Fury is what Guild Wars would be like if it got fat and addicted to amphetamines. On one hand, it's got a chaotic action element that is so fast-paced you feel out of control. On the other, it's got a bloated selection of spells and skills--some useful, some imbalanced, some pointless. Add an awkward interface, a myriad of technical issues, and a glorified game lobby masquerading as a fantasy world, and you've got an online fiasco without much of a future.
Fury pretends to be a massively multiplayer role-playing game, a disguise it pulls off pretty well when you first start playing. You choose some physical characteristics for your avatar while listening to some nonsensical weirdness regarding "The Fade" (for the right effect, deepen your voice and say it melodramatically). After a useless tutorial gives you some basic clues on how the game functions, you choose one of eight archetypes and are thrust into a confusing gameworld that initially looks like any other MMO. In actuality, the "world" is a single, swollen game lobby where you spend your time shopping for equipment and purchasing abilities before heading into a player-versus-player arena.
The first problem? There are only three basic ways to experience the action. Bloodbath mode is typical deathmatch; elimination pits two teams of four players against each other in a best-of-three team deathmatch; and vortex is like capture the flag, only there are multiple flags (or crystals, in this case). To play, you can either group up in advance or join a queue on your own. Either way, you'll have to wait for the game to match you or your group up with other players. If you're playing vortex or elimination, you will usually need to wait only a few minutes. Bloodbath, on the other hand, has so few players that as of this writing, there is only a single match held every hour. And when you do manage to get into a match, you're usually facing the same group of people, many of whom will team up and work together to slaughter unsuspecting newcomers.
You can equip up to 24 different skills before heading into battle. It's an insane number of powers to handle at one time in the breakneck arenas, and proof that more is not better (more to come on this subject). Combine all the spell-juggling with superfast movement and zippy spell-recharge times, and you get an absolute mess. Battles are complete anarchy, with players scurrying around like Speedy Gonzales and casting a flurry of spells. It's apparently supposed to be fun, but it's simply too much. Fast pacing is one thing; movement speed so rapid you can't keep track of what's going on is something else entirely.
To make matters worse, targeting a player means you will automatically face him or her as you run around clicking your mouse or hitting your hotkeys like a maniac. Many of the arenas are fairly cluttered, so the automated target facing might get you stuck against walls, or at the very least cause you to lose your bearings. Now, imagine doing all of this when your screen is constantly muddled with immovable interface elements, big spell-description windows that open arbitrarily when you cast, and combat text flying everywhere. It's a disaster. Of course, you can turn off combat text, but it's everything or nothing, so if you want to see just your own results without dealing with the fluttering text of everyone else's combat results, you are out of luck.
In Fury's defense, there's a great idea behind the way skills are used. Your spells either generate or use elemental charges, rather than the typical mana you see in most fantasy games. In order to use your more powerful spells, which use charges, you must cast the ones that generate charges first. For example, if you want to cast wild impact, which uses four nature charges, you must first cast a weaker spell like defender's dart, which generates two nature charges each time it's cast. It's a neat scheme, but it's completely wasted on Fury's bizarre combat model, which gives you no time or inclination to enjoy its intricacies.
As if to make up for the chintzy number of gameplay modes, the game overloads you with what seems like a zillion different skills, separated by class, element, and school. You aren't limited to spells of your own archetype; in fact, by spending the essence you earn during battle, you can earn spells in pretty much any discipline. You can also save various character builds and switch between them easily, so if you want to be a healer in one battle and switch to a tank in the next, you can.
This is where the bloat comes in. Fury has so many skills that many of them seem obsolete. A lot of skills have almost the same effects as other ones, with minor variations (slightly more damage, slightly lower chance to hit, and so on). Furthermore, you earn them by taking on trials, which amount to nothing more than a progressive list of abilities you purchase with the essence you earn in battle. Why do the trials in a single school have to be scattered among dozens of NPCs? Why does there need to be a whole instanced area for them? It certainly doesn't help that the loading time to get to that area is so long that not only do you have time to make a sandwich, you actually have time to bake the bread you make it with.
That's just one of many examples of Fury's technical problems. It's based on the Unreal 3 engine, but considering several gorgeous games (BioShock, anyone? Gears of War?) have been based on that engine, it's surprising that Fury doesn't look that great. And it runs terribly, even on a system capable of running other modern games without a hitch. On several test PCs, the game could not maintain a stable frame rate, even with most visual effects at minimum settings. Online lag caused even more issues. Often, we would enter an arena only to find we had already died, since our character somehow managed to make it in before we could actually view the battle. Other times, the lag was so bad we couldn't tell if other players were casting teleporting spells on us. Other problems include unresponsive NPC vendors, occasional desktop crashes, and frequent game server downtimes. There were also major problems with the sound, though a recent patch did seem to clear up some of the issues we initially had with dropped sound effects. Bugs can't explain away the dinky spell noises, however, or the terrible voice acting you have to deal with during your first few hours with the game.
We could go on. We could tell you about the terrible inventory window that doesn't let you sort items or easily compare them. We could tell you about the questionable subscription model that rewards people who pay a monthly fee with more battle loot, the ability to sell items via in-game auction, in-game voice chat privileges, and free gold. Who needs a gold farmer when the developer offers its own gold-selling service? Suffice it to say, Fury is aimed at a hardcore community that's been playing since the game's beta stages and isn't likely to grow. If you're not one of them, you'd best keep this one at arm's length.