In 2006, Unleash the Fury was the sleeper hit of E3. Several of the staff voted for it for Best Graphics and it won the "Most Surprising" award. It then went on to garner more interest at PAX and GDC, and then fans waited... and waited for more news. Well, the news is here. Unleash the Fury will be published by GameCock in the USA. Currently in closed beta, it will be released in October of 2007 and the business model will be unveiled in a couple of weeks.
More excitingly, there will be a free preview weekend beginning Friday, July 27th and running through July 29th. Client downloads will be available prior to that weekend and all interested will be able to preview the gameplay of this PvP game. Just as we sat down to demo the game; the power went out on us, so we talked about the game while waiting for an engineer or electrician to get more juice to the hotel suite.
Unleash the Fury is a pure PvP game. Even learning quests and quests to earn skills and abilities are PvP based. As a player levels, he can save and play different incarnations - that is, the same character, but with different sets of skills saved to templates. The match-making engine ranks players on both their progression and skills, and players are ranked on their ability to play their incarnations as well. For example, a player may be highly ranked as a tank, but poorly ranked as a caster. At the same time, the PvP ladder also ranks individuals, clans and servers. So when a match is made, players are matched on skill, not merely levels.
At launch, three game scenarios will be available. They are:
The Blood Bath which is a timed 32 man free for all. Blood tokens are dropped by characters when they die and held by the victor. Points are accumulated based on the number you collect and the length of time you hold onto them.
The Elimination Tourney, which is a 4 by 4 team battle with the best out of two rounds.
The Vortex - which was the first game shown. A 16 by 16 battle. The first team to collect and place 4 Vortex crystals wins. Crystals are collected from creatures that spawn and can also be stolen from the opposing team.
In December, new content will be added in the form of the Fortress scenario, which is a 32 x 32 "Unreal Onslaught" type game where players have to win and hold control points. Each game scenario will have 4 or 5 maps, and they are quite diverse.
"Vortex is proving to be the most popular game so far," said Content Designer, Michael Hampden. "We often play the game during lunch break, one side of the office against the other. With 16 on each side, the tide can change very quickly." Challenge or practice games are also available which allows you to play with smaller numbers. But these will have to be pre-arranged with your friends or guild and will not count in the ladder.
We finally got power back up and we jumped into play in the Blood Bath. A new method of steering has been introduced since I last had a chance to play the game. The WASD keys still work as does Q and E for strafing, but now, you can use your mouse to move forward and steer. Pressing both buttons makes your character run forward and you steer by moving the mouse. I love this method. To strafe, all I would have to do would be to program the strafe left and right keys to additional mouse buttons.
There is no auto-attack in Fury, although sticky acquisition of target is possible. All attacks are done by depressing skill keys or clicking on the icons. Target acquisition is done by using the Tab key to acquire the closest target or clicking on the player character. Buffs and heals spawn and re-spawn at specific points on the map and all the player has to do is to run into them to pick them up.
"Go find a red-cross symbol," I told fellow journalist Sean. "Those are your heal buffs. Won't hurt to pick up all the shields either." The icons were easy to understand. There were shields, flame shapes and water droplets which provided additional armor, fire and water protection. There were also some movement buffs that I had found earlier. Jump pads are particularly nifty contraptions that launch you up in the air and across the map. Quick ways to escape an attacker or get to the area you need to get to in a hurry.
Skill icons were easy to understand as well. Icons with a + sign generated charges. Icons with an "o" sign required charges to be used. Icons without any signs did not require charges. Abilities or skills are part of one of four schools. Red (fire) and blue (water) are opposing forces, and purple (decay) and green (nature) are the other two opposing forces. Therefore players would be best served to select skills that build and consume the same color (or school) charges as well as skills that did not require charges - of the other schools.
"Don't forget,' said Michael, "once your opponent is down to 30% or less health, you can deal a death blow. That takes your opponent out with some really cool animation." The moment Sean figured that out, he was all over it. Yes, it is impressive... and fun!
Each and every time I've played or watched Fury demos, they have always shown the same thing; that Fury is quick and easy to learn, and challenging enough to be fun. The strategy and skills require some finesse, but the "easy to learn, difficult to master" has always been the mantra of good game design. I tried to analyze why Fury appealed to me more than another similar game, and my friend Ophelea stripped the reason bare for me. "Fury is all about getting in there and playing. Sure, there's some story, but that's not the real point."
Let's see. Consensual PvP? Check. Team cooperative play? Check. Skill based? Yes. Fast paced? Yes. Fun factor? Check. Easy to learn? Yes. Challenging? Totally. Check it out for yourself at the end of the month.