I’ll be honest, when I first saw Akshay Kumar’s tweet announcing FAU-G, aka Fearless And United Guards, my initial reaction was of scepticism. You see, the developer already mentioned that the game was going to launch “soon”. This could mean one of two things, either the developer has been working on the game for quite some time and the timing of the announcement just happened to coincide with the banning of PUBG Mobile in India. Or, this game was trying to cash in on the banning of PUBG Mobile and the patriotic fervour that was gripping the country. So, how good is FAU-G? Read on.
There are three parts to FAU-G, and the only one available at launch is the Campaign mode, which is essentially a linear single-player experience. The other two are 5v5 Team Deathmatch and Free For All. Both these are locked at launch and one can assume that these will obviously include multiplayer elements.
The campaign story of FAU-G is based on the Galwan Valley clash that happened between Indian and Chinese soldiers last year, with some added Bollywood masala. The story is about a group of Indian soldiers who got caught in an ambush against an unnamed opposing force (nCore Games doing its bit to avoid any controversy). The player character is the only one left standing and it's up to them to rescue their fellow ‘Faujis’. However, players only have a set time to complete the entire level, so they will have to be on their toes.
Truth be told, as cheesy as the story sounds, I’m all up for it. If the US Army can toot its own horn in games like Call of Duty and Battlefield, it's about time Indian soldiers got their time in the limelight. The narration in the cutscenes is also pretty good and does well to add a little backstory, while the artwork that accompanies said cutscenes isn’t too bad. What I find off-putting are the in-game one-liners and quips that your character makes every few minutes. I get the player character is supposed to be uber patriotic, but the dialogue is enough to make Sunny Deol’s character in Gadar: Ek Prem Katha wince and cringe.
“Apne bhaiyon ko bachana mera farz hai. Aur unko pakadne walo ko marna, mazza…” - An actual in-game quote
While the player character and narrator speak in Hindi, the enemy speaks English in a weird accent that I simply cannot place. It’s almost like an Australian was hired to imitate a Chinese accent, but has no idea what the Chinese accent sounds like.
The graphics of FAU-G are pretty basic, even from the standpoint of a mobile game. Detail and textures are pretty much non-existent. The player characters are pretty much the most detailed of the lot, but that’s not saying much. Everything else has very little details and even looks fuzzy and in low resolution. This includes rocks, water, boxes and crates. There is no vegetation too. But that kinda makes sense since this is supposed to be set high up in the mountains of Ladakh. On the plus side, the game seems to run very well on the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition that was used to play the game.
The game was set to ‘Ultra’ graphics when we played, but it is set to ‘High’ as default. The most notable difference between the different settings seems to be a drop in texture resolution, especially around the edges. In the lower settings, objects, and even enemies have a jagged edge to them, especially at a distance. However, props and objects like crates will still be fuzzy and lack detail, regardless of your graphical setting.
Top: Ultra Graphics setting; Bottom: Very Low graphics setting (Note: The firewood is noticeably more jagged in the lower setting)
Top: Ultra graphics setting; Bottom: Very Low graphics setting (Note: Regardless of graphics quality, the details on the boxes and crates remain fuzzy)
Top: Ultra Graphics setting; Bottom: Very Low graphics setting (Note: The enemies and in-game marker have lower detail in the lower setting)
If the graphics of FAU-G were basic, then the controls are more-so. Movement is pretty much the same as any other game. However, your character only runs when walking forward. Strafing, or moving backwards slows him down to a walk. This makes backing out of a tricky situation much more difficult. Other controls include a button to attack, a button to block, and a button to switch between your fists and your melee weapon.
There is no button to crouch, go prone, or jump. So advanced movement is a no-go. This also makes levels pretty boring and straightforward. As such, the movement feels stiff and I'm forced to only move forward in order to have any speed.
The gameplay in FAU-G is lifeless, to say the least. As mentioned earlier, there is no option to jump, go prone or crouch. And trying to move anywhere but forward results in the player character walking at a snail's pace. As such, combat tactics such as sneaking up on the enemy, or strafing around them to get a better hit, is out the window. In any other game, this would lead to the game being impossible to play. Thankfully, nCore Games manages to overcome this by making the enemy AI as smart as a wet cheese sandwich.
Enemy detection range is pretty random. Sometimes, they will see you from quite far off, while at other times, they will seem oblivious to your presence till you are barely a stone’s throw away. Even when they come, sometimes they wait for you to hit them first. While they will crowd around you, they will patiently wait their turn to attack. Very well mannered.
Combat reminds me of the Batman Arkham series of games, minus all the finesse and fun. Your player character locks on to an enemy and then you mash the button till the opponent is defeated and falls over. There are no combos to unlock, nor any special moves to pull off. Just mash the button till the enemy is defeated. When surrounded, you can switch between different enemies, but I never really felt that I had complete control over this.
Occasionally, there will be an enemy with a weapon, defeat him and you will be able to pick up the weapon. However, the weapon will only last you a few hits before it breaks, similar to Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You can carry two weapons at any time and switch to your fists if you want to save your weapons for later.
Health can be regained around campfires, similar to the Dark Souls series. However, doing so will run down the clock even faster. There are no health packs or items, and the player does not regenerate health. This makes the game quite tedious to play as you can be low on health, but have no option to regain it aside from attacking the enemy base and hoping for the best. And when you eventually die, you have to restart from the checkpoint.
All this makes for a worrying thought when it comes to the multiplayer component. How exactly will multiplayer work? The controls aren’t that well polished for third person combat. On top of that, the lack of firearms would most-likely result in players just button-mashing their way through combat and the player with the most powerful stick would win, which makes for a worrying pay-to-win sort of a situation. Speaking of which...
To the game’s credit, there are absolutely no in-game pop-up advertisements. In order to make money, the developers have opted for the in-app purchase route taken by games like PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty: Mobile. However, herein lies a problem, and it is something the developers should have maybe taken into consideration.
The store offers a number of different weapons and player characters to choose from. These can be purchased using Silver, (FAU-G’s free currency) or Tokens (premium currency). These Tokens are available for as little as Rs 19, which adds 30 Tokens, to Rs 2,999 that adds 4800 Tokens. Players can also get 5 Tokens for free by watching an advertisement.
This is pretty much on-par with what most mobile games tend to do. While I personally have issues with the predatory practices inherent in such ‘freemium’ games, it isn’t really something I can deduct points from FAU-G for because everyone is doing it. That doesn’t make it any less bad though.
It should be noted that there is also a button labelled ‘Ice Spice’ which takes you to a store to buy FAU-G merchandise. Ok then...
No, my main issue is that while players can purchase weapons from the store, they can’t really use them in the Single Player mode that is available at launch. So there is absolutely no incentive to buy them right now. Further, the weapons in the store have a ‘Durability’ rating, which suggests that they will break after a while. Which begs the question, why would anyone want to pay real-world money for an in-game weapon that won't last an entire game?
Then there is the Catch-22 situation that is looming above everyone. If players don’t make in-game purchases, then nCore Games may not be incentivised to work on the multiplayer aspect. But… if there is no multiplayer, then players may not make any purchase. Hopefully, nCore Games will release the multiplayer aspect of the game sooner, rather than later and let the players decide.
Coming to a verdict on FAU-G, and other games on mobile is actually more difficult than you may realise. On one hand, the game seems to be clearly in a rushed state and seems quite incomplete. The movement is stiff, controls are limited and gameplay is pretty much button mashing. But on the other hand, the game is free to download on Android.
So, if you want, feel free to download the game and try it out. But if you are expecting a polished gameplay experience akin to PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty: Mobile, or Garena Free Fire, then you are just setting yourself up for disappointment. This game needs work, a lot of work. I don’t see why nCore Games didn’t work on the game some more and release it later this year. Maybe even some time in 2022. There was little reason to rush through the development and while some Indian gamers wouldn’t approve of the delay, it might eventually be worth it.
I like the idea of telling the stories of Indian soldiers via games. I also like the fact that it has minimal advertising, and the game should run fine on most phones. But the overall package needs to be better than this.
Finding alternatives for FAU-G is slightly tricky as the main draw for the game seems to be its uber patriotism and ‘Made in India’ appeal. So if you really want to play a game as part of the Indian armed forces, you might be better off playing something like Indian Air Force: A Cut Above (available on Android and iOS). However, if you want to support Indian game developers, consider something like Raji: An Ancient Epic (available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows). We are also looking forward to the remake of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time which is being made by Ubisoft Pune and Ubisoft Mumbai.
Developer: nCore Games
Publisher: nCore Games
Review platform: Android
Price: Free (with in-app purchases)
We played FAU-G on a OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition
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