I remember the first time playing a digital-only indie game – it was Castle Crashers on the Xbox 360. A decent game, but luckily it only went uphill from there for indie gaming. Very soon, very quality roguelike (or ‘rogue-lite’) indie games arrived in droves. Games like FTL: Faster Than Light, the Binding of Isaac, Risk of Rain, Sword of the Stars: The Pit, Darkest Dungeon, Crypt of the NecroDancer, and of course, Rogue Legacy, occupied us all over the years with their compelling procedurally generated game play. Even as recent as 2017 we received quality rogue-like indie games like Dead Cells, which won some serious awards last year, including Rock Paper Shotgun’s game of the year award.
But none of those games may have celebrated their rogue-like heritage as much as 2013’s Rogue Legacy – I mean, it’s even in the title. It wears the love of the genre it represents on it’s sleeve. It was a fantastic game, but we haven’t seen anything from the developers – promising Canadian indie studio Cellar Door Games – for quite some time. That is, until now.
Their latest effort is an isometric multiplayer action RPG called Full Metal Furies, and it launches on January 17th, 2018. I was fortunate enough to receive a pre-release Steam key to write this preview article, so this product was received for free. But the question is, does Full Metal Furies live up to the standard of quality set by Rogue Legacy? Yes. Without question.
It’s a fantastic brawler-focused action RPG that’s at its best with three other players.
The premise is that you, and up to three of your friends or other online players, play as the Full Metal Furies, a bad ass troupe of femme fatales, vying to save the world. Much like Castle Crashers, players with move from stage to stage, fighting baddies, but with a much greater RPG progression system including upgrading equipment and talent trees.
The premise feels fresh, and each of the characters are legitimately charming and well-written. The rest of the story is well-written as well; I had a surprising amount of laugh-out-loud moments.
Firstly, a bit on the presentation. Furies is gorgeous in every way. The art style, character design (both pixel and fully drawn), music, and sound effects come together to make an impression that’s more than the sum of its parts. This is the cream of the crop when it comes to 2D games – seriously. The presentation in Full Metal Furies is simply exceptional – as good or better than any other 2D game I’ve played. The moment I booted it up, it just felt destined to be an indie classic, like it’s predecessor Rogue Legacy.
The music is very good. This is one of those soundtracks that you just know is going to be bundled with the game on Steam as an option. It features a lot of funky drumming, ballsy rock arrangements, and chip tune-esque synths. But overall, it’s hard to pin down exactly what kind of music Full Metal Furies features to any one genre. For every chip tune synth, there’s a somber acoustic guitar just around the corner.
The main groove featured in the camp section will simply not leave my head. I’ve often spoken of things that feel so primal, it’s as though they’ve always existed. This is the case with this groove. It’s a pretty simple rocking groove with two string instruments and a rudimentary back beat. Just like we saw with Pyre, this seemingly stylistic choice could be read into the narrative. This is a tune that some of the Furies themselves could be jamming out to just to pass the time.
The sound design and effects are also on par with the music. I like the added touch of horn hits capping off each mission, sounding triumphantly with success, or deflated with failure, depending on the outcome.
But while it is exceptional on the whole, the presentation is not perfect. Firstly, while the characters and enemies are animated in a top notch pixel style, the backgrounds are not. They aren’t badly drawn, but they aren’t in that same pixel style that the character sprites are, and it’s kinda weird looking sometimes. I understand that a lot of pixel games feature static backgrounds that are not in a pixel style, but for some reason this disparity of art style kinda bugged me in Full Metal Furies.
Also, the backgrounds themselves are pretty bland. Much of the beginning of the game is fighting on sand with wooden planks and boxes in the background. Recall the intricate and interesting backgrounds from a game like Castle Crashers, or Street Fighter II. Full Metal Furies could have used more love in this department. There are three distinguishable “layers” – the foreground, midground, and background. The foreground and midground are drawn and coloured adequately. It’s the background itself that’s the ugliest, as they tend to simply be blurred images attempting to give the impression of distance.
A decent game for comparison is Castle Crashers. Castle Crashers and Full Metal Furies are very similar games in both presentation and game play. They both even borrow their overworld segments from games like Super Mario Bros. 3. However, Full Metal Furies is the far superior game. Castle Crashers lacked the RPG depth that Furies offers in spades. Castle Crashers is more like a traditional brawler, whereas Furies can be perhaps more adequately described as an action RPG. And that brings us to the game play.
As mentioned, the game is an isometric brawler, much in the same vein as Castle Crashers, Streets of Rage, or Double Dragon. There are four abilities at the ready as you begin to brawl, and you’ll find they’re significantly different for each character: primary attack, secondary skill, evade ability, and power ability. The primary attack and secondary skills are your bread and butter – you’ll be pressing these a lot. The evade ability provides added mobility, while the power ability features some kind of power-up – both trigger a cool down when used.
The game truly shines when played in multiplayer. The developers have done a fine job integrating each characters play style so that their strengths and weaknesses are complementary to each other. But if you want to play alone, don’t fret. They’ve managed to make it so that you are able to switch between two chosen characters on the fly as you wish, and it works flawlessly.
This game is legitimately difficult as well. Don’t be thinking you’ll be mindlessly grinding through this one. You need to take it slow and monitor the enemies patterns to time your defenses and attacks accordingly. We’re not talking Cuphead levels of animation fixation, where you are hanging on edge to anticipate the enemy’s attack via their animation, but it will take some time and patience. The most surprising thing that Furies brings to the genre is the addition of bullet hell/shoot ’em up hazards, which is actually comparable to what you’d see in Cuphead. Waves of bullets in various patterns, from the most basic enemies to the most difficult bosses, to be dodges and weaved by the Furies. This makes for some seriously intense multiplayer sessions. In this regard, the game’s tagline rings true: Furies is not your typical brawler.
If you want a real challenge, try playing the game single player, as both the sniper and engineer characters. You’re in for quite a time. The challenge of the game is, in my opinion, one of the best things about it. If a game requires skill, it also requires coordination, which means more communication with your buddies, which means more interaction, more laughs, and more good times.
There is a progression system outside of the immediate story that is unique to your profile, whereby you unlock additional percent-based bonuses for each character over time as you play them. Being percent-based, they’re not exactly going to get you excited, but they’re a form of long-term progression nonetheless.
I was surprised with the amount of puzzle content in the game. As I was playing the game, there were several word puzzles that all seemed to require some exploration and backtracking, which adds to it’s sense of non-linearity. Early on I was encountered with a puzzle that I was unsure I was able to solve without continuing past it. These puzzles are but one example of the interesting side-features that Furies has to offer.
Many times after finishing a game I find myself wanting to go back and start over. With most games, that means sitting through the same dialogue/cut scenes. Most recently, I really wished that Battle Chef: Brigade had given me the option to play through the story without having to click through dozens upon dozens of dialogue boxes. Luckily it seems as though this feature is present in Full Metal Furies. Through the options menu you can change how often the game shows you dialogue segments, which is a welcome addition.
Let’s get it out of the way right off the bat – the essence of this game is derivative. We’ve seen quality isometric brawlers before, more recently in the legendary Castle Crashers, but especially in older games like Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But the derivative nature of the genre doesn’t mean this particular entry isn’t welcome. Surprisingly, it seems as though the beat ‘em up genre hasn’t been exploited as often as I thought in more recent, indie-friendly years. I did not recognize many of the highest rated games tagged with “beat ‘em up” on Steam. I felt as though the accessibility and simplicity of the brawler genre would have made it well suited to more legendary indie games – think about the immense catalog of excellent indie platformers, for instance. But of course that doesn’t seem to be the case, which makes Full Metal Furies that much more special.
(this product was received for free)