Last week I recieved an exciting email -- an invitation to help test upcoming Online PvP RPG Fury. Consequently, I spent a large part of this past weekend playing, testing, and forming an initial impression of Fury. Fury just entered the closed beta stage this past weekend, so keep in mind that many of the things I write here are subject to change in the future, as the game is still undergoing extensive changes. Play-testing is currently only available during the weekends, and the developers are still making major changes to the game during the week.
And yes, even though the game is in closed beta, they’ve already dropped the NDA, so I’m free to talk about my experiences. How cool is that?
Fury was designed from the outset to be an PvP-focused game, with a lot of effort taken to remove traditional sources of tedium that surround many other online PvP games. Unlike most online games that offer PvP, Fury does not force the player to “grind” or invest a lot of time before allowing them to PvP -- players are free to jump into PvP combat almost from the outset.
Like many games, play begins with creation of a character. Unlike the recent MMO trend allowing greater character customization, Fury offers a very limited number of customization options, only including sex, face, hair, and skin tone. Unfortunately, the game could use a lot of work on it’s character models -- the models are fairly low polgyon by today’s standards, and they’re generally ugly and ill-proportioned. Over half of the female faces available have eyes that are eeriely large, making many of the females look creepy (think Leela from Futurama). Fortunately, because the game is played in third-person view, the models are quite small on the screen and it’s hard to see the customization options anyway. Especially when wearing armor. It’s probably a good thing that you never have the chance to get up close and personal with any of the avatars once in game. In addition to the poor looking models, the character animation is choppy and awkward. The character’s movement look pretty unnatural, especially while strafing. The overall graphics in the game are similarly lackluster. They’re certainly functional, but they’re not going to make you ooh or aah by any stretch of the imagination.
The beta-client did a particularly poor job of picking appropriate settings for my machine. Using the high-end renderer on an Athlon 3200 with a Geforce GT7600, I was getting about 3fps running in 1280×1024 full screen. Upon switching to 1024×768 windowed mode and adjusting some of the video settings, I was able to get about 20fps consistently, which is actually pretty good for an unoptimized game just entering beta. The game utilizes the Unreal3 engine, and does so fairly effectively.
One of the things that surprised me the most was how stable the beta client was. The game did not crash or seriously glitch on me a single time in over 8 hours of play. It is a real credit to Fury’s coders that the game is already so stable at the start of closed-beta. Furthermore, and perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that I encountered no lag while playing. Not once. While it does take a while for new zones to load in, once they are loaded, they worked flawlessly. No lagging, blinking, ping-ponging, or any other latency-related issues that typically plague beta games. It ran smooth. I have no doubt that this game will be largely free of technical hassles when it is released.
Upon entering the game, you are presented with a tutorial that steps you through the basics -- and the tutorial does a pretty decent job of this. By the time I completed the tutorial, I felt pretty comfortable moving around and working with the limited UI. The game’s UI is already pretty decent, especially compared to where most other games are UI-wise at a similar point in beta. In fact, I’d say it’s already better than the UI for some shippping games (aka. LOTRO). UI elements are extremely responsive and give enough feedback that you’re rarely left wondering whether your click registered or not. The UI also comes with an extremely nice compass and map that allow you to quickly find NPCs and to ping and draw lines for your teammates. In conjunction with a voice chat client, I could see how lines could be used to effectively detail strategy planning session before the battles start.
Once you complete the tutorial, you are asked to pick a class. There are 8 classes aligned into 4 schools: death, decay, life, and growth, with each school having a melee and ranged class. However, unlike many other games, your choice of class is not permanent -- in fact, the only thing your choice of class determines is your starting abilities! Players start with a small number of abilities aligned with their starting class, but after that are effectively “classless” in that they can pursue abilities from any class they desire. Want to heal? Pick up some healer abilities. Want to cast some firebolts? Pick up some invoker abilities. Want to do both? Pick up both. This really allows a player to customize their character to a high degree. Given that you can take 24 abilities into combat, there isn’t much constraint on what you can and can’t do.
All abilities fall into one of four elements: fire, water, air, and nature. Every time you use an ability, you gain or lose charges in the element -- casting a weak firebolt may give you +2 fire charges. Casting a strong firebolt may use 3 charges, leaving you unable to cast it if you do not already have enough charges. Characters can store up to 10 charges total. Furthermore, fire is opposed to water, and air is opposed to nature -- building charges in one element destroys any charges built in the opposing element. Consequently, invokers (who use a lot of fire abilities) have a harder time effectively utilizing healing abilties (which are water-based) than other classes.
In addition to abilities, your character also has an equipment set. Equipment provides resistances to various elements, and rarer equipment will also provide other bonuses, such as small offensive bonuses. Upon completing PvP matches, new equipment is randomly generated for members of your group to roll on. One neat thing is that you get 3 rolls: you can roll once on three different items, or use all three rolls on one item you really want! Any items you win show up in your mailbox shortly after the battle ends.
One of the more interesting systems in the game are the incarnations. Once you pick an ability and equipment set, you can save it as an incarnation. You can switch between various incarnations at will between battles. For example, you may play one battle as an invoker, the next as a healer, and the next as a overlord, each with it’s own ability-set and gear-set. This means your team will never lack for a particular play-style, because someone can always become that play-style upon demand.
Fortunately, your character can hold a huge number of items, so you will rarely or never lack for carrying capacity -- we’re talking being able to lug around hundreds of items. There is no encumbrance, and no penalty for carrying around excessive items, so you should be able to carry around enough gear to support a large number of incarnations.
Advancing your character is done solely through PvP. When PvPing, your character is rewarded essence in each of the four schools (death, decay, life, growth) and one additional school named fury. Essence is generated through use of abilities from the corresponding schools -- for example, if you use a lot of invoker fire abilities (which are under the school of death), you will generate death school essence. At the end of each PvP match, special rewards are given based on performance metrics (such as who had the best damage dealt to death ratio), and these rewards grant fury essence. Essence from the four schools is then spent to unlock additional abilities in that school. Fury essence is also sometimes required (it also plays a role in faction, but that has not been implemented yet). To switch to a new class, simply purchase a few starting abilities in that class and then start using them in battle. You’ll begin generating essence of that school type, which can then be used to unlock more advanced abilities from that class. Eventually all characters will unlock all abilities from all classes, and at that point it’s just choosing whichever combination floats your boat for the day.
The music and audio are well done, although the audio is somewhat choppy -- this is something I expect will be fixed by the time the game ships. The music in particular was surprisingly good -- it fit the mood of the game well, and was not grating or annoying.
The heart of Fury is the PvP battles themselves. There are 4 types of battles, 3 of which are currently implemented:
Bloodbath, an every man for himself arena-type fight that can support 64 players.
Vortex, a large team capture the flag type game.
Elimination, a small 4×4 group duel
Fortress, an end-game massive battle mode that takes place between two teams of 32 players (not implemented yet).
I spent most of my time playing Bloodbath, as it was easy to jump into games to test abilities and did not require a team. Although Bloodbath supports 64 players, more typically I was fighting against 8-12 players. Bloodbath currently has 3 maps: a neat Japanese style courtyard, an arena-esque pit with a lot of spikes, and a canyon/ramparts type map. Bloodbath also offers a lot of first-person shooter style “power-up” bonuses that can be acquired just by walking over them, such as absorption shields, elemental reflection shields, heals, and heal over time buffs. They respawn pretty rapidly.
In Bloodbath, players are scored based on their performance as well as how many “tokens” they can acquire. Every time a player is killed, they drop a token which can be picked up by anybody (so it is common for other players to steal your tokens, particularly if you are a caster). You can collect up to 5 tokens, and the more tokens you have, the more points you accumulate over time. Of course, if you are killed, you lose all your tokens, which generally guarantees that nobody is able to keep a lot of tokens for too long. In one game of Bloodbath, I managed to get lucky and kill 5 players in a row -- having the maximum number of allowable tokens, I hid in a nook for the remainder of the game acquiring points over time, just to see if I could. Consequently, I finished with twice as many points as the nearest competitor. Not exactly a thrilling battle, and not something the system mechanics should reward… But having come in first place, I was rewarded with a much better selection of random equipment at the end of the battle than for my usual 4th place finish.
The battles themselves are very fast paced. Almost all of the abilities are instant cast, meaning there’s an excessive amount of clicking and ability spam. It’s not uncommon to run around clicking 1-1-1-1-1-1-2-2-2-1-1-1-1-3-1-1-1-2-1… Although the game claims 400 abilities, in reality there are quite a bit less, as most abilities are duplicated for each school. For example, every class offers it’s own flavor of a ranged or melee version of a weak elemental damage spell that gives +2 elemental charges and does about 70-90 damage, a stronger damage spell that gives +1 elemental charges and does about 100-130 damage, and a more damaging spell that uses 3 charges but does about 250-350 damage. That’s 12 abilities right there, even though there are really only 3 unique types. Consequently, the number of actually skills is quite a bit smaller than claimed.
Generally speaking, success in PvP games is predicated on three things: burst damage, crowd control, and ability to counter other abilities. There are no critical hits in fury, and most of the abilities are fairly low damage -- consequently, burst damage has largely been removed from the equation. A new player has 2500 hit points: with low power abilities doing about 100 damage and high power abilities doing about 300 damage, you can see that it takes a while to kill anybody even when spamming abilities. There are definitely no insta-kills here. However, the downside is that there is also very little variation in damage patterns. A huge number of battles play out the same way -- cast small bolts or use weak melee moves to build up charges, then use bigger moves that eat charges but do more damage.
Crowd control is very weak in Fury. Roots are short-lived (eg. 6 seconds) and break on damage. Snares are useless against bolt spells, and since anybody can add a few bolt spells to their ability set, they’re rarely all that debilitating. Mez and stun spells rarely last more than a few seconds. Many melee classes have the ability to close distances quickly. Consequently, there’s very little a player can do to control other player’s movements. While this is good in one regard, because it prevents problems like stun-locking, it also removes a strategic element from the game. This is particularly problematic when encountering a situation where you know you are going to lose (eg. when 2 players gang up on you) -- there’s relatively few options for escape, and consequently, death almost inevitably follows.
Counter-abilities are also fairly weak in Fury. This is an area I wasn’t able to explore very heavily, but the primary means of resisting damage is through equipment, self-buffs, and picking up battlefield power-ups/heals. If someone decides to target you, there isn’t much you can do about it other than try to kill them quickly. Furthermore, because players can bring 24 different abilities from as many classes as they desire, there’s simply no way to counter as much diversity as players can bring.
Consequently, because Fury essentially neuters burst damage, crowd control, and the ability to counter other abilities, PvP battles tend to be somewhat lengthy, but with less strategy than a PvP focused game should offer. I was hugely surprised and somewhat disappointed at the overall lack of depth in the system. Battles consisted largely of trying to find situations where you can press your limited advantages -- namely, getting off a few shots before the other player can locate you, and ensuring you have as many elemental charges loaded up as possible before engaging in battle (so you can use your damaging abilities before the other player).
Because leveling up abilities does very little to increase their damage, and because equipment does not markedly increase offensive power, players are really only differentiated by the skills they bring into battle. Consequently, battles often play out the same way, with the player who gets in the first couple shots, has more charges stored when entering battle, or comes in with a heal-over-time buff active (and thus has more HP) almost inevitably wins. Getting ganged up on is common, and being attacked by more than one player almost always means certain death. Consequently, matches were often dominated more by whoever picked up the best power-ups and whoever got ganged up on rather than who utilized their abilities best.
The ability to change almost everything about your character, from your look to your equipment and abilities means that if you get bored with one thing, you can try something else without having to invest much time. But ultimately, I think this may end up being a downside to the game as well -- as flavor-of-the-week/month builds will run rampant, and players will flock to whatever build is most overpowered at a given moment. The PvP battles are fun, but already after playing for eight hours, I found myself longing for something with a little more depth, a little more strategy. Even though the game itself is RPG-esque, the battles play out more similarly to FPS PvP than traditional MMORPG PvP, minus having to manually aim.
While the game definitely brings some unique ideas to the table, I found the battles to be a little too spammy, a little too predictable, and without enough real variation to be all that interesting. In their ability to ensure that no player can instantly dominate any other player, the devs have gone a little too far to the other side of the equation and made it so all players are too similar. Due to the lack of burst damage, crowd control, and ability-counters, along with the similarity of so many abilities, after a while the battles felt more like going through the motions then developing real strategies. And that’s exactly what I was hoping to get away from by playing against human player instead of a_goblin_whelp_01.