I’m going to start off by getting the obvious out of the way: no, Father.IO has nothing to do with fatherhood. It’s actually the “geek” side of GeekDad that put Father.IO on our radar. The elevator pitch of “massive multiplayer laser tag with augmented reality” was enough to pique our interest, and I was lucky enough to get a pair of review devices.
So, Father.IO as a game is more of your typical FPS with good guys (humans) and bad guys (evolved). The storyline, which doesn’t really echo in the gameplay itself, is that a mysterious virus has infected the evolved–“the augmented human species once peacefully living with humans”–and are now rising up against them. The game also promises multiple classes, so between two unique factions and four unique classes, I was looking forward to some asymmetrical gameplay. I’ll get back to that in a bit
Setup was wonderfully easy. You have a device that snaps onto your phone with an included clamp. All you have to do is download the Father.IO game from your respective app store (the game supports both Android and iOS) and then scan a QR code that comes with your device’s box.
Setup and figuring out how to connect to a game was pretty intuitive. My buddy and I each created accounts, connected our phones, and were ready to go in less than ten minutes. We ran around his apartment’s lounge quietly muttering friendly trash talk while onlookers were confused. He was a lot more in shape and more experienced with FPS than me, so he took more than a few rounds. To make it even, we both opted for the same class–Assault. We played with both the Spawning and Deathmatch modes.
Now, this completely glazes over the fact that this is some wonderful implementation of augmented reality. We were able to target one another and each shot caused the other’s phone to vibrate, letting us know we’d been hit. The fact that the system can track up to 32 different players in a single game is impressive and something I’d love to take part in. I look forward to seeing how Father.IO progresses the field of AR.
Now let’s talk about that asymmetrical gameplay. For those unfamiliar with the term, asymmetrical games allow users to have different experiences, much like Overwatch, where every playable character is drastically unique and strategies are necessary to exploit their own strengths, protect their weaknesses, and players gravitate to certain realms of the game. In Father.IO, all the classes are more or less the same–except the Sniper, which could effectively one-shot everyone with a headshot. Not much experimentation was put into the differences of the other classes, but nothing was really intuitive from our first glance. I’d imagine a lot of players gravitating to Snipers in this game, as the one-shot is pretty deadly. This is compounded by the fact that spawn points are relatively randomly generated from a nearby locale. In the case that it’s an open field, it’ll be a Sniper-fest for sure.
There was also a solo Headshot mode where you could attempt to headshot passers-by, which just felt a little creepy…
The project was launched through Indiegogo last year, raising over $450,000 with over 7,000 backers. The current way to pick up your copy is by heading over there and either grabbing a single pack for $39 or the double pack for $69–and that’s the rub. You can’t play solo (outside of Headshotting people at the nearby bus station), so a friend and you will have to go halfsies on the double pack and hope enough in your clique also have the budget and inclination to pick up the game.
In the Indiegogo trailer, it portrays a world much like the first month of Pokemon GO–everyone is on the street, ready to throw down for a deathmatch, ready to fly their evolved flag high. The problem with that is that Father.IO is a major battery hog, much worse than Pokemon GO ever was. While the Interceptor device has a battery life of a few hours, in the fifteen minutes my friend and I played, both our phones went from full energy down to around 30%. I don’t imagine many going around ready for an impromptu throw down if it means they’ll have a dead phone in their pocket the rest of the day.
So, overall, I enjoy my pair of Interceptors and would love to play again. I’d love to get friends of mine playing too, because laser tag in a setting of our choosing sounds like a blast. However, I don’t see myself carrying around my Interceptor in my bag hoping that a challenge will come forward. If you’re a fan of laser tag, augmented reality, or FPS, this would still be a great gift to get for a group of friends this holiday season.