If video games are to be believed, then the future of humankind can't be good. We always end up encountering hostile aliens; starting global wars; or awakening some ancient evil, the likes of which the universe has never known. In Fray, global warming was our downfall. Humanity now seeks refuge in video games to relieve itself of its harsh reality. Fray is one of these games.
Fray is a simultaneous turn-based strategy game with a heavy emphasis on competitive multiplayer. During each turn, all of the players queue up their actions together before the turn's timer runs out. All the actions then play out simultaneously. After that, the players all advance to the next turn together. Instead of watching and reacting to your opponent--like in a traditional turn-based strategy game--all of the players need to predict their foe's next move and try to counter it before it happens. And, to keep things feeling hectic, each turn's time limit is only about one minute. Winning the battle is just as much about playing your opponent as it is about commanding your troops.
The action takes place from a top-down perspective on a hexagonal grid, which lights up to show how far a character can move per turn. At the same time, a red ring displays the range of that character's selected weapon. When shooting at an enemy, you can either target the cell the enemy is standing on or the enemy directly. If you target the cell, your character will shoot at whomever or whatever is present. However, if you target the enemy, your character will still shoot at him or her even if the enemy moves--so long as he or she stays within your weapon's range.
All of this moving and shooting will be performed by your four-person squad. Your squad is built from the game's six classes. Because you can't have all of the classes present on your team at once, you will need to be flexible and ready to counter whatever team composition your opponent throws at you. Some classes, such as the assault, sniper, and tank, are more combat focused. The other three classes, the medic, technician, and shadow, require a bit more finesse. The medic excels at keeping your troops alive; the technician can deploy tools, such as a tactical radar to aid in the battle; and the shadow can turn invisible and pass through certain obstacles.
At the start of each match, you will have the option to play for one of the three megacorporations that basically control the world. The corporations specialize in different types of warfare, and as you win matches under their banner, you will be rewarded with loyalty points. These points can then be cashed in for new character bonuses, weapon unlocks, and other rewards. You will also gain access to top-secret documents and other classified materials within the individual corporations that tell you more about this dystopian future.
Fray is the brainchild of Paris-based developer Brain Candy. It is the premier title for this eight-person team and runs on the Unity 3 engine. While this engine is traditionally reserved for smaller-scale iPad, iPhone, and other mobile games, Brain Candy wants to push the boundaries of what this tech can handle. During our meeting at this year's GDC, it offered a brief technical demonstration of some of the lighting and other ambient effects it has worked into this system. By constructing artificial light sources, playing with shadow depth and intensity, and throwing in an atmospheric layer of fog, Brain Candy has pulled an impressive amount of detail out of this hardware without sacrificing performance.
The idea for Fray stemmed from a combination of the classic X-COM series and Unreal Tournament. The development team hopes to create a hybrid of the two, combining the complexity of a strategy game with the anxious intensity of a shooter. This idea has certainly piqued our interest, and we'll be keeping an eye on Fray leading up to its release on the PC and Mac later this year.