What Furi thrives on is the refreshing design of all its characters, and emphasis on skill of the player over arbitrary ‘skill’ of the protagonist
You’ve just ninja-d out of prison thanks to a pal dressed as an angry pink bunny and now you have to fight your way through waves of bizarre prisoners and jailers… just another day in the outlandish world of Furi, a fighter that specialises in boss battles from developer The Game Bakers.
Boss battles have never been my forte. If I find a game I haven’t played in a while, it is pretty much guaranteed that when I boot it up I will find myself facing off with an intimidatingly complex beast to take down. Finding that I had just downloaded a booster pack of boss battles therefore, I wasn’t too buzzed about continuing. A game built on repeated boss battles, each of which takes several phases to complete, and is heavily reliant on precision timing, runs the very high and, unfortunately all to commonly realised, risk of becoming saturated with the same mechanics to the point of mindless repetition. What Furi thrives on therefore, is the refreshing design of all its characters, and emphasis on skill of the player over arbitrary ‘skill’ of the protagonist.
What struck me after around an hour of play was the total absence of skill points, or experience levels. While the progression of the game naturally suggests advancement, that’s your lot. Much of the skill progression actually takes place in you, the player. Working with a rudimentary set of abilities means you need to use your moves wisely, and master each button click to immense levels of precision to continue. When faced with an enemy you have the option to either slash, parry, shoot, or dodge. The game really begins when you realise that close inspection to the point of study of each boss at every phase of the battle is required for defeat… and lots of practice. Memorising an enemy’s weakness, when to use what attack and how, and then actually carrying out each manoeuvre to the precision demanded by these bosses has such an effect on intimacy with the protagonist that I forget the last time I truly felt as connected to a game world as I did in a Furi trance.
All this inspection comes with a price to pay however. Once you’ve whittled a boss down to the last couple of phases of their existence, things get intense and every move counts. Die three times, and you begin again from phase one. That’s the phase one that you’ve been watching and learning for the last twenty minutes by the way. Chipping away at a boss takes time, and repetition. And through each of these long repetitions of the battle you play through everything you’ve memorised until you get to the bit you messed up, and then it’s down to a split second precision move – mess that up and you’re back to the start again. The result of all this is much of the actual gameplay time is spent watching boss sequences over and over, mindlessly pressing the right button when it happens until you can actually get it right on the bit you want to play. It’s times like this when it becomes obvious that, though the combat mechanics bring the player closer to the protagonist, they also are not creatively driven – they’re, for want of a better phrase, mechanical mechanics – built not on decision or movement, but reaction times and the skill of knowing when to press which button.
Aside from the bittersweet combat system, Furi looks stunning – from its techno environments to its whimsically extravagant character design. The brief rest periods afforded through journeying to the next battle give you time to take in some of the surprisingly hard hitting storyline and make inferences about your character based on others’ dialogue and various environmental cues. The anime stylings work brilliantly with the tone of the battles, and serve to license artists to explore the fantastic while retaining a solidly fearsome basis.
Furi is available on PS4 and PC at RRP $24.99