In the last few years the big blockbuster, AAA titles have dominated the market. There isn’t a month that goes by where we don’t hear about a Battlefield, Call of Duty or Halo title, either retrospectively or looking forward. But in the last few months several gems of indie development have climbed into view and shown the big developers what can be achieved with only a fraction of the budget and technology. One of these gems was Virginia, but another title has stepped into view.
Furi is a sword-swinging game with a difference. There are no goons or middlemen to slay, no puzzles to solve, no endlessly spawning minions to cleave through. Furi is all about boss fights. Created as a weapon, it’s down to you and your swordsmanship to get out of your vast prison by defeating several bosses in turn, all while being encouraged by a rabbit mask wearing individual who provides supportive and encouraging dialogue. The story itself is relatively straightforward: You are a prisoner of exceptional talent and you need to escape from your domineering line management.
Furi’s main strength is its combat. It’s easy to mistake this for nothing more than a button masher. But it’s far more than that. Bosses can’t be defeated by endless thumb smashing and trigger pulling, they can only be defeated by using what you have learned before and in the right way. Some bosses are impervious to simple sword slashes, but when used in conjunction with other moves, they might just work. It forces you to analyse and study your opponent, learning what sequences work and when to use them. Get it all correct and you’ll eventually emerge from the fight triumphant. I say eventually because each fight isn’t a few minutes of expert sequence mashing, fights can last up to thirty minutes and more. It’s as much about the combat as it is about patience and study, much like a true martial arts master or samurai.
Unlike Call of Duty, you don’t instantly become a death dealing war machine here, you learn over the first five or ten minutes of each encounter and then you apply that to your method. And don’t be mistaken for thinking this is about destroying a weapon here or hitting the opponents’ arm there. This is all about skill and timing, and not aiming for the highlighted weak spot because there are none. It’s all about technique.
There are, however, some aspects to this approach that can be intrusive. Even though the combat doesn’t involve button mashing I found myself wanting to simply swoop in, mash away with a few swings of the sword and then leap out of harms way. But that’s not possible here. Well, it is, but it simply won’t work. And I found myself missing that aspect of gameplay. The fights are demanding, especially on the regular or more difficult setting, where a fight can easily last up to an hour. And if you lose a fight after 45 minutes of hard work it’s extremely off putting. The need to learn various moves and patterns with which to fight your opponent also disrupts the flow of the game, as you inevitably end up experimenting with various techniques to see if they work in certain combinations. And although the game forces you to innovate, it’s all done according to the game’s pre-scripted sequences instead of allowing you to fully innovate mid-combat.
Having said that, even though the combat is long and demanding it’s thoroughly rewarding when your hard work pays off, and I found myself hurling expletives at the television and punching the air on more than one occasion after each boss. Your hard work really is rewarded, not by anything unlockable such as new weapons, skins or gear, because there isn’t any, but by a real sense of achievement.
Each new encounter requires a bespoke approach. Combat usually begins with prompts and then it’s down to you to piece it all together. The first fight is relatively straightforward, sort of. Well, as straightforward as can be in Furi. After learning the initial moves, such as charged slashes, shooting, and dashing, I used all of these in the right sequence and combination to get the edge. But you have to maintain it and watch what the boss is doing, because they inevitably change their approach slightly and you have to do the same. And I like that. Study, fight, win. That’s the aim here, but timing is crucial. Mess up a move or fail to block at the right moment and you’ll be in danger of losing out, but you do at least get quite a bit of health and several opportunities to avoid defeat, so it’s not what I would call intentionally cruel or a steep learning curve.
The visuals are bright and distinct, even though they are nothing unusual. Everything comes across as familiar but distinctive, and the audio is a mix of moody or energetic tracks. Luckily, though, it’s not just a seemingly endless series of fights. There is exposition between each encounter, allowing you to learn more about your situation and surroundings, and the unusual rabbit mask-wearing character that tags along. Each boss is also very different, with their own fight style, and aesthetic. And each area also varies to some degree, requiring additional thought for those encounters that don’t involve a simple circle-shaped arena.
Furi is a fighting game that offers something different, a new approach to hack and slash. It forces you to think instead of bruising your fingers and thumbs on your controller. This approach occasionally disrupts the flow of the experience, but overall it doesn’t impair the game. If you’re looking for something different to wall running in Titanfall or endless questing in Destiny, this might well be your bag, baby!
Out of five stars I give Furi…