat down with Farsiders developer Tanakom Viphavaphanich who weighed in on the game's features, the challenges the team faced during development, and what's next for Farsiders after it releases. He also spoke about what he believes is critical for making a fun action RPG, as well as the merits of more focused gaming experiences that don't demand dozens of hours of playtime. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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Q: Farsiders uses an elemental-based system for its skills. Can you talk about how those elements work together, and how players decide on what element they want to focus on?

Viphavaphanich: It's based on the element’s characteristics. We don't have weaknesses and things like that in our game; instead, the player chooses between each element in the skill tree that will complement the skill cards for that element.

Throughout the game, there’s a gacha card system where you’ll have to pick one out of three randomized cards for your skill. So you have to decide, for example, if you go on the Fire route, you will want to pick Fire cards. But in the meantime, it still can work pretty well with other elements. We don't want to focus on “one element” builds only, we want the player to mix and match, and the skill tree will allow the player to do that.

For example, we have this build called the “One Shot Build.” There’s a skill that will freeze the enemy in an AoE, but it will not do damage at all. The skill tree on the Water element will focus on amplifying damage to Frozen enemies or amplifying damage to debuffed enemies. Meanwhile, the skill tree on another element also increases single damage attack, or buffs a special move that will complement this build.

We want the fast-paced roguelike feeling of a game like Hades, but we still want the player to be able to customize their loadout and spend time on their arsenal. Because the spell cards come in a gacha system, each one will be different, so you have an opportunity to explore new builds and mix and match yourself.

farsiders-combo

Q: A common challenge with developing action RPGs is trying to strike the balance between letting the player feel very powerful, but also keeping the game challenging. How did you approach that balance?

Viphavaphanich: I feel that this is like the most difficult part of game development actually, because we play our game every single day, so we’ve kind of conquered it in a way. So we try to release testing versions as much as possible. We’ve done two alpha tests already, and we decided to go with the launch of beta in July. We want the community to get involved as well to give us feedback on the bad things and also feedback on all the bugs that we might have.

I feel like we cannot do this alone, especially as an indie developer. We don't have tons of QA guys waiting to help us out. The community nowadays is very engaging in Discord or other channels, players give a lot of feedback.

Even in Thailand, Thai people tend to be a bit shy, but when we went out on the Thailand Game Show, there were a lot of people who came and played our game. A lot of times people just came to me and gave me suggestions on what skill is good, what should be nerfed, what we should buff, and it surprised me how the community nowadays is very engaging, and they want to feel like they're part of the game.

It still takes time for us to balance the game and make it perfect, but we're working hard on it.

Q: Farsiders has a collectible card system for acquiring passive and active skills. What do you feel are the advantages of that system, and did you look to other card games for inspiration?

Viphavaphanich: This was like my personal request because I do card collecting. We have this Grimoire where you can see all the cards that you can collect, and apart from just the action and progression, you feel like you have this other mission to collect stuff, which is what I love. So I want to add that feeling to our game. It might not be as helpful to some, but to some people, you may feel like the game might have more to offer than just “Go slash enemies,” and you’ll want to loot and explore for more stuff.

farsiders-grimoire

Q: Are there other games or media that have strongly influenced your development?

Viphavaphanich: The design of Farsiders is based on this idea where we feel like, in recent years, all these AAA games have good stories, but they’re getting bigger and bigger. It just takes a lot more time and effort to complete them or just to have the full experience. So, we wanted to create a game that is still focused on a cool story but smaller in size, so you can be more easily engaged and feel like you don’t have to put too much time into it.

Growing up, you have less time to play a game. Like Elden Ring, I cannot play it. I don't have enough time to play it, but I want to play it so badly! There are a lot of games that I want to play, but I don't have enough time to play because it just gets so big. Games that inspire me are God of War or even Uncharted which have linear storylines. You don’t have to farm that much, you don’t have to explore that much, but you still get to complete and enjoy the full experience in like eight to 10 hours. We don't see a lot of that in recent years, so we wanted to try and do that.

Our game will be focused mainly on engaging systems, combat, a lot of builds, and freedom to explore. But still, the main thing is the good story that we wanted to maintain. A lot of games start off with some story, but then they let you farm off for like eight hours, and by then you've forgotten the whole story.

I do understand developers who want to do it that way. You build this whole sandbox that takes so much effort to create, so you want to put in as much content as you can, and I understand that. But for people who need to take a lot of time to focus on something, you cannot play Elden Ring for one hour and stop and play the next day. You need to spend the whole day getting used to it. Farsiders wants to eliminate that issue. So on Saturday or Sunday, you can just go home and open your computer and just play for 20 or 30 minutes. If you lose, then just go do other stuff.

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Q: When looking at similar action RPGs, were there problems from other titles that Farsiders learned from or tried to address?

Viphavaphanich: Yes, for example, Darksiders Genesis. This is a great game from a good IP, but I feel like they don't use a lot of variety in this kind of isometric action game. It's kind of one-dimensional. At first, we were like that as well because we focused on auto attack, but we feel that it's just too normal. It's just been like this forever, so we want to have this spell cast system that will play an important part in how you defeat enemies, timing your skills, landing your skills, mixing and matching builds.

Isometric games tend to limit your skills and movement to a certain point, and I think most games try to play it safe and not include too much stuff for you to use. We’ve passed that point, we’ve faced so many issues, but we want to give the player as many options and as much freedom as possible.

farsiders-ice

Q: Farsiders has over 30 enemy types and a bunch of bosses. What's your approach to designing the enemies from a gameplay perspective? How do you decide what abilities they'll have or how strong they should be?

Viphavaphanich: The theme of each enemy is based on the region they are in. For example, the first region is a mine that’s been turned into a gambling den, so the design of the boss is actually based on this gambling stuff. When the boss hits the pillar in the middle, a roulette comes out so the player will need to figure out or test their luck where in the roulette table to be so the effect will be different. We don't come up with the skills first and then create a character, we have a character with a background and story that we try to put into their skills.

We also wanted to play with the environment more. For example, there’s a dragon that can turn the ground into slippery ground, so you cannot walk at the same pace anymore, you slip everywhere. We want to create a different feeling in each boss fight, but the enemy minions are still not that complicated.

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Q: Farsiders’ theme is an interesting combination of Cyberpunk and Arthurian legend. How did that idea originally take shape? Is this something you’ve always wanted to do in a story?

Viphavaphanich: I'm a fantasy guy, so I always wanted to go to a place like that. It feels like a lot of games just drop you right into ancient times or a fantasy world, so I wanted to create a setting that is approachable realistically for us, where you can see that it's highly possible. We wanted to have that world be a bridge for us to go back in time with this legendary lore.

Our plan is not only to do Arthurian legend, it's just the beginning. We have a lot of stuff to explore, and we want to create that feeling like exploring in Star Trek. This is the beginning of your “Star Trek story.” But this first title, if it works, then Farsiders will become like an exploration into mythical legend, and you can explore more regions. It might even come to Thailand, I don't know. But there are a lot of possibilities out there.

I feel like if you just drop the player right into it, it’s just a lot, and sometimes you don't feel so connected to it. So I wanted to have this cyberpunk city as your main base, so you can feel like you connect to the city and you go off to adventure on your own.

farsiders-industrial

Q: Speaking of the story, does Farsiders end when you complete the story, or is there a post-game after finishing?

Viphavaphanich: It finishes. We'll have more story to tell, we have more DLC for you to play, and even more gameplay. We’re not a freemium game though, so we're not doing this for money. We want to push this out. If it costs a lot, we may charge a bit, but it's just not our main purpose to drain money from people just to keep paying again.

Q: What did you feel was the most difficult part of developing Farsiders?

Viphavaphanich: To be honest, I think that the development part is what I expected it to be: it was going to be hard. But the most challenging part for me is the marketing part. As an indie studio, we don't have expertise in marketing and we have limited people, so we put most of our capacity into development and this other part got left out. There are not a lot of people who could help you with such a thing. Publishers all around the world will just focus on their genre or other games.

It feels like if you want to publish a game, you need to talk to publishers first before you start developing. Like, you need to make their game, not your game. If you want to create your game, you have to do marketing yourself. That's the most difficult part for me, and it took our focus off our work sometimes.

If the industry can help indie developers more in terms of marketing and PR stuff, we could see a lot of new ideas, and people will be brave enough to do it. A lot of people are still questioning me about doing game development in Thailand because not a lot of people do it. There’s no help in the marketing sector, I think.

Media in Southeast Asia feels the same way. I met them through networking, they were totally understanding of our situation, and they’re trying to help us. The SEA market is not as big as USA, China, or Europe, but still, that helps. It's just not the system that helps. These people want to help me because we talk to each other, but you still need to put a lot of effort into getting in touch with those guys.

farsiders-talent

Q: What do you feel makes isometric action games fun? What is it about games like Hades you mentioned that makes us keep playing, while others not so much?

Viphavaphanich: I think it’s the satisfaction when you kill someone. We tried a lot of stuff. First, like, when enemies die, there’s a visual effect depending on how they die. I think that those minor details make the hack-and-slash action feel good or not. It’s about how you feel when you kill the enemy. We're still working on improving it every day, like in the early days enemies just fell down to the ground, so we changed that and tried to add more blood and other effects into it. But if it doesn't work, we change it to vaporizing instead, it feels better for me. Anyone can do action but that detail is the part that makes a difference in action RPGs.

The sound effects as well. This goes back to your last question about what is challenging about game development. I think the sound is one of the hardest parts of our game, it seems easy, but it's so difficult. We don't have a talented specialized guy for that, so we need to consult outside. When you work with outsiders, they don't get your game that much, and you still have to do it yourself.

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Q: You mentioned DLC earlier. What other plans do you have for the future of Farsiders?

Viphavaphanich: Right now, we are publishing the beta build for July's release, then after the game release, I think about a month or two after we should be releasing the last chapter of the game, and then also the new difficulty for replayability.

Around October, we should be able to launch on other consoles like PlayStation 5, and we hope to do Switch as well. From that point, if the game is going okay, we will work on the second Farsiders. As I said earlier, the games are going to be finished on their own. We might have some DLC along the way, but we want to focus on the end-to-end game. If it works, then we will continue on the second one, and we do have the storyline in place already.

If the feedback is okay and we're not doing too poorly, we should be able to release the complete roadmap of the game for the community to see what we have in store. We need to wait and analyze the situation a bit first before we can do that. We don't want to make false promises.

farsiders-city

Q: Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?

Viphavaphanich: As I said earlier, we need as much help as possible, especially in marketing and testing and QA stuff. The game is very cheap compared to bigger games, so I feel like most people should be able to afford it. If anyone has a chance or opportunity to buy it, it will be a huge help to us to give us feedback. If you can give us recommendations on what you want in the game, we want to do that. We want to create a game that fans love, not just the media or publishers.

This is our first project. I have worked with some of the team before, but a lot of our guys are new guys, and we took some time to figure out what we are good at and what we are capable of. So if there's anything wrong, anything not good about it, we are welcome for feedback. If this doesn't work, then we will do another project. We will not just go and give up.

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Farsiders releases July 19 on PC.