The last decade has been such a ‘Roguelite Renaissance’ that it’s fair to argue that we’ve taken the genre as far it could possibly go. Facing this reality, the aptly named geniuses at Awesome Games studio did what any 1990s advertising executive would do when faced with a product’s dry well of inspiration — they slapped an XTREME label on it and cranked that baby up to eleven! Such is the premise of Fury Unleashed, a blood soaked cartoon shooter that is so ‘metal’ that it borders on the absurdly fun.
In Fury Unleashed, you play the eponymously named comic book hero — a gun wielding savant of death who just seems to be in the profession of killing things. It’s half rogue-lite and half spiritual successor to Comix Zone; Fury plays across randomly generated levels that all serve to fill up the pages of a comic book starring the protagonist. If Fury manages to traverse his/her way across the pages, they will face the final boss in that particular story’s climax.
To date, there are three comic books totaling nine grueling pages of gun battles. If you die then your permadeath will unmercifully send you back to page one of Comic #1. Along the way, there are a copious amount of chests filled with guns and powerups that Fury can use to punish the hordes of undead jungle warriors, high-tech Nazis, and Alien invaders that stand in their path.
The gameplay, visuals, and audio all mix together amazingly. You can shoot, melee, goomba stomp, lob grenades, and use a variety of super moves to traverse across the map. The most rewarding feature is the game’s combo system, which marks how many blood soaked kills you can link up in a certain amount of time. At a high enough level you are rewarded with much needed healing orbs, and the level’s music swells into a crescendo of heavy metal guitar. The music and rich sound effects all serve to amplify some truly beautiful comic book visuals and corpse explosions. The game embraces how extreme it is, and it works to hilarious effect.
As with all good roguelites, the sting of your death is numbed by the ability to upgrade Fury with in-game currency that you earn across your battles. Fury Unleashed wisely embraces RPG elements, letting you fully customize Fury aesthetically while also giving them a diverse skill tree of upgrades to enhance your abilities. NPCs along the way challenge you to complete objectives in exchange for in game currency which can be used to improve your character stats. It all leads to intense replayability — which I took part in for hours on end.
It’s not to say the game is perfect. Some of the guns are gloriously overpowered, leading to unbalanced gameplay and certain runs that are overly successful just as a result of some lucky random number generation. As such, the two gun system just doesn’t work, limiting how creative you can be with your playstyle. The controls are glitchy as well, and the menu layout needs to be simplified. I found the controller to be a much easier experience, but even that had it’s issues. As the game is still in a beta state, a little refinement is still possible and will go a long way to fixing these issues.
These minor issues pale in the shadow of Fury Unleashed’s most impressive and surprising feature: a heartfelt and and beautiful story. Across the pages, the player is shown snippets of the life of the comic book writer of Fury Unleashed, and it’s clear that he’s not well.
A lot of the writer’s time is spent considering his social life, reading bad reviews of his comics, and wondering if his art is past his prime. This mental state is reflected in the comic book — sometimes the panels of Unleashed are half filled, and occasionally black and white sketches of demons manifest, forcing you into impromptu battle. At times you literally fight your artist’s demons.
This all leads to a game that explores multiple themes – mental health, rejection, failure, and art, to name a few. Somehow, the subtle exploration works. Reflective moments mix well and cut through the overt extremeness of the gameplay itself. The heart of Fury Unleashed is redemption. Fury fights to prove to his creator that he deserves to exist, and in the process, we’re fittingly presented something that revitalizes a thoroughly explored genre.
Fury Unleashed is enjoyable from start to finish. The violence, stunning visuals, and amped up heavy metal soundtrack pairs surprisingly well with an understated and moving story. In conclusion, I had a blast.
If you want to top yourself off with pure adrenaline fuel, you can find Fury Unleashed on Humble Bundle.