Hey, so you’ve literally never played Farseer’s Domain before (or its spiritual predecessor Atlas Reactor). You’ve come to the right place.
This is a game that’s sort of like sci-fi chess, with lasers and stuff.
Basically, the game is a 4 vs. 4 arena match on a large grid. You control 1 character,* called a “farseer,” also sometimes called an “agent.” (You can also call them “heroes,” “lancers” (term from Atlas) or “characters” and people will know what you’re talking about.)
Each turn you have 20 seconds to lock in your “move” (as does everyone else), then everything resolves simultaneously. 20 seconds is plenty of time to aim an ability, but there’s a lot to think about. The game revolves around thinking strategically, coordinating with your team, and predicting what your enemies might do — basically, some of the best aspects of any team strategy game. It’s not mechanically demanding, but requires lots of quick and complex thinking.
1b. Multiple Characters.
*Technically you could control more than 1 character. In the classic 4v4, you control 1. In a 2v2, each player controls 2. In a 1v1, each player controls all 4 on his team. So there are always 4 Farseers on each side.
2. Overall Objective:
The objective is “Deathmatch,” simply to kill the other team’s Farseers by outmaneuvering them. First to 5 kills wins, or most kills after 20 rounds. (Farseers respawn the turn after they’re killed.) A typical game goes the full 20 turns, I would say, but it really depends. Some can even go longer if it’s tied – rounds continue into sudden death until one team wins. A typical game takes about 20-25 minutes.
Okay, you’ve fired up the game, gotten into a match, and picked your Farseer – now the game starts! On each turn, you get 20 seconds to lock in your move. (Note: Everyone — you, your team, and the other team — is doing this simultaneously during the SAME 20 seconds.) (And, of course, you get more time if it’s 2v2 or 1v1 – after all, you have more characters to control.) This is called Decision Phase. After your moves are locked in, everything resolves simultaneously (“Resolution Phase”). More on that shortly – there are a few more (sub)phases during Resolution Phase which have an important effect on the order in which everything resolves.
4. Abilities and Movement:
You’ll notice that your Farseer has five abilities (plus a Passive Ability to the left of them which is always in effect, and a few special once-per-game abilities called catalysts that we won’t get into here) and that the game takes place on a grid. Your turn typically consists of using one of your five abilities (also known as “actions”), aiming it however you like, and then moving on the grid up to 4 squares. If you don’t use an ability, you can “sprint” or “full move” up to 8 squares instead. Most abilities deal damage to enemies (the other team), or heal or shield allies (your teammates are “allies”). Some abilities also move your Farseer or apply status effects (buffs) to yourself, allies or enemies. Your first ability is a “primary” – you can basically always use this if you want to. The others have cooldowns, meaning they won’t be available for a few turns after they are used, and the fifth one, an “Ultimate,” requires energy that must be built up over a series of turns in order to activate. Energy is always displayed near a character’s hit points. To see cooldowns, hold down CTRL to see a display over each character’s head with their abilities and cooldowns.
4b. Free Actions.
Sometimes players can use multiple abilities on a turn: some actions are called “Free Actions” and don’t count towards your limit — so you could use an action, a free action, and move 4 squares, or use a free action only and move 8 squares.
4c. Diagonal Movement.
You can move diagonally but it costs 1.5 movement. (How do halves work? Simply put, you can move to another tile as long as you have more than 0 movement left.)
4d. Crowd Control (“CC”).
Some abilities don’t let characters move as normal. Roots and knockbacks (applied by the other team) prevent characters from using the movement that they were instructed to do that turn. Slows reduce movement by 50%, so the enemy can move only 2 squares instead of 4 (or 4 instead of 8 if they sprinted). Additionally, if you use a Dash move (which moves your character earlier in a turn), you may not also be able to enter normal movement afterward, depending on the ability. Some allow it, some don’t.
You can hit stuff you can’t see. Characters can only see 5 squares in front of them (technically, if I’m at 0,0 on the grid, I can see characters at 5,2 or 4,4, but not at 6,0 or 5,3 — we call this “5+2” for short). Many ranged attacks reach 7 (or even more) squares, so it’s crucial to have a sense of where your enemies are, either by having a character that can get in close, by using special Reveal effects, or by just thinking about how many squares the enemy could have moved from where you last saw them. (Press V to see the potential vision range from the tile your mouse is over.)
5. Killing an Enemy:
You kill an enemy Farseer by dealing damage to reduce its health (hit points) to zero or less. Farseers tend to have between 120 and 160 hit points (though a few have more than that), and a typical attack deals about 25-35 damage. If a Farseer dies, it’ll respawn at full health the end of the next turn, so basically it’ll miss that turn and only be able to choose movement at the end of the turn. Also, the killing team gets +1 point on the scoreboard (remember, first to 5 or most kills after 20 turns wins). So yeah, it’s good to kill Farseers. But it’s also not the end of the world to die in a match, as long as it’s just the once.
6. Simultaneous Stuff:
Note that if a Farseer reaches zero or less health during the resolution of a turn, it won’t immediately die — it still gets to use its abilities for that turn, and it may survive if a subsequent healing effect picks it back up to positive hit points. This is tied to the fact that everything (within each phase) is really meant to be happening simultaneously, even though it’s shown happening sequentially so that the players can follow what’s going on. And nobody dies before the end of Blast Phase, no matter what.
Resolution Phase takes place in four general subphases, known as Prep Phase, Dash Phase, Blast Phase and Movement Phase. You’ll notice that your abilities are color-coded Green (Prep), Yellow (Dash) or Red (Blast). Movement phase doesn’t have a color, but it happens last — basically, your standard movement for the turn happens LAST. This is quite important, actually.
Let’s work backwards first. Normal movement is last. Before you move, Blast Phase happens. Most of the damaging attacks happen in this phase. So if I shoot you, you take damage, and only afterward can you do your movement for the turn. Same if you shoot me. But before that, we have Dash Phase. This is where characters have the opportunity to get the hell out of the way – dashes are special powerful movement options that take place before all the damage gets dished out. Some dashes even do damage themselves, or have other effects. (Dashes also avoid other dashes: that is, dashes, if they deal damage, only damage enemies that didn’t also dash.) OK, and then before that we have Prep Phase. Heals, shields and buffs are generally applied here, at the beginning of the turn. (Duh – shields, which are basically temporary hit points, won’t do much if they only get put on after the damage is dealt.) Some characters also have traps that can be placed during Prep Phase, so maybe you can catch a character who’s going to Dash by placing a trap in what you predict will be his dash path.
Now let’s go forwards.
Decision Phase. I enter commands to attack Jim and Bob with my blaster gun, and move 4 squares behind a wall to be safe.
Resolution Phase. This stuff starts to happen.
Prep Phase. You heal me up a bit, maybe I shield myself.
Dash Phase. Jim dashes out of my attack.
Blast Phase. I shoot my attack, which was aimed at Jim and Bob. I miss Jim, but I hit Bob. Bobs hits me back, but my shields soak up the damage. However, let’s say Bob’s ability also has a knockback (Knockbacks happen at the very end of Blast Phase, after everyone’s taken their damage). So I get knocked back and can’t move normally – I’m at their mercy next turn if they set up for this.
Movement Phase. Everybody else moves. Bob wasn’t hit by any CC, so he gets to move at the end of the turn, perhaps behind cover or something. Jim already moved with his Dash, so he doesn’t move either.
Okay, cool, so now you sort of understand how things go. You load into the game, and lock in your move over 20 seconds (communication with your team during this time is encouraged — look out for the special pings like DANGER and FOCUS THIS TARGET. Hold Alt + mouse direction if you want to do a special ping). Then everything resolves for that turn. And so on until the game ends.
There are about 25 Farseers to choose from. They are roughly divided into three categories: Firepower, Frontline and Support – although many characters are “hybrids,” fitting into an area somewhere between two roles.
Firepowers are focused on dealing damage. Frontlines are focused on absorbing damage, slowing or rooting enemies, and providing vision for the team. Supports are focused on healing and shielding their team, and possibly providing other helpful effects like weakening enemies. All three types are capable of dealing decent damage, however, and they’re all quite fun to play.
A “typical” 4v4 comp is 2 firepower, 1 frontline and 1 support, but there are no hard-and-fast rules about this whatsoever. In general, if you don’t have a support you need to deal damage quickly and efficiently because you can’t really heal yourselves, and if you don’t have a frontline you need to figure out a way to get vision. These are doable, but provide unique challenges.
OK, that’s the basics.
If you’re looking for characters to play as a newbie, I recommend:
Firepower: Lilvana, Scrapper, Omikron
Frontline: Krakk, Imuchin
Support: Zaej, Mtuku, Wenifrey
Good luck out there!